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...]