What is a catechism?
A catechism is simply a set of questions and answers. It's a teaching tool. In a way, this FAQ is a catechism.
Christian catechisms are designed for teaching children and new believers the essential doctrines of the Christian faith.
Isn’t that a Catholic thing?
Not exclusively. Many protestant denominations use catechisms as well.
Why use the Westminster Shorter Catechism (WSC)?
- It’s an excellent summary of the biblical text
- It’s wording is precise and succinct, which makes it perfect for memorization
- It communicates Reformed, covenantal theology
- It’s a consensus document, drafted by theologians from varied backgrounds
The Heidelberg Catechism is another excellent resource for teaching doctrine, with a much warmer tone, that can be used alongside the WSC. However, although friendlier, it tends to be wordy, and therefore can be more difficult to memorize.
Why use the Modern English (ME) version?
We use the Modern English version because it’s easier to say, understand, and remember. It sounds like the way we talk. This is especially true for young kids (ages 2–6)
Why memorize it?
Memorization allows the mind to quickly recall precise definitions of words or phrases. So, for example, instead of fumbling around when trying to explain the concept of justification, a person can simply recite, “Justification is the act of God’s free grace by which he pardons all our sins, and accepts us as righteous in his sight. He does so only because he counts the righteousness of Christ as ours. Justification is received by faith alone.”
The WSC’s answers are packed tightly with lots of meat. Every word is intentional and meaningful.
Shouldn’t we memorize scripture instead?
Catechisms are never intended to replace scripture. Rather, they are a tool for better understanding the scripture.
When people only study and memorize the scripture itself, they can sometimes lose an overall perspective on how the Bible fits together, and what the overarching themes are. Catechisms give a greater context or “bird’s-eye view” for studying the scripture.
Therefore, memorization of the catechism should always take place alongside scripture memory.
Shouldn’t kids start with something easier?
We are of the opinion that kids should start with something they will grow into, rather than something they will grow out of.
So we think it’s fine if our youngest kids are only able to parrot the phonetic sounds, then later understand a simple explanation of the meaning, and still later grasp the full extent of the meaning.
We want our kids to eventually realize the richness of what we’re giving them (“Oh now I get it!”), rather than eventually cast it aside as if it were something childish (“That’s just something I used to do when I was a kid… It’s way beneath me now!”).