Does your Church/Pastor preach from the Catechism?

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SolaGratia

Puritan Board Junior
I agreed with the decision the Westminster Authors made on this.

A CATECHISM FOR PREACHING?

Philip Schaff, the well known nineteenth-century historian, and J. R. Pitman, the editor of one of the divines’ works, have both stated that the Larger Catechism was also to be used for preaching. Schaff wrote that the Assembly produced “a larger [catechism] . . . for the public exposition in the pulpit, according to the custom of the Reformed churches on the continent.”11 Godfrey has observed that the evidence for this claim is lacking. He also points out that the Assembly’s Directory for Worship (still used by some Presbyterians) explicitly points out that the preacher is to preach from a text.12 This is an important point: if the minister was to preach from a biblical text, it is not likely that he was to use the man-made propositions in the Larger Catechism as the launching point for a sermon.

A reading of the unpublished minutes of the Assembly confirms Godfrey’s point. In the middle of the Assembly’s debates on preaching there is a somewhat cryptic statement: “Debate upon that text or argument because it gives liberty to preach without a text.”13 In twentieth-century parlance, this means, “we debated about whether a preacher should preach from a text of Scripture, or from a doctrinal proposition (such as a catechism answer); we were concerned that a sermon based on a doctrinal argument could allow a minister to preach without expounding a text.”

This statement of the Assembly reveals that the final declaration found in the directory was a deliberate one: the ministers at the Westminster Assembly did not think that the preacher should preach from a proposition, or argument, but only from the Scriptures themselves. As important as the catechisms were, the Westminster divines did not want to follow the practice of the Reformed churches on the continent who preached from the Heidelberg Catechism. Rather, keeping the original intentions of the authors of the Larger Catechism in mind, there seem to be two main reasons why it was written: (1) creedal unity and, (2) more fulsome instruction in the Christian faith; as the Scottish commissioners envisioned it, the chief beneficiaries of the Larger Catechism would be the adult Christians in both kingdoms who understood the doctrines and duties of the Shorter Catechism already, and needed “the meat of the Word.”

"The Making of the Westminster Larger Catechism" by Chad B. Van Dixhoorn
 

fredtgreco

Vanilla Westminsterian
Staff member
Dabney makes an excellent argument for the same in his Sacred Rhetoric. I have never been enamored with the practice of Catechismal preaching.

{Ducking for obligatory tomato throwing from Dutch brethren}
 

Romans922

Puritan Board Professor
I still question if one should preach through a catechism/confession, but when the text is declaring something that the Shorter or Larger Catechsim state, I will quote the catechism.

For example, tomorrow I'm preaching on Ephesians 1:20-23, it is basically the same thing as the Shorter Catechism answer on Wherein consisteth Christ's exaltation? So I will use it at the beginning of the sermon.
 

Rich Koster

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
It is better left for SS class or home study In my humble opinion:2cents:

Oh yes, no cat. or conf. is preached from. A mix of expository & topical sermons.
 
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SolaGratia

Puritan Board Junior
I still question if one should preach through a catechism/confession, but when the text is declaring something that the Shorter or Larger Catechsim state, I will quote the catechism.

For example, tomorrow I'm preaching on Ephesians 1:20-23, it is basically the same thing as the Shorter Catechism answer on Wherein consisteth Christ's exaltation? So I will use it at the beginning of the sermon.

Are you going to quote from the WLC or the WSC?
 

Theognome

Burrito Bill
Yes and no. We have two services, and typically one of them will be a catechism sermon. I have mixed emotions about this, as I primarily feel that catechising is a home duty of fathers/husbands while I recognize that many (if not the majority) of hubbies are not faithful in this.

Theognome
 

Romans922

Puritan Board Professor
I still question if one should preach through a catechism/confession, but when the text is declaring something that the Shorter or Larger Catechsim state, I will quote the catechism.

For example, tomorrow I'm preaching on Ephesians 1:20-23, it is basically the same thing as the Shorter Catechism answer on Wherein consisteth Christ's exaltation? So I will use it at the beginning of the sermon.

Are you going to quote from the WLC or the WSC?

I'm quoting the WSC b/c I have it memorized, What I preach covers much of what WLC states.
 

fredtgreco

Vanilla Westminsterian
Staff member
I still question if one should preach through a catechism/confession, but when the text is declaring something that the Shorter or Larger Catechsim state, I will quote the catechism.

For example, tomorrow I'm preaching on Ephesians 1:20-23, it is basically the same thing as the Shorter Catechism answer on Wherein consisteth Christ's exaltation? So I will use it at the beginning of the sermon.

Are you going to quote from the WLC or the WSC?

I'm quoting the WSC b/c I have it memorized, What I preach covers much of what WLC states.

Using the catechism to illustrate or emphasize a point is a different matter. You said that you were preaching on Eph. 1:20-23 (above). That is different from taking the catechism as your text and exegeting it.
 

ADKing

Puritan Board Junior
I only preach from Scripture. However, I often refer, use, quote from etc. the catechisms (or confession). I also think it is helpful to preach sermons every now and then following the order of doctrines as they are presented in the catechisms, however, even when doing this I still find a text that is used to show that doctrine and make it my sermon text, preaching on it.
 

kvanlaan

Puritan Board Doctor
{Ducking for obligatory tomato throwing from Dutch brethren}

While it would be ungracious (and something of a sin) to throw a tomato at any pastor with ill intent, it may be called for in this case... :lol:

I enjoy the catechism sermon myself.
 

jwithnell

Moderator
Staff member
I appreciate it when the Catechism is brought in when it relates to something being preached from the scriptures -- this helps my own understanding and helps me when I'm working with our kids. But for a series of sermons? I'd rather see it in a Bible study or Sunday school.

On second though, the original proposal (preaching through a catechism) seems a little backward to me -- if the confessions and catechisms help to summarize what we understand the scriptures to teach, it seems like we should start with the scriptures then move to the standards.
 

Romans922

Puritan Board Professor
Are you going to quote from the WLC or the WSC?

I'm quoting the WSC b/c I have it memorized, What I preach covers much of what WLC states.

Using the catechism to illustrate or emphasize a point is a different matter. You said that you were preaching on Eph. 1:20-23 (above). That is different from taking the catechism as your text and exegeting it.

Correct, I hope you were just emphasizing the point I was illustrating. :)
 

Guido's Brother

Puritan Board Junior
From a continental perspective, this is a false dilemma. When I preach in the afternoon services, I announce my sermon in this way,

"This afternoon we are considering the truth of God's Word as it has been summarized and confessed by the church in Lord' Day x of the Heidelberg Catechism..."

or

"This afternoon I preach to you God's Word as it has been summarized and confessed by the church in Lord's Day x of the Catechism..."

The Catechism is a faithful summary of Scripture. Thus, Catechism preaching is a preaching of the Word of God. Having said that, you have to unfold the doctrines taught in the Catechism, but it's equally important to illustrate the truths confessed in the Catechism from the Scriptures.

I know that my Presbyterian brothers might still demur, but that's the traditional way the question has been approached by Reformed churches on the continent.

For what it's worth.
 

Sven

Puritan Board Sophomore
Perhaps the strong reaction against catechism preaching is due to the fact that few have ever heard a catechism sermon. I have been blessed to hear several good catechism sermons in my life. If you want to hear real experiential catechism preaching you ought to listen to one of Dr. Joel Beeke's sermons on the Heidelberg Catechism. Also, I highly recommend getting the Sermons on the Heidelberg Catechism by Johannes VanderKemp published by Reformation Heritage Books. Also by RHB is the first in the series of Classics of Reformed Theology A Sketch of the Christian Catechism by William Ames. The sermons by Beeke and these two books just might soften the reaction against catechism preaching.
 

SolaScriptura

Puritanboard Brimstone
When I was at Redeemer PCA in Louisville, we did a series through the WSC in the evening service. I thought it was a very helpful exercise.
 

Guido's Brother

Puritan Board Junior
Perhaps the strong reaction against catechism preaching is due to the fact that few have ever heard a catechism sermon.

You could be right. I might add that if folks want to get a sense of what Reformed catechism preaching is like, you could take a look at the sermons available at theseed.info -- you can also find quite a few of my catechism sermons there.

I think that may lay to rest many of the misunderstandings about what catechism preaching is and how it's done.

Also, one of the best explanations of the practice is this article by one of my former professors, N.H. Gootjes.
 

fredtgreco

Vanilla Westminsterian
Staff member
I've heard the practice. I have no doubt that Dr. Beeke could make a discussion of the manual for a refrigerator warm and experiential! (He is that good a preacher).

But my objection is one of principle, not one of execution or practice.
 

Sven

Puritan Board Sophomore
I've heard the practice. I have no doubt that Dr. Beeke could make a discussion of the manual for a refrigerator warm and experiential! (He is that good a preacher).

But my objection is one of principle, not one of execution or practice.

I am not saying that hearing a good catechism will change one's mind. Many times the reaction against catechism preaching is because people think of it as merely a lecture on the catechism; it is clearly not that at all. Homer Hoeksema, in his manual on Homiletics says, "The minister must not forget to leave the impression with the congregation that even in Catechism preaching he administers the Word of God." When I first heard about catechism preaching my Presbyterian gut reaction was, "It's a) equating catechism with the Word of God and b) it's probably dry lectures on the catechism." In my experience, though, catechism preaching has been neither.

That being said, I still have some scruples about catechism preaching, but I don't brush it off, like I used to, as unprincipled misuse of both Word and Catechism because I haven't really seen any misuse of either in my experience.

-----Added 3/21/2009 at 10:23:27 EST-----

BTW,
SolaGratia, glad to see someone quoting Chad Van Dixhoorn. That man is doing the Reformed Churches a HUGE favor with all the work he is doing.
 

Brian Withnell

Puritan Board Junior
But my objection is one of principle, not one of execution or practice.
:ditto::agree:
My objection would be on principle as well.

While I might accept the WSC and WLC as summaries of the faith, and that they contain that system of doctrine contained in the scripture, I would not say they are perfect in the summarization. As such there may be error in the derivative works (exceptions are permissible to the documents, if made known ... "Shall all men die?" and "We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed" seem to conflict, and I know there are men who take exception to the idea that all men will die.

The confession even puts the scripture ahead of itself, and all controversies are to be settled not by what the secondary documents state, but by the word of God.
 
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fredtgreco

Vanilla Westminsterian
Staff member
But my objection is one of principle, not one of execution or practice.
:ditto::agree:
My objection would be on principle as well.

While I might accept the WSC and WLC as summaries of the faith, and that they contain that system of doctrine contained in the scripture, I would not say they are perfect in the summarization. As such there may be error in the derivative works (exceptions are permissible to the documents, if made known ... "Shall all men die?" and "We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed" seem to conflict, and I know there are men who take exception to the idea that all men will die.

The confession even puts the scripture ahead of itself, and all controversies are to be settled not by what the secondary documents state, but by the word of God.

I want to be careful though of denigrating the Confession and Catechisms. For me it comes down to the apostolic command to "preach the Word" (2 Tim. 4:2) not something else.
 

Guido's Brother

Puritan Board Junior
While I might accept the WSC and WLC as summaries of the faith, and that they contain that system of doctrine contained in the scripture, I would not say they are perfect in the summarization.

Would you say that they are faithful summaries of the Bible?

I might agree that one could quibble with the way some Biblical truths are formulated -- maybe it would be better to say it this way or more clear to say it that way. But I have not been persuaded that anything in the Heidelberg Catechism conflicts with the Word of God. In my subscription vows, I stated that the Catechism (along with our other creeds and confessions) fully agrees with the Word of God. Well, then why not use it as a teaching tool in the church, as an ecclesiastically sanctioned guide to the Scriptures?

There are different ways to approach this. For instance, I don't think that anyone here would have a problem with having a series of sermons on the Lord's Prayer. That would mean that Lord's Days 46-52 should be acceptable. How about a series on the Ten Commandments? That would mean that Lord's Days 34-44 would be acceptable. Answer 71 is all Scripture texts and a brief paraphrase. Answer 34 paraphrases 1 Peter 1:18,19. Answer 4 quotes Matthew 22. Answer 18 is 1 Corinthians 1:30. Answer 77 is 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 and 1 Corinthians 10:16,17. I could go on. So, can you tell me that when I'm preaching on that material, that I'm not preaching on the Word of God?
 

SolaScriptura

Puritanboard Brimstone
I want to be careful though of denigrating the Confession and Catechisms. For me it comes down to the apostolic command to "preach the Word" (2 Tim. 4:2) not something else.

I agree with you that we are to preach the Word... and this would be a nail in the coffin of preaching through the Catechism if one was preaching the catechism as if it were itself divinely authoritative on its own.

How we preached through the catechism was more akin to topical preaching. It was no different really than doing any sort of doctrinal sermon.
 

fredtgreco

Vanilla Westminsterian
Staff member
I want to be careful though of denigrating the Confession and Catechisms. For me it comes down to the apostolic command to "preach the Word" (2 Tim. 4:2) not something else.

I agree with you that we are to preach the Word... and this would be a nail in the coffin of preaching through the Catechism if one was preaching the catechism as if it were itself divinely authoritative on its own.

How we preached through the catechism was more akin to topical preaching. It was no different really than doing any sort of doctrinal sermon.

After a sort. I don't object to some doctrinal sermons. But it does not make sense to me to have half of all one's preaching be doctrinal sermons ordered by human documentation. Give me lectio continuua, baby!
 

Guido's Brother

Puritan Board Junior
I agree with you that we are to preach the Word... and this would be a nail in the coffin of preaching through the Catechism if one was preaching the catechism as if it were itself divinely authoritative on its own.

I suppose the question is: who is preaching the Catechism in that fashion or proposing to preach it that way? Has that been done in the past? Maybe. But I've never heard of it.
 
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