Irenaeus is a name that, unfortunately, few Christians know. And for those who have at least heard the name in passing, even fewer know anything substantial about who he was or why he’s important for Christian history.
A New Book
Thankfully, Simonetta Carr has written a new book to help correct that. As part of her “Christian Biographies for Young Readers” series, Carr has written a new book on Irenaeus in her effort to introduce children to important people in the Christian tradition. She says at the end of this volume, “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” (63). She certainly succeeded in that effort.
As with the previous volumes in this series, this new book on the life of Irenaeus is excellent. It is concise, engaging, beautifully illustrated, accurate, and a joy to read. Covering the life of Irenaeus in just 54 pages, Carr gives the reader a great introduction to the man, his mission, and his legacy. You will not find everything you would want or need to know about Irenaeus in this book, but that is not its purpose. The book is aimed at young readers, helping them get an introduction to the life and ministry of Irenaues and why he matters for church history.
Irenaeus’s Life & Legacy
Irenaeus was born around 130AD and died around 200AD and served as a bishop for much of his life, pastoring and shepherding Christians to both stand against heresy and false teaching, as well as to endure and persevere in their allegiance to Christ in the midst of severe persecution.
In helping his people stand firm against false teaching, Irenaeus wrote a five-volume work called Against Heresies, breaking down the Gnostic and Marcionite heresies of the time, exposing their errors, and pointing his readers to the truth of Scripture. Carr says in the book:
“Today, Against Heresies is still considered one of the most complete and accurate explanations from Irenaeus’s time of the Gnostics’ ideas. Besides, to answer the Gnostics’ claims, Irenaeus had to study and explain the Scriptures in such depth that Against Heresies has become one of the first great summaries of Christian thought. We can thank the Gnostics for motivating him to write it” (41).
While it is directed toward young readers, those are not the only ones who will benefit from this book. Young and old alike will profit from and enjoy reading this book, whether you know absolutely nothing about Irenaeus and this is your first introduction, or whether this is the fifth book you’ve read on the man and it simply serves as a reminder in a beautifully illustrated way for you to teach your children or others about him.
Carr closes the book with a wonderful reminder for us on why Irenaeus is an important figure in church history for us and our children to be reminded of:
“Irenaeus is remembered for his work in helping the church to preserve the faith handed on by the apostles and to defend it when it was attacked. In Against Heresies, he taught Christians how to read the Scriptures faithfully and with humility, seeing both Old and New Testaments as one unified story. He also urged them to use their God-given reason to distinguish what he knew were historical events from imaginary stories. To Christians, these lessons are as important today as they were in his time” (54).
In accordance with FTC regulations, I would like to thank Reformation Heritage Books and Cross Focused Reviews for providing me with a review copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.