Review: Irenaeus of Lyon

Simonetta Carr has written another biography in the Christian Biographies for Young Readers series.

With a desire to strengthen the church in biblical truth, Irenaeus began his work Against Heresies, which is still read today. He set about refuting the claims of the gnostic sects and Marcion, a popular false teacher. The gnostics taught there was a special level of spirituality that could only be achieved by new revelation that only they were privy to. Marcion separated the testaments such that there were actually two separate gods – the old testament god of justice and the new testament god of love.

 

Irenaeus of Lyon by Simonetta Carr, illustrations by Max Abraxas, Reformation Heritage Books, 2017,  64 pages.

Simonetta Carr has written another biography in the Christian Biographies for Young Readers series. Her latest subject is Irenaeus of Lyons, the early church father and author of Against Heresies.

Irenaeus lived around 130-200 A.D. He was a disciple of Polycarp who was discipled by the apostle John. The Roman Empire was still the dominant force in the world, and their polytheism and emperor worship were stark contrasts to Christianity. Thus the Christians’ refusal to take part in pagan religion led to widespread persecution. Irenaeus’ mentor, Polycarp, was one of the many martyrs for the faith.

This time was also marked by the rise of false teachers who were distorting the gospel and leading people astray. With a desire to strengthen the church in biblical truth, Irenaeus began his work Against Heresies, which is still read today. He set about refuting the claims of the gnostic sects and Marcion, a popular false teacher. The gnostics taught there was a special level of spirituality that could only be achieved by new revelation that only they were privy to. Marcion separated the testaments such that there were actually two separate gods – the old testament god of justice and the new testament god of love. Irenaeus argued from Scripture, but he also used reason to show the fallacies of these teachings.

Although there is minimal information about his life, Irenaeus was a pastor and a peacemaker in the church. Historians believe he too was martyred in another wave of persecution.

So why should you read this book to your children?

First of all, it’s important to ground ourselves in church history. Christianity did not begin with us. God has kept His people down through the ages. Also we owe much of our doctrinal understanding to the saints who have gone before us and their defense of the faith.

Secondly, bad theology doesn’t only target adults. It isn’t that difficult to come up with modern day examples of gnosticism and the Marcion heresy. Thus it is never too early for our children to learn how to distinguish truth from error. Irenaeus is a great example of someone with spiritual discernment.

Thirdly, the church is bigger than our localities. Seeing how God has moved in other parts of the world give us a greater appreciation for the wider body of Christ then and now.

Finally, this is a wonderful series. The books are well written with appropriate details but without overwhelming the intended audience, ages 8-12. The illustrations augment the stories beautifully.

So I highly recommend Irenaeus of Lyons as well as the other books Simonetta has written. Read them to the children in your life and even read them yourself. You might learn just as much as they do.

Persis Lorenti is an ordinary Christian. You can find her at Tried With Fire and Out of the OrdinaryThis article appeared on her blog and is used with permission.