In the past I've struggled to fold my theological studies into the part of my brain that informs my daily life and ministry. I don't have the luxury of spending hours each day reading and internalizing Calvin's Institutes or even Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology (as much as I would love to do so). And even though I'm heavily involved in my local church, if someone were to approach me at the dog park (or more realistically, over coffee after the Sunday service) and ask, “Why must Jesus be truly human and truly God?” I have to admit that a succinct and theologically correct answer would not readily roll off my tongue. This is where memorizing a catechism comes in handy.
I've been using New City Catechism and have found it to be insightful, challenging, convenient, and multi-purposeful. I love how it gives me theology, Scripture, powerful “prayer prompts,” and an insightful pastoral commentary (videos and readings) in an easy-to-use format. I can breeze through it in less than 10 minutes on my busiest days or work through it for an hour or more on the days when I have more time. It comes in an elegant app that I have downloaded onto my iPad, and I can easily pull it up to study and quiz myself anytime—while waiting for a friend, or when traveling. It definitely helps to redeem those long hours at an airport or when dealing with customer service over a cancelled flight . . .
Question 34: Since we are redeemed by grace alone, through Christ alone, must we still do good works and obey God's Word? Answer (children's version): Yes, so that our lives may show love and gratitude to God, and so that by our godly behavior others may be won to Christ.
But is New City Catechism simply for individuals? No! Even though you can do it on your own, catechisms are supposed to be communal in nature. I've enlisted my husband, accountability partners, and a couple of my best friends to do it with me. The app even allows you to track the progress of up to six people with individual bookmarks. (I'm way ahead of my husband!)
One more feature that I love: each answer highlights the children's answer within the adult answer. This is meant to help the parent and child learn together. In my case, it also helps me quickly memorize the basic concept so that I can go back and then work on the full “adult” answer.
I'll confess that the thought of catechizing myself and urging my husband to do the same was not appealing at first. For me it was dreaded memory work (precisely why I am grateful for the, ahem, “children's answers”). But a friend prompted me one day to give it a try. I saw that it was only 52 questions—one question a week over one year. I thought, Okay, that's doable. And now that I've started, I'm hooked. The prayers and commentaries from historical authors have made me want to read more of their works, and I've found a great rhythm in the daily memorization discipline. Most importantly, I find that my prayers are richer and my thoughts more frequently turn to Christ throughout my day-to-day life.
Question 42: How is the Word of God to be read and heard? Answer (adult): With diligence, preparation and prayer; so that we may accept it with faith, store it in our hearts and practice it in our lives.”
I have found New City Catechism to be one of the most relevant and accessible ways to translate historical theology about “why I believe what I believe” into relevant, useful knowledge that can directly affect my everyday spiritual practices in life.
* * * * * * * * * *
In addition to downloading the iPad app, you can also subscribe to New City Catechism by RSS or e-mail on the weekly blog, featuring each question, answer, and video commentary from contemporary preachers such as John Piper, Don Carson, Mark Dever, and Tim Keller.
In this two-minute video, Keller explains idolatry:
We welcome you to start New City Catechism this first morning after Easter. To learn more, browse these questions and find answers for the essentials of Christian faith.