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4.9 out of 5 stars
Irenaeus (Christian Biographies for Young Readers)
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on November 4, 2017
Irenaeus was a Christian leader and thinker in the second century C.E. This book is a biography of him for children ages 7-12. Matt Abraxas contributed illustrations, and the book also contains maps and photographs. Many of the photographs are of representations of the people discussed in this book, and the book provides the disclaimer that the people may not have actually looked like that.

Simonetta Carr explores the controversies in which Irenaeus participated and what was at stake. Such controversies include the debate over which day to observe Easter, Passover or Easter Sunday, which is known as the Quartodeciman controversy, as well as Irenaeus’ polemics against Gnosticism. Carr’s treatment of the latter is especially impressive, as she lucidly lays out Gnostic beliefs and Irenaeus’ specific arguments against them. Carr also tells stories about the Roman treatment of Christians, explaining the rationales behind the Romans’ tolerance and intolerance. Moreover, Carr paints a picture of what life was like in Irenaeus’ time, on such topics as education (i.e., who was educated, how they were educated, and what they were taught) and seafaring.

Carr occasionally sifts through historical sources, evaluating what is historical and non-historical. Some may claim that she does not do this enough. At least in this book, she seems to accept uncritically the traditional story of Polycarp’s martyrdom, which scholar Candida Moss argues is anachronistic. Carr also accepts uncritically Irenaeus’ claim that his teachings can be traced back to the apostles, when Gnostic Christians made the same claim. And, on page 38, Carr, as she relays Irenaeus’ argument, asks, “More importantly, why would Jesus teach something to the apostles and then reveal a different secret knowledge to others?” That is an excellent question, but perhaps Gnostic Christians can be pardoned for concluding that Jesus had such a modus operandi, as Jesus in the synoptic Gospels often shares with his disciples information that he does not share with the general public.

Another question that came to my mind in reading this book is whether Carr’s Protestant perspective influences her portrayal of Irenaeus. Carr emphasizes the centrality of Scripture in the second century Christian church and Irenaeus’ polemics, whereas a Catholic might stress instead the centrality and authority of the church. Ecclesiology still looms large in Carr’s book, however, as she discusses the apostolic heritage of Irenaeus’ beliefs, Irenaeus’ argument from the widespread Christian acceptance of the Rule of Faith, and Irenaeus’ endorsement of the bishops.

The book would have been better had it gone more deeply into Irenaeus’ view of recapitulation, his belief that Christ succeeded where Adam failed and renewed humanity through the incarnation. This topic occurred to me as I read Irenaeus’ summary of the Christian Rule of Faith, which Carr includes near the end of the book. In reading the Rule, I noticed the absence of doctrines that are central to conservative Christianity today, such as penal substitution (which is not to suggest that ancient Christians did not hold to such a doctrine). More discussion of Irenaeus’ view of salvation may have enhanced the book. The book also should have been more specific in its citation of primary sources, using endnotes so as not to distract young readers.

Would children ages 7-12 appreciate this book, or would it be too deep for them? I think that many Christian children would appreciate it. Carr builds on basic Christian doctrines, such as the idea that God created the world, and she clearly explained a Gnostic objection to that doctrine, namely, that the world has imperfections. The Quartodeciman controversy may not interest most Christian children (though it interested me when I was a child, since I grew up in a Christian church that observed the Jewish Passover). Still, they can be edified and instructed by the church’s tolerance of differing perspectives, out of love for fellow believers (not that the church has always done this).

Critiques notwithstanding, this book deserves five stars. It is educational and, at times, nuanced. Christian children reading this book will receive a solid foundation to study patristics. Also, the physical appearance of the book is beautiful, such that it would make a good decoration.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through Cross Focused Reviews. My review is honest.
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on November 4, 2017
There are very few authors for whom I get excited to see a new book release hit the shelves. One such author is Simonetta Carr. Anyone not familiar with her books is truly missing out on what I humbly submit are valuable reading treasures. Her most recent book which is part of the continuing Christian Biographies for Young Readers Series, title Irenaeus of Lyon, is no exception.

What continues to stand out most for me with this overall series to include this most title are the beautiful illustrations and pictures contained throughout the book. Let’s face it. History related books can be somewhat boring. Given the target audience for this series, namely young readers, including wonderfully drawn and informative illustrations and pictures which provide the reader a visual grasp of the information is noteworthy.

Furthermore, providing a helpful overview of such an important church figure as Irenaeus is an excellent addition to this series of books. I would venture to say a majority of adult believers either have never heard of Irenaeus or they only have a passing understanding of his impact. This lack of knowledge is quite unfortunate. Thus, providing young readers with a solid understanding of the life, times, and influence of Irenaeus on church history is vitally important.

Carr’s book hits a homerun by enabling young readers to consume a well-rounded overview of Irenaeus without bogging them down to the point where these young minds will become bored and disinterested with the material. Carr once again writes with her audience well in mind and does so rather amazingly.

I highly recommend this book, especially for families who homeschool or for homeschool associations who may offer group classes for their members. This book would make an excellent addition to a homeschool bible and/or world history curriculum.

So Simonetta Carr…with this latest release you have me on the edge of my seat anxiously waiting for what you have next for us in this awesome series.

I received this book for free from Reformation Heritage Books via Cross Focused Reviews and the opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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on November 10, 2017
"O Timothy, guard the good deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called 'knowledge,' for by professing it some have swerved from the faith" (First Timothy 6:20).

"...and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also" (Second Timothy 2:2, ESV).

Thankfully, in our generation, Simonetta Carr has taken up the baton of faithfully teaching the Gospel and of sharing the accounts of those throughout history who have done likewise. The latest title in her "Christian Biographies for Young Readers" series focuses on Irenaeus of Lyons but also features faithful saints such as Polycarp, Justin the Martyr, Blandina, and Pothinus who stood firm on the truths of the Gospel, even in the face of persecution. Each of these believers sought to faithfully serve God in their generation, guarded the good deposit that was entrusted to them, and taught others to do the same. Ms. Carr shows us that we have much to learn from those who have gone before us!

Church history is never dull when Simonetta Carr takes up her pen. She seeks to write about aspects of her character's lives that will be interesting and relatable to her audience. In Irenaeus of Lyons, she relays aspects of his education, travels, friendships, strengths, and weaknesses. Perhaps one of the most surprising aspects of Irenaeus's life was his sense of humor. It's hard to imagine a reader who wouldn't be amused by some of Irenaeus's antics for proving the absurdity of false teaching, especially when Ms. Carr includes a comical photo of a royal Gourd, Melon, and Cucumber. Less relatable to most Christians in America, but no less dull, are the age-appropriate accounts of persecution and martyrdom faced by the saints of which she writes.

Most importantly, Ms. Carr relates accounts that demonstrate his faithfulness to the Scriptures and its over-arching redemptive story line as demonstrated by this quote:

"Most of Irenaeus's arguments, however, were based on the Scriptures, which he quoted freely. God, Irenaeus said, has revealed Himself in the Bible, giving all the truth men and women need to know about Him and our relationship with Him. And the Bible teaches that there is only one God, in both the Old and the New Testament, and He is good, perfect, and just. In fact, from Genesis to Revelation we read one long, beautiful story: how God saved His sinful people" (38).

Time and again, Simonetta Carr succeeds in going "beyond the simple story of someone's life by teaching young readers the historical and theological relevance of each character" in an age appropriate way (2). As with previous titles in the series, readers of Irenaeus of Lyons will encounter a carefully researched account that is edifying, complete with a map, a timeline, fun facts, and an excerpt from Irenaeus's major work, Against Heresies. Captivating artwork and an abundance of vivid photos on thick, glossy pages in a sturdy hardcover make this book yet another collectible title that will endure many years of enjoyment.

Irenaeus of Lyons is a thought-provoking children's biography that is sure to encourage many to guard the good deposit entrusted to them, reading "...the Scriptures faithfully and with humility, seeing both the Old and New Testaments as one unified story" (54). I pray that many will be motivated to preserve the faith handed on by the apostles and to defend it when attacked just as Irenaeus and those who followed him did (54).

*Many thanks to Cross Focused Reviews, Reformation Heritage Books, and Simonetta Carr for providing me with a complimentary copy of Irenaeus of Lyons in exchange for my honest opinion!
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on November 11, 2017
The world is a darker place today than it seemed to be growing up- of course there are multiple things that affect this perspective including the oblivious innocence of youth- I don't remember headlines flashing with the massacre of practically an entire church congregation, practically an identical size and demographic of our own church body, no less, and the targeted annihilation of believers by Muslim extremists in the Middle East. In the midst of all this chaos and fear, I am attempting to raise these Little People-Little Believers even- to follow Christ and always hope, no matter what. To procure such deeply important roots into my children would be practically too much if relying on my own wisdom and experience, thankfully I have most crucially the Scriptures and also the advantage of some wonderful resources on the Faith.

One such enriching resource I recently added to our family's library is Simonetta Carr's, Irenaeus: Christian Biographies for Young Readers. What an encouragement to any Christian's faith to hear the noble stories of the those who have walked those path before us and stayed faithful, even to the point of death. I especially admire that first generation of believers from the infancy of the Church who fervently lived out the gospel even in the face of intense persecution. The idea of especially my children enduring such trials shakes my Mother Heart to the core, but it truly seems that children can sense the cruelty and challenges of life and want those heroes to look to imitate in their own trials. My boys have loved the Torch Lighters series, specifically the story of Perpetua and it seems that this book on Irenaeus will be a great follow up in learning about the Early Church Martyrs and Heroes.

I was impressed and challenged myself while reading through this comprehensive and engaging biography on one of the Early Church Fathers and Defender of Scriptural Integrity. The book begins by introducing us to the world Irenaeus was born into and those who influenced him and his beliefs during his formative years. We then learn of Irenaeus' becoming a leader in the church during a period of intense persecution and how he faced the task of comforting and strengthening the faith of his flock.

I particularly liked the chapter- For the Love of Truth. I found Irenaeus' refuting the false claims of the Gnostics to be so relevant to even our Christian cultural today. From wondering how people could possibly not give credit to the Maker for the beauty of the starry night sky to calling out the Gnostics for manipulating verses to fit their teachings by taking them out of the context of the correct scripture passage- Irenaeus fought valiantly to protect his flock from deception and also uphold the validity of Scripture for even us today. I am so glad to have this beautiful book to introduce my children to a hero of the faith. The text is both informative and encouraging and gorgeous illustrations plus some fascinating examples of historic relics from Irenaeus' time period. I would highly recommend this book to Christian families!

Thanks to Reformation Heritage Books and the Cross Focused Review program for providing me with this book to share with my readers.
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on November 6, 2017
History was not my most enjoyable subject in school, and perhaps the reason I grab books written by Simonetta Carr. Each of her books presents history in a most engaging manner, particularly church history, of the brave believers who have forged the way for us to follow.

Irenaeus of Lyon is beautifully written and illustrated. Simonetta weaves facts and doctrine so that the book reads easily, holding one's attention until the last page.

Irenaeus was born around the year 130 about one hundred years after the death of Christ. By the time he was born, each of the twelve apostles had died and many were rising up, calling themselves Christians while teaching a different message. Irenaeus lived and wrote to help people understand the message and truths of Christ.

Simonetta tells his life story for young readers, enabling them to grasp the time in which Ireneaus lived, the doctrine he taught, and the adversity which he faced, offering lessons to inspire her readers to live according to biblical truths.

In difficult times of mistreatment and persecution, Ireneaus had the responsibility of encouraging and strengthening believers who had lost their loved ones. He constantly explained how God cares for this world and nothing happens by chance. He chose to live in such a way to inspire Christians to be thankful towards God in midst of any difficulties they would endure. Most of all, Irenaeus taught believers the importance of discerning truth from error by knowing and listening to Scripture, a lesson urgently needed in these days we live.

Once again, Simonetta Carr has written an inspire historical book which will make this a wonderful gift to any child or school library.

*** I received this book via Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for my honest review.
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on November 6, 2017
Irenaeus is a name that, unfortunately, few Christians know. And for those who have at least heard the name in passing, even fewer know anything substantial about who he was or why he's important for Christian history.

A New Book

Thankfully, Simonetta Carr has written a new book to help correct that. As part of her "Christian Biographies for Young Readers" series, Carr has written a new book on Irenaeus in her effort to introduce children to important people in the Christian tradition. She says at the end of this volume, "This was probably the hardest book I have ever written, because we know so little about Irenaeus's life. His theology is very important, but I had to work hard to ensure this book will be good for more than just putting my young readers to sleep" (63). She certainly succeeded in that effort.

The Audience

As with the previous volumes in this series, this new book on the life of Irenaeus is excellent. It is concise, engaging, beautifully illustrated, accurate, and a joy to read. Covering the life of Irenaeus in just 54 pages, Carr gives the reader a great introduction to the man, his mission, and his legacy. You will not find everything you would want or need to know about Irenaeus in this book, but that is not its purpose. The book is aimed at young readers, helping them get an introduction to the life and ministry of Irenaues and why he matters for church history.

Irenaeus's Life & Legacy

Irenaeus was born around 130AD and died around 200AD and served as a bishop for much of his life, pastoring and shepherding Christians to both stand against heresy and false teaching, as well as to endure and persevere in their allegiance to Christ in the midst of severe persecution.

In helping his people stand firm against false teaching, Irenaeus wrote a five-volume work called Against Heresies, breaking down the Gnostic and Marcionite heresies of the time, exposing their errors, and pointing his readers to the truth of Scripture. Carr says in the book:

"Today, Against Heresies is still considered one of the most complete and accurate explanations from Irenaeus's time of the Gnostics' ideas. Besides, to answer the Gnostics' claims, Irenaeus had to study and explain the Scriptures in such depth that Against Heresies has become one of the first great summaries of Christian thought. We can thank the Gnostics for motivating him to write it" (41).


While it is directed toward young readers, those are not the only ones who will benefit from this book. Young and old alike will profit from and enjoy reading this book, whether you know absolutely nothing about Irenaeus and this is your first introduction, or whether this is the fifth book you've read on the man and it simply serves as a reminder in a beautifully illustrated way for you to teach your children or others about him.

Carr closes the book with a wonderful reminder for us on why Irenaeus is an important figure in church history for us and our children to be reminded of:

"Irenaeus is remembered for his work in helping the church to preserve the faith handed on by the apostles and to defend it when it was attacked. In Against Heresies, he taught Christians how to read the Scriptures faithfully and with humility, seeing both Old and New Testaments as one unified story. He also urged them to use their God-given reason to distinguish what he knew were historical events from imaginary stories. To Christians, these lessons are as important today as they were in his time" (54).

In accordance with FTC regulations, I would like to thank Reformation Heritage Books and Cross Focused Reviews for providing me with a review copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.
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on November 10, 2017
Simonetta Carr's Christian Biographies for Young Readers series sheds light on important figures from church history for children. Her newest title, Irenaeus of Lyon, introduces a man who defended the Christian faith against the heresy of gnosticism with his clear and insightful writing. Irenaeus grew up under the teaching of on of the Apostle John's disciples, and he later moved to France where his ministry and writings earned him a place of honor in Christian history.

Irenaeus of Lyon, like other books in this series, provides rich details both on the man and his times. Despite not having specific information about Irenaeus' childhood, Simonetta Carr painted a picture of what life was like for children in 2nd century Roman society. She also highlights Irenaeus' concern for the well-being of both orthodox Christians and those who were trying to introduce the false teachings of gnosticism to the churches. He loved them "better than they seemed to love themselves."

The illustrations and photographs combine with a rich prose to make the book beautiful in its own right and a treasure for what it communicates. This is the kind of book I want my children to read because they learn about why Irenaeus made a significant contribution to history as well as how his faith motivated him to live and act the way he did.

In light of recent events including mass murder of Christians while they gather for worship, I found one section in the book particularly relevant for talking about this tragedy with my children. Forty-eight Christians were murdered in Lyon by official government sanction. "In that difficult moment, Irenaeus had the responsibility of strengthening and encouraging the Christians who were alive and comforting those who had lost their loved ones" (p. 30). He emphasized God's plan of salvation and the future promise of an end to sin and suffering. It encouraged me to know this man was at ground zero of a horrible persecution and this was his focus in comforting others.

I highly recommend Irenaeus of Lyon and the Christian Biographies for Young Readers series.

I received a copy of this title from the publisher in order to write this review.
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on November 5, 2017
The latest entry into the RHB series is Irenaeus of Lyons. Simonetta Carr authored this significant volume about a lesser known by exceedingly important hero of the Christian tradition.

Irenaeus reads a bit differently than some of the other volumes in this series, seeming to be less narrative and more like the sort of non-fiction informational book that young boys often love. This made sense in light of Carr’s comment in the Acknowledgments, “This was probably the hardest book I have ever written, because we know so little about Irenaeus’s life. His theology is very important, but I had to work hard to ensure this book will be good for more than just putting my young readers to sleep.”

Carr’s efforts have borne fruit for, in fact, this book is just as delightful as her earlier volumes like Martin Luther and Marie Durand. Though there are differences in the manner of carrying out her task; we simply know less about the life of Irenaeus, and much of his life has been passed down in sometimes-questionable stories. However, Carr has done well to the story as we know it.

Irenaeus was a very early figure in Church History. He was a student of Polycarp, who was himself a disciple of John. Irenaeus was, therefore, one of the people trying to sort through Scripture to discern the true nature of Christian doctrine. Among Irenaeus’ most significant works are his Against Heresies, in which he argues in opposition to Marcion’s theological revisionism. Though it is sometimes hard to explain theology to children, Carr does well in bringing the conversation to a level that young children should be able to understand (not to mention their parents).

Irenaeus was not simply a theologian huddled in his ivory tower, however, he was also a pastor engaged in shepherding a congregation in Gaul. This biography relates the story of Irenaeus’ faithful work in an area troubled by persecution and danger from the invasion of the Germanic tribes. The portrait that emerges is of a doctrinally faithful Christian who lived a life devoted to God, which serves as a benchmark for those that come after.

The story is well-told and the book is finely produced. The hardback volumes are durable, which make these books possible to share between generations. The illustrations are colorful, with a mix of photos and paintings. Thus, the reader gets images of how things look now in addition to artistic renditions of the historical scenes. The volumes are really a treasure for the contemporary church.

Note: I received a gratis copy of this volume with no expectation of a positive review. This is an abbreviation of a review previously posted at Ethics and Culture.
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on November 11, 2017
The best test of whether a children's book is any good is whether children actually like it, this book has been tested and it has passed the test. I have spent the past week reading this book to my two boys (ages 4 and 5) at bed time reading a chapter a day. 

Simonetta Carr does a good job of describing the historical context in which Irenaeus ministered and the challenges he faced. Given the current course of our society it is a good time to introduce young readers to courageous Christian leaders who faithfully ministered and contended for the truth during times of persecution. An added bonus is the extra facts given at the end of the book which helps give a better understanding for the Roman world.

I would encourage parents to get this book and read it along with their kids. While we might be tempted to shelter from the harsh realities of persecution that Christians have experienced in the past and do experience throughout the world we should teach them about examples of faithfulness which this book does.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.
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on November 3, 2017
Like all of the books in the Christian Biographies for Young Readers series, this one is a great introduction to its subject. In this book, one is introduced to Irenaeus of Lyon, a Christian who lived during the early days of the church, his mentor was Polycarp who had known the Apostle John. Irenaeus helped keep Christians of his day anchored to God's Word by speaking and writing against many heresies that were spreading at the time.

I really like that Carr doesn't just tell the factual details of the lives she writes about but also delves into some theological concepts and even doctrinal controversies. It's good for young people to learn details about the defense of the right interpretation of God's word. In this volume, she does a good job of explaining some of the heresies that Irenaeus fought against, including providing some details of his critique of the bad hermeneutic of people who took the Scriptures out of context, twisting them to say other things: "He gave the example of a poem made up of separate lines from different books by the Greek poet Homer. The lines had nothing to do with each other, but together they made up a poem Homer had never intended to write. A casual reader would think the poem was really Homer's." I found it amusing to find that, when Irenaeus had critiqued some ridiculous and confusing Gnostic teachings, he ended his written explanation of their views with an exclamation akin to our "Eek!" expressing his view of the absurdity of what they believed. Apparently Irenaeus had a sense of humor.

As usual, Carr's book has many illustrations imagining what events in Irenaeus' life may have looked like, and also many photographs of places and things, including historical artifacts from that day, as well as some pictures of more recent statues of what others imagined how Irenaeus and Polycarp appeared. There is not a lot of information about Irenaeus' life but Carr does a good job of explaining the things that we do know about him and also inferring things that might have been the case based on what we know of that period in time. All in all I think this is a good summarizing biography.

I think it's perfectly fine for kids to read and hear works of fiction, but I think it's also good to let them learn about real Christians who lived in the past. Real people who lived and died fighting the good fight of faith. What better way to put one's imagination to work than contemplating real events, real Christian people and the teachings of God's Word? This book is one of a series of books that are a good way to have young people (and older people) practice doing that.

Many thanks to the folks at Cross Focused Reviews for sending me a free review copy of this book! My review did not have to be favorable.
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