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Confession time: I used to think the catechism was just something used by the Catholic Church. Not only that, I thought it was no good because they considered it to be as authoritative as the Bible. (Instead of recognising the authority of Scripture Alone, Catholics believe in Scripture plus Tradition.)
Despite growing up in Baptist and Presbyterian churches, I never knew about Reformed catechisms until our eldest daughter started attending a school where they use one.
To my surprise and delight, I discovered the catechism is a great way to pare down the foundational truths of the Christian faith into small, bite-sized chunks that are easy to understand.
The Q&A format makes them especially easy to learn, for children and adults alike.
Of course, a catechism is not a substitute for reading and studying the Bible for yourself. Nor is any catechism inerrant and infallible like the Bible is.
We must examine everything in light of the ultimate source of truth – the Bible. But understood within the bounds of the doctrine of Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone), it is a very useful tool for getting a firm grasp on the basics of Christianity.
Drawing together verses from throughout the Bible, the catechism presents a biblical worldview, answering those deep, gnawing questions we all feel in our souls…
- What is my purpose in life?
- What happens after we die?
- Why is there so much suffering in the world?
- Do I have value?
- How do we tell right from wrong?
But the biblical worldview is not the only way people answer those questions (and others)…
Worldview on display
You might not realise it, but every day you hear the out-workings of hundreds of different worldviews. Every social media quote, every news headline, and every passing quip from a stranger is founded upon the worldview the speaker or writer holds.
A “worldview” is just the overall perspective or philosophy from which people interpret and understand the world around them.
James Anderson, writing for Ligonier, explains it like this:
“What is a worldview? As the word itself suggests, a worldview is an overall view of the world. It’s not a physical view of the world, but rather a philosophical view, an all-encompassing perspective on everything that exists and matters to us.”
Worldviews can be intentionally curated and chosen, but for the most part, they are formed through our experiences and the ideas we consume. Whether or not you’ve thought about it, you have a worldview, and everything you think, say and do flows from it.
Of course, most people don’t think about the fact that they’re speaking from their own worldview. We all hold our own beliefs to be true, that’s why they’re called “beliefs” (even if we know that, because of sin nature, none of us can be completely correct).
So when we speak about matters of importance to us, we’re simply speaking from the worldview we hold.
The Cultural Catechism
While there’s no one worldview held by the majority of people in our culture, we can observe general agreement across a range of topics and the direction a culture’s beliefs are moving in. And often these agreements work their way down into the popular culture and dialect in the form of short one-liners and quotes.
Think about this – have you ever been in a conversation with someone, when all of a sudden they start saying things you’re sure you’ve heard before… Almost as though they’re well-rehearsed lines?
For example, “abortion is healthcare” is a common line (slogan, even) used by people who are pro-choice. If you’ve ever found yourself in a discussion with someone who supports abortion rights, I can almost guarantee you’ve heard that line.
That’s because it’s part of the cultural catechism – a phrase that has been repeated so often that it’s now considered a succinct answer to the question of abortion.
But it goes deeper – that particular “catechism” is founded on a worldview that can’t explain why human life has value. If you remove a Creator God who makes humans in His image, thus imbuing them with value, then reproduction is just a natural biological process with no moral implications. And if we can stop the process at any point, who’s to say we shouldn’t?
Now, do I think all people who say things like “abortion is healthcare” believe human life has no intrinsic value? No. I think they would say it does!
But I don’t believe they’ve thought through the foundations of that cultural catechism they’ve picked up.
They’ve been catechised into a worldview without God.
We are all being catechised by whoever or whatever we choose to listen to and take on board.
Who is catechising your kids?
Everyone is being catechised by something and someone. Who will you be catechised by? What about your children?
Do your kids go to school?
They are being catechised by the teachers, and not just in matters relating to reading, writing and ‘rithmetic. I heard more about politics from my public school teachers than almost anyone else as a child. (And it certainly wasn’t impartial information!)
Do your kids watch TV?
They are being catechised by the shows they watch. Almost all kids shows these days have an underlying message or teaching they are trying to get across.
Do your kids have internet access?
You better believe they are being catechised!
Is my point that you shouldn’t let kids go to school, watch TV or have internet access? No!
My point is that you need to understand everyone out there with a message is trying to catechise your kids.
It’s your job as a parent to 1. vet those messages they are receiving, and 2. equip them with a solid knowledge of the truth through which to filter all of these messages.
If you won’t teach your children a biblical worldview, they will pick up a worldview from somewhere else along the way.
You might be thinking, “But I don’t want to indoctrinate my kids – I want them to believe for themselves”, but realise this – even that thought is one of our cultural catechisms!
The culture says that teaching your children that one religious view is the right way is brainwashing them. The christianese version of this often sounds like “if you teach your children there is only one true religion and don’t give them options, then their faith won’t be genuine!”.
The truth is that everyone indoctrinates their kids.
“Indoctrinate” means (1.) to instruct in a doctrine, principle, or ideology, (2.) to teach or inculcate, or (3.) to imbue with learning.
People who teach their kids “this is what I believe about God, but you can decide for yourself” are actually indoctrinating their kids in the belief that there is no true God, and that religion is a personal decision you can make for yourself with no real consequence.
So don’t be afraid to teach your kids that there is truth, and that it is found in the Bible. Be more afraid of neglecting your responsibilities as a Christian parent and failing to teach them the truth!
Of course, we can’t control what our kids believe in their hearts, and they ultimately do need to make up their own minds about what we teach them. But there is such a thing as truth, whether they end up accepting it or not.
Telling them otherwise is lying.
That is why using a catechism with your kids is so valuable. It fills their minds with truth and equips them with a biblical worldview.
Remember – everyone has a worldview.
Your child is forming theirs.
Will you equip them with the truth or leave them to pick up whatever they gather from the world’s messages along the way?
- We love listening to Colin Buchanan’s Catechismo Kids CD – it’s in the format of a radio show with Colin and his puppet, Nudge, going through the catechism questions, talking about what they mean, interspersed with relevant songs (plus a whole lot of silliness!).
- For catechism printables and activities, and an explanation of the different Reformed catechisms, you can’t go past Cassie, at Reformed Mama.
- For a Catechism flip pad to use with very young kids, I recommend this store by Alongside Them.
- I’ve made a set of three catechism posters covering the entire Kid’s Catechism (Introduction to the Westminster Shorter Catechism) which you can access below. They are designed to be printed out at A3 size (you could probably do A4, but I think some of the text would be too small). Just a personal note here – my husband and I hold to a Believer’s Baptism view (rather than Paedobaptism), so we use this catechism instead. However, I made the posters using this one, because it is the non-copyright version.
Thanks for this blog post, Jess! It’s assuring to know there is truth and that it is found in the Bible. We need to be instructed on what’s right and wrong, then teach our children.
If we neglect this, we risk being people who do whatever they think is right, based on our own thoughts. ( Bible reference: Judges 21:25)