What is God Like? by Rachel Held Evans and Matthew Paul Turner (Review)

Who Should Read This Book – Parents who desire for their young children to develop a healthy understanding of what God is like.

What is the Big Takeaway – Questions don’t get any bigger than ones about God and while we’ll never fully understand God we can know that God is better, safer, more wonderful and more loving than our imaginations can conceive.

And a Quote: “God is like three dancers, graceful and precise. They move to the same music in very different ways, showcasing all of God’s elegance and rhythm in your life.”

Christian parents seeking to pass their faith on to their children can find good books difficult to find. There are piles and piles of books telling stories from the Bible for kids. Whatever sort of book you are looking for, whichever specific Christian tradition you are a part of, you can probably find books of Bible stories that you like. But books that are more, for lack of a better term, theological can be extremely hard to find.

That’s why I am incredibly happy that this book has been published.

For some background, in case you are not familiar, Rachel Held Evans was a thought-provoking and kind-hearted writer who tragically died a couple of years ago, leaving behind a young family. Her friend, Matthew Paul Turner, worked to complete this book. The illustrations are by Ying Hui Tan and are absolutely fantastic.

It might be worth noting, if it matters, that Evans and Turner are both on the more progressive side of Christianity. That said, the picture painted here of God is in line with mainstream, traditional Christian theology. They even, in the quote I shared above, allude to God as Trinity.

They do not mention Trinity, nor do they mention Jesus. I am sure some readers/parents would desire a bit more specific language. To this I would say, no book is perfect nor exhaustive, especially when we are speaking of God. This book, nor any book, should serve as the only book you read to your kids about God. Parents can supplement this book with other books that go into the specifics they desire to pass on.

What this book excels at is imagination and beauty. Evans and Turner paint a compelling picture of God, reminding us that God is always going to exceed both our rational understanding and most vivid imagination. The story ends by affirming that questions about God are valued and encourages children to keep wondering and learning.

I’ve often wondered if faith development requires some sort of crisis in the teen/young adult years. We learn the basic stories as kids and take the stories, as we take any stories, at face value. Eventually we have to reckon with all sorts of questions about everything from archaeology to history to other religions. Stories of people who leave their faith behind abound, and at least a part of this is that (some of them, in my opinion) never learn to move beyond the surface level of the stories. But some people are able to value the stories they (we) learned as children while also recognizing the deeper truths of God within these stories.

I think this book will help put children on a path to discovering the beautiful and loving God revealed in Jesus.

Postscript: I have been reading Origen’s On First Principles and his writing on the different levels of scripture seems something we’ve lost and would do well to get back. He argues the surface level of scripture is valuable, but we ought not stay there. Rather than throwing out the scripture, as some today are wont to do, we still find value in it. But rather than stay on the surface, as it seems so many others to, we dive deeper. Too many seem to learn the faith as children and think they learned it all (kind of like, graduated from Christianity in 6th grade) while too many others seem to think they grow up and find something more, well, grown-up, than Christianity. Origen (and Evans/Turner) help us see that in place of this either/or you can find a wonderful both/and.

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