Episode 135: Avoiding New Age and Progressive Theology Picture Books and Parenting Books

In this episode we look at some new picture books and books for parents that teach New Age and Progressive theology. Picture books reflect the culture in which they are written, and we need to know what books contain before buying them and gifting them to others. We look at several of these books and a few books with solid historical Christian theology. 

New Age and Progressive Theology Books Discussed in This Episode:

Historical Christianity Books Discussed in This Episode:

Transcript with Links:

Welcome to “Books That Spark,” a podcast for parents and caregivers, celebrating books that help us with everyday discipleship, every day, sparking important conversations with our children. I’m so glad you joined us today.

We’re going to have a little bit different podcast today than we normally have. We are going to be talking about some trends we see in children’s picture books, just so that we’re all aware of what’s going on. There’s a lot happening in the picture book industry, and I am concerned about some of the things I’m seeing. Of course, you probably are aware that we have a lot of non-Christian ideas going into picture books because many writers in the picture book genre are not believers and many are actually Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, and other religions. But what I find so interesting is that if you have a book that is Christian, they label it Christian and make it very clear this book is a Christian book and was published by a Christian publisher and all of that, which is fine. I don’t have a problem with that. It’s just what does bother me is the books that are teaching theology of other religions don’t necessarily get labeled as such, and so you might pick up a book thinking it’s fine, and, in the middle of it, it is talking about meditation, and they say a lot about mindfulness, which they usually bring to meditation. There’s one book out that is simply about a Hindu god, and it is nowhere in the description discussed that this is a Hindu book. Now, of course, with that one, you can see from the cover of the book and the title of the book that it is a Hindu book, but I just think it’s odd. Why don’t they say this is a Hindu book? But they don’t. And so just being aware there seems to be a bias there or something going on where they are not clearly labeling what a book is about and being aware that in most of the books I’ve seen that are not from a Christian publisher will have some sort of Eastern meditation going on pretty much. You just really have to look at the books and check it out and see what you’re giving your children.

Some of them have just some very New Age ideas that are being taught or suggested in the text of the book. And so when I have created my list of books that you get when you sign up for my mailing list, you get this list of over a hundred books that I’ve read through and vetted and checked out to make sure there’s nothing objectionable to them, that you could buy and give it to someone and not have to worry about what it’s teaching them. I have a whole list that you can just download for free when you sign up for my mailing list. That is really important to me, and it’s always been important to me, but now it’s even more important because we are seeing such a permeation of these different theologies, these different ideas in the books that are out there for our children. And so being aware of that’s number one and just acknowledging that the secular ideas, the New Age ideas, these kinds of things are taking over our culture and are readily available in almost every book that is out there.

Then we have another trend that I had not seen until just recently. There have been some parenting books that have been questionable that are New Age and Progressive. If you know what Progressive theology is, depending how Progressive the person is, sometimes Progressive theology just goes a little New Age-y, a little on the edge, and then some of it just goes full-blown New Age. Some of it changes the whole theology of the Gospel. There is no Hell, there is no sin, we don’t need a savior. The whole thing like that can be part of Progressive theology. And so this, of course, is gaining momentum and is a hugely popular theology in our world today. And just know that most of it does not stick to what we would call traditional Gospel theology– the historical Christianity, I should say, is what we’ve started kind of referring to it as is historical Christianity where we have a belief that God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is a Trinity: one God, three persons; that Jesus is the son of God that came to earth fully man, fully God; He died for our sins and was resurrected after three days and is alive today; and through salvation in Him is the only way to God. There are no other ways to God. This is the kind of historical Christianity we’re talking about, but Progressive theology has gone away from that and does not believe all of that to varying degrees.

Well, of course, picture books are going to reflect the very same thing. The picture books reflect our culture all across the board. And so being aware of that is important. Well, we have some books that are out now that are New Age-y, that are Progressive: Holy Troublemakers and Unconventional Saints is a book by Daneen Akers that is out now, and it is more along the lines of a Progressive, more kind of a liberal theology and deals with some Buddhist characters along with some Christian characters, homosexual character along with a transgendered Muslim character. These are biographies in this book about different people and what they contributed to society and everything. But when you see the title, you might think it’s the History of Saints in the Catholic Church or something, but no, it’s got a whole lot of different people in it, and so you just need to be aware that that’s what that is.

We also have one called New Directions for Holy Questions, Progressive Christian Theology for Families by Claire Brown, Anita Peebles, and Illustrated by Perry Hodgkins Jones. This is just unapologetically a Progressive Christianity book for kids and parents, and so it says “with accessible language, Bible stories and connections to daily life. This book guides children and the adults who love them through the core teachings of Christianity.” According to Progressive Christianity.

There is one called Mother God, and this is a very popular book among Progressives by Teresa Kim Pecinovsky and illustrated by Khoa Le. This teaches that God is also female. I’ve read the book, I find it disturbing the way it talks. I understand where they’re coming from a little bit, and there is a lot of interesting theology discussing the gender of God. There are several books from this same publisher that are progressive in nature. This book says, “Celebrate the Divine as a fierce female figure. Patriarchal notions of God are out. Powerful feminine depictions of God are in. This visually stunning picture book showcases all the ways feminine power can manifest. God is a creative seamstress, a wise grandmother, a generous baker, and even a nursing mother experiencing postpartum depression. Mother God invites readers to experience a fuller, more expansive understanding of the divine as mother of us all.”

And this other book has been out since 2020. I have a copy of it. I was excited to read it, and I find it quite disturbing and it’s Spiritual Conversations with Children: Listening to God Together by Lacy Finn Borgo. This is straight up New Age Progressive theology all through the whole book and is teaching us to create God in the image we imagine for Him. I find it really disturbing. So unless you are completely liberal in the way you interpret scripture and interpret God, I think you would also find this a little troubling. I really do not like it at all.

Another one along those same lines came out in 2017, Imaginative Prayer: A Yearlong Guide for Your Child’s Spiritual Formation by Jared Patrick Boyd. And this one again teaches our children to create Jesus in the image they want to see Him as. How do they picture Him? What do they think of Him? Imaginative Prayers is basically making God in our own image of whatever we want that to be.

Okay, a couple other picture books I want to talk about that I just find concerning, these are both Progressive theology-based books and one is Isaiah and the Worry Pack: Learning to Trust God with All Our Fears by Ruth Goring and Illustrated by Pamela C. Rice. It’s a beautiful book, it really is, and it starts out really good. This little boy’s worried, and he finds a way to deal with his worry as his mom walks him through this visual prayer, and this is where we use our imagination to create the Jesus that we want. They interact in their mind, in their imagination with this Jesus, and this child finds relief from his fears and some healing from his fears in this imaginary Jesus and the relationship with this imaginary Jesus. My concern with this is, you are visualizing and creating a false Jesus, teaching our children that this is okay. I mean, they don’t talk about who Jesus really is according to the Bible. It’s like you don’t even care what the Bible says. It’s all our creation of who He is, and so it’s a very troubling book to me.

And then All Will Be Well: Learning to Trust God’s Love by Lacy Finn Borgo and illustrated by Rebecca Evans. Now, I haven’t read this book except for the preview, but I have listened to what the author says about the book. There’s a video on YouTube where she’s talking us through the cover of the book and what the book is about. She’s basing the book on one of the mystics, Julian of Norwich and what that mystic taught her, but the way she talks about the book is very much along the lines of the way her other book about spiritual conversations and all that with children, the way that book is. This is how she talks about this picture book. So as I said, I haven’t read this one, so I’m not sure what all it entails, but the way she talks about it makes me concerned. So I just wanted to mention this book for that reason.

So these books that I’m finding that I really never really wanted to talk about, but feel it is so important that you are aware that they’re out there–you’re aware that if you get it based on the title alone, you’re probably going to be disappointed. This is very concerning to me. It’s not unexpected with the way the churches are going and the way theology is going in our culture today. It’s totally expected, but how do we know what we’re getting? How can we be aware if we are Christians who worship the historical Christ and believe in the Bible, how can we make sure we’re getting books that support those views rather than the Progressive or New Age views that have come into the church? So I wanted to just spend some time talking about this a little bit and helping you maybe weed through some of these books and just know that I try really hard to let you know exactly what you’re getting with the books out there.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask. I’m happy to try to answer those questions. To tell you what I look for when I do my list of books, I had one mom ask me what my criteria is for the books that I put on my list that I recommend. Please understand some of the authors I interview, I may not actually agree with all of their books. Most of them I do, you can tell when I interview them that I really love their books, but there are a few people I’ve had on who I do not totally agree with their theology, and as much as I like their books, I don’t agree with their theology outside of that picture book. But on the list I give you, those books I can support and get behind. I believe that if we’re going to have a Christian book, it should be based on the historical Christianity from the Bible. It should have the basic gospel message permeating through it where Jesus Christ is the son of God, He came to earth, He died for our sins and rose again three days later. Sin is real, forgiveness is real, salvation is real, Heaven is real, Hell is real. So that’s my basic theology behind what I think is right, and any books that are not Christian based, I’m looking for books that do not mock or contradict the Christian worldview, but either don’t go there or just don’t contradict it or mock it and that are wholesome books. I tried very hard because I know some people do not want even magic, that kind of stuff to be in the books they read to their children, and so I tried to respect that as well. And so I did not choose books that have a lot to do with magic fairies, which is those kinds of things that fairy tales often have and try to be very careful about that. And if I do recommend a book that has something like that in it, I always try to let you know that that’s what’s in there. So if you do have an objection to that kind of stuff–to magic or anything like that–that you know that. And in my book club as well, I will clarify that this book is for your middle grade student and it does have some mystery, murder mystery, witchcraft, something in there. If we’re doing a young adult novel or something, maybe there’s a teenager or something who’s struggling with depression or bipolar, those kinds of things may come up in some of the older literature. I will put that into the description and let you know. So I try to keep you updated on what exactly I’m recommending or not recommending.

So I felt it was important to also talk about these books that are coming out and becoming quite popular. By the title alone, you can’t tell that this would be something you wouldn’t want to read to your child, and some of these are very disturbing, troubling, and are very New Age and Progressive. So that’s what I wanted to let you know because I want our children to be safe from lies, from deceit, from the enemy and his ways. He wants to kill, steal, and destroy. He wants to take our children away from God and from His truth, and he wants to do the same to us. We need to be diligent and aware and just protect our minds and hearts from the lies of the enemy and hold strong to God’s truth.

So as I end today’s episode, I would like to share a couple really good books that I would like to have in every library, and I will be sharing this book again I’m sure, but I will share a good picture book for you to share with your children as we’re coming into the Lent season and getting ready for Easter is The King of Easter: Jesus Searches for All God’s Children. The art is by Natasha Kennedy, and the text is by Todd R. Hains, both of whom have been on our podcast.

I would like to share with you one of my all-time favorite picture books, The Promise: The Amazing Story of Our Long-Awaited Savior by Jason Helopoulos and illustrated by Rommel Ruiz. And I’ve shared this one on the podcast before, but it is an amazing book for a little bit older children. The theology in this book is so amazing. I think you could share it with any age of child. It’s wonderful.

And then for your really young kids, the Baby Believer series, and I’ve mentioned it before, but it is such a good series by Danielle Hitchen and illustrated by Jessica Blanchard. There’s Let There Be Light: An Opposites Primer, Our God: A Shapes Primer, and I love how they took the theology, but then they put it together in these books with all the basic skills of what we would want our little children to be learning. So this series is amazing.

And then for you, The Spiritual Warfare Answer Book by David Jeremiah, his books I find to be very helpful and inspirational in explaining things we have a lot of questions about. And so this is my most recent book. I have not finished reading it, but I do recommend David Jeremiah as an author in general.

Thank you for joining us for “Books That Spark,” where we encourage each other to live out everyday discipleship, helping to equip our children to follow Christ with their whole hearts. If you enjoyed this episode, please like and share, or if you feel that this episode is important enough for people to hear and know what’s out there, please share it with your friends. It will let them know that we’re here. Hopefully they will join in and listen and help our numbers to grow, and we would truly appreciate that. So thank you so much. If you would like to connect with me, you can join my mailing list or comment at TerrieHellardBrown.com. We love to hear from you and we respond to every comment and question. Now, we pray you feel empowered as a parent or caregiver to walk by faith and to embrace everyday discipleship every day with the children in your life.

Your Host: Terrie Hellard-Brown

Terrie Hellard-Brown writes and speaks to help children and adults find God’s purpose and plan for their lives. She teaches workshops and writes devotional books, children’s stories, and Christian education materials.

Her podcast, Books that Spark, reviews children’s books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion leading to teachable moments with our kids. Her podcast posts each Tuesday morning.

Her blog posts discuss living as a disciple of Christ while parenting our children. She challenges us to step out of our comfort zones to walk by faith in obedience to Christ and to use the nooks and crannies of our lives to disciple our children.

Terrie uses her experiences as a mother of four (three on “the spectrum”), 37 years in ministry (15 in Taiwan), and 32 years teaching to speak to the hearts of readers.

Her motto is “Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be WONDERFUL” and keeps her childlike joy by writing children’s stories, delighting over pink dolphins, and frequently laughing till it hurts.

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