in-between studies

What’s in a Catechism?

catechism

I’ve been listening to a conference series put on by Ligonier Ministries called ‘No Compromise‘.  I have heard mention of the Catechism before, but I kept hearing it throughout the series and decided to look it up.  This is not the Catechism required to be memorized by Catholics.  This was created during the Reformation back in the 1500’s.  If you go to the ‘Doctrine’ link in my list to the right you can click on the ‘New to Catechism’ section and it will explain what it is…. but in essence it is a question and answer series taken directly from the Bible to help us understand firmly what we believe as Christians.

For example, here is an excerpt:

Q.
Since, according to God’s righteous judgment
we deserve temporal and eternal punishment,
how can we escape this punishment
and be again received into favour?
A.
God demands that his justice be satisfied. 1
Therefore we must make full payment,
either by ourselves or through another. 2

It is imperative that we are able to speak confidently when people ask us why we believe what we believe. We cannot be excellent representatives of Christ if we have no sound backing to our words. If we are willing to stand up for something, or argue it, it is considered our doctrine.  For example if you will argue that the only way to Heaven is by belief in Jesus, and following His teachings, then that is one of your doctrines.  It is the doctrine of Salvation.

That being said, let’s take a look at the main types of Christians you might find out there in the world (aside from Roman Catholicism), cited from Wikipedia.  Please note what each considers as it’s founding for beliefs, doctrine, and on what it stands firm:

  • Protestant / Reformed: Although the doctrines of Protestant denominations are far from uniform, some beliefs extending across Protestantism are the doctrines of sola scriptura and sola fide.
    • Sola scriptura maintains that the Bible (rather than church tradition or ecclesiastical interpretations of the Bible) is the primary and supreme source of binding authority for all Christians. This does not exclude other sources of binding authority, rather it places other forms of authority in subordination to the authority of Scripture.
    • Sola fide holds that salvation comes by grace through faith alone in Jesus as the Christ, rather than through good works.

    Protestant churches generally reject the Catholic doctrines of papal supremacy and magisterial authority, including both papal infallibility and the general infallibility of the Church. Because of this, Protestant ministers and church leaders have somewhat different roles and authority in their communities than do Catholic, Anglican and Orthodox priests and bishops.

  • Liberal Christianity, broadly speaking, is a method of biblical hermeneutics (interpretation), an undogmatic method of understanding God through the use of scripture by applying the same modern hermeneutics used to understand any ancient writings. Liberal Christianity does not claim to be a belief structure, and as such is not dependent upon any Church doctrine or creedal statements. Unlike conservative varieties of Christianity, it has no unified set of propositional beliefs. The word liberal in liberal Christianity denotes a characteristic willingness to interpret scripture without any preconceived notion of inerrancy of scripture or the correctness of Church dogma.
  • Progressive Christianity is the name given to a movement within contemporary Christianity characterized by willingness to question tradition, acceptance of human diversity with a strong emphasis on social justice or care for the poor and the oppressed (often identified as minority groups) and environmental stewardship of the Earth. Progressive Christians have a deep belief in the centrality of the instruction to “love one another” (John 15:17) within the teaching of Jesus Christ. This leads to a focus on compassion, promoting justice and mercy, tolerance, and working towards solving the societal problems of poverty, discrimination and environmental issues, especially by social and political activism. Comparatively, a further understanding within Christianity being of the Greek word agape or agapaó as used within John 15:17 translated to the English word “love” as that being of “i.e. embracing God’s will (choosing His choices) and obeying them through His power”.

So why do we have so many different ‘Christians’ out there?  The rift between Catholics and Reformed Christians has gone on for centuries, since the time of the Roman Empire.  I am more interested for this post about the differences in what we see going on outside of the Roman Catholic church.  Being that I am not Roman Catholic, I cannot do justice to all the differences between Catholics as a whole, and the rest of Christianity, however, I do know that the protestant doctrines of ‘Sola Fide’ (salvation by faith alone) and ‘Sola Scriptura’ (final authority by scripture alone) are not accepted by the Roman Catholic church.

Around the turn of the 19th century, a scholar named Friedrich Schleiermacher created a new way of interpreting the Bible.  Schleiermacher (1768 – 1834) was a German theologian, philosopher, and biblical scholar known for his attempt to reconcile the criticisms of the Enlightenment with traditional Protestant orthodoxy.  He also became influential in the evolution of Higher Criticism, and his work forms part of the foundation of the modern field of hermeneutics. Because of his profound impact on subsequent Christian thought, he is often called the “Father of Modern Liberal Theology” and is considered an early leader in liberal Christianity.

In layman’s terms: philosophers tried to get rid of the ‘idea’ of God by saying that we have the power to control our circumstances, and God (if He exists) is just watching.  The Enlightenment took the power from God, and placed it into the hands of men.  It was a movement brought about to push scientific theories, and also normalize skepticism.  What resulted was a generation of anti-church, anti-government people.  Basically, men wanted to be in control of their own lives and destinies, so they started the Enlightenment as a way to create a ‘standard’ for opposition to tradition.

This was the beginning of ‘experience overrules the Gospel’.  By experience I mean things that have transformed us in our thinking and ideas.  The problem with this is that it doesn’t matter what has happened to us, we change, but the Gospel does not.  Instead we should put the correct order back into practice: The Gospel is sufficient, experience points to the the Gospel in that we realize more and more that we are not finding satisfaction through our own methods.  We cannot and should not rely on books or commentary outside of the Bible to give us our basis for beliefs.  Everything we need is there in Scripture.

In a study done by Christianity Today and Zondervan Publishers, 1000 people who called themselves Christians were polled.  The results speak for themselves when we see why so many of the people we come in contact with are confused by what it means to be a Christian.  Unfortunately in our culture of America today, when someone tells you they are a Christian, there is a 60% chance that what they mean by that is they believe in God, but Christ is not the focus of their faith.  The word Christian means:  follower of Christ.  See the entire study here.

This is why I was so interested to learn of this now ‘ancient’ document of the faith.  It was created in a time just prior to the Enlightenment, when ministers were concerned that their congregations know about their faith in depth.  It is information like this that makes me so thankful for the church I attend.  My family has been blessed to be placed in a church where teens are required to learn these truths as well as basic apologetics prior to individual membership, and leaving the ‘nest’.

By God’s mercy He has been enlightening us and dividing truth from non-truth. If it doesn’t come from the Bible (which is directly from God), then it shouldn’t be what we found our beliefs on.  I strongly encourage you, Christian or not, to visit this link and see what Biblical Christianity looks like.  If you call yourself a Christian, then you are called to be set apart.  You must stand firm in the beliefs of the Bible, and this tool can help you achieve that.

http://www.heidelberg-catechism.com

 

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4 thoughts on “What’s in a Catechism?

  1. Hey Kristy! This is Sarah H. Just wanted to chime in to say that Roman Catholicism has as its principal sources of teaching “the Sacred Scriptures, the Fathers of the Church, the liturgy, and the Church’s Magisterium.” (CCC 11)

    The Pope does not have the authority to teach something that is in contradiction with Sacred Scripture or Church doctrine. The Church’s teachings have been preserved and handed down for the last 2000+ years since Jesus Christ walked this earth.

    With that, I leave you with a beautiful quote from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

    “65 “In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son.” (Hebrews 1:1-2) Christ, the Son of God made man, is the Father’s one, perfect, and unsurpassable Word. In him he has said everything; there will be no other word than this one. St. John of the Cross, among others, commented strikingly on Hebrews 1:1-2: (102, 516, 2717)

    In giving us his Son, his only Word (for he possesses no other), he spoke everything to us at once in this sole Word—and he has no more to say… because what he spoke before to the prophets in parts, he has now spoken all at once by giving us the All Who is His Son. Any person questioning God or desiring some vision or revelation would be guilty not only of foolish behavior but also of offending him, by not fixing his eyes entirely upon Christ and by living with the desire for some other novelty.”

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