I love Church history. I think that one of the most important things we can do to help our kids face the future is to help them understand the past. In fact, I think one of the great tragedies that has occurred in both education - and in the Church - is that we no longer know where we came from. We don't know who has gone before us. We don't know our history.
A new product from Zondervan and author Norman Jeune III can help.
When we're evaluating political issues, if we don't understand Marxism - and the tremendous pain it has caused over the decades - we may not recognize the danger it carries with it. Even worse, we may not recognize Marxism at all (for it is inevitably packaged as something else). How do we solve this? We educate ourselves - and our children. We learn about Karl Marx - who he was, and what he taught.
Likewise, in the spiritual realm, if we don't understand Arianism -- and recognize the heresy that it is - we may not recognize it when it shows up in the pulpit, on the page, or on the television. We may not understand the fight against Arianism that has been occurring for centuries - and we may not understand why. The solution? Education. We need to know who Arius was, and what he taught. We also need to teach it to our kids.
That said, educating our kids about the great thinkers in the Christian tradition can be an arduous undertaking. There are increasingly fantastic resources available to help our children learn, but those only touch the tip of the iceberg. The tip is important, but what about the body of information beneath? What if our children don't go to seminary? Will they ever know the people who shaped Christian thought? Will they know why we sometimes hear things that don't seem to match the words of Jesus?
I am SO excited to tell you about Norman Jeune III's Theologian Trading Cards (Zondervan). Norman Jeune III is the lead Chaplain at CHOC Children's Hospital, and Field Education Supervisor at Fuller Theological Seminary. Mr. Jeune told me that he originally designed Theologian Trading Cards as a way to assist undergraduate and seminary students when he was in seminary at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University.
We homeschoolers adapt college-level products for our kids all the time. However, these cards need no adapting. They are written using language that is worthy of college students, but students with a decent vocabulary should be able to track with the information, even if some of the theological concepts that are briefly mentioned are new to them. I think these cards would be fantastic for high school students, and sharp middle school students.
My boys (3rd and 4th grade) love memorizing information, and they can't get enough of trading cards (or LEGO mini-figures, truth be told). I tried to hide my galley sheets for the cards, but they caught sight of them, and they are insisting I add Theologian Trading Cards to their Christmas gift list. (So much for surprises!) I know they'll have every one of the cards memorized within a year or two. They may not understand all the concepts right away, but I believe the cards will give them a great framework for future studies.
Enough about why we parents should care about Christian history and Jeune's Theologian Trading Cards. Here is what they are:
There are 288 important figures in church history divided into 15 different theological teams. Each team has its own color which borders the cards, and is a collection of figures related to a particular theme.
Each card front bears the portrait or photo of one important Christian figure, their name, and their "team". The reverse side of the card has a small picture (or a silhoutte with a question mark when no physical information is available), the name, date of birth and death, a brief biographical blurb, and a statement explaining the figure's significance. The information on the card is concise - no more than a few sentences - but it is enough to orient your child with the person and the history. Moreover, I think that categorizing the people will be helpful - there is no confusing the heretics with the post-Reformation Roman Catholics.
There are also a few blank cards - kids can add new figures to their deck. This is a great feature, as the cards inevitably do not cover all of the important people in Christian history.
The Fifteen Teams:
*Orthodoxy Dodgers (Heretics - ex: Arius, Marcion, and Pelagius)
*St. James Padres (Church Fathers of the Patristic Era - ex: Augustine of Hippo, Cyprian of Carthage, Gregory of Nyssa)
*Avignon Crusaders (Medieval excluding Mystics and Monks - ex: Thomas Aquinas, Dante Alighieri, John Wyclif)
*Constantinople Hesychasts (Orthodox Church - ex: Cyril of Constantinople, Vladimir Lossky, Alexander Schmemann)
*Munich Monks (Hermits, Monks, and Mystics - ex: Antony of Egypt, Catherine of Siena, Teresa of Avila)
*Geneva Sovereigns (Later Reformed Church / Early Reformers - ex: Jakob Arminius, John Calvin, Ulrich Zwingli)
*Wittenberg Whistle-Blowers (Early Reformers / Later Lutheran Church - ex: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther, George Spalatin)
*Münster Radicals (Radical Reformation / Anabaptists - ex: Melchior Hofmann, Menno Simons, Thomas Müntzer)
*Canterbury Monarchs (English Reformers / Angelicans / Puritans - ex: Thomas Cranmer, John Knox, William Tyndale)
*Los Angeles Knights (Fundamentalists / Evangelicals - ex: Jonathan Edwards, Billy Graham, D.L. Moody)
*Berlin Aggiornamentos (Contemporary - ex: James Cone, Gerhard Ebeling, Albert Schweitzer)
*Jerusalem Resourcers (Contemporary - ex: Karl Barth, Reinhold Niebuhr, T. F. Torrance)
*St. Pius Cardinals (Roman Catholic primarily post-Reformation - ex: Desiderius Erasmus, John Paul II, John Henry Newman)
*Serampore Preachers (Missionaries - ex: Boniface, John Eliot, George Whitefield)
*Athens Metaphysicians (Philosophers - ex: Aristotle, Immanuel Kant, Karl Marx)
Did you catch that last category? Those aren't theologians. They're not even Christians. Yet, the work of secular philosophers has had a tremendous impact on the Church.
Theologian Trading Cards are a fantastic resource for teaching kids about the history of the Christian Church, and the major influencers of theology throughout history, in a fun and engaging way. Better yet, their learning can occur amongst themselves as they trade cards, compare information, and quiz each other on their knowledge of Christian history.
What do you think? Could you use Theologian Trading Cards in your home, school, or co-op?
I want to thank Zondervan and Academic PS for providing me with copies of Theologian Trading Cards in return for my honest opinion.
~ Danika Cooley