Monday 4 March 2019

Rediscovering Catechising

I began this blog to "sow seeds", in order to help people to move towards a clearer biblical and a Reformed approach to the Bible. It is amazing that today, we have two forms of Christianity at work within evangelicalism. One that takes the Scriptures (the 66 books of the Bible) as the final source of authority for doctrine and life; the other which adds many things to the Bible as a source of revelation.

For example a brother in the church in Sheffield explained to me that he was into prosperity teachings such as those promoted by Joel Osteen and others. One day he saw a TV program which included John MacArthur and Joel Osteen. They were challenged to answer about a biblical view of marriage and sexuality. Joel Osteen simply failed to give any kind of a clear answer; whereas John MacArthur nailed the answer with clear biblical evidence. This made this Christian think. He realised that doctrine matters.

Part of our dilemma in the Christian church in the West, has been our failure to catechise. This includes to catechise adults in the church, as well as children. At its core, to catechise means "to instruct using a question and answer method". We have the Larger and the Shorter Catechisms, both of which are now available in modern English without revisions. The Larger Catechism has 196 questions and the Shorter Catechism has 107 questions. There is also a children's catechism which is helpful as well.

The late Professor John Murray wrote this in 1962: "What was looked on as a necessary and beneficial practice by the early church and by the Reformers has now fallen into such disuse among Christian people that very few seem to have any understanding or appreciation of the subject. We believe it is to the discontinuance of this practice [of catechising] that we can trace much of the doctrinal ignorance, confusion and instability so characteristic of modern Christianity".

That was in 1962, and I believe that in 2019 things have not improved on the whole.

Why is catechising neglected? Could we begin to teach people to use the Shorter Catechism in the homes to discuss and memorise? Could congregations begin a catechism class for adults using the Larger Catechism? For those churches that have so called Sunday School Adult classes, could they be devoted to expounding the Larger Catechism instead of a general curriculum of Bible subjects?

Listen to the Lord Jesus Christ using questions to teach.

"And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.” “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.” And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?” Mark 8:14-21.

May there be a rediscovery of catechising of adults and children in our own day!