I’ve found biographies to be very important for my own spiritual development. Ideas and lives of people who have lived well before my time often provide the wisdom I need to navigate present difficulties. It’s been important to me to inculcate an appreciation of biographies in the hearts of my children. I do this by reading them YWAM biographies in the evenings to my children and also by sharing the excellent biographies from Reformation Heritage Books in the Christian Biographies for Young Readers series.
The latest entry into the RHB series is Irenaeus of Lyons. Simonetta Carr authored this significant volume about a lesser known by exceedingly important hero of the Christian tradition.
Irenaeus reads a bit differently than some of the other volumes in this series, seeming to be less narrative and more like the sort of non-fiction informational book that young boys often love. This made sense in light of Carr’s comment in the Acknowledgments, “This was probably the hardest book I have ever written, because we know so little about Irenaeus’s life. His theology is very important, but I had to work hard to ensure this book will be good for more than just putting my young readers to sleep.”
Carr’s efforts have borne fruit for, in fact, this book is just as delightful as her earlier volumes like Martin Luther and Marie Durand. Though there are differences in the manner of carrying out her task; we simply know less about the life of Irenaeus, and much of his life has been passed down in sometimes-questionable stories. However, Carr has done well to the story as we know it.
Irenaeus was a very early figure in Church History. He was a student of Polycarp, who was himself a disciple of John. Irenaeus was, therefore, one of the people trying to sort through Scripture to discern the true nature of Christian doctrine. Among Irenaeus’ most significant works are his Against Heresies, in which he argues in opposition to Marcion’s theological revisionism. Though it is sometimes hard to explain theology to children, Carr does well in bringing the conversation to a level that young children should be able to understand (not to mention their parents).
Irenaeus was not simply a theologian huddled in his ivory tower, however, he was also a pastor engaged in shepherding a congregation in Gaul. This biography relates the story of Irenaeus’ faithful work in an area troubled by persecution and danger from the invasion of the Germanic tribes. The portrait that emerges is of a doctrinally faithful Christian who lived a life devoted to God, which serves as a benchmark for those that come after.
The story is well-told and the book is finely produced. The hardback volumes are durable, which make these books possible to share between generations. The illustrations are colorful, with a mix of photos and paintings. Thus, the reader gets images of how things look now in addition to artistic renditions of the historical scenes. The volumes are really a treasure for the contemporary church.
Note: I received a gratis copy of this volume with no expectation of a positive review.