A Review of The Ology by Marty Machowski

Exploring the centuries-old church in their neighborhood was proving to be an adventure that Carla and Timothy would not soon forget.

Thus begins The Ology, the latest book by pastor and author Marty Machowski and illustrator Andy McGuire. As Carla and Timothy venture down into a small, dusty storage room in the old church, they discover a parcel and a note, waiting for someone to read and explore. The note explains,

You hold in your hands the last known copy of a rare children’s book with a long history. Its story begins with the early church pastors. They were the ones who first taught us how to understand the message of the Bible. Later came those who studied God and the Bible so they could help others understand who God is and how to follow him. Just a few of them were Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, and John Calvin. Because they studied God, people started calling them theologians. Theology means the study of God. . . . But sadly, after many years, The Ology was forgotten. Parents and children began to think the truths of The Ology were old-fashioned and out of date. One by one these books vanished. The book you now hold may be the very last copy of The Ology in existence. (p. 7)

With this introduction, parents and children are invited to read on and begin to know God, know themselves, and know how much God loves them. The thoughtful word pictures, soft illustrations, and enlightening Scripture passages make this book a delight to read and share. It is a testimony to how little we know, or want to know, of God that parents and teachers would shy away from teaching our little ones the truth from God’s Word. The Ology is a resource that can be used by even the most timid of adults to begin, day by day, discovering the richness of God in Christ Jesus.

Organized as a systematic theology, the book moves through the Bible under topical categories, or systems, such as “The Ology of God,” “The Ology of Sin,” and “The Ology of Change.” Machowski does a masterful job of ministering to the souls of his readers as he walks through the various systems. One striking example: “Safe in the ark, Noah and his family survived God’s flood. That’s a picture of how we escape God’s judgment when we are hidden in Christ. As far as God is concerned, because Jesus lived a sinless life, we who trust in Christ also live a sinless life in him.” (p. 124) What child or parent does not delight to hear these words?

Machowski’s explanation of the Holy Spirit’s work is simple enough for even a young child to grasp and treasure:

How do we know the Spirit lives in us? Well, only the Holy Spirit can help us turn away from our sin and believe in Jesus. The Holy Spirit is the one who shows us that we are sinners who need Jesus. Once we come to Jesus, he makes us more like Jesus. Because of the Spirit we have Jesus’s power to love even really annoying people and to share the good news about Jesus with others. We can tell that the Holy Spirit is inside because we think and do things that are different. And best of all, down deep inside, even though we still sin, we want to follow God and get to know him better. Once we have the Holy Spirit, no one can take him away from us. (p. 138)

I especially loved Machowski’s treatment of faith. The illustration he uses is a delicious root beer float which has only two main ingredients: root beer and vanilla ice cream. He goes on:

Did you know that faith in Jesus has two ingredients? To become a Christian you need to believe, which means trusting that Jesus is God, died for your sins, and was raised from the dead. And you need to repent, which means you need to turn away from your sin and from going your own way and follow Jesus. This is what the Bible means by faith—believing and turning. (p. 152)

My favorite part of The Ology, however, was his section The Ology of the End Times. I think this is because, when I talk to my children, they can talk about heaven just as easily as they talk about going to Florida for vacation. The faith of a child is so trusting, so genuine and fresh and real, that talking about eternity with God in perfection is enough to make one weep with joy. Their minds and hearts are so soft at this young age; perhaps it was with this in mind that Machowski himself desired to revisit these old truths with a young audience in mind. We are all blessed when we are reminded how to see truth through young eyes of faith. I love his words on page 210:

When you trust in Jesus, the last day of this earth will be very different for you. You too will stand before God, but instead of having to answer for all your sins, you can just point to Jesus and say, ‘I’m with him!’ Jesus’s death on the cross has already paid for all of your sins. So when you stand before God, you will be welcomed by these words, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’ How amazing is that?

He goes on to paint an attractive picture of eternity, one informed not by pop culture but by the Word.

Have you ever been so happy to get back home and into your bed after a long trip? That is just a small piece of what heaven will be like for God’s children. . . . Within its beautiful walls we will live with Jesus, building homes, tending gardens, making music, creating art, and in all kinds of different ways filling the world with beauty and joy. Animals will once again fill the earth and, like in the Garden of Eden, they will live in peace and harmony together with us. Imagine petting a tiger, riding an antelope, or calling for an eagle to perch on your arm. (p. 213)

Children will especially enjoy picturing themselves in McGuire’s illustration for this chapter.

One chapter to note is the chapter on baptism. The illustration is of an older child being baptized by immersion, while the text includes the following paragraph:

Some Christian parents have their infant children baptized as a sign that they have been born into God’s covenant family. Other parents wait until their children are old enough to turn away from their sin and say they believe in Jesus on their own before baptism. While not everyone agrees on the best time to baptize children of believers, wise leaders on both sides agree that all children must turn away from their sin and place their only hope for salvation in Jesus. (p. 192)

Because of our fallen state, instead of turning more and more to our Heavenly Father as we grow, we turn away. A book like The Ology can be used to stem the turning tide of our hearts and instead fuel our childlike curiosity about God and ourselves with truth from God’s Word. This focus on God is likely to set this book apart from the start, as many books for children (and, let’s be honest, adults) focus on something within or about oneself that is ostensibly of value or redeeming. The Ology points children to the cross, not themselves. With God’s grace, children will appreciate the truth.

McGuire’s illustrations very much aid Machowski in this task to present the truth, as he stays away from drawing predictable Bible story pictures and often includes pictures of children and animals to draw children in to understand the truths being conveyed. I appreciated the inclusion of suggested uses for ages 6–9, 10–12, and teens and adults. Scripture memory is also encouraged and a glossary of theological terms is included, again, explained in language even young children can grasp.

Satan loves to let us think that certain types of people are not ready to be saved and transformed by God’s grace. Sometimes those “types of people” are children. I recommend that parents and teachers use this resource and pray that God would turn many young hearts to himself in faith, repentance, obedience, and abundant life. For as Machowski declares, “As we turn to God, the Holy Spirit opens our eyes, brings us from darkness to light, and makes us into a beautiful display that shows the whole world what Jesus looks and acts like.” (p. 168)

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Tammy Noel Thomas Smith

2 years ago

I started reading this to our 5 children and when we got to the part of The Ology of Jesus,I I started having a hard time with this.It portrayed Jesus as having no knowledge and learning from the teachers.That’s not so.Jesus asked questions the very same way He asked questions to the woman at the well and Nathaniel when He saw him far away under a tree somewhere else.Jesus often asked questions,to the Pharisees even,not because He didn’t know but because He was asking that person to search their hearts.Jesus was not learning about God and His Word at the Temple when He was 12,He was doing the teaching.He knew the Word because He is the Word.This was very confusing to my children,as they believe and have been taught that Jesus was always God and had the power of God even in that manger.To speak anything else would be blasphemy.I didn’t care for this book at all,no matter how pretty the pictures were.

Dan Glover

11 months ago

Saying that Jesus learned things is not blasphemy, unless you want to attribute blasphemy to the writer of Hebrews (5:7-9) and to many of the church fathers. Also, if Jesus fulfilled the law perfectly during his earthly life and ministry, one of the things he would have had to do is respect Israel’s teachers, and learn the law and the prophets from them and from his parents (Deut. 6:4-9). None of this means that Jesus wasn’t God while he was a child. The incarnation means Jesus was also fully human – his deity did not diminish his true humanity or vice versa. Also, the story you refer to seems to indicate he was discussing the Scriptures, which probably means that he was listening/learning as well as questioning and teaching. At any rate, one item of disagreement ought not make the entire book, or its author, or positive reviewers, blasphemous in your mind…what do you do if a fellow Christian says something or a Christian teacher says something you disagree with? Do you excommunicate them in your heart and walk away from that relationship? Are you sure that you understand Machowski completely? Are you sure there isn’t an aspect of his portrayal of Jesus at 12 in the temple that is allowable if not fully agreeable to you? Has Machowski’s portrayal really strayed into blasphemy and heresy here, or is it just a point of legitimate disagreement which can still allow for the rest of this book to be of value? I am absolutely certain that Machowski holds to the full divinity of Christ even while in his mother’s womb. And even if you are convinced that Machowski botched this episode, why not teach your children how to disagree charitably with a fellow reformed evangelical brother rather than consigning the book to the pyre?

Kevinphoff

2 months ago

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