During my time at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, one of the things that I loved the most was that many of the professors were scholars who were writing the best books. Need a commentary on a particular book of the Bible, a book on a theological issue, or work on practical aspects of ministry? Likely the best one you could find was written by someone at SBTS.
But looking back on the experience, I now realize that while that was great, what was better is that those same first-class biblical scholars were also first-class churchmen. Many, if not all, of my professors were not only pacesetters in academics, they were also deeply committed to the local church, serving weekly around the city of Louisville.
It’s no surprise then that Dr. Bruce Ware’s newest book comes from the study of biblical theology, but aims to be a practical help for those in the pew. The book is called Big Truths for Young Hearts: Teaching and Learning the Greatness of God. It’s a family devotional book that seeks to bring the very big truths of the theology of God’s Word to the fertile minds of young children.
Dr. Ware was gracious enough to take some time to be interviewed about his new book.
Dr. Ware, thank you for taking the time to do this interview! In the forward to Big Truths for Young Hearts, your daughters talk about how you were very intentional in teaching them to think about what the Bible teaches, including theology. Given that many of even the best parents don’t do this, what led you to make this a regular part of your parenting?
A couple of things conspired. First, when our two girls were young, they were very happy and giggly and didn’t want to go to sleep when we put them to bed. So, I thought I might co-opt the time and teach them. Second, I am a teacher by gifting, and I LOVE to teach theology. So, I thought what better to teach them than the glorious truths that had shaped me and had meant so much to me in my own life. For a number of years, then, I spent a short time with each girl at their bedtimes going through the whole range of the theology of the Christian faith. What a joy this was. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Do you think there is a biblical mandate for parents to be intentional about teaching the Bible to their children?
Deuteronomy 6, the opening chapters of Proverbs, Ephesians 6:1-4, and 2 Timothy 3:14-15 would lead us to answer this question, yes. And, while both mom and dad should be involved, there is a special responsibility placed on dads for the spiritual instruction of the children. I find it fascinating that in Eph 6, although Paul speaks generically of “parents” (6:1) and then “father and mother” (6:2), he then switches deliberately to “fathers” (6:4) for the special responsibility of raising them in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Yes, dads have a particular calling by God, based on their headship in the home, to bear primary responsibility to ensure the children are instructed in the word and ways of God.
Tell us about Big Truths for Young Hearts. What are your goals for the book? How does it differ from other books that are designed to teach the Bible to young children?
This book essentially is a systematic theology for the young — both children and those who are young in the faith. It goes through all of the main areas of theology that I teach in our required systematic theology classes in seminary, but it does so in brief and easily understood and digested units. Each section runs about 3 pages, and each is followed with some “starter” discussion questions and a key memory verse for that particular doctrinal area. My goals for the book are simple: I want to encourage Christian parents and others with a resource that is readable and usable to help young hearts know better who God is, and understand better the range of incredibly beautiful theological truths he has revealed to us — for our salvation and growth as Christians.
Looking at the table of contents for Big Truths for Young Hearts, the book appears to follow a typical outline for a systematic theology. Why do you think it’s important to teach the theology of Bible that way to children?
There is a logical order to the normal sequence of systematic theology, and this sequence is used in Big Truths for Young Hearts. As one works through the book, it will be apparent that certain things must be put in place for others to be built upon them. For example, we talk about sin before talking about Christ’s work on the cross to pay for our sin. So, an order that helps us build up our theological ideas and worldviews is important in thinking clearly and rightly about God’s word.
The books says it’s aimed to children 9 and up. I’m sure some parents will object and say kids that young can’t understand this level of Bible teaching. What would you say to them to encourage them to rethink that and try teaching theology to their young children?
Young children are often brighter and more intellectually curious than we give them credit for. I started teaching our own two girls when Rachel was 4 and Bethany was 8. Bethany caught on quicker, but I was amazed often at the complex questions Rachel would ask at a mere 4 or 5 years old. Surely, children a bit older will find it easier to grasp what is in the book. But I’d encourage parents not to sell their young children short. Encourage their thinking and you may be surprised at the results.
Would it be fair to say that some adults will be able to learn alongside their children as they read through this book?
Yes, I suspect that for many parents who have not had the advantages I’ve had with formal theological training, that they may benefit as much or more than their children as they learn (some of them, anyway) for the first time what the various doctrines of the Christian faith are. I hope they not only know these better from reading this book to their children, but I hope their hearts are moved to worship and awe and wonder at what they see of God and his work through this study.
Are there any other children’s books that you would recommend parents read along with Big Truths for Young Hearts ?
Perhaps a good catechism, as the one provided by Children Desiring God, and the Big Picture Story Bible book — these would be valuable resources to use as well.
I think Big Truths for Young Hearts is going to be a great asset to parents who want to be faithful to train up their children to hope in God. I’m looking forward to using your book at our church and with my own kids at home. Thank you again for your time, Dr. Ware.
According to the SBTS website, Dr. Ware is a highly esteemed theologian and author in the evangelical world. He came to Southern Seminary from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where he served as Associate Professor and Chairman of the Department of Biblical and Systematic Theology. Prior to this, he taught at Western Conservative Baptist Seminary and at Bethel Theological Seminary. Dr. Ware has written numerous journal articles, book chapters, and book reviews and, along with Thomas Schreiner, has co-edited The Grace of God and the Bondage of the Will and Still Sovereign. He also has authored God’s Lesser Glory: The Diminished God of Open Theism, God’s Greater Glory: The Exalted God of Scripture and the Christian Faith, and Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: Relationships, Roles, and Relevance.
You can listen to some of Dr Ware’s sermons here.
You can also browse through Big Truths for Young Hearts online from its publisher, Crossway Books. Also, ordering directly through Crossway gets you a free pdf copy of the book.
EDIT: Amazingly enough, Justin Taylor (who runs the great Between Two Worlds blog) also has an interview with Dr. Ware about this same book, and he posted it the same day as me! Apprently, great mind do think alike :-)