Why we teach catechism and not just Bible verses

Catechism: it’s what’s for dinner. Spiritually speaking, that is. Recently I read something on Twitter (by a Protestant) which questioned the use of catechisms since we have the Bible (or partial Bible if you are Protestant.) But the problem is that the Bible is not a catechism book. It wasn’t written to provide basic training in the Christian essentials to children or to new Christians.

‘Catechesis’ is a word that means the instruction of ‘catechumins’, or new Christians. It is called that whether a catechism book is used or not. Catechesis is a very important part of the faith. It does no good to make converts if those converts never learn anything about Christianity and soon fall away.

Catechisms are most usually based on learning certain Christian basics: the Ten Commandments, the Apostles Creed, the Lord’s Prayer and the Sacraments. Bible verses that are ‘proof texts’ for certain doctrines are often included in Protestant catechism books.

There are also Catholic catechism books. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is a universal catechism, translated into many languages around the world. It has a foreword written by Pope John Paul II, now a saint. The Coming Home Network has a guide to reading the whole catechism and the Catholic Bible in a year.

There are also more local Catholic catechism such as the St. Joseph catechism which was used once in schools and religious education, and is now popular among homeschooling families.

The question was asked, why memorize catechism questions and answers when you could be memorizing Bible verses? The thing is, Bible verses can be confusing, especially for people who can’t read them in the original Greek or Hebrew or who aren’t Bible scholars. And we can’t expect ordinary people to become Bible scholars.

The content of a catechism, on the other hand, consists of very basic things, and the people who teach catechism or write catechism books relate these very basic things to other things from the Bible. This basic training is something we Christians keep coming back to— as we recite the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostles Creed weekly in our Church services (though the other creeds, such as the Nicene, are used in the Mass.)

Because of the electronic media, we have a lot of people becoming Christians who don’t immediately receive catechesis. Imagine someone who watched an episode of the Joel Osteen show and prayed the ‘sinners prayer.’ Such a person might not know where to begin, though Osteen does recommend getting in a ‘Bible-based church.’ I assume that means the Catholic Church? At any rate, there are many young Christians out there who lack almost all catechesis and who therefore may be OK with things such as cohabitation, abortion and same-sex sexuality which are forbidden by the Church and the Bible. What would help such people is a little more attention to teaching catechisms.