Christian education, or catechesis, is critical to a movement like Christianity.
Recently, James Packer and Gary Parrett authored a book that makes a compelling case for catechesis– in plain terms, regular teaching.
Christianity is a religion. It has definite teachings about who humans are, where we find ourselves cosmically, what happens after death, what the most basic problem of humanity is, and what should be done.
Christian teachings are centred on the personal-infinite God who revealed truths about himself to Abraham and in progressive clarity over his family’s history, culminating –Christians believe — in the birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension, of Abraham’s ultimate son, Jesus of Nazareth, shown to be at the same time Son of God when he gained life from death.
Notice that I am interpolating the introduction to the Letter to the Romans, from the New Testament. Teaching the content of the faith — the story/history, the implicit and explicit propositions about life, the universe, and every aspect of all kinds of stuff – is vitally important.
If Christianity were mainly about clearing your mind, teaching would take a different character. As it is, to make a quick contrast, Christianity is about filling your heart, mind and soul. With what? With greater and greater love for a definite Person.
When you love somebody, you want to know more about them.
Ongoing learning will surely be important in such a faith.
Further, catechesis has been historically important ever since Day Two. What do I mean?
Since the birth of the second generation of Christians to the first-generation converts, catechesis has been a main way that people are ushered into the faith.
God has, after all, no spiritual grandchildren. Everyone must own the faith for themselves, or not. Christianity is always only one generation away from extinction. Etcetera; all well known.
The minimization of regular teaching is cause for alarm.
Many causes seem likely to lie beneath the minimal level of church systematic teaching.
In the broad movement called evangelicalism, one of those causes is the way that personally being right with God, technically, justification, is the climax and summit of one’s personal story. A person could go to be with the Lord immediately. Now you’re good, in current language.
So if one is lingering, the main thing is to hold onto the basic confession. Deeper knowledge is optional. The basic confession will be enough to get you where you want to go.
What comes after the climax is necessarily anti-climactic.
Let’s be clear: An emphasis on justification that minimizes future personal growth in faith is heresy.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, for one famous example, spoke of this heresy mockingly as “cheap grace,” sold like cheapjack’s wares (in The Cost of Discipleship). Bonhoeffer lost his life in protest against Hitler, so cannot be accused of coasting on grace.
Growth in grace, growth in holiness, or, technically, sanctification is not optional. It is flat necessity. Without holiness, no one will see the Lord.
Yet because evangelicals emphasize the one-time confession of faith, the faithful remainder of the Christian life tends to be shadowed.
Justification and sanctification go together like cause and effect. If you are justified, there will be an internal drive to live like a son or daughter of God. There will be a drive to know more and to live better. That is, unless some blockage or other is stopping the internal dynamic of Christian life.
Blockages there must be. Because except in pockets here and there, not much education, not much apparent growth in grace, or service, or love, seems to be occurring.
Packer and Parrett see the crying need for catechesis, the old term they revive for us.
So what’s stopping it from just getting up and going?
That’s the question.
Can’t willpower just do it? Just, Revive Church Teaching? Make it again a main feature of church life?
Dubious. Willpower is up against some powerful, deep rooted habits of thought and life. The priority of justification to the exclusion of sanctification is only one of them.
What are some other habits of thought and life that block church teaching?
I hope to say. What do you think? Do you agree?