Rev. William Boekestein. A Colorful Past: A Coloring Book of Church History. Illustrated by Naomi Kamphuis. Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2018. Paperback. 88 pages
Yes, a review for a coloring book! You may wonder how helpful a coloring book may be, but it is a very helpful book about all of church history from the last twenty centuries. As I looked at the book, I came away thinking how effective and useful this small book can be for our children by teaching them some of the following.
First, this book effectively introduces our children to church history. You can buy all sorts of books on church history; you can buy books that give a detailed look at a certain era of history or that try to give a sweeping, bird’s-eye view of history. There are books for novices and scholars of church history. There are all sorts of good books out there, but even the most basic of church history books are frequently beyond the reach of our children.
This book acquaints our children with some of the more important names and movements of church history, giving to our children the simplest of introductions. Essentially, this book gives our children, even some of our youngest children, the basic categories or pegs upon which to hang later and more detailed knowledge of church history. Someday, when our children hear that the doctrines of grace are not new but go all the way back to Augustine, they’ll have a basic understanding of who Augustine was and what in what century he lived.
Second, this book effectively introduces our children to all of church history. Not only does this book help our children to become acquainted with some of the basics of church history, but also it helps to introduce our children to all of church history. Very frequently we as Protestants struggle to teach our children church history prior to the sixteenth century. This coloring book is intentional to teach our young children how the New Testament church has continued to exist, not just since the sixteenth century but since the first century.
Third, this book effectively introduces our children to honest church history. Furthermore, this brief church history book does not ignore the blemishes of some of the well-known figures of church history. It is remarked that Charlemagne was known to have a reputation of adultery and forced conversions. Gregory the Great was not as careful to base his teaching on Scripture as he should have been. It is a basic but honest account of church history. This is quite important because it teaches our children that the church is made up of flawed people like Charlemagne, Gregory the Great, and them. Despite how colorful the history of the church may be, God uses such imperfect means to achieve his plan for his glory and for our salvation.
There are also more “practical” things about this book that are worth mentioning. The pages have pictures on only one side. This was done so that once the picture has been colored, it can be removed and attached on the refrigerator, wall, or poster board. The book gives the idea that the pages could be removed to create a personalized timeline for classrooms or homes. Further, each page has a “century stamp” in order to easily show to which century that particular character on the page belongs.
Having a daughter who loves to color, I am so glad that this resource is available. It will serve to be a helpful tool to introduce her to individuals from our history that I deeply appreciate and look up to. It serves the purpose of showing her how our God has sovereignly maintained and cared for his church over the last twenty centuries, even through flawed people. What a great option it is to teach our children these things through doing something that so many of them love: coloring. Purchase a copy, and you may find that you too can learn from a coloring book!
Rev Phillip Stoffregen
is pastor of Covenant United Reformed Church in Kalamazoo, MI.