Review: Athanasius (Christian Biographies for Young Readers Series)
A wee-kid Wednesday book review, this afternoon we look at a Christian Children’s book we recommend for your family! I’m thankful for Michael Coughlin (Twitter, Blog) for letting me know that this series is cheaper on RHB online store).
Simonetta Carr. Athanasius (Christian Biographies for Young Readers Series). Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, August 22, 2011. 64 pp.
5 out of 5
Interested in learning about the lives and examples of early Christian believers in Church history? Since I first learned a little about church history and the Church leader Athanasius, I always thought his life was worth studying more in-depth for not just historical knowledge but encouragement as a Christian for today’s contemporary world. Now with this book written by Simonetta Carr both adults and children can learn about Athanasius and be edified! This book is part of the Christian Biographies for Young Readers Series and this is the first volume I read aloud to my three daughters. The book impressed me so much that I am thinking about purchasing more books from this series!
Don’t assume that just because this is a children’s book it is simplistic. There’s not only information of the historical background to Athanasius’ life but it delved into the doctrinal disputes during Athanasius’ day concerning Christ’ divinity and the Trinity while also making it interesting for my kids ages 6 through 10. The book consists of five chapters besides the introduction. Chapter one looks at Athanasius in his youth, then chapter two looks at Athanasius’ entrance into ministry and the difficulties that was faced by Christians during his lifetime. This includes persecution from Roman officials and nonbelievers but also heretical errors of false believers. Chapter three covers events leading up to Athanasius’ exile, his return and second exile. Chapters four and five covers the time when Athanasius’ return to his native Egypt and Alexandria though he had to still deal with persecution by Roman emperors and authorities and heretics and so he fled and hid in the desert.
The illustrations were excellent; the illustrator Matt Abraxas did a good job with the watercolor paintings. Also there’s photos in the books of historical location and statutes of specific Roman emperors that were relevant to Athanasius’ life (both the helpful ones and the ones persecuting him). There’s also photos of historical artwork depicting Athanasius though the book rightly caution we don’t know exactly what he looks like and these are depictions much later. There’s also maps in the book and after the chapters were competed a timeline of Athanasius’ life.
I learned a lot from the book. In fact my kids learned a lot too and also remembered things taught in it. In a mid-week Bible study I happened to go tangent and asked my daughters aloud if they remember Constantine’s children’s name that succeeded him and the girls were able to name all three! So that speaks volume to how captivating this book was for them and also how educational it was. There was a lesson for me to reading this book as a Pastor. The persecution that Constantine faced reminded me the danger of when a civil government start thinking it has jurisdiction to define what should and should not be taught in the church. Often Christians think Council of Nicea settled doctrinally the matter of the Trinity and Christ’s Divinity. It does on paper but later heretical group’s convinced Roman emperors and authorities to persecute Athanasius and other doctrinally correct believers! We should be very cautious when the state intrude into the domain of the church, and even if the state support your doctrinal view who is to say the next leaders with different and even heretical beliefs wouldn’t then turn around to persecute doctrinally faithful Christians in a later date? This history also goes against the simplistic and naïve beliefs popular today that the Trinity is an invention of the “Roman empire” that then held the beliefs to control Christians when emperors after Constantine persecuted those who believe in the Trinity. Anti-Trinitarians today sometimes forward the narrative that after Nicea Trinitarians were the evil ones who used the power of the State to persecute anti-Trinitarians; but the fact was anti-Trinitarians and Arians did the same thing! So this type of argument can be self-refuting if its used to argue for an anti-Trinitarian beliefs. But let us instead follow after Athanasius’ spirit of turning to the Scriptures for our doctrines! Excellent book, I recommend it!