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April 24, 2024: Catechism based on Scripture

Does a wise man answer with empty counsel or fill himself with the hot east wind? Should he argue with useless talk or with words that serve no good purpose? But you even undermine the fear of God and hinder meditation before him. Your iniquity teaches you what to say, and you choose the language of the crafty. Your own mouth condemns you, not I; your own lips testify against you. (Job 15:2–6, CSB)

I have heard many debate the necessity of catechism. Theological debates have increasingly revolved around “our words”—either ignoring or cherry-picking God’s word.  Plain biblical instruction is reinterpreted to say what “itching ears” desire to hear. And the hubris of our age leads many in the Church to judge scripture.

In 1985, the Jesus Seminar was commenced. It brought together fifty critical scholars and one hundred laypersons. They secretly voted on the words ascribed to Jesus by Holy Scripture and the writings of the early Church through 300 AD. 1500 variations of 500 sayings of Jesus were put to secret votes. The votes were cast by colored beads. Red represented that Jesus almost certainly said it. Pink beads, that is could have been said by Jesus. Grey, the saying doubtful. Black, Jesus was unlikely to say those words.

When the panel looked at Jesus presenting the Lord’s Prayer, the only words they believed that Jesus likely said were “our Father.” They denied that Jesus would have said (1) “who art in heaven”, (2) “thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”, (3) “deliver us from evil (or the evil one).” While this might first seem to be a fringe group, it included world-renowned scholars that heavily influence mainline denominations.

John Wesley said, “In all cases, the Church is to be judged by the Scripture, not the Scripture by the Church” (Popery Calmly Considered, 1779). Paul tells the church at Corinth: Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks he is wise in this age, let him become a fool so that he can become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God, since it is written, He catches the wise in their craftiness; and again, The Lord knows that the reasonings of the wise are futile.(1 Corinthians 3:18–20, CSB)

Catechism comes from the word that means to instruct. Christianity is not an amorphous faith which we define for ourselves. No, it is the catholic faith—that “faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all” (St. Vincent). We reject modern practice which treats the faith as a cafeteria where we take what we want and reject what is contrary to our taste.

Be careful to do as the Lord your God has commanded you; you are not to turn aside to the right or the left. Follow the whole instruction the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live, prosper, and have a long life in the land you will possess. (Deuteronomy 5:32–33, CSB)

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