Editorial: A Time For Catechesis

In his book, The Faith, Charles Colson says that the great failure in evangelical Christianity is that its adherents have not been catechized.  He adds a similar view by J.I. Packer to his own assertion.

I agree.  We have become a “church adrift” in a sea of experience and subjectivism.  In our beliefs regarding “the personal gospel,” we have made it so “personal” that it lacks any defining center.  Our commitments to “openness” have left us like a bucket with no bottom.

I also agree with Colson’s belief that our overemphasis on pragmatism has now taken us to the place where we define reality more in terms of “what works” than “what’s true.”  This is one of the reasons that this Oboedire site has, from the beginning, emphasized that spiritual formation (often presented as a practical discipline) cannot exist or be maintained apart from sound doctrine.

The church ebbs and flows between needs.  We are now in need of catechesis.  Some of it can be recovered in the normal, ongoing processes of Confirmation and new-member classes.  But some of it will need to be remedial, as we bring many people who got into the church without hardly any theological grounding—and some without any saving experience of Christ.

Catechesis is necessary to bring a dynamic center to the church (i.e. “living faith”), and it is necessary to properly motivate the Body of Christ to become missional.

This is not even close to a call for some kind of narrow, lock-step theological conformity.  Christian theology is more “rich” than a few, hand-picked doctrinal preferences can ever describe.  But it is a call to “teach the faith once delivered,” and to do it intentionally and continuously.  The church does not need to apologize for being theological any more than a hospital needs to apologize for being medicinal.

Rather than spend untold hours and dollars on catechetical colloquies, how about catechizing in relation to the classic Creeds, which not only bring out attention to matters theological, but also call us to do so in an ecumenical spirit.  Instead of “a few Sundays” for Confirmation training and/or new-member classes, how about a whole year of preparation for a person’s baptism and confession of faith.

Catechesis unapologetically says, “We are here to make you a Christian, not a church member.”

We don’t need any more resources; we need resolve.  It is a time for Catechesis.

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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1 Response to Editorial: A Time For Catechesis

  1. Donna Bogan says:

    Gee, Dr. Steve, a whole year?;-p

    It was good enough for the first century Christians, so why not for us? I applaud the idea, as it would be great for those incoming new Christians as well as a great refresher for all of us oldtimers.

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