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The Assembly’s Shorter Catechism

In Catechesis, Preaching, Shorter Catechism, Westminster Shorter Catechism, Westminster Standards on 17/10/2012 at 11:25

The following article, though written from the perspective of a concern within Congregational churches in the early 19th century, has much that is applicable for us today.  One key point is made in the statement that “Doctrinal  standards give stability, and secure uniformity of sentiment and discipline.” Dr. John Leith made this same point, though more extensively, some years ago in his Warfield Lecture, “Reformed Preaching Today.” Among other points, Leith stressed that the recovery of great preaching requires a well-educated congregation that can track with the pastor’s sermons:

 The recovery of great preaching calls for the revival of the Christian community as a disciplined, knowledgeable, worshiping community of people. The recovery of preaching and the recovery of the community will have to take place together, because there can be no recovery of a vital Christian community, well informed, apart from the recovery of great preaching. And on the other hand, a great congregation makes a great preacher.

And catechesis is the indisputable foundation of a great congregation!

The Assembly’s Shorter Catechism

[The Charleston Observer, 10:29 (16 July 1836): 113.]

            In this age of change and boasted improvement, we have witnessed with regret, the increasing disposition of Christians to depart from ancient standards and formularies of doctrines. How far the love of novelty has influence in producing this state of things, we are not prepared to say. The fact is that innovations and changes are easily effected, and the old paths are forsaken; often, seemly because they are old and have been trodden by men of other ages, and new ones are chosen, seemingly because they are new and without examination, whether they will conduct safely or not.

            Perhaps in no portion of the Christian church has the change been greater, than in the congregational churches of Connecticut; ancient standards of doctrine in these churches, have been suffered to pass away, not by a public and formal objection, but by silent neglect on the part of individual churches in order to accommodate and receive to their communion such as would dissent from doctrines contained in their old standards. To this as one cause silently operating, may be traced as we believe the gradual decrease of the congregational churches in Connecticut, and the increase of other denominations. Doctrinal standards give stability, and secure uniformity of sentiment and discipline, and then adhered in the denominations embracing them, they serve to strengthen and increase that denomination but when such standards are trodden down or thrown aside, the denomination is changed in its distinctive character, notwithstanding the name should be still retained. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Prominent Place of Catechesis

In Catechesis, Christian Life, Columbia Theological Seminary, Westminster Shorter Catechism, Wm. Childs Robinson on 29/05/2011 at 20:03

Catechizing

by Prof. Wm. C. Robinson

[excerpted from The Christian Observer 121.38 (20 September 1933): 7.]

Recent research is giving an increasingly prominent place in the establishment of early Christianity to catechizing. The Greek verb, “katecheo,” occurs seven times in the New Testament. In five of these instances it is used in our technical sense of elementary religious instruction. Luke wrote the third Gospel to confirm Theophilus in the irrefragable certainty of the topics, “logoi,” in which he had been catechized (Luke 1:4). Mark labored as a catechist under Peter. His Gospel may be described as Peter’s catechism “concerning the things Jesus began to do.” Indeed, the fact of this early Christian catechizing is so well recognized that it has become one of the basic presuppositions of the new investigation in the origins of the Gospels known as “Formegeschichte.”

Paul exhorts the Thessalonians: “Stand fast and hold the traditions which ye were taught whether by word or by epistle of ours” (II Thessalonians 2:13). He reminds the Romans of that “pattern of doctrine which had been delivered unto them” by teachers other than himself (Romans 6:17). A fragment of the original formula or belief is preserved in I Corinthians 15:3f. This confessional formula “was made known to Paul already at the time of his baptism” (Cf. I Corinthians 15:3f. with Romans 6:3f.).

Professor R. Seeberg says that “the primitive Christian ‘traditions’ (I Corinthians 11:2; cf. ‘first principles,’ Hebrews 6:2) offered more or less fixed formulas and traditions of the faith and moral life.” “Thus over against the freely working spirit principle, the individualization of inspiration and enthusiasm there stood from the beginning a structure of fixed representations, doctrines, regulations, morals, usages, historical authorities. The interworking of these two features made possible an ordered historical development. The form did not remain an empty form, but the personal experience gave it content; on the other hand, the experience did not become a formless enthusiasm but inclosed itself in the forms of the primitive knowledge of Christ.

The contents of “The Catechism of Primitive Christianity” have been carefully collated by A. Seeberg, R. Seeberg, and A.D. Heffern. It included:

(1) The Formula of Belief. In the case of Jewish converts this was chiefly “the things concerning Jesus” (Luke 24:19), the “elucidation and defense of the Gospel facts.” In the case of the Gentiles it certainly included the Jewish catechesis concerning monotheism (Hebrews 11:6, Romans 3:30). R. Seeberg offers ample New Testament evidence to show “that to this belonged also the triadic formula,” which “trinitarian belief in God” rests on the revelation which Christ made during the forty days.” “The words of faith,” I Timothy 4:6, gradually crystallized into the Roman symbol, the primitive form of the Apostles’ Creed. This “pattern of sound words” was taught the neophyte just before baptism, and was confessed by him at that sacrament. Read the rest of this entry »