New City Catechism
I want to commend an excellent resource to you today: New City Catechism. A catechism is a summary of the Christian faith put into question and answer format. Basically, it is a tool used to teach people about the basics of Christianity. Typically, individuals memorize the questions and answers as they learn the catechism; these questions covers topics like ‘What is God?’ ‘What is sin?’ ‘Why did God create us?’ ‘How are meant to live.’ The questions are given quick, concise, biblical responses which help shape the learner’s heart, mind, and affections. Such information provides a person with a worldview in line with God’s revelation.
Catechisms have a historical precedence in the church. Since the Early Church, Christians have used catechisms to help new believers understand how to live and think biblically about the world, life, God, and oneself. In the Reformation era (1500-1700s), several catechisms proved to be particularly effective and influence in Christendom (Westminster, Heidelberg, and Lutheran Catechisms). Based on these catechisms, Tim Keller and Sam Shammas created New City Catechism. This modern catechism is made up of 52 questions and answers, and covers topics like God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit), sin, the Law, and the Christian life. You can find the catechism here www.newcitycatechism.com The site—and free ipad app—provides all 52 questions and answers; also, for each question it gives a Scripture passage, a theological explanation written by a historic theologian (Augustine, Calvin, Baxter), a short video explaining the meaning, and a prayer. It is truly an excellent resource!
Our community group (group of individuals from my church who meet for fellowship) is currently learning the New City Catechism together. Each week we try to memorize a new question and answer, and when we get we discuss the implications of the question for our lives. When you are not used to memorizing anything, it is not easy to begin trying to memorize a new question and answer every week, along with keeping up previous week’s questions. Rach and I have found this to be the case. I believe this practice is particularly difficult for our current generation, which is used to quickly looking up information on the internet, rather than memorizing facts. However, memorizing a catechism is worth the effort, and shapes the way we think about ourselves, God, and others. What Rach and I do is to try and recite the questions and answers we have learned each day or every other day. This typically takes a few minutes (depending on how many questions you’ve learned!); to learn a new question usually takes us between five and ten minutes. Thus, for only a few minutes each day you can learn a catechism. Our goal is learn a new question each week—so far, by God’s grace, we’ve made it up to question 13!
In my next post on this topic, I will share how learning a catechism has helped us in our relationship with the Lord and with each other. For now, I will leave you with a song that I wrote to aid our community group in learning the first seven questions. (At some point I’d like to rerecord this—possibly using another singer, better mic, and fuller instrumentation).