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Archive for September, 2009

 Here is an intriguing exchange among the Westminster Divines on the subject of how to catechize from the published minutes.  O, to have been a fly on the wall! 

Rutherford ‘—on objections—(l.) It is said the Apostles did not use such a way. I think they did. “Is then the Law of God of none effect ?” is a sort of sample question from the Apostolic Catechism. (2.) It takes away the proper work of the minister. Denied. ‘There is as much art in catechising as in anything in the world. It may be doubted, whether every minister do understand the most dextrous way of doing it.’  Marshall hesitated a little about adhering, too formally, to the bare question-and-answer method of the Catechism.’  Bridge: ‘ Two ends of catechising: increase of knowledge and test of knowledge. For the first there must be explication of the terms of divinity—redemption, etc., must be first explained. For the test of their knowledge it is better that answers should be made by sentences than by aye and no.’  Gillespie: ‘This is a profitable discourse, which is the best way of catechising. I like the form—capital questions by themselves, and particular questions by aye and no. When we were lately in Scotland, we had occasion to speak of this way, and showed them the example of it, and they all liked it very well.’  Dr. Gouge: ‘Ministers are physicians; they must observe the patient.’ Herle : ‘I would have aye and no to be expressed, but not distinct. It should be the first word of the answer.’ Seaman: ‘There are two things before us: about a catechism, and about catechising. It is a little too much to prescribe to the minister this form or that.’ Reynolds: ‘We all agree that way which is most for ingenerating knowledge is to most to be used—but I do not see that this way before us is the best.” Delmy: ‘A catechism is for propounding knowledge in the most familiar manner, and to find out the measure of the knowledge of the party. The experience of the Reformed churches is to be considered.’ Palmer : ‘You must consider others as well as children.’ “

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Here’s a very insightful passage from George Herbert on effective catechizing.  I think it illustrates many things – especially the extemporaneous and evangelistic side of catechizing.  It is not as though rote memorization of form catechisms has no place.  It certainly does with the baptized children of the church.  Yet it is only one dimension of the churchly discipline of catechizing.  The duty of catechizing extends to all those who require saving knowledge, those whom we would call the ‘unconverted.’  In such cases, skill and versatility in asking questions is no less necessary than when dealing with covenant children:

… the Parson once demanded after other questions about man’s misery; since man is so miserable, what is to be done?  And the answerer could not tell; He asked him again, what he would do, if he were in a ditch?   This familiar illustration made the answer so plaine, that he was even ashamed of his ignorance; for he could not but say, he would hast[e] out of it as fast as he could.  Then he proceeded to ask, whether he could get out of the ditch alone, or whether he needed a helper, and who was that helper (The Living Temple, p. 257).

Isn’t good personal evangelism nothing other than effective catechizing?

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