Crafting a Catechism: Advice Needed!

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Puritan Board Freshman
This is a little tongue in cheek but also serious!

So my daughter is seven months old and we've recognized the importance of catechizing her immediately as soon as we were able to. Psalm 8:2 and all that, you know!

We believe that we have effectively utilized her grunts, silence and hand flapping as appropriate responses to a family catechism that we've made up, called the "Kong Catechism." We recite it when she change her diaper, as at that point she feels the greatest effect of sin (putting a diaper on her to cover her is truly tear inducing).

It's a silly catechism we'll use for a bit before we switch to the WSC when she's older (nine months? :wink:) However, I'm having trouble coming up with a concise answer for one of the questions we've been formulating and it's been bugging me. Here's what we have so far and the question we're trying to word is at the end.

Writing catechisms are fun, especially when you can put the words right in your child's mouth!

Q1: You are a covenant Kong. What are covenant Kongs?
A1: Covenant Kongs are Christian!

Q2: Who loves you the most?
A2: God does!

Q3: Who loves you second most?
A3: Baba and Mama! (Poke our noses)

Q4: Who is with us when times are good?
A4: God is with us! (Lift up her arms)

Q5: Who is with us when times are bad?
A5: God is with us! (Lift up her arms)

Q6: What is the duty of every baby?
A6: Make a joyful noise to the Lord! (Wait and see if she makes any noise)

Q7: What can separate us from the love of God?
A7: [silent, blank stare] (or "Nothing!")

Q8: Why can nothing separate us from the love of God?
A8: Because of Jesus Christ and His perfect work!

Q9: Who is Jesus Christ?
A9: Our Lord, our God and our Savior!

Q10: What is His perfect work?
A10: His sinless life, death and resurrection!

Q11: What is sin?
A11: Not believing God.

Q12: What is death?
A12: ?????????????

Q13: What is resurrection?
A13: Eternal life with God!

As you can see, Q12 is where I'm stuck. Wages of sin, ending of life, returning to dust, still not sure how I would want to word it in a simplified and short manner. I'm hoping to solve that one and then move on to thinking about the next set of questions about why Jesus died, why we sin, and eventually moving on to other promises and a little bit on the Holy Spirit... so any advice would be appreciated!

I think I can do a question on repentance and make her flip over eventually?


Puritan Board Doctor
What is death?
the consequence of sin

However, I'm not sure why you should make up a catechism when there a really good ones available.


Puritan Board Freshman
I like it! Regarding Q12, I don't think, given the context, anything could more appropriately relate to death than a vile, smelly diaper (I'm speaking from experience). I don't know how to tie it together, but it could be a start.
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Puritan Board Freshman
What is death?
the consequence of sin

However, I'm not sure why you should make up a catechism when there a really good ones available.

Hey Sarah (great name, by the way),

I wanted to give you a more fully fleshed out reason for why I write Catechisms. This isn't the first time I've written one and there are several reasons for that.

First, with the caveat that I'm not 100% on the New City Catechism, I would note this article written by Tim Keller that gives a short discussion on the history of catechisms.

Here is an example of another Catechism that has been written in the recent times:

Great Lakes Catechism on Marriage and Sexuality

But as someone who cares very much about teaching, Catechisms are important for the teacher as they serve another important tool. I'll explain in this way:

I'm a chemist, and teaching chemistry can be exceptionally difficult. Part of the reason of that is that everything happens in such an abstract way. If I were to teach physics, I could demonstrate the Doppler reaction by driving a car. I could demonstrate gravity by tossing you a ball. In biology, I could demonstrate a cell by looking at a microscope. We could watch white blood cells engulf bacteria. I could show the various organelles, etc.

Chemistry (like particle physics), however, is entirely abstract. How do I show what an atom looks like? How do I explain what an electron orbital is? What is actually happening in the atomic structure when a reaction happens? All these interactions have no visualization. Electrons don't orbit like a planet. Teaching becomes that much more complex as a result of it. How do I help a student to fully understand the difference between an ionic bond and a London Dispersion force?

Granted, I have dozens of Chemistry textbooks. Yet I can guarantee you that when I taught (and when my wife teaches), every textbook has led students to groan and say "I have no idea what they're talking about." They're essentially taking it on faith that what the book says is true and has no real understanding of it.

It now becomes the task of the teacher to figure out how to explain it. How to make sure it crystallizes in the mind of the students so that they cannot forget it (if possible). How to make it come alive.

But there's a catch. There's no possible way I can explain it well if I myself don't understand the subject. If I don't really understand how intermolecular forces work, what makes you think I'll be able to teach it? At best I can parrot off a definition and leave it at that and pray that students don't ask me follow-up questions, but that wouldn't make me a good teacher, would it?

And one of the best ways to know for sure that you're understanding the material is to teach it to others. If I can tell my students what it is, then I have some semblance of understanding. If my students can explain it to others, then they have some semblance of understanding.

So I come up with my own way of helping my students understand.

I teach them that ionic bonds are strong interactions like a really strong hug. They understand what a hug is like. I teach them that dispersion forces are like the kid who walks home everyday with his crush but is too scared to tell his crush he likes her. So he hopes that he'll get with her and every once in a while "accidentally" brushes the back of his hand against hers. She looks at him and smiles and nothing really changes.

That's a London Dispersion force. Weak, not typically doing much, but it's still an interaction.

In a sense, I've created my own chemistry catechism to explain and teach others what things are such as mass spectrometry, chromatography, and even molecular interactions. It helps me understand the material myself and gauge how well I can teach it to others while staying true to the original concept.

I write catechisms for a similar purpose.

I write them to test myself and challenge myself to understand. Do I really know how to explain what sin is in a simple manner? Yes, sure I can give paragraphs of what sin is. But what is sin at its very essence? If I say "sin is not believing God" then what have I left out because of the answer? Is that suitable for a seven month old? Is there a follow-up that I need to address later?

I can test my catechisms against other ones. I can check the WSC and the WLC, the HC and others to compare against and see how they answer it. And in so doing I refine my own answers and learn new ways to explain the Gospel to others. There's nothing wrong with using the confessional catechisms. I use them a lot! I try to encourage kids to know HC Q1. I intend to teach our daughter WSC as soon as she understands what words are. I by no means desire to disavow them or "take them to task" because I could do better.

I write them to teach others. Because I want to do it for a particular purpose, I may want a catechism to explain certain things to others.

As another example:

In our youth group, we spent an entire 10 weeks going through 1 John. After every break in the passage, we taught the kids "how do you summarize this section?" They took the summary and wrote something like this:

"John knows that Jesus is real and that through Him our joy may be complete."

So then I asked them if there was a question that would give you this summary as an answer?

They came up with "Why did John write the letter of 1 John?"

So in essence they got:

Q1: Why did John write the letter of 1 John?
A1: John knows that Jesus is real and that through Him our joy may be complete.

So they, in their own words, realized that John wrote this letter so that we would have a full understanding of Joy in Christ Jesus, who is a real person.

They wrote that themselves. They've invested in it. And by the end of the ten weeks they've written a catechism for the entire letter, encompassing so many theological ideas that John skillfully weaves through his letter. There are still kids who have these catechism questions written down somewhere. I've seen them as bookmarks in their Bibles.

Where am I going to find a catechism for 1 John? Where am I going to find a catechism for Esther?

A long winded answer, but I felt your question deserved a better response than the one I wrote earlier, so there you go!


Puritan Board Freshman
I like it! Regarding Q12, I don't think, given the context, anything could more appropriately relate to death than a vile, smelly diaper (I'm speaking from experience). I don't know how to tie it together, but it could be a start.
Oh my, that is an excellent idea! I'm going to fester in this diaper concept and think about it a bit more. It gives me good ideas.


Puritan Board Freshman
That is true.

What is death?
Returning to dust.

What is death?
A diaper forever thrown away.

What is death?
When God no longer preserves our life.

What is death?
A miserable pile of poop!

What is death?
The end of life.

What is death?
Life without Christ.

What is death?
The face of the Lord, against us!

What is death?
The festering result of sin.

What is death?
The stench of sin overtaking us.

What is death?
The awaiting of judgment from God.
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