New City Catechism
New City Catechism
by Pastor David
What is our only hope in life and death?
That we are not our own but belong, body and soul, both in life and death, to God and to our Savior Jesus Christ.
So opens the first question and answer of a new catechism developed in large part by Tim Keller. If you’re familiar with the Hiedelberg Catechism, this answer will sound familiar to you. In fact, this modern catechism called New City Catechism borrows most heavily from the Heidelberg, as well as from the Westminster Shorter, the Westminster Larger, and Calvin’s Geneva Catechism.
Maybe you’re wondering why we need a new catechism; just as probable, you might be wondering if we need catechisms at all. In his introduction to the New City Catechism, Tim Keller argues the following:
“Modern discipleship programs concentrate on practices such as Bible study, prayer, fellowship, and evangelism and can at times be superficial when it comes to doctrine. In contrast, the classic catechisms take students through the Apostles' Creed, the Ten Commandments, and the Lord's Prayer—a perfect balance of biblical theology, practical ethics, and spiritual experience. Also, the catechetical discipline of memorization drives concepts deeper into the heart and naturally holds students more accountable to master the material than do typical discipleship courses. Finally, the practice of question-answer recitation brings instructors and students into a naturally interactive, dialogical process of learning.”
I like what I’ve seen from this new catechism for several reasons. One is its length. New City Catechism covers 52 questions and answers, one for each week of the year, perhaps making it more accessible than even the 107 of the Westminster Shorter (there are 196 questions in the Westminster Larger). Secondly, this catechism draws from and rests squarely on the great catechisms of the past. All catechisms, including this one, have shortcomings, but when you are adapting and choosing you can take the best from them all. Third, and perhaps most impressively, is what accompanies this catechism. In both the web version and the beautiful iPad app, the answers are hidden until you tap on them. The whole answer is revealed, with the children’s portion in an orange color. The catechism is designed to be for both adults and children, another feature I like, and it’s easy to see how both can be studying it at the same time. Verses are included for each answer. Amazingly, both written and video commentary are available for every single question and answer, as well as a prayer specifically chosen to accompany the question. The iPad app will let you assign multiple users, track your progress, and even determine if you want to study in adult or kid mode.
If you’re already committed to a catechism, I say great and go for it. If you’ve never tried, I think you should look into this one and see what you think. You can find it on the web athttp://www.newcitycatechism.com, and the iPad app is free in the App Store. If you’re wondering why you should consider a catechism approach, let Keller give you three purposes for catechisms that can motivate us and our children.
“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 doctrine 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 counter-culture that reflected the likeness of Christ not only in individual character but also in the church's communal life.
When looked at together, these three purposes explain why new catechisms must be written. While our exposition of gospel doctrine must be in line with older catechisms that are true to the Word, culture changes and so do the errors, temptations, and challenges to the unchanging gospel that people must be equipped to face and answer.”