15 August 2007

Is The Catechism Worthwhile?

Having trouble understanding the Westminster Shorter Catechism? Struggling to grasp the truth contained in all those questions and answers? Do you feel like a catechism is an antiquated means to teach? Is the antiquated language turning you off? You're not alone if you've answered yes to any of these questions yet I would urge you to keep reading and studying or if you've given up to re-start the learning process. Benjamin Warfield wrote in his article, Is the Catechism Worthwhile?, The Shorter Catechism is, perhaps, not very easy to learn. And very certainly it will not teach itself. Its framers were less careful to make it easy than to make it good. As one of them, Lazarus Seaman, explained, they sought to set down in it not the knowledge the child has, but the knowledge the child ought to have. And they did not dream that anyone could expect it to teach itself. They committed it rather to faithful men who were zealous teachers of the truth, "to be," as the Scottish General Assembly puts it in the Act approving it, "a Directory for catechizing such as are of a weaker capacity," as they sent out the Larger Catechism "to be a Directory for catechizing such as have made some proficiency in the knowledge of the grounds of religion."
No doubt it requires some effort whether to teach or to learn the Shorter Catechism. It requires some effort whether to teach or to learn the grounds of any department of knowledge. Our children — some of them at least — groan over even the primary arithmetic and find sentence-analysis a burden. Even the conquest of the art of reading has proved such a task that "reading without tears" is deemed an achievement. We think, nevertheless, that the acquisition of arithmetic, grammar and reading is worth the pains it costs the teacher to teach, and the pain it costs the learner to learn them. Do we not think the acquisition of the grounds of religion worth some effort, and even, if need be, some tears?

No doubt learning anything is a struggle but true religion can be a strain. Yet the rewards far out weigh the pain of the learning process. The catechism is the most proficient means of communicating the truth of Scripture. Even if you don't commit it to memory it is still vaulable tool for understanding God's truth. There are numerous study books to further help you understand each question and answer such as Thomas Vincent's The Shorter Catechism Explained From Scripture & G.I. Williamson's The Shorter Catechism. Vincent's language is dated but Williamson's book is written in modern english. In modern English you can also refer to The Westminster Shorter Catechism in Modern English by Douglas F. Kelly, Philip B. Rollinson, and Frederick T. Marsh. These are helpful tools to assist you in your path to understanding. Let's not forsake the the catechism, let's embrace it.

Read the rest of Warfield's article here.

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