Many churches today deemphasize doctrinal instruction. It’s not important what you believe so long as you hold to your convictions firmly and can find a Bible passage to support whatever idea you have, whether that’s support for a gay or transgendered lifestyle or any sort of reason to skip church whatsoever. Vague notions and feelings, not firm doctrines, are what rule the day.
Knowing what one believes, however, is essential to the Christian faith. Why is this the case? Many today are led astray by cults such as the Mormons and the Jehovah’s Witnesses that take the Bible out of context and place the writings of their leaders (Joseph Smith and Charles Taze Russell respectively) above Scripture. Just as appalling is the rise of Prosperity Gospel preachers such as Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer who advocate a carnal, covetous, suffering-free lifestyle. Lack of doctrinal knowledge results in not having a deeply-held, articulate notion of what the Bible says and why we as Christians believe the things we believe, say the things we say, and do the things we do. This appalling lack of knowledge and interest in spiritual things is by no means a new phenomenon. In Hosea’s day many people were swearing, lying, killing and stealing because there was “no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land” (Hosea 4:1). Why was this the case? This happened because Israelite parents and leaders took little interest in spiritual affairs and this disinterest was passed on to their children, with tragic results. “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge, because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee that thou shalt be no priest to me, seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children” (Hosea 4:6). In other words, God was going to judge their unfaithfulness by giving their descendants over to their depraved lifestyles.
Catechism, then, is a means God is pleased to use to give as as young people and young adults to instruct us in the proper way of living our lives as Christians. What I have described results where little or no doctrinal instruction is given and applied. We are told in Ecclesiastes 12:1 to “remember thy creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them”. In other words we are to be receptive to catechism and other means of doctrinal instruction while we are young so that when we age and our bodies begin to fail, we can appreciate who God is and what He has done for us. This will, by the grace and Holy Spirit of God, prevent us from showing disinterest in and rejection of these doctrines. Learning basic Bible stories such as Noah’s Ark, David and Goliath, and Paul’s missionary journeys in school or Sunday School is a good foundation, but it’s not enough. We need to learn the doctrines of the church to the ability that God has given us individually “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: fear God and keep His commandments: for this is whole duty of man”(Ecclesiastes 12:13). Let us appreciate the instruction given in catechism and be thankful for godly parents, teachers, elders, and ministers who have demonstrated a great zeal and concern for the truth. May we defend this truth by His grace and Holy Spirit.