Today we continue and wrap up our discussion of Christian catechesis.
What Have We Learned? How might what we have learned about Christian catechesis be applied today? The following are a few reminders of what we have learned, as well as some suggestions. First and foremost, it is important to recognize the emphasis in Scripture is on passing on its content to the next generation, so that one may not only have knowledge of its pages, but also will live in accordance with it. This is the means by which God’s people not only live rightly before him, but also one of the means the Lord uses to strengthen and expand his church. He also uses the transmission of Scripture’s teaching to succeeding generations to keep the church pure and free from false teaching (Psalm 78:6–8; 1 John 2:26), as well as to strengthen one in their walk with Christ (Ephesians 4:13–14). Second, central to what we teach as Christians is the gospel, the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This does not mean that other portions of Scripture are excluded, but that all of Scripture is finally understood as it relates to new covenant realities. Third, although all members of God’s church are to disciple others (cf. Matthew 28:19–20), pastors are given the duty to lead God’s flock by teaching them sound doctrine and practicing what they preach (2 Timothy 2:2; Titus 1:9). Pastors will be held accountable for the teaching that happens under their care, whether or not they directly communicate said instruction (1 Peter 5:1–4). Fourth, parents and fathers in particular are charged with directed the Christian education of their children. This may include such things as making sure they attend a church in which they will be well fed, but it certainly includes the responsibility to personally instruct their children in the faith (Deuteronomy 6:6–7). Fifth, Christian instruction is not something merely reserved for children, but is something all of God’s children are to give themselves to. We are all exhorted to continue to grow in our understanding, knowledge, and application of God’s Word (1 Peter 2:2; Colossians 1:23). Finally, one way to directly apply what church history has taught us about the use of catechesis is with regard to those persons preparing for Christian baptism (by this I mean credobaptism). I do not mean that we need to go through the same long drawn out process, but I do think it would be helpful to give time for proper instruction in the gospel to show that the baptismal candidate is prepared to identify with Christ publicly in the waters of baptism. It may even be useful to reinstitute the idea of a sponsor for the baptismal candidate, perhaps the person who led them to Christ. This person would vouch for their changed life, as well as continue to disciple them leading up to the actual baptism.
In reviewing what Scripture says about the importance of teaching and instruction, as well as what church history has to say with regard to catechesis, I am left wondering if today’s evangelical church is doing such a great job transmitting the faith to others. We live in an age where biblical literacy is dreadfully low in most conservative Bible believing churches. Why is this? Is it because we have not taken seriously God’s charge to each of us to learn and grow in our understanding of Scripture? Have we neglected the old ways of training the next generation for what are new but not always tested methods? Is church less about building disciples and more about an event? Are pastors aware of what is being taught in their youth groups, Sunday school classrooms, and small group meetings? Do they realize they are responsible for what is being taught to those placed in their care? Are parents so concerned with investing in their son’s or daughter’s future as an athlete, musician, artist, or scholar that they have neglected to leave room for family worship, a time for instruction and prayer before the Lord? I don’t ask these questions to be accusatory. I know my own weaknesses as a father in discipling my own daughters. I ask these questions, because I fear we are not doing as we ought. We are not engaged in strategic and well thought out methods for seeing the faith transmitted to the next generation. We do not seemed concerned about the health of Christ’s church. If we were, we would give ourselves to the study of Scripture. God has made it clear that growth in godliness comes through knowing and understanding his Word (John 17:13–19; Ephesians 5:26). My hope through these series of posts has not been to champion a particular catechetical method, but to encourage you to see the need for Christian instruction, for yourselves, for your children, and for the church as a whole. May God grant us wisdom and understanding not only of Scripture, but of methods and means that may be used to educate his church in the faith once for all given to the saints.
What Are Some Tools for Catechesis? The following are a list of tools one may use to instruct others in Christian doctrine. This is by no means intended to be exhaustive.
Grudem, Wayne. Bible Doctrine. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1999.
Lewis, C. S. Mere Christianity. New York, NY: HarperOne, 2001.
Packer, J. I. Growing in Christ. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1994.
Stott, John. Basic Christianity. 50th Anniversary edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2012.
Hunt, Susan, Richie Hunt, and Nancy Munger. Big Truths for Little Kids: Teaching Your Children to Live for God. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1999.
Machowski, Marty. The Ology: Ancient Truths Ever New. Greensboro, NC: New Growth, 2015.
Meade, Starr. Training Hearts, Teaching Minds: Family Devotions Based on the Shorter Catechism. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2000.
Taylor, Kenneth N. Everything a Child Should Know about God. Illustrated by Jenny Brake. Leyland, UK: Tyndale House Foundation/10 Publishing, 2014.
Grudem, Wayne. Christian Beliefs: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know. Edited by Elliot Grudem. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005.
Ware, Bruce A. Big Truths for Young Hearts: Teaching and Learning the Greatness of God. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2009.
A Baptist Catechism. Adapted by John Piper. Minneapolis, MN: Desiring God. May be downloaded at <http://cdn.desiringgod.org/pdf/blog/A_Baptist_Catechism-new.pdf>.
Keller, Timothy and Sam Shammas. New City Catechism. The Gospel Coalition. May be downloaded at <http://www.newcitycatechism.com/>.
Luther, Martin. Luther’s Small Catechism. St. Louis, MO: Concordia, 1921. May be downloaded at <http://www.ccel.org/ccel/luther/smallcat.i.html>.