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prov·o·ca·tion - something that provokes, arouses, or stimulates. pant - to long eagerly; yearn. a collection of thoughts intended to provoke and inspire. these posts are hoping to encourage people to think, especially Christians, and pant even harder for the waterbrooks of the Lord. If you are not a believer in Christ Jesus, I welcome your perspective and encourage your investigation on these matters.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Baptist Catechisms

For the past several months, the Lord has been dealing with my niece Delaney and drawing her unto Himself. She is five years old and incredibly smart for her age. I would dare say that she has more Bible knowledge and has more Scripture memorized than most adult Christians. I say all that to say that she has been asking several questions about becoming a Christian. Delaney knows what sin is, that she is separated from God because of it, and that if she did not believe in Jesus, she would go to hell. She also knows the reason why Christ Jesus came to die and how one must receive Him as Savior. So as a result of several conversations with her parents, they asked if I would talk to her, and I agreed a couple of weekends ago. One of the biggest fears I have in child evangelism is a misplaced trust that innocently goes undetected. How many times have we heard the testimony of the person who "prayed the prayer" at the end of Vacation Bible School or got saved because their parents wanted them to? How many have walked down an aisle to "make a decision" only because their best friend did? So much confusion and doubt arises later in life because parents and ministers failed to be careful stewards of their souls, hastily pressing salvation without evidence of the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. Many make the argument that Jesus said, "Suffer not the children to come unto me, for such is the kingdom of heaven." This is true in some aspects, but clearly not in all. First, the Bible places heavy attention on the sinner understanding the biblical truths of salvation and his current state a sinner. We should come humbly, dependent, and asking, but at the same time we should also come with an awareness of our sinful rebellion, understanding the gospel truths, and comprehending the nature of faith and repentance. Another problem is using language in describing salvation to children that is problematic and not supported in Scripture. For instance, there is the phrase, "asking Jesus to come into your heart," which if left alone does nothing to connote the gospel transaction. Of course, if you want to see what it looks like to "ask Jesus to come into your heart" you can by clicking here. Very often in speaking "Christianese" we find ourselves saying things we don't really think through about and wonder later in life, "What the heck does that mean?" Delaney's parents are fully aware of this misplaced trust that brings false assurance, and we have talked about going through some catechisms with Delaney. I was wondering - have any of you catechized your children? When I grew up I was not catechized and did not know what a catechism was until I was well into college and was introduced to the Puritans. Thinking back when I was a student minister, one of the coolest things I could have ever done was to work through a catechism with them to ground them in biblical truth (had I known better). There are several catechisms out there, many which can be found at The Reformed Reader. One I particularly like has been adapted by John Piper. Below are his introductory remarks which explain what a catechism is as well as its importance for the Christian life:

A Catechism?

I. What is a catechism?

In 1 Corinthians 14:19 Paul says, "In the church I would rather speak five words with my mind, in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue." In Galatians 6:6 he says, "Let him who is taught the word share all good things with him who teaches." Acts 18:25 says that Apollos "has been instructed in the way of the Lord."

In each of these verses the Greek word for "instruct" or "teach" is katecheo. From this word we get our English word "catechize". It simply means to teach Biblical truth in an orderly way. Generally this is done with questions and answers accompanied by Biblical support and explanation.

II. What is the history of this catechism?

This is a slightly revised version of "The Baptist Catechism" first put forth by Baptists in 1689 in Great Britain. It was adopted by the Philadelphia Baptist Association in 1742. It is patterned on the well-known reformed Westminster Catechism. The few comments in the earlier questions are meant to help parents make things plain to their children.

III. Is there a Biblical pattern of doctrine?

Several texts teach that there is. For example, in Romans 6:17 Paul gives thanks that "you have become obedient from the heart to the pattern of teaching to which you were committed." 2 Timothy 1:13 says, "Follow the pattern of sound words which you heard from me." Acts 2:42 says, "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching." 2 Thessalonians 2:15 says, "Stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us." And Acts 20:27 says, "I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God."

So it appears that there was a body of authoritative instruction and even a way of teaching it in the early church.

IV. Why is it important?

1) We are required to "continue in the faith, stable and steadfast" (Col. 1:23).

2) We are urged to "attain to the unity of the... knowledge of the Son of God...so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine" (Eph. 4:13-14).

3) There are many deceivers (1 John 2:26).

4) There are difficult doctrines "which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction" (2 Peter 3:16).

5) Leaders must be raised up who can "give instruction in sound doctrine and also confute those who contradict it" (Titus 1:9).

V. How shall we begin?

Make them part of your family routine or just use them for yourself. I am excited about being a partner with you in building a "stable and firm" generation who hopes in God.

Learning and teaching with you, Pastor John

Another good article that stresses the importance and use of catechisms can be found here. When I think about how biblically illiterate and theologically inept our churches are today, one does not have to wonder why there is little difference between the American church and the world it is supposed to impact. We cannot expect our children to know theology we aren't willing to put to practice. But is that not precisely the point? We have prioritized practice (pragmatism) above theology (truth), believing that theology is really not that practical. We do theology out of necessity and spiritual chore, not because we esteem its inherent benefit and delight therein. We cannot expect our children to value biblical truths if they don't see them treasured in their parents. The frontlines of teaching and training our children in God's Word are not in a Sunday School classroom or pulpit, but rather at the bedside or on your lap. And it is here where we begin to see the distinguising works of the Holy Spirit as God draws a little one unto himself. So what do you think about catechisms? Have you heard of them before? Used them before? If so, what catechism is your favorite? As you can see, I am a big fan of catechisms, although I am still relatively new to them. If you are interested in checking out some Baptist catechisms, here are some you might want to check out: John Bunyan's Catechism (1675) A Puritan Catechism (1855) - compiled by Charles Spurgeon A Catechism for Bible Teaching (1892) - John Broadus A Catechism for Bible Doctrine - James P. Boyce A Baptist Catechism - adapted by John Piper * All these and more catechisms can be found here.

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