Thursday, January 05, 2017

Catechism

If you are like most Protestant-types, the word "chatechism" is not really a part of your vocabulary. Oh, you may know the word, even know what it means, but you wouldn't actually use it because, well, that's Catholic, right?

Ask most non-Catholics and they'd be a little vague about what it is. It's the classes that Roman Catholic kids are forced to take to get "Confirmed", whatever that means. Oh, if you were informed enough, you might know that catechism is not exclusively Catholic. In fact, prior to our more informed modern times, catechism was prevalent in most groups. Many of the Reformed types have their own catechism. Perhaps you've heard of the Westminster Shorter Catechism? There were, in fact, many -- the Genevan Catechism, the Heidelberg Catechism, the Westminster Catechism. The Bapists had one back in 1689 and, in fact, actually brought one out in 2009. The Pentecostals didn't have them, but they had works that were intended to do the job. The Anglicans have one.

What is catechism? The word comes from the Greek word for "instruction" or "teach" found in the New Testament. It simply means to teach biblical truth in an orderly way. The common method as in the Westminster Catechism and the Baptist Catechism is a series of questions and answers. So the catechized -- the students of these procedures -- would learn the questions and the answers and, in the process, learn the material. They included Scripture to teach the material. They were intended for children and for the common person. These weren't to be seminary questions; they were just for everyday people.

So the Baptist Catechism, as an example, contains 60 questions for the learner to read, comprehend, and answer. The Westminster Shorter Catechism has 107. That's right, 107 questions. Here, let's get a few examples. This is kids' stuff. You should have no problem answering this.
Q: What is the chief end of man?
A: The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 10:31; Psalm 16:11; 37:4; 73:25-26; Isaiah 43:7.
Comment: "Glorify" does not mean make glorious. It means [to] reflect or display as glorious. Other words you could use for "end" are "goal" or "purpose".

Q: What are God’s works of providence?
A: God’s works of providence are, his most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all his creatures, and all their actions.
Scripture: Psalm 145:17; Psalm 104:24; Hebrews 1:3; Nehemiah 9:6; Ephesians 1:19-22; Psalm 36:6.
There, see? Easy stuff. Oh, not? No, not for me, either.

This is the kind of stuff that the churches intended to teach everyone and from an early age. It is biblical. It is indepth. It was common to all. Catechism teaches serious doctrine along with Scripture.

So, tell me again. Are we more informed these days? Many (most?) churches have jettisoned this stuff. I think it might be a mistake. Given the "Christianity lite" that I see among believers these days, I'm wondering if we ought not bring this to our churches and put it to good use. It's not like we're currently involved in a better, more complete method of teaching biblical truth, are we?

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