The Covenantal Catechism books present a complete survey of the Bible designed for use in home or church study. Drawing from the three ecumenical creeds—Apostle's, Nicene and Athanasian—as well as the Heidelberg Catechism, Belgic Confession, Canons of Dordt and Westminster Confession and catechisms, the biblical narrative is placed within the context of key Christian and Reformed doctrines.
The authors encourage a two-phase approach to Bible education. For them, the first phase would be covered by their Covenantal Catechism curriculum, and the second by a confessional/doctrinal course lasting 3-4 years. The purpose of the two-part approach is to focus first on what God has said to man, and second on how man responds to God's Word. This curriculum addresses the first concern by leading students through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation with the intent of bringing them to saving faith and growing knowledge.
How Do These Work?
Each of the six books in the series contain 25 lessons of 4-5 pages. Lessons are primarily dialogue-based with an emphasis on teacher/student interaction. Review questions relate to previous lessons, each of which includes Scripture reading, memory verses, catechism questions and written work. Books 1-4 include music and lyrics for psalter hymns. There is no set grade level for the series, though it should be completed before high school.
Book 1 is basically a whirlwind tour of the Old Testament. The text is geared toward younger children and is intended to be read aloud to them. The writing is a little dated and more formal than many are comfortable with, but it is to the point. Use this book early—its approach makes it excellent for K-2, but older kids probably won't get as much out of it.
Books 2-6 are a chronological survey from Genesis to Revelation. Books 2 and 3 cover the Old Testament, Books 4-6 cover the New Testament. Their tone and content make them suitable as late as ninth grade, though we would recommend completing them earlier. Lessons are to be read by the students and written assignments are plainly outlined in the text. The books can be written in or the pages copied as desired.
Teacher's handbooks for each volume provide lesson plans, schedules, answers to all questions found in the student text, and some supplementary material. Their real value, however, rests in the presentation of an approach to teaching the material. An entire philosophy of Bible education is outlined with specific suggestions for implementation. Ideas for illustrations and topics for conversation ensure the teacher won't be at a loss when presenting the material.
Our Honest Opinion:
There are no pictures in any of the books. While this might not be a problem for older kids, younger ones might find it a challenge to stay focused. Because of its old-fashioned tone the writing sometimes feels a bit condescending. For those dedicated to a single confession or catechism, the free use of several confessional standards may be a problem, though most of the content is broadly Reformed rather than specific to any particular branch.
Covenantal Catechism is a good choice for those who want to focus their children's Bible education on doctrine. Biblical knowledge is taught throughout, and a substantial amount of Bible reading is involved with each lesson, but the emphasis is on the theological implications of that knowledge. Practical application is sometimes referenced, though not often.
The series offers an excellent base on which to build further study. By making children familiar with some of the more complex issues and questions of Christianity from an early age, the books make the step to in-depth doctrinal study much easier. Since the series is intended to be taught (rather than self-guided) there are many opportunities for good discussion and futher investigation. The straightforward approach is aimed at honest interaction with key Christian ideas in order for students to be knowledgeable and prepared to live in the world as God's children.
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.
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