In the 'open minded' evangelical churches of today catechisms have become all but extinct. For many they conjure up images of children forced into repeating questions and answers parrot fashion without understanding a word. But does it have to be like this? Catechisms are carefully developed expressions of 'the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.' They are helpful guides, going well beyond the instruction of children to the building up of believers, who are often receiving very little solid doctrinal teaching at church. For this reason I recommend Gadsby's Catechism, and we are now halfway through its 109 questions with our children. We don't drive it too hard, and take time to look up the Bible references, and endeavour to simply explain it to them. So we all benefit.
William Gadsby built on previous Baptist catechisms when devising this one for his thriving congregation and Sunday School in Manchester, but he gave particular emphasis to points on which it differs from the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith. This is not stated as such, for it is a very positive expression of the Faith. But for instance, it is good on the different meanings of sanctification in the Bible, and also on the Gospel. This latter Gadsby defines in the answer to Q.75 as "Glad tidings of great joy, or a free proclamation of rich mercy, without money and without price, to poor, sin-burdened sinners; with the glorious invitations, doctrines and promises of God's everlasting love, and the blessings these truths contain." He then gets on to its connection with the church - an institution unknown in the Old Testament:
Q. 76 What is meant by the gospel in a more extensive sense?
A. 76 The above things [in the answer to Q. 75], together with the precepts and ordinances enjoined on the church by Christ and His apostles, and the things connected therewith.
Thus a rule for distinctly Christian living is laid down, and this is built upon in the 6 questions that follow. Though Gadsby died in 1844 these truths are new to every succeeding generation. For me, this is a living catechism - and it is still printed by Gospel Standard Trust Publications for £1.50, available from us, although not yet as an eBook I'm afraid!
Jeremy (see also my blog on 15/07/2010)