Reviewed by: Jeff Dennison
From the Lips of Little Ones: A Study in the Catechism (for Very Little People), by Jeff Kingswood. Published by and available from Crown & Covenant, 2008. Paperback, 144 pages, list price $10.00. Reviewed by OP elder Jeff Dennison.
Unlike many parents, Mr. Kingswood has not fallen into the trap of assuming that their children (and grandchildren) can only handle airy theological trivialities. Taking seriously the scriptural command to raise up our children in the way of the Lord, Jeff Kingswood has written an introduction to the Children's Catechism of 1840, which is based on the Westminster Shorter Catechism. This guide covers the entire catechism, using a devotional format that tackles one to four questions each week.
Guide is an operative word for this book. Kingswood intentionally allows much flexibility for the teacher/parent to use the book in the way he/she sees fit. The book is peppered with open-ended questions that parents can adapt to the abilities of their children. While this flexibility can be frustrating at times when more guidance from the author seems warranted, it prevents the book from being limited to one particular age group and allows it to be used for children of varying ages simultaneously.
Kingswood is dedicated to training the minds of the next generation of Reformed thinkers. In fact, his commitment to Reformed theology is the strength of the book. This is most evident in the discussion of the person and work of Christ. Concentrating on the focal point of redemptive history focuses Kingswood's writing and provides him with material for clear and effective analogies.
Unfortunately, the clarity and effectiveness of that section are not consistently present in the rest of the book. At times, Kingswood displays an overreliance on the open-ended questions, leaving too many gaps for the parent/teacher to fill in. More significantly, Kingswood too often attempts to support his point by proof texting at the expense of employing the biblical narrative. This is not to say that he completely avoids narrative or that his use of proof texts is all bad. That would be a great overstatement. However, Kingswood seems to lose sight of the fact that the biblical narrative informs his proof texts. This is especially unfortunate, considering that the book is geared toward children. Bible stories are captivating and naturally intriguing (by divine design) to young minds. Thus, a book of this nature presents a golden opportunity to wed the narrative of those stories to the sound theology of the Children's Catechism. In neglecting this opportunity at times, Kingswood dangerously flirts with the moralism inherent within unchecked practical theology.
Despite his writing on the edge, Kingswood has written a valuable book. If parents have a good grasp of Reformed theology, they would likely find the book useful in training their children. For parents who are less confident, perhaps catechism memorization could be supplemented by Catherine F. Vos's Child's Story Bible, the Promise and Deliverance series by S. G. DeGraaf, or even (gasp!) the Bible itself.
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