Why Write New Catechisms?

I’m all for catechisms.  In fact, I posted A Baptist Catechism here, which is an adaptation of C.H. Spurgeon’s “A Puritan Catechism.”  Also, on my “Resource Page,” I have something of “A Word on the Use of Catechisms” (see here).

And I’m all for new catechisms as well.

There are many ancient, excellent, and time-tested catechisms. Why expend the effort to write new ones? In fact, some people might suspect the motives of anyone who would want to do so. However, most people today do not realize that it was once seen as normal, important, and necessary for churches to continually produce new catechisms for their own use. The original Anglican Book of Common Prayer included a catechism. The Lutheran churches had Luther’s Large Catechism and Small Catechism of 1529. The early Scottish churches though they had Calvin’s Geneva Catechism of 1541, and the Heidelberg Catechism of 1563, went on to produce and use Craig’s Catechism of 1581, Duncan’s Latin Catechism of 1595, and The New Catechism of 1644, before eventually adopted the Westminster Catechism.        

        The Puritan pastor Richard Baxter, who ministered in the 17th century town of Kidderminster, was not unusual. He wanted to systematically train heads of families to instruct their households in the faith. To do so he wrote his own Family Catechism that was adapted to the capacities of his people and that brought the Bible to bear on many of the issues and questions his people were facing at that time.        

        Catechisms were written with at least three purposes. The first was to set forth a comprehensive exposition of the gospel—not only in order to explain clearly what the gospel is, but also to lay out the building blocks on which the gospel is based, such as the biblical doctrine of God, of human nature, of sin, and so forth. The second purpose was to do this exposition in such a way that the heresies, errors, and false beliefs of the time and culture were addressed and counteracted. The third and more pastoral purpose was to form a distinct people, a counter-culture that reflected the likeness of Christ not only in individual character but also in the church’s communal life.        

        When looked at together, these three purposes explain why new catechisms must be written. While our exposition of gospel doctrine must be in line with older catechisms that are true to the Word, culture changes and so do the errors, temptations, and challenges to the unchanging gospel that people must be equipped to face and answer.  (Source here)

And for a few years now, my wife and I have been catechizing our two children.  It’s been a quite blessing.  At times, the kids even take turns question each other.  Yes, such would warm the heart of any parent.

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This entry was posted in Baptist Catechism, Book of Common Prayer, Charles Spurgeon, Heidelberg Catechism, John Calvin. Bookmark the permalink.

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