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Book Review – Gum, Geckos and God

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I don’t think it takes very many years of child raising before every parent realizes that he is in over his head. I am no stranger to this feeling. As I was walking my eight-year-old son to school just last week he turned to me and said, “Dad, why is it that people think killing one another will solve the world’s problems?” My first instinct was that it would be a simple question to answer. But a moment’s reflection made me realize that a proper answer would have to touch on all kinds of issues of theological significance. Thankfully my son is quite a good listener and we were able to turn his question into a good chat.

Author James Spiegel, professor of philosophy at Taylor University, did not realize the challenges he would face in talking about God to his children. Perhaps as a philosopher he felt he would be equipped to answer. But he quickly learned that even seemingly simple questions are often difficult to answer adequately. What is God like? Why does God love us? Why is it hard to be good? If heaven is so great, why am I afraid to die? These questions offer ideal opportunities to teach children while challenging our own assumptions about the Christian faith. These questions, and the answers to them, are the subject of Spiegel’s new book, Gum, Geckos and God: A Family’s Adventure in Space, Time and Faith. As Spiegel says, “If you can probe the sticky topics of faith and life’s meaning with a kid while he probes the sticky recesses of his nasal cavity, then you can discuss theology with anyone.”

Parents will enjoy this book as they will no doubt realize that they have faced many of the same questions and have struggled to provide adequate answers to them. These words may well sound familiar from your experience: “Whenever Amy and I see an opening for some theological discussion, we dive right in. Sometimes we land in the deep well of our kids’ hearts, gaining insights into their perspectives on life and God. Other times we hit dry land.” This is not a book that seeks primarily to teach parents how to communicate to their children about Christian topics, though certainly through example it models ways of doing so. Instead it is, as the subtitle indicates, a sort of adventure with the family. The back cover says rightly, “As you read, you’ll step into a new depth of Christian doctrine as you come to know and enjoy the Spiegel family and follow their journey of spiritual growth.”

The book teaches rich theology and in a way that is engaging and deeply applicable. It wonderfully mixes narrative with teaching, humor with depth. Spiegel’s background in philosophy allows him a unique perspective on the issues. Though his answers are generally simple, he avoids being simplistic. The reader will not only absorb some ideas for talking about faith with his children, but he’ll grow in his understanding of doctrine as well. Both reflective and profound, Gum, Geckos and God is the kind of book any reader can enjoy.

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