Tim Keller expounded on the gravitas of Christian catechisms for our day, saying, “Catechesis is more important than ever. We are being catechized, whether or not we know it, by culture.” In other words, catechism is happening, right at this moment. Twitter hashtags, advertising, school textbooks, award shows, sports programming –– all of these and more are shaping how we think, what truth is, and how we should live. Indeed, the cultural catechesis affects our theology, our ethics, and our worship. The only way to push against cultural catechesis is to push it back with doctrinal catechesis.
For those familiar with catechism at all, they are likely defeatists at this conclusion. Studying a catechism might seem dated, laborious, and overwhelming for many Christians today. This may be the likely reason they aren’t a part of our regular worship and study of God. To that end, Tim Keller, Collin Hansen, The Gospel Coalition, and Crossway have teamed up to offer the Church a catechism that restores ancient methods of teaching, while retaining modern-day vocabulary and beautiful design for the benefit of today’s adults and children (there is even an app that folks can use as a companion to the book).
The New City Catechism Devotional is composed of 52 questions and answers. Drawing from classic catechisms such as the Westminster Catechisms, Calvin’s Geneva Catechism, and the Heidelberg Catechism, it provides concise and rich questions and answers. The New City Catechism Devotional makes memorization and study a doable task, especially for families. In addition to the questions and answers, each entry includes two commentaries –– one from a pastor or theologian from church history, one from a modern-day pastor or theologian. For example, you’ll see Charles Spurgeon and Alistair Begg, John Wesley and D.A. Carson, Augustine and Sam Storms, and much more working together to help us meditate on God’s truth for our hearts and minds. Each devotional entry also includes short Scripture readings and prayers.
Here’s a short sample of what you’re getting. Question 35 asks, “Since we are redeemed by grace alone, through faith alone, where does this faith come from?” The answer is, “All the gifts we receive from Christ we receive through the Holy Spirit, including faith itself.” We consult Titus 3:4-6, noting the lovingkindness of our Savior “by the washing of regeneration and renewal.” Schaeffer’s brief commentary calls Christianity the “easiest religion in the world because it is the only religion in which God the Father and Christ and the Holy Spirit do everything.” This would be a good place to compare religions, showing the exclusivity of Christianity compared to other world religions. Mika Edmonson uses the same entry to address how faith, when seen as a gift of God, affects “how we view our salvation, the Christian life, and worship” (153-154). The opportunity for discussion is massive, and these doctrinal and doxological reflections are worthy of our time.
The New City Catechism Devotional is a challenging work. It will likely stretch your brain, especially if you and your family or small group commit to memorizing these questions and answers in typical catechetical fashion. But pursuing catechesis helps us have the right words to speak about theology, connects our doctrines to Scripture, trains children to study, and teaches us to meditate on the truths of God. Why wouldn’t we want to take advantage of this rich opportunity?
The New City Catechism is one of the most important projects in the Christian publishing industry of this decade because our need for catechism is simply that important. I have already been helped by this resource, and I look forward to seeing it implemented in my own home, in children’s or youth programs, in small groups, and so forth.