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 Parents and children began to think the truths of The Ology were old-fashioned and out of date.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)