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Should We Catechize? A Few Random Thoughts

September 13, 2011

I am reading the book The Good News We Almost Forgotby Kevin DeYoung. (You can expect a review in a week or two.) It is basically a weekly devotional book based on the Heidelberg Catechism. The catechism is largely a commentary on three things: the Apostles’ Creed, the Ten Commandments, and the Lord’s Prayer.

The Catechism Lesson by Jules-Alexis Meunier

When we think about a catechism, if we think about one at all, we usually think of either a Roman Catholic catechism (of which there are several), Luther’s Large or Small Catechism, or the Reformed catechisms (Genevan, Heidelberg, and Westminster). There have been some Baptist catechisms over the years, but none have been overly popular and most were simply revisions of Westminster or Heidelberg.

Catechism literally means “to sound down” or to indoctrinate. They are a summary or exposition of doctrine designed for the young or uninitiated to learn the basics of the faith, as their tradition understands it. It is usually in a question and answer format. Perhaps the best known example is a modern revision of the famous Westminster Shorter Catechism:

Q. What is the chief end of man?
A. To glorify God and enjoy Him forever!

Q. What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy Him?
A. The word of God as heard by all people directly.

I come from a church tradition that does not use any form of catechism. I think this is true of most Baptists. But catechisms have been used since the Reformation to pass down the faith from one generation to the next. While I do not have personal experience with any catechism, I have now read two or three different ones. I have to believe that it must be an effective teaching tool if properly used.

I talked with a friend who grew up in the Roman Catholic church. Of course, he learned his catechism at an early age. He can still remember a few parts, but very few. According to him, one of the biggest problems is the catechism was not connected to practical living and it did not reflect the lifestyle of most Roman Catholics.

That is probably the key. Make it apply to life and live what you profess to believe. Of course, that is a good lesson aside from a catechism.

How about you?

Did you learn a catechism? Which one?

How was it connected to the rest of life?

As you look back, was it helpful in the forming of your faith?

I would love to hear some thoughts on the matter of catechisms!

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