Every Friday in Sacred Space, Brad Williams explores the place of popular culture in the local church.
At our church, we teach our children the catechism. And yes, we are Baptists. Baptists have been writing catechisms for the instruction of children since at least 1652. I confess that I delight in it, and it brings me great sorrow that evangelicals in general, not just Baptists, have forgotten the rich tradition of instruction that has been bequeathed to us in the form of catechism from our fore-bearers. And yes, I like the instruction they receive from it better than I like AWANA. The catechism teaches Bible verses and systematic theology. It is a verse, or verses, with a context.
Recently, I watched a Q & A with Stanley Hauerwas where he says that the problem with evangelicals is that they act like Christianity is something they can make up, not something that is received. I gasped at that because it cut to the quick and also because it represented one of the few times that I can remember agreeing with the venerable professor of Duke. Evangelicals act like “tradition” means stuff we have done since I can remember, not a great testimony of the church for 2,000 or so years.
I love to read the early church fathers, the old creeds, old commentaries, and old theologies. Augustine’s Confessions has thrilled my soul more than once, and I still use Athanasius’ arguments for the deity of Christ when I talk to Jehovah’s Witnesses and others who would deny the full deity of Jesus. We make an effort at our church to connect our folks to that tradition, that beautiful tradition that has been handed to us.
We do not think that tradition is infallible, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable. Just because I do not think the Didache is Scripture does not mean I don’t find it a wonderful work. If you cannot take the writings of Clement of Rome seriously, you ought not be reading John Piper either. Both men are fallible, but both have things to say that will help shape your understanding of the church and Scripture.
So what does this have to do with your church? I would say this: consider the catechism for your children. Read that treasure, and even if your church isn’t devoted to it, why not use it as a supplement to your curriculum? I testify that there is hardly anything that I find more satisfying than hearing our children answer this question in unison, “Who made you?” and they shout, “God made me!” I love that. Or when I tuck in my 3-year-old daughter and ask, “Why did God make you, baby girl?” And she says, “For His own glory.”
Take a look at the catechism, dear reader. It will help you understand both your church and your God.