Hello everyone! Long time no talk. I apologize for my absence. I know you all eagerly await a new post from me with bated breath =). Life’s been a bit chaotic and I haven’t had the emotional presence to sit down and reflect on any of it yet.
So here isn’t a reflection. But I did want to show you something pretty remarkable. The Gospel Coalition, in partnership with Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York (church of Tim Keller), worked to create what they are calling the New City Catechism.
This Catechism is a compilation of questions/answers from the Heidelberg, Westminster Shorter, and Calvin’s Geneva Catechisms. In addition to questions from these historic catechisms, they include questions that are specifically for our modern era.
When you click on a question, the question appears with a Bible verse related to the answer, and the answer remains blurred. Once you click the answer, it becomes clear. The expected answer for a child is in orange, while the complete answer expected for adults is the whole answer. Next to the question section is a commentary (c:) from a theologian related to the question, a video that goes deeper into the implications of the question/answer, and then a prayer from some devotional literature related to the question (p:).
Tim Keller reflects about the importance of catechesis in the introduction:
At present, the practice of catechesis, particularly among adults, has been almost completely lost. Modern discipleship programs concentrate on practices such as Bible study, prayer, fellowship, and evangelism and can at times be superficial when it comes to doctrine. In contrast, the classic catechisms take students through the Apostles’ Creed, the Ten Commandments, and the Lord’s Prayer—a perfect balance of biblical theology, practical ethics, and spiritual experience. Also, the catechetical discipline of memorization drives concepts deeper into the heart and naturally holds students more accountable to master the material than do typical discipleship courses. Finally, the practice of question-answer recitation brings instructors and students into a naturally interactive, dialogical process of learning.
In short, catechetical instruction is less individualistic and more communal. Parents can catechize their children. Church leaders can catechize new members with shorter catechisms and new leaders with more extensive ones. Because of the richness of the material, catechetical questions and answers may be integrated into corporate worship itself, where the church as a body can confess their faith and respond to God with praise.
Because we have lost the practice of catechesis today: “Superficial smatterings of truth, blurry notions about God and godliness, and thoughtlessness about the issues of living—career-wise, community-wise, family-wise, and church-wise—are all too often the marks of evangelical congregations today…” (From Grounded in the Gospel: Building Believers the Old-Fashioned Way, by Gary Parrett and J. I. Packer, published by Baker, 2010.)
Keller also reflects on an experience with teaching his son catechism:
When my son, Jonathan, was a young child my wife Kathy and I started teaching him a children’s catechism. In the beginning we worked on just the first three questions:
Question 1. Who made you?
Question 2. What else did God make?
Answer. God made all things.
Question 3. Why did God make you and all things?
Answer. For his own glory.
One day Kathy dropped Jonathan off at a babysitter’s. At one point the babysitter discovered Jonathan looking out the window. “What are you thinking about?” she asked him. “God,” he said. Surprised, she responded, “What are you thinking about God?” He looked at her and replied, “How he made all things for his own glory.” She thought she had a spiritual giant on her hands! A little boy looking out the window, contemplating the glory of God in creation!
What had actually happened, obviously, was that her question had triggered the question/answer response in him. He answered with the catechism. He certainly did not have the slightest idea what the “glory of God” meant. But the concept was in his mind and heart, waiting to be connected with new insights, teaching, and experiences.
Such instruction, Princeton theologian Archibald Alexander said, is like firewood in a fireplace. Without the fire—the Spirit of God—firewood will not in itself produce a warming flame. But without fuel there can be no fire either, and that is what catechetical instruction is.
Check out this awesome resource! Available for download on iPhone/iPad. Do one question a week! Memorize it, pray with it, meditate on it! I’m so excited about how modern technology has made possible resources that are as great as this, with commentary and even video helping to explain the things of God to a new generation. Check it out: http://www.newcitycatechism.com