Every now and then I try to take some time and reflect on why the intentional teaching ministry of the church remains important. Whatever shape it takes, why is equipping and a teaching in the church, for the church, and by the church valuable?
At least one reason is the growth of secularism, pluralism, and "indifferentism" in America. Very simply stated, secularism is a worldview that pushes God to the margins. It's fine to believe in God on your own, the secularist may say, just don't bring any religious ideas or reasoning into the public square. Pluralism flows out of the reality that we are surrounded by people who believe very different things than than us - and it often goes a step further to say the no one religion can be exclusively true. "Indifferentism" (this is my term, I think) tries to explain the religious apathy of the "nones" and "dones" - those who adhere to no single religious expression (the "nones") or those who have "tried out" some religion and - for whatever reason - didn't stick with it.
So what does all this have to do with catechesis - an intentional and systematic approach to teaching in the local church? Here's what:
Each of these things - secularism, pluralism, and indifferentism - dilutes, distracts from, or denies historic Christian orthodoxy.
And each of these things - secularism, pluralism, and indifferentism - is the water we often swim in as Americans.
Catehesis, then, offers us another alternative. Rather than embracing any of the "isms" mentioned above or retreating from culture, catechesis instead grounds us in doctrine, community, and morality that helps us understand what it means to be Christian (instead of secular, or pluralistic, or indifferent) in the time and place God has us.
Professor Michael Haykin helps reinforce this, with a lesson from church history (full article found here):
As the church evangelized the Greco-Roman world, it encountered people who were prepared to believe in Jesus as Savior and Lord, yet who were ignorant of Scripture and the theology it contains. So the church needed to instruct or catechize people in the fundamental affirmations of the Christian creed. The church needed to teach people about things like God's creation of the world, and the life of virtue that flows from a true confession. Catechesis thus had biblical, doctrinal, and moral components....
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