Friday, 28 December 2012

A New Catechism for A New Year

Catechisms are not hip or sexy. They are probably considered less desirable than liturgical services in that at least in a liturgical service you can be passive and you don't have to learn anything. But in catechisms you have to remember stuff and that is all just too hard sometimes. Catechisms are so restrictive forcing you to learn set answers to set questions that were written hundred of years ago. I was surprised to find out that even my free spirited Baptist background has a catechism.

It's also awfully authoritarian and old. Only back in the day did the church make absolute statements and declare things to be right and wrong, good and evil. Today we are progressive and realise how much culture affects truth... (including that truth).

Why learn doctrine and why does doctrine have to be so precise? It just draws lines in the sand that divide.

C. S. Lewis said this about doctrine in Mere Christianity:
Doctrines are not God: they are only a kind of map. But that map is based on the experience of hundreds of people who really were in touch with God--experiences compared with which many thrills of pious feelings you and I are likely to get on our own are very elementary and very confused. And secondly, if you want to get any further you must use the map.
and Kevin DeYoung said this about doctrine:
It's like blood: meant to help you live. If you just store it up and collect it, you are weird (and you might not be invited to parties).
I agree. Doctrine is to help you live, but in order for that to happen you first have to know the doctrine. If you are a Christian and if you poo-poo the idea of learning a catechism tell me, can you answer in a concise manner: What is the church? or What is sin? or What is God? or Where is Jesus now? or Did God make us unable to keep his law? If not, then maybe learning a few things about the orthodox Christian faith might not be a bad idea.

So as the new year approaches (and all that come with starting over and a new resolutions) I am going to try and re-live an old school practice of learning a catechism - but not an old school catechism.

The New City Catechism was drafted up this year with Tim Keller. It is based off the Westminster and Heidelberg Catechisms.  The good thing about the New City one is that it only has 52 questions (one per week of the year) as opposed to the 107 questions in the Westminster Shorter (the Longer version has 196 questions) or the 129 questions in the Heidelberg Catechism. Hopefully this makes the task more realistic.

The New City Catechism website is pretty good. It has a kids version to the answers as well as videos, commentaries and prayers for each question. The thing that I thought it was lacking on their site was some way to track where you were in the catechism. If I am to learn a question a week (which I think is the reason why they have 52 questions), I would like to know what the week number is and so go to that question. I thought this wouldn't be too hard of a task so I made my own site that strips content from their website and displays it based on what week of the year it is. My site also links to content from J. I. Packer's books Concise Theology whenever it is mentioned in the Further Reading section. The site is also a bit friendly on mobile devices, which should help.

The downside to my site is that it is on a free hosting server and I have noticed performance a bit slow, and sometimes my weekly automatic update doesn't get fired in my cron job list. I have included a link so that the site can be manually updated if it doesn't have the correct question up. I have found that the auto update happens around 5pm on Monday, give or take a few hours due to daylight savings.

So if you are keen, join me.


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