Joel R. Beeke and William Boekestein
Reviewed by: Linda Finlayson
Contending for the Faith: The Story of the Westminster Assembly, by Joel R. Beeke and William Boekestein. Reformation Heritage, 2022. Hardcover, 40 pages, $7.50. Reviewed by OP member Linda Finlayson.
Dr. Joel Beeke and Rev. William Boekestein have written a very accessible book for children on the Westminster Assembly. They wisely chose to start the story much earlier, giving an overview of the historical events that led to the assembly. Starting with John Wycliffe, they explain the beginnings of the Reformation as it occurred in England. They move swiftly through Henry VIII’s divorce, which opened the door to change in the church, and through the reigns of his children, Edward, Mary, and Elizabeth. Arriving at the Stuart line of kings, the authors do a good job of explaining the complicated events leading to the English civil war and the assembly itself. Explaining history to children means an author must walk a fine line. To give too much detail not only bores readers, but also causes them to miss the overall picture. To simplify too much leads to the danger of misinformation. Beeke and Boekestein got it right: just enough detail to make sense of the times. Leaving the civil war to rage on its own, the authors then take the reader into the meeting rooms where the godly men prayed, discussed, and eventually wrote the five documents that have been so important in the history of Presbyterianism: the Form of Church Government, the Directory of Public Worship, the Confession of Faith, the Larger Catechism, and the Shorter Catechism. For each document, there is a clear summary and an explanation of how it is to be used. The final page shows how these documents have spread around the world and are still used today.
On the whole, the illustrations are well done and complement the text. However, there was one chart and page of text that left me wondering if a young reader would understand it. In the chart about the Form of Church Government, Jesus (his name; not his picture) is at the center, with Moses, Aaron, and King David looking toward Jesus, and from Jesus come the officers of the church: pastor, deacon, elder. The accompanying text does not mention the Old Testament figures, which might make a reader wonder what the purpose of them is in the chart. Also, the text mentions four officers—pastor, teacher, deacon and elder—but the chart only shows three.
This, and the lack of page numbers, may not be preferable but do not detract from the overall message of the book. I recommend this beautifully produced book for children ages eight to twelve.
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