I was approximately 20 before I knew what the meaning of life is, despite having grown up in Church. I knew about God, but He was a footnote to my life. He certainly wasn’t the meaning of my existence. After all, I thought, nobody really knows the meaning of life, and to claim otherwise is arrogant, right?
Eventually, it sank in that God is, in fact, the meaning of life. But the reason why it took me so long to figure it out is because I grew up in a culture that insisted otherwise. Proverbs 22:6 says that we should “Train up a child in the way he should go…”. This is necessary in this day and age to fight back the rising tide of secularism.
It wasn’t that my mother – the Christian in my family – failed to raise me as a Christian. She did as well as she could, but I wasn’t interested. The problem was twofold; I didn’t really love God, and when it came to learning about Him then I was trying to chew on more scripture than my mouth could fit.
Think back with me to Sunday school lessons, where we would be taught Biblical themes. Would our teachers quote Scripture at us until we figured out the common theme? No; they would give, as with any good argument, an assertion or a thesis – for example, ‘Jesus died on the Cross to save you from your sin’ – and then back up this argument with evidence – ‘John 3:16 says “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”
Now, I would say that it’s impractical to tell somebody that they should memorise every verse of the Bible so that, when an issue comes up, they can address it (it isn’t a bad thing, just an impractical thing – I’m not against Scripture memorisation). But there exists a kind of thing called a Confession of Faith.
A confession is a document in which people have summarised their beliefs, based on what the Bible teaches, organised by topic. The best ones have Scripture to prove their claims. Why are they helpful? They’re helpful because it is far easier to go to the summary of “Scripture”, read the summary, and then follow the links to what the Bible says to prove it, than it is to flip through your Bible and try to find every verse which talks about Scripture, prophecy, the Law, the Word of God, and then exegete every passage.
This is still quite a lot to chew on, especially for a child. Yet, as a mother bird takes a worm and gives it back to her children in a new, easily-digestible form, so too do great theologians take the confessions and give them back to us in the form of Catechisms.
A Catechism is a document that summarises the confessions in easy-to-learn question & answer format. For example, the reason some Children already know the meaning of life:
The Baptist Catechism, Question 2: What is the chief end of man?
Answer: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever”.
WHAT IS THE POINT OF A CATECHISM?
The point of a Catechism is not to replace Scripture; rather, it is to instruct (Katacheo in Greek) people in the truths of Scripture in a way that is easy to remember. This helps to get everyone in a Church on the same page, by laying out simple doctrinal statements. It also helps to prevent Christians from misinterpreting verses of Scripture (the creeds and confessions, whilst not infallible, are a very good guide of orthodox belief) and, in the same vein, helps them to defend against false teaching and prepares them to answer questions or, perhaps, attacks from non-believers.
WHY THE MODIFIED BAPTIST CATECHISM?
The document we will be using is the modified Baptist Catechism which can be found on John Piper’s website (https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/a-baptist-catechism – I would recommend downloading the PDF, especially onto your phone if you can). We will be using this Catechism because:
1: I’m a Baptist and believe that the 1689 Second London Baptist Confession of Faith is the best confession, but if you are not a Baptist then that’s ok; it will only change 1 or 2 questions out of 117 – you won’t be missing out on much.
2: unlike the original document, which was Sabbatarian (Sabbatarianism is the belief that the Old Testament Sabbath, which forbids Worldly leisure and the spending of money on the Sabbath, is still legally binding on Christians today), the modified version allows for the teaching that Jesus is the fulfilment of our Sabbath rest, which is a widely supported teaching. For full disclosure, I am a partial Sabbatarian – I believe, along with John Piper and Joe Thorn, that Jesus is the fulfilment of our Sabbath rest, but that some form of “sabbath” ought to be observed as a matter of practical wisdom; abstain from work so that you may attend corporate worship, and take intentional rest and refreshment in the Lord.
HOW WILL WE PROCEED?
At the beginning of each week, on Sunday, I will post the questions for memorisation that week along with a commentary on the questions (a commentary of a different nature from Piper’s, which can be found in the download link, so don’t miss out), and then, depending on the week, I may post further reflection on the implications during the middle of the week.
WHAT IS OUR GOAL?
Our goal is simply to memorise the 117 questions of the Baptist Catechism, and gain a deeper understanding of them, so that we can carry Biblical truth with us wherever we go for the benefit of ourselves and others, and to do so within a year.
This is our mission statement with this series, and we hope that you will find it agreeable and come along for the ride with us. It will require some work, but everything worthwhile does. Practically, you can do this in the space of about an hour or two a week, and that’s while you do something else – cook, clean, exercise – you do not need to do any sit-down study.
We hope you enjoy this series, and we hope you benefit from it.
As a side note, if you’re late to the party then don’t worry – this is intended as a resource for all who find it to make use of it whenever they want – and don’t feel obligated to start in January. 52 weeks can start and finish whenever it suits you.