Kevin Swanson affirms something many of us know, but few are comfortable with: the best books are often difficult. This isn't some kind of erudite snobbery, simply a recognition of the fact that those books most worth our time are the ones most likely to challenge us. Challenge in this sense is intellectual, but far more important is the spiritual challenge offered by such works as Augustine's Confessions, John Bunyan's Grace Abounding, and John G. Paton's Autogiography. This is the element on which Swanson focuses in his Christian Classics Study Guide - Junior Edition.
Plenty of literature guides help students navigate tricky vocabulary, understandnarrative devices, and developcomprehension skills; many even help students recognize good character traits. Sadly, few go so far as to investigate spiritual and theological truths in the best works (probably because so few works actually point toward them). Swanson has chosen specifically Christian works by revered Christian authors to change all that, offering guides that will improve students academically and as Christians in the service of Our Lord.
Christian Classics Study Guide - Junior Level is a study guide for high school students 14 years old or above, whichlooks closely atfive autobiographical Christian classics by St. Augustine, St. Patrick, John Knox, John Bunyan, and John G. Paton. (Augustine's Confessions and Knox's Reformation in Scotland are abridged, while only Book 1 of Paton's Autobiography is considered; a single volume sold by Generations with Vision contains each text needed to complete the study guide.)
For each book, students read a portion of text and complete the corresponding questions in the consumable study guide. Questions cover both the content of the text and its meaning, helping students absorb and understand the material instead of just being able to summarize. There are also vocabulary words for them to define (making the use of the companion volume important, as other translations may not include the same words). A complete answer key in the back provides recommended guidelines for assessing answers.
This could be either a student- or teacher-directed course, and can take as much or as little time as you (the teacher) see fit. Students will learn to get the essence of a book, and what better place for Christian students to learn literary analysis than from some of the greatest Christian writers of all time? Unfortunately, there isn't a lot of background material offered to help students understand historical contexts, but everything they need is included in the text and the workbook.
A lot of literature guides are Christian only because they were written or published by Christians. Kevin Swanson (an Orthodox Presbyterian pastor in Colorado) goes beyond the surface, and has kids reading, evaluating, and learning from great Christian classics which he presents from a thoroughly Christian perspective. He avoids hero worship, urges kids to evaluate claims made by human writers against the standard of God's Word, and has a firm grasp of the nature of literature. This is one of the better literature guides we've seen, and among the best we offer.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here
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