“What is God Like” Book Review: Helping Our Kids Discern What God Is Like…And What He Is Not

June 30, 2021

It isn’t often you find a children’s book about the nature of God on Amazon’s Best-Selling Book List. The Hungry Caterpillar? Sure. The Harry Potter series? Most definitely.

What Is God Like? Now there’s a surprise! Or is it? Not exactly, when the book’s author is the late Rachel Held Evans.

Held Evans was a prominent female voice in the progressive Christian movement, writing numerous New York Times bestselling books before her life was cut short in 2019 at age 37. Before her death, Held Evans began drafting outlines for children’s books, one of which was recently completed by her friend, Matthew Paul Turner, and published by Convergent.


Contents:

  1. What Is God Like Book Review
  2. Discernment for Kids When Reading Rachel Held Evans Books
  3. Parent Questions for Kids: What Is Truth?
  4. Parent Questions for Kids: Do Feelings Always Point to Truth?
  5. Parent Questions for Kids: How Do We Discover the Truth About God?
  6. Parent Questions for Kids: From Where Do We Learn Truth About God?
  7. Parent Questions for Kids: Which Descriptions of God in this Book Line Up with Truth and Which Do Not?
  8. Conclusion


What Is God Like Book Review

The title of this book, "What Is God Like?" (Not to be confused with Beverly Lewis’ book with the same title), clearly explains the premise. Each page explores an analogy comparing God to something familiar in a child’s world. The illustrations, created by Ying Hui Tan, are stunning. And the text is written in beautiful, kid-friendly language.

As a follower of Jesus, I was excited to see a kids’ book on the nature of God take the publishing world by storm. However, as with any book on the topic, my primary question when turning the pages was, Do the descriptions of God in this book accurately reflect God’s self-revelation?

The book opens by explaining that people often wonder what God is like. I appreciated this affirmation, as it helps children see that their questions and curiosity about God are a healthy and important part of the creature-Creator relationship.

Held Evans and Turner then go on to explain,

“While nobody has seen all of God (because God is far too big for any of us to fully see), we can know what God is like.”

Again, I affirmed this statement with a hearty, Yes, we can know what God is like!

But two questions rode the tails of my enthusiasm.

  1. First, From where do the authors claim humans gain knowledge of God?
  2. And, second, Do the authors believe this knowledge is based on objective truth or subjective feelings?

In other words, is Rachel Held Evans biblical in her theological views embedded in her books?

After exploring numerous biblical and extra-biblical analogies describing God, the book’s closing pages answered my questions with crystal clarity.

Held Evans and Turner write,

What is God like? That’s a very big question, one that people from places all around the world, throughout all time, have answered in many different ways. Keep searching. Keep wondering. Keep learning about God. But whenever you aren’t sure what God is like, think about what makes you feel safe, what makes you feel brave, and what makes you feel loved. That’s what God is like.



These closing lines make clear that Held Evans and Turner do not view Scripture as the objective authority on the nature of God. Instead, subjective feelings are the ultimate guide.

What Is God Like? book reviews by secular book reviewers affirm that one doesn’t have to believe the Bible is Scripture to enjoy the book, and furthermore that,

“It is well suited for diverse theistic audiences with varied beliefs about the creator, their nature, and identity.”

Because this book untethers God’s nature from the objective claims of Scripture, it is not a book those who hold to historic Christian teachings will want tucked in book bins for the kids to explore independently.


Discernment for Kids When Reading Rachel Held Evans Books and Similar Authors

However, rather than altogether avoiding the progressive Christian teaching in these pages, followers of Jesus are wise to use Rachel Held Evans Books and other similar works as resources to train our children in the art of discernment.

After all, our children are bound to encounter such Progressive teachings, whether in a book like this, a YouTube video, a youth group meeting, or a well-known Christian who publicly deconstructs his or her faith.

This book is the perfect tool to proactively prepare our kids to evaluate claims about the nature of God. Here are five questions we can use in conjunction with What Is God Like? to equip our kids with this skill.

Tip: You can watch and listen to a read through of her book on Youtube and work through these five questions.


Question #1 - What Is Truth?

If we want to help our kids explore the truth about God’s nature, they first need to understand what truth is. Philosophers have classically defined truth as “that which corresponds with reality.” In kid-friendly terms - truth is what is real.

Before reading What Is God Like?, we can establish this foundation by asking our kids,

“What is truth?”

If they have trouble defining it, we can ask them for examples of things they know are true:

  • Earth is round
  • Reese’s contain sugar
  • Loving others is the right thing to do, etc.

Then, we can help them see that these truths show what is real. That’s because truth is what is real.

Tip: For additional resources, check out a lesson on truth and simple activities for little ones.


Question #2 - Do Feelings Always Point to Truth?

Once our children understand that truth is what is real, we should then ask,

“Do our feelings always point to truth?”

This is key in helping our kids see the error of determining God’s nature by simply pondering things that make us feel safe, brave, or loved.

If our kids struggle to answer this question, we can give specific examples of times when their feelings did not point to truth.

  • Think about last week when you felt angry with your brother because you thought he stole your favorite truck.
  • Then we found the truck in the back of your sock drawer.
  • Did your feelings of anger point you to the truth?

We want our children to understand that feelings are not an infallible guide for truth.


Question #3 - How Do We Discover the Truth About God?

The final question to ask before reading What Is God Like? should be,

“If our feelings are not the ultimate guide, how do we discover truth about God? Is such knowledge even possible?”

To help guide our children through this question, we can ask how we learn truth about anyone.

We spend time with that person or learn from someone who knew/knows that person. Then we can explain that God has shown us the truth about who He is in two places:

When we want to know the truth about God, we go to these two sources He has given us, with the Bible being God’s most specific and special revelation.

Tip: To help kids understand why we can trust the Bible is God’s self-revelation, check out Cold-Case Christianity for Kids.


Question #4 - Where Do the Authors of this Book Think We Learn Truth About God?

Once we have established a foundation with the first three questions, we are ready to read What Is God Like?

At the onset, we should remind our kids that we primarily learn truth about God from the Bible.

Then we should ask our kids to pay attention throughout the book to where the authors think we learn truth about God.

When reading the final page of the book, we can remind our children again of this question.

Then we can reread the lines,

“Whenever you aren’t sure what God is like, think about what makes you feel safe, what makes you feel brave, and what makes you feel loved. That’s what God is like.

Most kids will quickly discern that the authors are pointing to feelings, not Scripture, as the ultimate guide for truth about God.


Question #5 - Which Descriptions of God in this Book Line Up with Truth and Which Do Not?

Finally, we should provide our kids with the opportunity to evaluate which analogies in the book line up with truth and which do not.

To do this, we can send our kids on a Scripture search, exploring what God has revealed about Himself in His Word.

There are numerous places in What Is God Like? where God is described in biblical metaphors.

Held Evans and Turner describe God as:

However, they also describe God in language that contradicts what God has revealed about Himself.

God is described numerous times as:

Exploring these Scriptures together will equip our kids to evaluate which analogies about God are true and which are not.


Conclusion

What Is God Like? will likely remain on Amazon’s Best-Selling Book List for quite some time.

Our children may directly encounter it at a friend’s house, online, or even at church.

But rather than shying away from this book, we can use it as a powerful opportunity to equip our kids to think well and practice testing every idea they encounter with the truths of Scripture.

About Elizabeth Urbanowicz

Elizabeth Urbanowicz is a follower of Jesus who is passionate about equipping kids to understand the truth of the Christian worldview. Elizabeth holds a B.S. in Elementary Education from Gordon College, an M.S.Ed. in Education from Northern Illinois University, and an M.A. in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. Elizabeth spent the first decade of her professional career teaching elementary students at a Christian school. Elizabeth now works full time on developing comparative worldview and apologetics resources for children. Her goal is to prepare the next generation to be lifelong critical thinkers and, most importantly, lifelong disciples of Jesus.

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