Russell Moore on Baptists and Catechesis

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In this video, Russell Moore recommends catechisms for their structure in training children on the basics of Christian doctrine; however, we should recognize when that structure needs to be adjusted based on the needs and struggles of the individual. To learn more about catechesis and a new curriculum designed to engage children with God’s truth in various ways, visit NewCityCatechism.com.

Baptists are often suspicious of the word “catechesis” and for good reason. Baptists have often seen in more formally ritual-based churches a form of catechism which is about preparing children to be able to come through confirmation. And so, many Baptists out of the believer’s church tradition have been suspicious of even the word “catechism.” And, I think that there’s some reason to be wary, sometimes, when it comes to catechisms because I’ve seen situations where parents have used catechisms in a way that unintentionally communicates to children that the Christian life is a hypercerebral and that the Christian life is merely about knowing the right answers to certain questions and being able to rattle off answers to whatever the questions are. That need not be the case, though, with catechisms.

Catechisms are designed to give a structure for parents as they are thinking about what the whole counsel of God is that they’re supposed to be passing on to the next generation. The give you a framework for what your child needs to be instructed in and to know. They’re fallible. They’re not Scripture, but they can be a handy tool. In this way, I would compare catechisms with gospel tracts. A gospel tract can often be a good coaching framework for someone sharing the gospel. But, obviously, if you’re sharing the gospel with someone, even if you’re using that basic structure of the tract or the evangelistic program, you’re going to want to anticipate certain particular responses.

So, if you’re going through the plan of salvation, and you realize you have someone who’s dealing with a deep sense of guilt and doesn’t think that God would ever receive her, then you’re going to want to emphasize the wideness of God’s mercy. If you’re talking to someone who’s skeptical about Jesus’s resurrection, you’ll want to deal more with questions of the historicity of the Bible and adapt to those questions.

I think the same thing is true with catechisms. There are many good catechisms out there that can give you the framework. As long as we don’t think that getting our children to memorize the right answers is all we need to do, and as long as we’re able to adjust and to recalibrate when we need to with specific issues that need to be emphasized more or in a different way with our children, catechisms can be very beneficial.