A New Catechism

Redeemer Presbyterian Church (NYC) and The Gospel Coalition have come together to develop a new catechism:

So, with all that in mind, we decided to adapt Calvin’s Geneva Catechism, the Westminster Shorter and Larger Catechisms, and especially the Heidelberg Catechism, to produce New City Catechism. While giving exposure to some of the riches and insights across the spectrum of these great Reformation-era catechisms, New City Catechism also looks at some of the questions people are asking today.

We also decided that New City Catechism should comprise only 52 questions and answers (as opposed to Heidelberg’s 129 or Westminster Shorter’s 107). There is therefore only one question and answer for each week of the year, making it simple to fit into church calendars and achievable even for people with demanding schedules.

We wanted to do one more thing. We found that parents who teach their kids a children’s catechism, and then try to learn an adult one for themselves often find the process confusing. The children are learning one set of questions and answers, and the parents are learning another completely different set. So New City Catechism is a joint adult and children’s catechism. In other words, the same questions are asked of both children and adults, and the children’s answer is always part of the adult answer. This means that as parents are teaching it to their children they are learning their answer to the question at the same time.

I’ve just begun to look through the New City catechism. This Q and A caught my attention:

Q: How and why did God create us?
A: God created us male and female in his own image to know him, love him, live with him, and glorify him. And it is right that we who were created by God should live to his glory.

Here is the similar question and answer from the Westminster Larger Catechism:

Q. 17. How did God create man?

A. After God had made all other creatures, he created man male and female; formed the body of the man of the dust of the ground, and the woman of the rib of the man, endued them with living, reasonable, and immortal souls; made them after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness; having the law of God written in their hearts, and power to fulfill it, and dominion over the creatures; yet subject to fall.

I certainly can appreciate the desire to simplify the catechism answers. When I’m helping my children learn them, I tend to paraphrase when necessary to make sure they can grasp the concepts in an age-appropriate way. But, I think it is very interesting what is left out from the Westminster version: “formed the body of the man of the dust of the ground, and the woman of the rib of the man, endued them with living, reasonable, and immortal souls” especially given the current origins debate.

Any thoughts?

9 thoughts on “A New Catechism

  1. BillH says:

    I agree. But even more glaring to me is the omission of any idea of God’s sovereignty, which the Westminster Shorter Catechism Q#7 so succinctly and elegantly teaches. A major lack in a work from a man with so much influence in today’s Reformed (so-called) churches.

  2. jennifergrassman says:

    The answer is still clear that “God created us.” It doesn’t at all address the “How” in the question though. Whether it’s because they’re purposefully skirting the issue, or forgot to answer the whole question … is a mystery! (o:

  3. reformedsinger says:

    I have found the Westminster Catechisms to be so compelling because they’re such a thorough distillation of what the Bible teaches, and you can always go back to Scripture to see exactly what the Bible says through the use of the Scripture references given for each of the questions and answers.

    So do they (the creators of this new catechism) provide Scripture references for each one of their questions and answers?

    • Rachel Miller says:

      Each Q and A has a Scripture reference, a short commentary by a recognizable scholar (Calvin, Luther, Wesley, Spurgeon, etc.), and a short video commentary by someone from either Gospel Coalition or Redeemer.

  4. Jon Orcutt says:

    I posted this comment at The Gospel Coalition regarding the New City Catechism. It didn’t stay up for very long. I see that some of your readers share similar concerns.

    Did anyone notice that “in the space of six days” was omitted from the answers regarding creation? Since when did an old-earth cosmology trump the historic, confessional six-day, young-earth position? It’s a huge mistake to omit the historic, six-day, young-earth position of the Christian Church. Or, did the framer of this catechism think that to include the famous phrase (“in the space of six days”) would only serve to perpetuate scientific error? This catechism disfranchises all those Reformed Christians, among whom are many YECist scientists, who hold to the historic, confessional position of six literal days, a young earth, a global flood and no death before the fall. Please permit this occasion to cry “Foul”!
    Does this omission/revision reflect the notion of evolutionary creation/theistic evolution espoused by Dr. Keller? I wonder what Calvin, Luther, Owen and their contemporaries would think about this “New City Catechism”? It just seems to be another dumbed-down, quasi-Reformed attempt at a Calvinistic, catechetical ecumenism.
    I thought the “Old City” catechisms were rather good! I’m pretty sure this one is not an improvement. I wonder what the YECist TGC council members had to say about the glaring omission?

  5. nmbrz62426 says:

    Calvin’s Geneva Catechism of 1541, the Heidelberg Catechism of 1563,and the Westminster Catechism of 1646 are so old and dusty and the well meaning, but ignorant, white men that wrote them never considered how ‘Welcoming’ the church would have to be in the 21st century. Pastor Keller, with his New City Catechism of 2012 (NCC), rescues us from our dependance on outdated, extra-scriptural resources and free us from the sin of ‘traditionalism.’ Don’t forget, lots of pastors created and used catechisms over the years. It’s not like pastor Keller is altering God’s word for Pete’s sake [sic], he’s just getting rid of some archaic medieval language, pesky lingering chauvinism, and troublesome teachings that might be used today as excuses for unbelief.

    Hmmm. Maybe, maybe not. Like holistic medicines, it’s not only the additives that are important, it also matters greatly what’s been altered and what’s been removed. Do we need a comprehensive documentation of the NCC to keep track of and dissect the results of what’s been altered and what’s been left out? These older, dustier catechisms we subject to serious peer review (e.g., The Synod of Heidelberg approved the Heildberg Catechim in 1563, and approved by the Synods of Wesel in 1568, Emden in 1571, Dort in 1578, and the Hague in 1586. Does pastor Keller propose such a peer review for this version. Do we need to know the motivations and specific reasoning in the NCC the way we have, for example, access to the thoughtful, not not very PC, reasoning behind the answers in the Heidelberg Catechism?

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