Helm, David R., ed. Big Beliefs: Small Devotionals Introducing Your Family to Big Truths. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2016. 192 pp.
Western culture has become an outsource culture. If our car breaks down, we outsource the problem to a car specialist: a mechanic. If our sink backs up, we outsource the problem to a drainage specialist known as a plumber. If our health deteriorates, we call an expert who works with whatever body part is ailing us: a medical specialist. If we want education, we enroll in classes taught by professional educators called teachers. For every life issue we encounter, there is a professional specialist that we can call to outsource whatever is before us in order to address the matter. For many Christians, our outsource culture leads many to believe that the discipleship of our children should thus be performed by theological experts called pastors. Yet, counter to our outsource culture, the LORD speaks to the people of Israel, to parents, “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deut. 6:4, ESV). Parents, not pastors, are to be the primary disciplers of their children, and David R. Helm’s Big Beliefs: Small Devotionals Introducing Your Family to Big Truths is a resource provided to equip the saints for the work of discipleship ministry in the home.
In Big Beliefs, David Helm attempts to “teach theology systematically to young people,” specifically those between seven and twelve years old (10). Helm works through the content of the Westminster Confession of Faith in ninety-nine lessons, three per doctrine per week, with each lesson containing a small Scripture reading, a child-friendly explanation of the doctrine under consideration, and a couple of discussion questions. Doctrines explained include the Word of God; God; the Fall, sin, and mankind; salvation; the Christian life; the church; and the last things.
One of the best aspects of Big Beliefs is its structure. The book is designed to be completed in as little as thirty-three weeks, one week per doctrine with each doctrine requiring three short lessons each week. For families with busy schedules, this book will help parents instruct their children on key biblical doctrines without feeling overwhelmed knowing that the minimum commitment requires about fifteen minutes every other day of the week. Furthermore, new lessons every other day allows parents to spend at least two days a week reinforcing each biblical lesson in the minds of their children before moving on, which is especially helpful for children when working through more complex truths.
Generally speaking, the devotional content is great. The devotionals that Helm has written are concise, insightful, and age appropriate for seven to twelve year olds. For example, on union with Christ, Helm compares going to the White House as a visitor versus being invited to the White House by the President of the United States. There are benefits to being “with” the President that ordinary visitors do not receive, such as getting access to more parts of the White House. Being “with” the President makes a difference. Likewise, but to an infinitely greater degree, there are benefits for those who are “with” Christ, for those who are believers (104).
The one word of caution with respect to the devotional content is that the reader must be aware that the devotional walks through the Westminster Confession of Faith, which means the devotion is oriented to Presbyterian beliefs. Helm’s comments in the devotional do not directly advocate infant baptism even though he states that infants can be part of the church body (106). Neither do his words necessarily advocate Presbyterian church government even though the emphasis on discipline is oriented toward pastoral authority rather than congregational authority (116-118). However, the appended Westminster Confession of Faith clearly advocates baptism by pouring or sprinkling, infant baptism, infant church membership, and elder rule as opposed to believer’s baptism by immersion, regenerate church membership, and congregational rule (180-184). For those who are Presbyterian or reformed in a similar sense, you’ll find the book agreeable in all respects; however, for those who are, perhaps, Baptist, exercise wisdom if you read the Westminster Confession, particularly on the church, baptism, and discipline.
Big Beliefs looks to be a helpful resource, particularly to families who hold to the beliefs expressed in the Westminster Confession of Faith. I commend David Helm for producing a pastoral resource such as this book that will help equip the saints for the work of discipleship in the home so that Christian parents may be faithful stewards of their children’s souls. May the church be strengthened and the Lord glorified in the homes of his people because of Big Beliefs.