11 November 2009

Catechism? Really? a clarification from J.I. Packer

A group of aspiring leaders in our church has been reading "The Reformed Pastor" as a basis for challenge and discussion regarding the task of an overseer. The later half of the book emphasizes the need for catechizing the church, where, essentially, pastors systematically teach foundational biblical truths with individuals. We have been considering how that idea fits with our concept of discipleship, small groups and teaching. Today J.I. Packer wrote a piece for Crossway Books describing the important contribution of the ESV Study Bible for restoring this practice. It helped me see the connection between catechizing and what we call discipleship.

The ministry of an adult catechist is something which the early church understood very well. Every church worth its salt had an adult catechist to instruct inquirers. The catechism ministry has fallen very much into disuse in our time. And it is my privilege, I think, first of all to appreciate its importance, and then myself to model it in the writing and the teaching that I do. And then, in this particular project, to contribute to other people entering into the ministry of the adult catechist, with many more people profiting from that ministry on paper. Because that is what the ESV Study Bible really is—a catechizing document. Catechists teach people the truths that Christians live by and teach them how to live by those truths. That is what the material in the ESV Study Bible, taken as a whole, actually does. That’s the benefit that the reader of the Study Bible will get from the articles on Christian doctrine, on Christian ethics, on Christian faith and life, and a Christian stance in relation to any number of errors and alternatives that our time has produced.

What is it that I like most about the Study Bible? I think the simplicity and straightforwardness of its presentation of just about everything. The language that the drafters of the various articles have chosen seems to me to be down-to-earth, everyday language that any reader will find easy to understand. The text that the Bible works with, of course, is the ESV text, which has a straightforwardness, a simplicity, and a crispness which I very much appreciate. I like brisk, economical statements, and the ESV Study Bible is full of them.


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