IN PRAISE OF CATECHISMS
I grew up in Baptist churches. I became a Christian through the Jesus people movement. I never heard of Catechisms. It was only in 3rd of 4th year university that I started to become aware of their existence. The only one I read from time to time was the Westminster shorter Catechism. That is the one with the famous opening question and answer, “What is the chief end of man?” answer, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”
In the last few years the use of Catechisms have been making a come back and spreading beyond “old fashion” Presbyterian and Christian Reformed Churches. I heartily commend using a catechism. I especially commend the use of a Catechism to parents. It is a great way to teach and learn the Christian faith. It gives “thickness”, depth and breath to our knowledge of the faith.
Every Catechism uses a question and answer format. So a question is asked and then a concise answer is given. Usually, there is a list of Bible passages referenced in brackets after the question and answer. The Bible passages show that the answer is a biblical answer and allows you to follow up, if you wish, in reading what the Bible itself says. Note, the question and answer can be asked and answered several times in a row. You can also punctuate the question and answer by asking your child, (or yourself) if you understand the answer. The Catechism is for adults as well as children. Several adults could go through it together, or an adult and child, or you can read it by yourself.
In the case of children, the intent is that the Catechism will be used early on in the child’s life and continue on until as long as they will listen (teenagers? their 20’s?). The long term use helps the child memorize/learn/internalize a rich understanding of the faith. Catechisms always includes at least three sections; one on the Apostles Creed (what to believe), one on the Ten Commandments (how to live), one on the Lord’s Prayer (how to pray).
Messiah is part of the Anglican Church in North America. They have recently completed a Catechism. It is available as a PDF, or as a very nicely bound book. Check it out at http://anglicanchurch.net/?/main/catechism
Tim Keller’s church, with the help of other like-minded churches, has also produced a new catechism. It is called “The New City Catechism”. It is designed around 52 questions, one per week. It is available for free as an App. It also includes suggested Bible Readings, short prayers, and a devotional commentary. There is also an App for the kids version of the Catechism - with each Q and A put to music. You can play this as you drive to help your kids learn the faith. To learn more, go to: newcitycatechism.com
Finally, you might want to check out the Heidelberg Catechism (just google it, there are lots of cites). This was written in 1563 and is still widely used. It has more than 52 questions, but it pioneered the approach of having a new question, or set of questions, every week for 52 weeks. In other words, you can go through the whole Catechism week-by-week, finish it in a year, then begin again.
Friends, Catechisms should not replace personal Bible reading and prayer. However, that are a great and simple compliment to your daily and weekly habits of Bible reading and prayer.