Some Practical Benefits of Catechetical Instruction by Jeffery Smith

What are some of the practical benefits of teaching our children to memorize a good doctrinally sound catechism?

1. Learning a catechism teaches basic mental discipline.

It requires our children to use their brains (adults too) and that, in itself, is a benefit.

2. It also requires them to use their brains in thinking about biblical truth

Tim Keller has put it this way, “Catechism teaches a lost art—the art of meditation and slow reflection. Memorization requires you to pay attention to every word, even every comma. The slow turning of every word leads [can lead] to depths of new insight.”

3. Memorizing a good catechism aids in producing minds that are able to think logically about biblical truth.

In a good catechism each question builds logically upon the one preceding it. By doing so it shows the logical connections and interrelations between the various doctrines of scripture. Our forefathers liked to refer to what they called the body of divinity. Why did they use that language? It’s because they understood that the doctrines of scripture are not just disconnected, independent, atomistic truths that have no relationship to each other. They form an interconnected body of truth. A well-written catechism is useful in presenting this body of truth in its main parts in logical connection and progression.

4. Memorizing a good catechism also aids our children in communicating the truth clearly, precisely and succinctly.

Perhaps you’ve heard the saying that if you can’t define it you don’t really understand it. Take, for example, the doctrine of justification by faith. If you were to ask the average church member to define justification by faith what kind of answer would you get? I’m afraid with many you might get a lot of, “Well you know, I mean, justification by faith I think.” Or you might get some other kind of contorted hem-hawing or talking in circles. But a good catechism provides sound, theologically precise, succinct definitions to be stored in the mind. Take, for example the answer to this question that’s given in The Children’s Catechism, “Justification is God’s forgiving sinners and declaring them to be righteous”. Or even better here is the definition given in The Shorter Catechism, “Justification is an act of God’s free grace, by which he pardons all our sins and accepts us as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us and received by faith alone.”

5. Another thing about a good catechism is that it teaches us, not only the right answers, but the right questions.

You see, the younger we are, or the less knowledgeable we are of the Bible’s teaching, the less we even know what the questions are that need to be asked. Well a good catechism helps us to know the right questions, as well as the right answers. Listen to Thomas Torrance commenting on this from his book, The School of Faith: The Catechisms of the Reformed Church. He writes,


>“The Catechism…is an invaluable method of instructing the young learner, for it not only trains him to ask the right questions but trains him to allow himself to be questioned by the Truth, and so to have questions put into his mouth which he could not think up on his own, and which, therefore, call into question his own preconceptions.”

6. Catechizing provides the basic building blocks of truth that will help our children to better comprehend the whole of Scripture as they grow older.

Matthew Henry compared a catechism to “a map of the land of promise, by the help of which we may travel it over with our eye in a little time.” It gives the big picture of truth that then helps us to better understand and interpret the rest of the details of scripture.

7. A good catechism can be used of God to promote an understanding of sound doctrine in the church and to protect from the inroads of error.

This is the case even with children and even if they don’t completely understand at this point everything they’re memorizing. Even so, the mind is furnished with sound thoughts and sound expressions of biblical truth. This helps to protect them and to protect the church from errors in the future by making those errors more easily recognized. It also stores in their minds tinder that in God’s time may be lit and fanned into a flame by the Spirit and become precious to their souls. Spurgeon put it this way:

“In matters of doctrine you will find orthodox congregations frequently changed to heterodoxy in the course of thirty to forty years, and that is because, too often, there has been no catechizing of the children in the essential doctrines of the Gospel. For my part, I am more and more persuaded that the study of a good Scriptural catechism is of infinite value to our children…Even if the youngsters do not understand all the questions and answers…yet, abiding in their memories, it will be of infinite service when the time of understanding comes to have known these very excellent, wise, and judicious definitions of the things of God…It will be a blessing to them-the greatest of all blessing…a blessing in life and death, in time and eternity, the best of blessings God Himself can give. Those who concur and practice in accordance with such a judgment will find themselves standing in good company and involved in a holy enterprise”

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