Growing Deeper with Theological Clarity

After Tuesday’s review of Grounded in the Gospel, I began thinking more about the idea of catechism.

As you look at the stats, read our blogs, and browse the shelves of our bookstores, I suspect most of us would agree that this kind of ministry is absolutely needed in our churches today if we’re to combat the biblical illiteracy that is spiritually killing us and hindering our ability to be a witness among the nations.

So where do we start? What can we do to help equip believers with a solid grasp of Christian doctrine?

A few months back, Pastor Scott Thomas, President of the Acts 29 Network, released—for free—Theological Clarity and Application: Equipping Believers in Biblical Doctrine.

This is a fantastic curriculum based on the book Christian Beliefs: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know by Wayne Grudem and Elliot Grudem. Here’s how Thomas describes the workbook:

This guide is designed to equip Christians in the core beliefs of Bible doctrine in preparation for church leadership or to help new Christians to distinguish truth from error. This guide can be used to prepare elders, deacons, small group leaders, Sunday School teachers and all those who want to learn more about maturing in their Christian faith and becoming equipped to give a gentle and respectful answer to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you (1 Peter 3:15). An instructor in a class or small group or in a one to one environment can facilitate the questions or it can be utilized as a self-study or as a tool to equip a family in Biblical doctrine.

Theological Clarity and Application seeks to preserve the contents of Grudem’s Christian Beliefs by using questions to stimulate further understanding and application. The participants in this curriculum would benefit by first reading each chapter in Christian Beliefs before answering questions in the workbook. It is also highly recommended to have a respected study Bible and a copy of Grudem’s Systematic Theology available for reference.

Each chapter of this guide corresponds to the chapters in Christian Beliefs. At the end of each section, a prayer text and Scripture memory is included. . . . This material is not something that should be rushed through to complete. It is like a refrigerated locker full of meat that must be eaten slowly and systematically one meal at a time, allowing ample time to chew and digest the information and ideally to savor with others. One can complete the study in 20 weeks by covering one chapter a week or complete it in 40 weeks (approximately one school year) by covering one chapter every two weeks. The latter allows for a deeper reading of the accompanying Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem.

I’ve been reading through the workbook and am thoroughly impressed by the amount of work Pastor Thomas has put into this project. It’s one that I’d highly encourage any of  you looking for a place to dig deeper into your faith to pick up a copy of Christian Beliefs and  download a copy of Theological Clarity and Application (you can also purchase a print copy from Lulu).

Question: What resources have you found helpful in growing deeper in your faith?

Grounded in the Gospel by J.I. Packer and Gary A. Parrett

Title: Grounded in the Gospel: Building Believers the Old-Fashioned Way
Authors: J.I. Packer and Gary A. Parrett
Publisher: Baker Books (2010)

In Jr. High, I had a friend name Charlie. He was a pretty good guy and had great parents. He also had a Nintendo, which was a pretty big deal even as far back as 1991. Anyway, I remember asking him one day what he was doing after school, and he said, “Ugh, I’ve got to go to catechism.” His family was Catholic (I think), so he had to do this catechism thing until his confirmation (which I’d also never heard of).

Whatever catechism was, it sounded positively dreadful (after all, think of all the Nintendo he was missing out on…)

Likewise, in modern evangelical circles, the idea of catechism is shunned. It’s too Catholic, too dry, too dull. Instead, we rely primarily on self-learning, children’s church and sparsly-attended adult Sunday School classes for our doctrinal formation.

J.I. Packer and Gary A. Parrett want to change that. In Grounded in the Gospel, the authors strive to illustrate the biblical foundations of catechism and provide helpful outlines for how we can integrate it into our churches’ ministries. As they work they build their case, the picture of catechism they describe is anything but dreadful—for one who desires to know more about the Christian faith, it can be downright exhilarating.

I greatly appreciated the thoughtfulness and thoroughness the authors applied to the subject, particularly as they wrestled first with the historical and biblical foundations of catechism. Because in many evangelical circles, there is a discomfort about the idea of doing things because of historical tradition, it is essential to understand that the idea of catechism finds its roots in Scripture. The authors explain that the our word “catechesis” is derived from the New Testament word for “teaching,” katēcheō. Jesus, according to the authors, was and is the model catechist. And to catechize is to not only follow His example, but to obey His command (p. 49, c.f. Matt. 28:20).

After establishing the foundation, Packer and Parrett move to the content. If catechism is a biblical idea, what then, should its content be? Again, their breakdown of content in both the macro and micro is extremely helpful. [Read more…]