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Big Truths for Young Hearts: Teaching and Learning the Greatness of God
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59 of 60 people found the following review helpful
An Evangelical Theology for Kids 10 to 100!

Book Review Details

Title: Big Truths for Young Hearts: Teaching and Learning the Greatness of God
Author: Bruce A. Ware, Ph.D.
Publisher: Crossway (2009)
Category: Parenting, Theology, Discipleship

Reviewed By: Bob Kellemen, Ph.D., LCPC, Author of Soul Physicians, Spiritual Friends, Beyond the Suffering, and Sacred Friendships

Recommended: A highly recommended antidote to the dumb-downed, frills, and cotton-candy approach so prevalent in American Evangelicalism today.

Review: An Evangelical Catechism for Kids Ages 10 to 100!

When someone like Bruce Ware, professor of Christian theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and 2009 President of the Evangelical Theological Society, writes a book on theology, I take notice. When he writes it for parents and children--my interest is truly sparked.

Big Truths for Young Hearts: Teaching and Learning the Greatness of God is a modern-day Evangelical catechism. Ware's purpose is to equip parents to raise their children to know and love God through raising them to know and love theology. How sad that such a goal seems so foreign in so many Christian circles today.

In many ways, as indicated by the precious foreword written by Ware's young-adult daughters, Big Truths for Young Hearts is the "Theology 101" he taught (and modeled and lived) for and in front of his daughters. He's just graciously sharing it with the rest of us. There is no grander testimony than their words, "Dad really believes the things that are in this book. His theology shapes the way he lives, as we have seen many times" (p. 11). There is no greater parental challenge than their challenge to us: "To parents: it may sound cliché, but we followed our father's teaching in part because he practiced what he preached. Like all children, we needed to look up and see our parents looking up at a great God who has great things in store for those who love him" (p. 12).

Ware's own testimony about the origin of the book mirrors his daughter's memories. From the time they were toddlers, he tried creatively to teach them the same theology sequence he was teaching his seminary students. Ware has crafted his two-decade-long instruction of his girls into a theology book for parents and children.

The book covers the classic core doctrines of systematic theology. (Shh. Just don't tell the children the "theological terms" in the parentheses below!)

*Chapter One: God's Word (Bibliology) and God's Own Life (Theology Proper)
*Chapter Two: God As Three in One (Trinitarian Theology)
*Chapter Three: Creator and Ruler of All (Theology Proper, The Sovereignty and Glory of God)
*Chapter Four: Our Human Nature (Anthropology) and Our Sin (Hamartiology)
*Chapter Five: Who Jesus Is (Christology)
*Chapter Six: The Work Jesus Has Done (Christology/Soteriology)
*Chapter Seven: The Holy Spirit (Pneumatology)
*Chapter Eight: Our Great Salvation (Soteriology, Election, Sanctification)
*Chapter Nine: The Church of Jesus Christ (Ecclesiology)
*Chapter Ten: What Will Take Place in the End (Eschatology)

Big Truths for Young Hearts is meant to be read together--parents and children. Each chapter is like a series of brief "theology devotionals," each about three pages in length, and each concluding with Questions for Thought and with Memory Verses.

Frankly, as I read each chapter I kept thinking, "Now this is how theology should be taught to adults and to seminary students!" And I'm a seminary professor who teaches a class on theology for biblical counseling. In other words, any adult, no matter how well schooled in Evangelical theology, could and would benefit from this book. The book is beautifully written, Bible-saturated, Christ-centered, creatively-illustrated (word-pictures), and theologically-comprehensive.

As a parent of two young adult children, and as a parent who attempted to do similar training with our children, I repeatedly asked myself, "At what ages would this book `work'"? The reading level is likely best suited for the late elementary to the young adult. I would imagine that most children--toddler through fourth grade--might have somewhat of a difficult time staying with the reading.

I was a little surprised that there were no "Instructions for Parents." This excellent book could benefit from a "Parents' Manual" which could give parents ideas for how to "teach" and not just "read" these truths. What creative methods might a parent use? How could a parent best engage a child in the material? What personal life applications could parents and children discuss? How could parents apply the Deuteronomy 6 principle of "throughout the day" inculcation of truth applied to life? Big Truths for Young Hearts is a "what to teach book" (and does it extremely well). It is not, per se, a "how to teach" book. Perhaps a companion training book is in the works.

That said, Big Truths for Young Hearts is still a tremendous book for adults, young adults, middler schoolers, and high schoolers. It is an excellent book for parents to explore and apply with their pre-teens and teens. It would make a fine Sunday School book for teachers in grades 5th through Senior Saints! Youth groups, small groups, and homeschooling groups all will find Big Truths for Young Hearts very attractive, informative, and beneficial.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on June 16, 2009
Several years ago my husband attended a worship conference, where he heard a handful of speakers over several days. I don't recall all whom (or is it who?) he heard that weekend, but I do remember one man: Bruce Ware. His name lingers with me because of the impression he left on my husband that evening. This man, incredibly knowledgeable about theology, wowed him with a tapestry of truth. Eventually my husband put his pencil down and surrendered. This man knew more than he could write.

When I recently read a friend's blog post about a theology book by Bruce Ware, I was immediately curious, particularly because it is written for young people. This book, Big Truths for Young Hearts, is one we cannot exhaust with one reading. "It is a rich collection of truths that come straight from Scripture and answer questions about who God is, his work in the world, and the hope we can have through a relationship with Christ" (from the Foreword). Its content is accessible to children but not in any way dumbed down for them. It provides a launching point for rewarding reflection, discussion, and application.

Consider chapter one, part six: Ware talks about God being all wise, all powerful, and all good all the time. He then invites us to imagine what God would be like if he were all wise but not all powerful or all powerful but not all good. With a god like that, we could have no confidence. But that is not our God. "We have every reason to trust him, then. God plans only what is best (he is perfectly wise), and God cannot be hindered in bringing it about (he's all-powerful), and we know that his plans will work out for our best (he is completely good)" (36).

Good, I mean *good,* devotional books for young people are hard to find. This one is *good* and will serve our family for a very long time.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Bruce A. Ware is able to present Biblical truth in an understandable way without watering-down the Word of God. He does not shy away from discussing topics such as penal substitutionary atonement, propitiation, or the heresy of modalism. Due to Ware's faithful teaching, this book should serve adults as much as it does children. If you know anyone reading The Shack (Paperback), get this book in their hands!

I really enjoyed Ware's Big Truths for Young Hearts: Teaching and Learning the Greatness of God. I would encourage all adults to purchase this book and use it to teach the children in your life about the greatness of our God.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on October 7, 2009
Can I start this review with the story of how Big Truths for Young Hearts came to be? It's origin is in the bedside discussions Bruce Ware had with his two daughters when they were children.

"I began," Ware writes, "in those early years spending ten to fifteen minutes with each of our daughters at their bedside, going through the doctrines of the Christian faith." What he was doing was teaching them the same systematic theology he taught at seminary, but gearing it toward his children. His daughters are now adults, and they encouraged their father to write a book based on his bedtime talks with them, so he did.

The result a good gift to the church, especially to parents who wish to teach the faith to their children. As far as I know, there is nothing else like it--a systematic theology for children. There are, of course, children's catechisms, but catechisms focus more on what is so and less on why it is so. A systematic theology gives us the reasons and tells us how everything fits together. If your kids are like mine were, they want to know the reasoning behind the doctrines, and that's what you'll provide when you read this book to them.

Big Truths for Young Hearts contains six sections--Bibliology through Eschatology--but with child-friendly titles instead of the technical theological terms. The section that contains Bibiology and Theology Proper, for instance, is called God's Word and God's Own Life as God. Each section has six short chapters, two or three pages each, explaining and defending a doctrinal truth, finishing up with two questions for discussion and a memory verse or two.

There may be a few places, depending on your own viewpoint, where you will disagree with what Ware teaches. He is baptistic, for instance, so if you are a paedobaptist, you'll disagree with some of what he writes on baptism, but I think you'll find he is fair in his explanation of your view.

A couple of mothers I know are reading this to children 6-8 years old with good success, but if I were to give a minimum age where I'd expect most children to understand all of the content, I'd go with an age a little older than that--9 or 10, perhaps. Children a few years younger will probably understand enough of the content to justify purchasing the book and choosing appropriate sections to read.

But here's the thing: This book is good for everyone. I enjoyed reading it for myself and I'm not exactly a newbie to the doctrines of Christianity. If you hid the cover of the book and changed a few of the illustrations, this would make an excellent resource for teaching teens, young adults or even older adults. There are, you know, more than a few believers who don't know the basics of Christian doctrine, which is why I'd like to see Bruce Ware edit the content of Big Truths for Young Hearts a little and publish it as a simple theology for adults.

Big Truths for Young Hearts gets the highest recommendation I've given a book in a long time. (The last book I've recommended this highly might be the only other book by Ware that I've read--his Father, Son and Holy Spirit.) If you have kids 10 or up, you need this book. Even if you are confident in your knowledge of theology and your ability to explain it to your children, I'm betting you'll find Ware's explanations helpful to you. If you teach Sunday School to upper elementary aged kids, you'll want this book for reference. If you teach youth, you would probably find this book useful as well.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Thank Mr. Ware for writing this book! As a parent, I am intimidated sometimes by what I think I have to know and do to give my child the best life possible.

But after reading Big Truths, I was able to focus and realize that you have to keep The Main Thing, the main thing.

By breaking these nuggets of truth in a chapter a day format, you aren't overwhelmed. Each topic is relevant, right on point.

I have a feeling that I will be passing this book down to my son, when he is ready to read this with his own children.

Keleigh Crigler Hadley author of Christian YA fiction - [...]
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on February 2, 2010
Finally...the book I've been searching for! As the overseer of my church's children's ministry, I have been searching high and low for a book for parents to help them lead their families in discipleship. This book is it. One of our ministry's main goals is to teach parents to teach their kids the greatness, sovereignty and worth of God. This book teaches exactly that through small daily studies.

My wife and I have been using this book in our family devotions with my six year-old son. He "gets it." As a suggestion, we have broken up the daily studies into two. One to introduce the topic and the second day to reinforce it. We also briefly review the previously taught topics to keep them in memory.

I would disagree with the reviewer and commenter who said it was too deep. Our culture has come to assume that anything with any depth is too deep for kids. With my son, I read the book straight through and change only have to modify a few words here and there to make it a little more understandable.

I won't go into too much detail as the book has been covered here. We have several family devotionals, many good, a few not so good. This one is my favorite. As the book suggests, it could be used in homeschool, in a Christian school or even in a church setting. This book could also be used as an adult theological primer, which would be very valuable for new believers. But for its designed purpose, this book is a great way to teach your kids how great our God is!
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on September 24, 2009
From looking at the title, I though this would be a good book to begin reading with my 9 year old, who is a bright kid and has some pretty deep questions for his age-I should also note that he reads several years beyond his grade level.

Although the book is very good and the content is theologically solid, I just feel the title is a bit misleading. As a pastor to students, grades 6-12, and former school teacher, much of the material in this book would have to be watered down before it could be presented to anyone below probably 14 yrs. old if they are to get anything from it that would stick and/or make sense.

Bottom line? The truths are big and they are for the young [and older too!] hearts, but the verbage and overall density of the book negates it as a viable book to hand to the average kid, and if you are going to read it to them, which I do suggest, be prepared to edit as you read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on May 5, 2010
This is a book that I read very quickly, but an now going through very slowly and meticulously. I was intrigued to hear about a book that Bruce Ware, professor of systematic theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, was publishing at the end of 2009: A systematic theology written to be taught to and read by children!

In the book's introduction, Ware explains that as his daughters grew up, he began to realize that what he had been teaching them each night at their bedsides was the same material he had been teaching to his seminary students for decades! This led to the idea of writing a book that would progress systematically through the essential doctrines of Christianity on a level that is accessible and understandable for children, without compromising on the rich truths expressed in Scripture.

I have to say, he has done a great job with this! Far too often we underestimate the ability of children to grasp the deep things of God. How tragic! They understand far more than we think, and in many cases, probably more than we do. After all, Jesus didn't tell children to have faith like adults! There is a deep need for our children to be brought up immersed in the Word, and this book will be a great resource for parents seeking to raise their children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). I am personally thankful to have this tool as I pursue my aim of becoming a Proverbs 4 dad!

Though this book says it is written for ages 9 and up, it is by no means childish. To be perfectly honest, most adults could stand to learn much from this book! We live in an age where an intellectual pursuit of theology is not much emphasized in evangelical culture, and it is probably safe to assume that the vast majority of Christians have never devoted themselves to a serious and systematic study of theology. If a 1200+ page seminary text seems intimidating, this quite manageable 230-page paperback could be the ideal starting point for many!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on October 19, 2013
If I had written a review when we had finished just half of the book, I probably would have given it four stars. Many of the insights and metaphors he gave for complicated ideas (like the trinity) were outstanding, even better than what I had previously heard. And it is packed with great theology.

But from the very beginning, it was hard to read, and the farther we got into it, the less enthusiastic I was about it, I think just because it was so hard to read. I was reading it outloud to my 10 year old son, who was quite interested in learning the subject matter. The sentences are mostly quite long and complicated, and many/most of the paragraphs are ridiculously long. I often felt out-of-breath and exhausted by the time I reached the end of a paragraph. The paragraphs were so long that it was hard to keep track of what the main point of the paragraph even was. I think a good editor could have easily broken the text into more manageable chunks.

I should have probably just stopped halfway through the book and done the rest another time. By the time we got to the last two chapters (on the church and end times), I couldn't wait to just be finished. It was really a painful slog to do those last chapters. And I don't think either of us got much out of those chapters.

But overall, I think it was worth the slog.
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on December 20, 2011
The Good: Though this book has been marketed to parents with pre-teens or even teens; I think that it could also serve as an excellent primer for those who are perhaps new Christians. The book is put together very logically with some very thoughtful questions for those who wish to seek out application for what they have learned. Additionally, Bruce Ware has managed to do an excellent job of handling some very complex theological issues without ever using complex theological terms which in turn makes this a very accessible book

The Bad: This book is exceedingly dry. Period. If you are hoping to work through this text with a child do not expect to go through a chapter a day as they suggest. Furthermore, you should be prepared to add your own illustrations and energy to the reading to keep any child or pre-teen interested.

In the end I can only give this book a marginal recommendation as it is very thorough and precise with its subject and yet it is still not approachable as it would need to be for a "young heart".
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