What Are Catechisms?

Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. Remember the day you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, when he said to me, “Assemble the people before me to hear my words so that they may learn to revere me as long as they live in the land and may teach them to their children.”

  • Deuteronomy 4:9-10

He decreed statutes for Jacob
    and established the law in Israel,
which he commanded our ancestors
    to teach their children,
so the next generation would know them,
    even the children yet to be born,
    and they in turn would tell their children.

  • Psalm 78:5-6

Start children off on the way they should go,
    and even when they are old they will not turn from it.

  • Proverbs 22:6

Now you, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the law and boast in God; if you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law; if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of little children, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth—you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? As it is written: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”

  • Romans 2:17-24

“I am persuaded that the use of a good Catechism in all our families will be a great safeguard against the increasing errors of the times, and therefore I have compiled this little manual from the Westminster Assembly’s and Baptist Catechisms, for the use of my own church and congregation. Those who use it in their families or classes must labor to explain the sense; but the words should be carefully learned by heart, for they will be understood better as years pass.
“May the Lord bless my dear friends and their families evermore, is the prayer of their loving Pastor,

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, Spurgeon’s Catechism

Do we teach our children enough?  Maybe our attention span is worse than the children’s attention span.  They can focus on a video game much longer than I can.  We often teach them the wrong things.  As I am writing this, I have started to read The Home Invaders by Donald E. Wildmon.  I have a copy of the third printing in 1985.  So the information is dated, but he says that we speak of PBS being “educational television,” but we learn from all the networks.  And when he wrote his book, cable television had not yet exploded into hundreds of channels, and the internet was not available.  As I said, the book is out of date, but the things that he teaches in the book are more appropriate today than they were in his time.

Oddly, the television show that he used as his poster child of the religion of Humanism was M*A*S*H, my favorite television show.  But compared to many of the other shows of its day, it had a conscience.  Now, Christianity was not given a lot of play. As Wildmon points out, Christianity was the punch line of some of the jokes.  And there was that aura of “if we could just get our act together, we could save the world.”

Of course, we cannot get our act together.  Many humanists today think we can, and they are taking others with them, but what will happen when they are at top speed, and they reach the edge of the cliff?

In the post yesterday, we saw that the emperor Constantine saw that the church was becoming divided by wrong teaching filtering into the church.  He convened a conference, and they developed the Nicene Creed.  A simple statement, easily memorized, and something that one generation could teach the next.  I memorized the Shorter Catechism, but I did not teach my boys from it.  As Spurgeon says, we must labor over the sense while memorizing the specific words (imprinting Scripture on our hearts).

I had the boys read the Bible before bed at night.  We started with the graphic novel version of the Children’s Bible (selected Bible stories), then we built up to doing the Bible in a year thing a few times.  I should have gone the catechism route.

While reading the Bible in a Year is a great feat, understanding what it means is something else.  As I mentioned yesterday. The catechisms do not add anything to the Bible and a few do nothing but quote Scripture in a question and answer form.

My wife was in a Bible study and the teacher suggested studying catechism questions along with the study guide.  One of the ladies vehemently objected.  She was not a Catholic and she would not be turned into a Catholic.  My wife told the lady that the Heidelberg Catechism and the Westminster Shorter and Larger Catechisms were all in the PCUSA’s Book of Confessions.  The lady, realizing that she was outnumbered, stormed from the room.

But the Baptists brag about using nothing other than the Bible, but Charles Spurgeon wrote above in the quote that he wrote his catechism based on the Westminster Catechisms and the “Baptist” Catechism.  His catechism has 82 questions, while the Shorter Catechism (Westminster Assembly) has 110 questions.  The Larger Catechism (also of the Westminster Assembly) has 196 questions.

I mentioned yesterday that nothing beats reading the Bible, but the Catechisms, especially Spurgeon’s and the Shorter Catechisms, quote Scripture.  And for young ears (and old if you have never studied a catechism), they put the Gospel into a logical progression of questions and answers.

The inevitable test at the end is whether we have a working (deep and meaningful) relationship with Jesus.  We cannot get there intellectually, but a catechism is one means of getting the intellectual behind us so that we know to whom we surrender our lives.  We will intellectually know Jesus.  Then we believe and trust in Him in everything and live according to His Word.

And there is no better time than when the children are young, and their brains can absorb so much.

Romans 2:24 above states something that I would hope might not be said of me, but I know those who would do so.  Are the non-believers blaspheming God because of our words and deeds?  Sometimes, they simply deny God and us along with God, but sometimes we could have done better teaching.  The children will learn, but we need to guide some of that learning toward God.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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