One of the foundational principles of the Reformed™ Christian religion is the use of catechisms. A catechism is defined by the Google “definition box” as:
Catechism: a summary of the principles of Christian religion in the form of questions and answers, used for the instruction of Christians.
This is a pretty solid definition and one I did not understand due to my Roman Catholic background prior to being born again. My goal in this post is to convince you that you should study and memorize a catechism, as well as ensure your children do too—even your young ones!
What is a Catechism
A catechism is a series of questions and answers that demonstrates the truths of the Christian religion in a concise and direct manner. Here are a few examples from the Baptist Catechism:
Q3: How may we know there is a God?A3: The light of nature in man and the works of God plainly declare there is a God; but his word and Spirit only do it fully and effectually for the salvation of sinners.Q24: Who is the Redeemer of God’s elect?A24: The only Redeemer of God’s elect is the Lord Jesus Christ; who, being the eternal Son of God, became man, and so was and continueth to be God and man in two distinct natures, and one person forever.Q107: What doth the preface of the Lord’s prayer teach us?A107: The preface of the Lord’s prayer, which is Our Father which art in heaven, teacheth us to draw near to God with all holy reverence and confidence, as children to a father, able and ready to help us; and that we should pray with and for others.
Why a Catechism
When you study the catechism you are effectively being taught from a commentary on the scriptures by a man of God. Most of us are faithful to consult other Christians for help with doctrine and understanding, so a commitment to learning from others is part and parcel of being a Christian student. But when you study a catechism there is a directness to the questions and answers which forces you to think about how you would answer the same question. When you don’t understand the answer or disagree on the surface, it’s an opportunity to dig deeper and see what the Scripture says about a topic.
Once you are convinced the author(s) of the catechism knew more than you do, it becomes simply an exercise of sitting under their teaching. By memorizing the catechism question and answers you train yourself to be able to respond to questions about Christianity in a way that is consistent with historical reformed confessions and even with your own previous answers to the same questions. Catechisms will enhance your prayer life, your counseling, your teaching, and your preaching by putting thoughts already taken captive to obey Christ on your mind and on your lips.
My final exhortation though is that you should ensure your children, especially your youngest children are hearing and learning the catechism. A few years ago I reviewed a children’s catechism book which I still recommend. I thought my little guys needed a “simpler catechism” than the “adult one” which had significantly longer answers and harder words. I…WAS…WRONG!
On a whim, one day I started playing the tracks from Jim Orrick’s Baptist Catechism set to music. The tunes were catchy enough, and my 5 and 7-year-old boys had no problem hearing. I set a goal that maybe I’d hope they could memorize a question a week? I wasn’t sure what to expect.
I noticed rather quickly that due to the repetition of the music, they had memorized the first four questions in less than a week. I had memorized them as well! So we just rolled with it. After less than 25 weeks, we’ve all memorized over 50 questions already.
Here are a few interesting results of this:
- My younger son had not yet learned to read as of the time we started the memorization. Once he realized that the words in his heart and mind were on the pages of a book, he taught himself to read by looking at the words while saying the questions and answers out loud.
- It has forced questions out of my kids that might not have otherwise come up because they are hearing words we don’t normally use.
- My older son was watching a video where I was evangelizing Mormons and he heard some of the things they said about God and said “That’s not true, Daddy…” and easily refuted false notions about God with a couple of quotes from the catechism he had memorized.
- I wrote a gospel tract that was 75% just straight quotes from Keach’s Baptist Catechism.
- My prayers and preaching have been utterly enhanced.
How to Start
Get copies of the Baptist Catechism by Benjamin Keach for everyone in your family and church. You can search online or you can order copies of the 1689 Confession with the catechism from Chapel Library (for free). Here is a link.
Purchase Jim Orrick’s CD with each Q&A put to music.
Practice DAILY family worship. If you haven’t started that yet, you need to! In your family worship, listen to a few songs each time, and ask your children to try to sing along. Play the music throughout the day in your home and in the car.
Let your children quiz YOU on the questions and answers also! Refer to them to answer questions about Scripture. I hope your love for Christ and His doctrine will naturally lead you to continue digging into the catechism!
Deuteronomy 6:7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.
And finally, don’t feel bad that you’re starting late! I did too, but God has been gracious to still give us time to redeem for Him, so redeem the time, dear Christian!
I wish I had been taught about and adopted catechisms earlier in my Christian walk. Their effectiveness is only eclipsed by their doxological value. Responsible and faithful parents will differ in methods to teach their children…but I think it’s arguable that any childhood that is devoid of catechizing in the Christian religion is not the best way God has given us to raise them diligently. Your kids—even your babies—can listen to the Baptist catechism songs and have their ears, minds, and hearts transformed by the teaching of God’s Word. And when they grow and are saved by grace through faith, they will thank you for all that you filled them with before they even knew to be grateful for it.