Doctrine matters. Everyone's a theologian. You've probably heard these truths or insights in passing. Perhaps you've even given it a little thought. Perhaps you've made a resolution or two or three. Maybe it's on your one-day-I-will-figure-this-stuff-out list.
Everyone should be able to give an answer for the hope that they have. And catechisms--as out of favor as they are in some denominations--might be the way to go.
"Catechisms were written with at least three purposes. The first was to set forth a comprehensive exposition of the gospel—not only in order to explain clearly what the gospel is, but also to lay out the building blocks on which the gospel is based, such as the biblical doctrines of God, of human nature, of sin, and so forth. The second purpose was to do this exposition in such a way that the heresies, errors, and false beliefs of the time and culture were addressed and counteracted. The third and more pastoral purpose was to form a distinct people, a counterculture that reflected the likeness of Christ not only in individual character but also in the church’s communal life." (from the introduction)The New City Catechism is 52 questions and answers. Questions 1-20 cover "God, Creation and Fall, Law." Questions 21-35 cover "Christ, Redemption, Grace." Questions 21-35 cover "Spirit, Restoration, Growing in Grace."
I loved the way this devotional is arranged: first the question and answer; second, a Bible verse; third, commentary from a 'witness' (theologian now in glory); fourth, commentary from a contemporary theologian; and finally, a closing prayer.
Three sample questions and answers:
- What is sin? Sin is rejecting or ignoring God in the world he created, rebelling against him by living without reference to him, not being or doing what he requires in his law—resulting in our death and the disintegration of all creation.
- How can we be saved? Only by faith in Jesus Christ and in his substitutionary atoning death on the cross; so even though we are guilty of having disobeyed God and are still inclined to all evil, nevertheless, God, without any merit of our own but only by pure grace, imputes to us the perfect righteousness of Christ when we repent and believe in him.
- What is faith in Jesus Christ? Faith in Jesus Christ is acknowledging the truth of everything that God has revealed in his Word, trusting in him, and also receiving and resting on him alone for salvation as he is offered to us in the gospel.
An example of the contemporary commentary:
"It is spectacularly wonderful to talk about God, to think about him. There cannot be any higher subject. But the word God itself is not an empty cipher. Just because somebody uses the word God and then somebody else uses the word God, it does not follow that they mean the same thing. God, for some, is an inexpressible feeling, or it’s the unmoved cause at the beginning of the universe, or it’s a being full of transcendence. But we’re talking about the God of the Bible, and the God of the Bible is self-defined. He talks about himself as being eternal and righteous. He’s the God of love. He’s the God of transcendence; that is, he’s above space and time and history. Yet he is the immanent God; that is, he is so much with us that we cannot possibly escape from him. He is everywhere. He is unchangeable. He is truthful. He is reliable. He’s personal. What’s really important to see and understand, as God has disclosed himself not only in words but in the whole storyline of the Bible’s narrative, is that we are not permitted to take one attribute of God and make everything of it. We cannot, let’s say, take his sovereignty and forget his goodness. Or take his goodness and forget his holiness (his holiness is what makes him the God of judgment). Or take his judgment, even the severity of his judgment, and forget that he’s the God of love, the God who has so much loved even his rebellious creatures that ultimately he sent his Son to bear their sin in his own body on the tree. In other words, to get to the heart of who God is and to bow before him in some small measure of genuine understanding, it’s important to think through what the Bible says again and again and integrate the whole with the same balance and proportion that Scripture itself gives. That calls us to worship. And if we put anything else in the place of God, that is the very definition of idolatry." ~ D.A. CarsonAn example of the 'theologian in glory' commentary:
Sin is a fundamental relationship; it is not wrong doing, it is wrong being, deliberate and emphatic independence of God. The Christian religion bases everything on the positive, radical nature of sin. Other religions deal with sins; the Bible alone deals with sin. The first thing Jesus Christ faced in men was the heredity of sin, and it is because we have ignored this in our presentation of the Gospel that the message of the Gospel has lost its sting and its blasting power. ~ Oswald ChambersThree examples of closing prayer:
- Merciful Lord, we are corrupt in our very natures. We are sons and daughters of the first Adam who desire what you forbid. Give us a new nature through new birth in Christ, the second Adam, that we might be able to keep your law in the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
- Creator God, forgive us for worshiping the things you have made. No person or thing should be our hope or our trust. You alone are self-existent and all sufficient. May you be our all in all. Amen.
- Righteous Lord, if we think that we are good, we deceive ourselves. We deserve your wrath. We have broken your commands and we have not loved you with our whole hearts, minds, and strength. We can only plead the righteousness of Christ and ask you to let our punishment fall on him. Amen. Is there any way to escape punishment and be brought back into God’s favor? Yes, to satisfy his justice, God himself, out of mere mercy, reconciles us to himself and delivers us from sin and from the punishment for sin, by a Redeemer.
I loved, loved, LOVED, LOVED this one. It's so very good. I think everyone should have a copy of this one. I love the catechism. I think the questions are very straightforward and capture the essentials of the faith. I think they're relevant questions too. The how-then-should-I-live questions. I think the organization of this one is excellent. I love the blend of old and new. I'm already excited about rereading this one!
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible