An Encouragement To Use Catechisms -- By: Tom Nettles
JDFM 4:2 (Fall 2014) p. 6
An Encouragement To Use Catechisms
Dr. Tom Nettles (Ph.D., Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) is widely regarded as one of the foremost Baptist historians in America. He came to Southern Seminary from the faculty of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where he was Professor of Church History and Chair of the Department of Church History. He previously taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. Along with numerous journal articles and scholarly papers, Dr. Nettles is the author and editor of numerous books. Among his books are By His Grace and For His Glory; Baptists and the Bible, which he co-authored with L. Russ Bush; Why I Am a Baptist, co-edited with Russell D. Moore; James Petigru Boyce: A Southern Baptist Statesman, and Living by Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles Haddon Spurgeon.
Many contemporaries have a deep-seated suspicion of catechisms. In our own Baptist denomination, many would consider the words “Baptist catechism” as mutually exclusive. A popular misconception is that catechisms are used in times and places where inadequate views of conversion predominate or the fires of evangelism have long since turned to white ash. If the Bible is preached, they continue, no catechism is necessary; catechisms tend to produce mere intellectual assent where true heart religion is absent. This concern reflects a healthy interest for the experiential side of true Christianity. Concern for conversion and fervor, however, should never diminish one’s commitment to the individual truths of Christianity nor the necessity of teaching them in a full and coherent manner.
In fact, some who profess the Christian faith are so experience-oriented that their view of spirituality makes them antagonistic to precise doctrine. Any attempt to inculcate systematic arrangement of truth is considered either
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divisive or carnal. Such convictions may be held in all sincerity and may gain apparent support from selected facts, but suspicion of catechisms as a legitimate tool for teaching God’s Word cannot be justified historically, biblically, or practically.
History Commends The Usefulness Of Catechisms
The early church was painfully familiar with the apostasy of professing Christians. Persecution and the continued power of heathen worship practices caused many to lapse and prompted the early church to develop methods of instructing apparent converts before baptism. The period of instruction and catechizing served two purposes: it allowed the candidate (catechumenate) to decide if he still wanted to submit to Christian baptism and gave t...
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