Our Only Hope in Life and Death | New City Catechism Review

March 1, 2018

The New City Catechism book cover

Our Only Hope in Life and Death

“What is our only hope in life and death?” I ask.

“That we are not our own, but belong, body and soul, both in life and death, to God and to our Savior Jesus Christ” comes the resounding reply.

It sounds like music to my ears, as I breathe a quick, silent prayer that God himself with infuse this truth into my children’s hearts as I seek to infuse it into their young minds. “How and why did God create us?” I press.

They reply from memory, “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.”

“Yes!” I exclaim, again silently asking the Lord to water these seeds of truth that have been planted, knowing that all-to-soon the enemy will come knocking with his own brand of truth to supplant into their minds and hearts.

Learning Truth

I’ve heard it said that the only way to tell a counterfeit bill is by studying the real thing. Likewise, in order to equip our children to discern truth from lies, we must help them study the truth. When it comes to math, we see to it that our children learn to add and subtract, but we don’t stop there. We don’t leave them in their rudimentary math knowledge, hoping they will be able to figure it out on their own. We add to that, the skill of multiplying and dividing and we drill them with flashcards, making sure they have these things memorized so they may move on to Algebra and Geometry and perhaps Calculus and Statistics.

All too often though, in regards to spiritual matters, we leave our kids with only the rudimentary knowledge. Some of us tell our children that Jesus died on the cross for them and have read them a few bible stories such as David and Goliath and given them a list of what good Christians should and should not do. We may take them to Sunday school and Church, thinking that from these, they will be fully equipped. Some of us will, hopefully, take it a step further and actually read the bible to our children on a daily basis. This is a blessed and needful thing! Yet, many have either forgotten or perhaps have never considered taking it a step further.

The Importance of Memorization

To actually study and memorize key biblical truths is an often missed, but necessary step in equipping our children with the needed lens to filter through the enemy’s lies that they will surely be bombarded with soon.

One way to do this is through the use of something called a catechism. A catechism is simply a summary of the principles of Christian religion in the form of questions and answers used for the instruction of Christians or as J.I. Packer puts it, “The growing of God’s people in the gospel and its implications for doctrine, devotion, duty, and delight.”

Although the use of the catechism flourished in the 2nd and the 5th centuries of the ancient church, it floundered, along with much other truth during the dark ages. With the revival of truth in the time of the Reformation and the invention of the printing press, Luther, Calvin, and many other reformers brought the catechism back into use, both in the church and in the homes.

The use of catechisms to teach children and new believers waxed and waned in the years that followed and has steadily declined since the time of Spurgeon, who said, “I am persuaded that the use of a good Catechism in all our families will be a great safeguard against the increasing errors of the times.”

Looking around at the so-called truth being dished out and so readily believed in our times, I can’t help but think that Spurgeon may have been on to something and that we may want to now, in our own times, heed his advice.

The New City Catechism

A few years ago, our family started using “The New City Catechism,” published by Crossway. It contains 52 questions and answers related to God, human nature, sin, Christ, the Holy Spirit and more, along with scripture references. I started using this catechism with my three boys when they were about 6, 8 and 13 years old. We had previously used a different catechism with my older kids, but I liked the fact that this one had both the long and the shorter versions of the answers. I had planned to memorize 1 new question and answer each week with the older child being responsible to memorize the longer version of the answer and the younger two to memorize the shorter answer.

Catechism in Our Family

Of course, things don’t always go as planned, so we did not finish in a year. My younger two decided they wanted to memorize the longer ones that their brother was doing, so we slowed down the pace and have all been memorizing the longer answers together. Once we had a question memorized we would make sure to review it weekly, in much the same way that one would drill children with their multiplication tables. Although my kids have done great with the memorizing, I’m wishing we would have gone about it a bit differently.

Because there are 52 questions and answers and the longer answers can get a bit wordy, my younger child has had a harder time recalling the answer without out a bit of prompting of the first few words.

In retrospect, I wish I would have first taken them all through the shorter answers, until they could answer quickly, from rote memory. Then we could’ve gone back through to learn the longer answers. In fact, I am considering going back through to do just that; to learn the shorter answers and be able to answer them quickly, then go back and pick up where we were with the longer answers.

Either way, I am very grateful to have started this with my children and am thrilled when something comes up in conversation and the boys are able to use the things they have learned in these catechisms to decipher the truth. We have studied and memorized much truth through these catechisms and when Satan has come knocking with his convincing lies, I have often seen my boys compare them to the light of these truths and have determined Satan’s brand of truth to be counterfeit. And for that I am grateful.

Written by Nicole Medina | Grace & Truth Books

 

Resource mentioned in this article: The New City Catechism

Throughout the history of the church, Christians have used catechisms—collections of questions and answers designed for memorization and recitation—to teach others the core doctrines of the faith. The New City Catechism is a modern-day resource aimed at reintroducing this ancient method of teaching to Christians today.

This short book lays out 52 questions and answers related to God, human nature, sin, Christ, the Holy Spirit, and more. Whether used devotionally, recited orally, or memorized over the course of a year, families, churches, small groups, and Christian schools will treasure this as a valuable tool for teaching the core doctrines of the Christian faith to children and adults alike.