2013 is drawing to a close and so is my journey with Heidi through 52 weeks of the New City Catechism. At this writing, we’re on question 51 of this free Christian education app for iPad, a joint project of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NYC, and The Gospel Coalition. We’ve enjoyed many conversations as rich as the aroma of our local Starbucks where we meet each Sunday morning before church. Heidi generally orders a bagel or a Chai Tea Latte; I stick with my Americano.
Why would I take time for such an old-fashioned sounding thing as teaching a catechism? I’m glad you asked!
I’ll respond in the classic question/answer format of a catechism.
1. What’s a catechism?
A catechism is a set of questions and answers designed to teach the learner the core themes and doctrines of the Bible. A good catechism will clearly lay out the essential biblical categories of law and gospel–what God requires, and what He promises for our salvation.
2. Isn’t catechism just for kids?
No. A catechism is a basic teaching tool for anyone who wants to understand the big picture message of the Bible, or teach it to their kids. It’s effective for any age because the questions focus on the basic teachings of the Bible while providing answers that are deep and thought-provoking.
3. Is there more than one catechism?
Yes. Catholics have their own, as do Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodists, Anglicans, Baptists, etc. However, many modern church groups who de-emphasize biblical and theological teaching have abandoned the practice of catechizing their members and children.
4. Why take the time to study a catechism?
If God has truly spoken to you in the Bible, you would be wise to listen to what He has to say about Himself and His world, and what He promises and requires of us. A catechism provides an effective introduction into these eternal matters.
5. Is it boring?
Studying a catechism is as boring as studying the Bible, or as enriching. The learner decides.
6. How did it go with Heidi?
We tried to cover 1-2 questions each time we met. Sometimes we missed a week. We always had time to talk about whatever Heidi had on her mind, as well as time for the catechism questions and her own spiritual questions. Tangents were frequent (she’s 14 ;), but she was always interested in the conversation.
7. What’s unique about the New City Catechism?
- The New City Catechism is a condensed, modern adaptation of three older catechisms from Reformation traditions: the Geneva, Westminster, and Heidelberg Catechisms.
- It is available online and as a free iPad app which can be downloaded from the iTunes App Store.
- It consists of only 52 questions, one per week, making it easy to fit into busy modern schedules.
- It includes a very helpful and brief introduction.
- It has a setting to display brief answers for children, or longer answers for teens and adults.
- One tap will show/hide the answers for those who want to memorize them.
- There’s a handy bookmark feature that let’s you track the progress of multiple learners, or just yourself.
- It’s divided into three sections along trinitarian lines:
- Part 1—God, creation and fall, law
- Part 2—Christ, redemption, grace
- Part 3—Spirit, restoration, growing in grace
- Each question is accompanied by this enlightening content:
- A key supporting passage from the Bible.
- A brief answer for children, and a deeper answer for teens and adults.
- A 2-4 minute video explanation by some of today’s best pastors and Bible scholars: Tim Keller, John Piper, D.A. Carson and more.
- A brief commentary drawn from the published writings of giants of the Reformation, past and present: Luther, Spurgeon, Lewis, Packer and more.
- A brief written prayer from notable Christians past and present.
8. What sort of questions does The New City Catechism address?
- #2—What is God?
- #6—How can we glorify God?
- #9—What does God require in the first, second, and third commandments?
- #24—Why was it necessary for Christ, the Redeemer, to die?
- #30—What is faith in Jesus Christ?
9. Who could benefit from studying this?
I recommend the New City Catechism (and catechesis, generally) to anyone who wants to know, love and glorify God. As a Christian parent, I can attest to the usefulness of the written and video commentaries, which spun-up some really interesting discussions for Heidi and me.
Anyone who is new to the Bible, or who half-heartedly went to catechism after school as a child could benefit from a full-hearted study of this catechism in as little as 15 minutes a week.
10. Will it make coffee for me?
Sorry. There are limits. It won’t make you a Christian either, if you aren’t one already. No catechism can substitute for the work of the Spirit of God in your heart. However, it will show you what it means to be a Christian, and provide plenty of Bible fuel for the Spirit to set ablaze.
- New City Catechism two minute tutorial (on Vimeo)
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- 7 Reasons Why Christians Should Not Boycott Starbucks
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