Guest / Limited Access /

Historically, the church's ministry of grounding new believers in the rudiments of Christianity has been known as catechesis—the growing of God's people in the gospel and its implications for doctrine, devotion, duty, and delight. It is a ministry that has waxed and waned through the centuries. It flourished between the second and fifth centuries in the ancient church. Those who became Christians often moved into the faith from radically different worldviews. The churches rightly sought to ensure that these life-revolutions were processed carefully, prayerfully, and intentionally, with thorough understanding at each stage.

With the tightening of the alignment between church and state in the West, combined with the impact of the Dark Ages, the ministry of catechesis floundered. The Reformers, led by heavyweights Luther and Calvin, sought with great resolve to reverse matters. Luther restored the office of catechist to the churches. And seizing upon the providential invention of the printing press, Luther, Calvin, and others made every effort to print and distribute catechisms—small handbooks to instruct children and "the simple" in the essentials of Christian belief, prayer, worship, and behavior (like the Westminster Shorter Catechism). Catechisms of greater depth were produced for Christian adults and leaders (like Luther's Larger Catechism). Furthermore, entire congregations were instructed through unapologetically catechetical preaching and the regular catechizing of children in Sunday worship.

The conviction of the Reformers that such catechetical work must be primary is unmistakable. Calvin, writing in 1548 to the Lord Protector of England, declared, "Believe me, Monseigneur, ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Read These NextSee Our Latest
RecommendedThe Softer Face of Calvinism
The Softer Face of Calvinism
Reformed theology is more irenic and diverse than you think, says theologian Oliver Crisp.
TrendingNew Poll Finds Evangelicals’ Favorite Heresies
New Poll Finds Evangelicals’ Favorite Heresies
Survey finds many American evangelicals hold unorthodox views on the Trinity, salvation, and other doctrines.
Editor's PickMark Labberton: This Is the Best of Times for Following Jesus
Mark Labberton: This Is the Best of Times for Following Jesus
The Fuller Seminary president sees the church’s moment of cultural exile as a moment of incredible opportunity.
Comments
Christianity Today
The Lost Art Of Catechesis
hide thisMarch March

In the Magazine

March 2010

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.