October 16, 2012

Reppin' it Old School

Let me begin with a clarification of terms. By Reppin', I mean Repetition. And by Old Schhol, I mean way Old School. Think Calvin. Heidelberg. Westminster. We're talking Catechisms. For those unfamiliar with what a catechism is, here is the basic idea. A set of propositional truths are put forth in a question-and-answer format to teach doctrine, and guard against both error and wrong teaching.
If you're like me, in that you grew up either in an evangelical church or unchurched, this concept is likely somewhat foreign to you. While it is still in use in some Catholic and a very few mainline Protestant churches, catechims have gone somewhat the way of the dodo.
The reasoning for this is more than I could cover here, but if I might be allowed some over-simplification, here is how I would put it:
People don't want to hear propositional truth, they'd rather have their ears scratched in a discussion or lecture format, and have no use for participatory learning of deep, solid, Gospel truths. There's my over-simplified version.
Add to that the fact that most of the faiths great catechisms were written 300+ years ago, which makes the language archaic. The result? Well, you can still find them on Google, but you won't find many catechisms at use in your local church.
And I would like to contend that this is a problem. We live in an age where propositional truth is hard to come by. Even people and churches that claim to believe truth, may be hard-pressed to provide you with that truth if you were to ask them. How many people in your church could a three sentence description of who God is? How many people in your church could accurately give a reason for why God created man? What about Jesus, sin, hell, justification, grace, etc? Just what exactly is baptism about? Could you even answer these questions? I fear the answer for most of us would be "no." Of course, maybe you think well on your feet. You might be able to come up with something for an answer. But would that answer be Biblical? Would that answer line up with the teachings of Scripture and the historic orthodox interpretation of those Scriptures? In most cases, that would be doubtful. What we are experiencing is rampant Biblical ignorance, even among those who have grown up in Chrisitan homes, attend church, Sunday school, and youth group, and have been involved in more Bible studies than Jesus is likely to condone. People simply don't get the Bible. I have innumerable soap boxes I could jump onto at this point, but I will try to stay on task here. There are a lot of things to blame for this ignorance. What I want to do instead today, is put forth what I believe is part of (although obviously not all of) the solution.

I believe churches and families should catechise. And not just the children. Parents need this. Pastors need this. When we are asked simple questions about the basics of our faith, we need to be ready with an answer for the hope we have inside. And catechisms are incredibly helpful in this. It is a labourious, but effective, method of teaching, which pours metric tons of information into our brains. And our childrens brains. And our new disciples brains. It sounds a bit like brainwashing, which in a sense it is. It's washing out the sinful mess of the world and replacing it with the beauty of God's revealed word. If you doubt the Biblical grounding for such things, I suggest you check Romans 12 and Ephesians 5. Paul told their Romans their minds need to be renewed. He told the Ephesians that Jesus cleanses His bride with washing by the Word, and that husbands are to follow that example. Which tells me my mind needs to be renewed, and I need to help my bride renew hers by washing her with the Word. Pretty simple. Why should we use catechisms for this? They work.

Now, let's not be naive. Of course simply teaching people a set of truths won't change their hearts, it won't force them to believe anything they've learned, etc. But teaching propositional truths, grounded deeply in the Truth of God's Word, gives us Biblical categories for understanding the world. And the younger we can give our kids these things, the better shot they have, because we will teaching them to think in Bible-categories. Why would we not want that?

So, all of this is basically to preface my excitement over the New City Catechism (link below until I can get the hyperlink to work). This was put together by Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NYC, along with The Gospel Coalition. It is a set of 52 questions (one for each week of the year), and will includes a verse to accompany each question, along with written commentary from preachers of the past, video commentary from modern pastors, and a written prayer for each question. The introduction to the catechism is here: http://www.newcitycatechism.com/intro.php

I highly encourage you to check this out, and consider how we might use such things to better hide God's Word in our hearts (Psalm 119). Tools like these are a gift from the Father, who gives us all good things (James 1), and we ought to enjoy them to His glory (1 Corinthians 10:31). What could be more gloriously joy-filled than getting to better know the God of all Creation?


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About Me

Follower of Jesus. Husband of one. Father of four. Pastor at Remsen Bible Fellowship (remsenbible.com).