At DPC we teach our children and youth the Westminster Catechism on Wednesday nights. Often people coming from different traditions look at this suspiciously at first, but usually they come around to seeing it as a wonderful discipleship tool for learning and teaching the Christian faith and life.
Phil Robertson (whom I regard as a brother in Christ, from the little bit that I know about him) has just made the case for catechism so much easier.
You're probably aware of the recent events flowing out of Mr. Roberton's interview with GQ magazine. I won't rehearse the whole story here.
But this quote from The Decatur Daily this morning represents the point, as I understand it, where things began to get interesting:
Asked his definition of sinful behavior by GQ, Robertson replied, "Start with homosexual behavior and just go from there."No quarrel with the point that homosexual behavior is a violation of God's law. That's plainly the teaching of Scripture, and if you waffle on that point, you're enslaving yourself to the fear of man or the bondage of self, rather than enjoying the freedom and liberty of the fear of God.
However, was that really the best way for a Christian to define sinful behavior?
That definition puts sinful behavior "out there." Them. Over there. Those people. Not me.
What if Mr. Robertson had been catechized as a child? What if he were able to paraphrase (using his own words!) the classic Christian definitions of sin that have served God's people well for centuries?
Westminster Shorter Catechism: "Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God." -- meaning that anytime we turn away from God by failing to keep his "thou shalt" commands or by breaking his "thou shalt not" commands, we are in sin. Sinful behavior is basically anytime we say "not your way God, but my way." Which we all do: Me. Mr. Robertson. You.
Heidelberg Catechism: "What must you know to live and die in the joy of this comfort? Three things: first, how great my sin and misery are.... How do you come to know your misery? The law of God tells me.... Can you live up to all this perfectly? No. I have a natural tendency to hate God and my neighbor.... Where does this corrupt human nature come from? From the fall and disobedience of our fist parents, Adam and Eve, in Paradise. This fall so poisoned our nature that we are born sinners -- corrupt from conception on.... But are we so corrupt that we are totally unable to do any good and inclined toward all evil? Yes, unless we are born again, by the Spirit of God."
Or there's the Lutheran tradition of defining sin as a self-centered failure to trust God.
There's also the riches of the Second Helvetic Confession, the Canons of Dort, etc.
And, of course, there's the beautiful simplicity of the Apostle John's definition of sin from 1 John 3.4: "Sin is lawlessness."
Any of that would have been worlds and worlds better than "Start with homosexual behavior and just go from there."
Remember Paul's instruction to us when discussing God's truth with those outside of Christ: "Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person." (Colossians 4.6)
If you'd like to read a good, short book on the value of catechism, you can get some good things out of Donald Van Dyken's Rediscovering Catechism: The Art of Equipping Covenant Children.
If only... if only...