Catechism: Used to be Creepy, Now a Comfort

Sincerely, I thought it was such a creepy word that I shuddered at it when JD brought it up: “Let’s go through it with the kids!” Catechism? Creepy! Me? goodness no!

I’m a Christian. I’m not Roman Catholic! Wasn’t that for the older women of the Roman Catholic church who walk to church at 5 in the morning, and wore short white veils on their heads?

A Popular Writing Genre

As it turns out, catechisms have historically been a popular writing genre used in every conceivable field in the 1700s and 1900s. Catechisms were widely used to summarize and rehearse basic knowledge, examples of field use would be in politics, coal industry, steam engine industry, even communism!

To define, catechisms are doctrinal manuals, containing great wisdom in concise format. It comes from the Greek word catechesis (meaning “to make resound, as with an echo”).

Early Christians applied this secular method to effectively teach basics of the faith, an early adopter was Augustine of Hippo, as he defined biblical truths and wrote against the heresies of the time. Catechesis in the faith has been used widely ever since in various forms, intents, and purposes.

The Reformers sure did propagate their catechisms in an effort to grapple with the errors of the Roman Catholic catechisms.

A Sort of Welcome

In the early church, it was used as a welcome of new believers, it answers basic questions like who is God? What is the church? It puts words to “What do we believe in exactly?” It has also been used as a dialogue guide for parents and teachers in teaching biblical complexities to a child (biological and spiritual).

In the course of history, catechisms have been used to present deep biblical wisdom in short Q & A statements, the larger ones for reference, the shorter ones for memory.

It is somewhat what we could compare as our modern day “Victory Weekend,” in that it teaches, instructs, and defines biblical truths, but this time it’s something we always have in our pockets as daily guide, instead of a single powerful event.

Three time-tested Protestant Reformation-era catechisms stand out today: Heidelberg, Westminster shorter and larger, and Calvin’s Geneva Catechisms, all of which were the basis of my catechism of choice: Redeemer’s New City Catechism.

Timothy Keller, in his introduction of the New City Catechism App says of 3 reasons why we ought to go back to this forgotten practice:

  1. “To set forth a comprehensive exposition of the gospel – not only to explain clearly what the gospel is, but also to lay out biblical doctrines such as human nature, sin, and so forth.”
  2. “To do this exposition in such a way that heresies, errors, and false beliefs of the time and culture were addressed and counteracted.”
  3. “The more pastoral purpose was to form a distinct people, a counterculture that reflected the likeness of Christ in individual character and in the church’s communal life”

Keller would argue that in today’s world, what we are up against in our Christian walk would be secularism as the air we breathe in.

The history of the Heidelberg Catechism is one of comfort. Apparently reading and memorizing it has been bringing comfort to Christians through the ages since its writing.

Frequently Asked Questions: FAQs to us Moderns

The format of Q & A has always been captivating to both adults, and kids. Moreso to them! To us moderns, FAQs come out in the “About” page in a person or company’s website. FAQs have always been instructional and basic. Well why not go through it with spiritual truths, right?

Isn’t it a good way of “letting the Word dwell in you richly?” (Col 3:16)

Other versions of Q & A’s that are culturally contextualized today include my personal favorites such as John Piper’s “Ask Pastor John” series, R.C. Sproul’s Crucial Questions series, and gotquestions.org.

Ask Pastor John amazingly has thousands of sound Q & A’s

It seems quite evident that the best way to learn something is to ask questions and seek answers to them!

I’m mighty glad there are loads of free and sound answers online, and here are some of what I can recommend.

R.C. Sproul’s Crucial Questions Series is now freely available in Ligonier.org
GQ or gotquestions.org has over 655,000 questions answered biblically and trustworthily

Catechism even for kids?

Yes! Moreso! Kids love asking questions, and I’ve got to admit that most of the time I can’t even answer them all!

Thankfully, it’s not so archaic, dismissible, and totally uncool for kids to jump into catechisms as I had imagined it to be.

New City Catechism Mobile App

We just love the New City Catechism mobile app, and concise, colorful enough for kids, and it has catchy songs!

It has 52 questions, one for every week of the year, that seems doable! It was based on the 3 standout catechisms mentioned above, more bite-sized and digestible for families today.

I mean, have you ever thought about this question, how about how to even answer it?

New City Catechism Question 1

So there we are, going through it little by little. Its freely published by Crossway and Tim Keller’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church, complete with devotionals from the Reformers, and a prayer too! Let me tell you, its not an easy journey, with short attention spans and a general disinterest in something new, but it is slowly becoming a habit. As with all things worthwhile doing, there is a struggle, “do hard things” as it has been said. The catchy songs of the “Children’s Mode” really do help! It has been a very helpful memory tool even for me!

Children’s Mode

After turning on the Children’s Mode in the Settings:

Out pops their original song of the Q & A!

So it is my sincere hope that as you read this, you will certainly consider this as part of your morning routine with your kids!

I have certainly seen it change the eyes of my kids as they understand the world they live in through the lens of the bible. I’m at a comfortable space knowing that they’ll be equipped to handle life and its hardships (when grown) as they are firmly rooted in Scripture. Furthermore, it is surely fun and funny hearing them sing those songs and belting them out from time to time! By faith, those seeds will grow in their lives.

Has this been helpful? Feel free to message, comment, or email me about this exciting thing!