Women Embracing Faith

Thinking Through the Bible

Catechism? How Old Fashioned Is That? May 12, 2011

Kate and William were married in Westminster Abbey.

 In 1649, “The Westminster Confession of Faith” was adopted by an assembly of Protestant clergy who agreed on this summary of the Bible’s teachings. The House of Commons called for the meeting and set forth the task and then approved their work. They met in a room adjacent to where the Royal Wedding was held. If you go to this link, you can see all about the Abbey and the Jerusalem Room: http://www.westminsterabbey.org

A larger and a shorter list of questions and answers were written as a teaching tool so these statements could more easily be understood. The idea was to teach the Scriptures through this question and answer method. It worked well for centuries. We have quit using this method. Could it be a tool we could pick up again?

James Packer, an Anglican theologian, believes it is time we picked it up again. I do too. The teaching technique is to ask a “closed” question that requires a specific answer. These are not questions designed to get the preschooler thru teenager to think deeply and creatively. There is a specific answer that is “right.” It is a method useful for conquering bodies of material. For instance, I used this same method to teach high school government and history. “What year did the War Between the States end?” Who led the Army of Northern Virginia? Whose murder contributed to the beginning of World War I?” At first, the seniors thought it was a joke. I was only in my early 20’s and looked younger, so they thought the whole class was going to be a joke! It all worked out in the end and they learned what “oral recitation” required. Just a few minutes a day—of terror for some; a joke for others. Later we would work on thinking logically and creatively.

That was a long time ago! I would still use it today. In fact, I use the method every Sunday with my pre-school Sunday School class. We have twelve Catechism Questions to learn during the year. They are simplified versions of the Westminster Catechism that Dr. Packer advocates.

Here are some sample questions from the Shorter Catechism:

“In how many persons does this one God exist? In three Persons.” (Great Commission Publications for Toddlers).

“Is any man able, either of himself, or by any grace received in this life, perfectly to keep the commandments of God? No man is able, either of himself, or by any grace received in this life, perfectly to keep the commandments of God; but doth daily break them in thought, word, and deed.” (Shorter Catechism, #149).

You get the idea, don’t you? If you are a Baptist, “The 1689 London Confession” would be very helpful for you. I found it very useful to have copies of both around the house. Look for them in old bookstores or online at Albris.com. Once, I found Luther’s Catechism in an old store in a small midwest town. He was also known for his relationship with kids. I always used the ones with scripture verses to back up each section so I could look it up myself. I’m not very structured and the churches we attended never used catechisms and my girls went to secular schools so we never memorized many of the questions and answers. But, hopefully, they remember some and know the principles behind them, and how to look them up when a question arises.


Figure out a way you could use catechism. Talk it over with your friends. I think this teaching tool will really help, but we have to pick it up and use it. Does it really matter that some might consider it “old-fashioned?”

My book Old Paths for Little Feet has a chapter on tools to keep handy. ( See pages 101-105.) You can purchase it at http://www.cvbbs.com.