As a pastor and a father, it is a great joy to be involved in the release of the Baptist and Orthodox Catechisms as part of our publisher’s book of ‘Doctrine’, due to be released in 2021. In a time where Christian doctrine has become increasingly vague and generalised, it is my prayer that the evangelical church will understand what a catechism is, and why it is so important.
The word catechism derives from the Greek and describes a text used for oral instruction containing a question followed by an answer. This is a means of teaching Biblical doctrine in a concise, clear and repetitive manner. I have used a catechism as part of our church services on the Lord’s Day to teach our members and children in attendance, and I also use this catechism to teach and instruct my children at home. Catechisms are not an alternative to, or on the same level as Scripture, but they are a very important means of teaching the Scriptures. I have written this brief article to give three key reasons why this is a crucial practice for Christian fathers and mothers in raising their children.
1. It is a means of simply and clearly teaching Christian doctrine
The majority of Christian parents in evangelical churches would likely agree about the importance of teaching their children about God, the Bible and the Gospel. However, the problem is often a lack of certainty as to how this should be done. The key point to stress is that it is the calling and responsibility of fathers (and mothers) to teach the Scriptures to their children (Deuteronomy 6:4-9, Ephesians 6:1-4). Fathers, there may be more competent or qualified men, but you are called to this weighty and blessed role in the lives of your children. The answer is not to abdicate this responsibility to pastors or other teachers, because any role that they play must be to reinforce what fathers are teaching their children.
In my family, we have a set time every morning where we gather to study the Scriptures, to sing praise to the Lord and to pray. This time includes working through a catechism, where my son will be asked questions, and he recites the answers. Working through a catechism, and referring to and reading the Scripture proofs, is a crucial way by which Christian doctrine can be simply and clearly taught to your children.
2. It shapes a Biblical worldview
One objection to catechizing children, particularly at a younger age, is that they do not understand what they are studying. Is this a legitimate concern? At face value, it appears to be, but in reality, it is not. A child who is being trained is learning Biblical truths that will shape their worldview (Proverbs 22:6). This is absolutely critical in a fallen world where we can see much evidence of Satan rampaging against the Biblical foundations of family, where cultural parameters are rapidly liberalising. The role of a father and mother is to protect children from such godlessness, as they teach the Scriptures in shaping a worldview. It is why catechizing our children is a means of safeguarding and shaping the worldview of our children built upon God’s Word and not man’s rebellion. This is a point that Hercules Collins identifies clearly in the preface of the Orthodox Catechism when he writes: ‘children who have been catechized will not so easily be tainted with the temptations of the world if their worldview has been shaped by the Scriptures.’
3. It is a very helpful reference point as children learn new things
Children are absorbing what they see and hear, and it is no exaggeration to say that they have big imaginations. This is one example as to why Biblical doctrine cannot be relegated to ‘it’s for the children to decide when they are old enough’. For example, many people ask my wife (Binglin) and me if we teach our son, Amos, about Santa Claus. Now, this question should not be the primary issue; rather, it should be whether we are teaching about Jesus Christ. I do not make a point of refuting Santa Claus to my son. I apply the things that my son is learning from the Scriptures, including referring to the catechism questions, asking him to answer questions he knows and applying them to the glorious message of the Gospel. The Scriptures are the base, the catechism questions are the reference point, as opposed to these things being the afterthought or counter-argument to the worldly influences that could otherwise shape a child’s upbringing.
Catechizing your children does not guarantee a child’s salvation, but it is a very important means by which fathers and mothers can raise their children in a manner that is commanded in Scripture. It can also be a very helpful way by which the centrality of Almighty God, and the saving power of the Gospel, can be communicated and applied in the life and upbringing of a child. Hence, I highly recommend our book of Doctrine which will include these two Catechisms, and all the more the importance of fathers and mothers working through a catechism as they raise their children in obedience to the Word of God.