Simonetta Carr recently published Anselm of Caterbury, the sixth in her Christian Biographies for Young Readers with Reformation Heritage books. The books fill an important niche in Christian publishing–picture books about church history. They are not simple books by any means; they immerse kids and adults alike in the story of a church father, incorporating historical context, theological ideas, and memorable stories from the subject’s life. As such, occasionally the stories may be difficult for young readers to follow, but for older readers and even adults, they provide a rich, thoughtful introduction to church history. (Younger readers can still enjoy the book, perhaps a little at a time, with an adult’s help.)
Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Simonetta about Anselm and her biography series. Here’s what she had to say.
1. Who was Anselm, and why did you choose to write about him?
As you know, the overarching goal of this series of books is to give children a historical understanding of the doctrines they believe. I want to make them think about what they believe and why they believe it.
I remember years ago in Sunday School, I tried to explore with my 2nd and 3rd graders the truth behind the statement, “Jesus took away my sins.” That’s a typical answer to the question, “Why did Jesus die on the cross?” But do children really understand what it means? I asked my students, “How did Jesus take your sins? What did he do with them? Could he just erase them?” Of course there are theologians who say he did just that, erase our sins with no consequence for him or us, but is it really consistent with God’s perfect justice? And did Jesus really need to die in order to do that?
Anselm pondered similar questions. I hope my readers will understand that these doctrines were not formulated lightly. Anselm took years and years to write his Cur Deus Homo, and structured it as a discussion with another monk where–in typical scholastic manner–he tried to leave no stone unturned.
The doctine of Christ’s atonement is a foundational tenet of our historical confessional faith, but has been repeatedly challenged over the centuries. I hope my readers will take it seriously and I hope their parents will help them to realize its implications in our daily lives.
2. You include a lot of metaphors that Anselm himself used in describing his life and Biblical ideas. Did you have a favorite?
Not really. Generally speaking, I like how Anselm seemed to come up with metaphors for just about anything. I think it opens a window on his character. Not only was he always thinking about God and spiritual truths, but he was extremely observant about everything around him, and could draw his illustrations as easily from the life of kings as from that of peasants.
Of the metaphors I mentioned in the book, probably children can relate the most to the one of the child chasing butterflies (which Anselm compares to the lure of material things).
3. Do you see this book (and all of your books) as filling a niche in Christian publishing? If so, how would you describe it?
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