What Book Should Come Next to the Bible?

Classic catechismHere’s a vote for the catechism!

A catechism is a summary of the doctrines of the Christian faith. It is usually set down in questions and answers, presented as simply as possible. The questions and answers are meant for memorization and cover the major doctrines of the church.

Throughout history catechisms have been used to instruct children of believers and in new fields new converts as well.

Catechisms have always been a part of the Christian Church from its earliest days. The Reformation produced Luther’s Catechism, the Heidelberg Catechism, the Larger Westminster Catechism, and on and on. I call catechisms embryonic theology.

Here are two examples of catechetical questions:

Question: “What is the first truth found in the Bible?”
Answer: “That there is a God.” (Genesis 1:1)

Here’s another: “If God is everywhere, why don’t we see Him?”
Answer: “Because God is pure Spirit and cannot be seen with bodily eyes.” (Exodus 33:20; John 4:24)

The Reverend Russell Veldman, pastor of the Free Methodist Church in Lawrenceville, Illinois, had an unusual reason for setting about to produce a catechism. Back in 2004 when he and his wife, Jennifer, were awaiting the birth of their daughter, Kiran, he was looking ahead to be sure there would be such a booklet to use for basic instruction in Christian doctrine when she was old enough.

Reverend Veldman had been raised in a congregation of the Reformed Church of America and had been “catechized” as a young boy. Though he is now a Wesleyan in theology, the importance of this catechizing had left a permanent impression on him.

The catechism he began developing was intended only for family use. But he found starting with a blank page made for a heavy task. Investigating, he discovered an original Free Methodist Catechism had been prepared for the young denomination by the four bishops serving the church in 1902.

He also found that this catechism had been republished in 1952, and for the next nearly half century had been a part of the curriculum for children and young people.

Working from the 1952 Free Methodist catechism as a base he updated certain words and replaced King James language with New International Version language. He also included a few further questions that seemed to him necessary.

When he tested his family project on adult Sunday School classes the interest this generated surprised him. Eventually the project was approved for use by the Free Methodist Church-USA, and published as the Classic Catechism.

Based on experiences in his own church he recommends that it be used for special Sunday School classes that encompass ages from early youth into adulthood. Or, taking three questions at a time, it can be used in Sunday evening services. Once the learners experience its value, he reports, they receive it with enthusiasm.

This valuable resource has not yet been fully discovered by North American pastors but churches in Asia are receiving it with enthusiasm. Bishop Narendra John from India came upon a copy and said, “This is what we need”.

Bishop John noted that in some places in India the only book a pastor has is the Bible, and he reported that he has been able to translate and publish 2000 copies of this catechism for a mere $700.

The Classic Catechism now exists in six languages in the Free Methodist denomination in Asia and more are being added.

How important is all this to an evangelical body of the 21st century?

Considering the special place catechisms have filled in a wide range of Christian communions across history, and the effectiveness with which they give understanding to the fundamentals of the Christian faith, the claim may well be true that the catechism is the second most important book to the church after the Sacred Scriptures.

Advertisements

9 thoughts on “What Book Should Come Next to the Bible?

  1. Good morning Don: Thank you for this particular blog. I have a daughter who became a Lutheran at marriage and all four of her children have now been “Catacized”. As a Baptist, I was really very impressed with their “process” and have even suggested that we prepare something similar for the very reason that you have delineated. Are you aware as to whether the FM copy is available on the internet? I would be very interested in obtaining a copy so it could be “Baptized”!!!

    • Yes, the Classic Catechism is available on Amazon.com Also, there have been good Baptist catechisms – check googlebooks. But in the last 50 years + so many protestants have feared the word “catechism” was solely a Roman Catholic thing so the term and the books have faded out. Of course, the greater issue is that so many protestants in North America simply do not want to study.

      Thanks for your interest! I am the author, by the way.

  2. I remember studying and learning from The Catechism when I was a girl! We lived in so many different places I can’t remember where we lived when this was a part of our learning. But it was good and I still remember parts of it. I’m now 76 years of age.

  3. Hi Don:
    Well done in speaking up for doctrine and the truth about the basics of what we believe in the catechism. That is so necessary these days when many agree that to create followers of Jesus “…the church must offer not a doctrine or a cause or a system.” As I look back over my time in Brazil, Haiti and as a pastor in Canada I am convinced that without doctrine or a cause we have lost most everything about the Faith and become little more than one of the social organizations in town. Basics will lead to a vital growing Christendom.
    Roy C. Kenny

  4. Pingback: Bishop Bastian post: “What Book Should Come Next to the Bible?” | Faster Unto Thee

  5. Bishop, thank you for the wonderful post on the Classic Catechism. Your mention of it will certainly make more people aware of it. Though it is being used heavily overseas, in North America there has been little interest in it. Hopefully the church here at home will wake up to the importance of doctrinal instruction. Blessings!

  6. What book should come next to the Bible ? That’s an intriguing question.

    Throughout many centuries it was John Bunyans ‘Pilgrims Progress’ that sat next to the Bible in most English homes.

    Many Anglicans would say ‘The Book of Common Prayer’ although in many churches this has been replaced by the Books of Common Worship

    I’m sure many Roman Catholics may say the Sunday Missal.Though if I were Roman Catholic I’d certainly say the Roman Catholic Catechism.

    A really good uplifting Hymnal, perhaps ? Or a simple guide on how to pray.

    As a follower of the Wesleyan Christian way,John Wesley’s ‘A Plain Account of Christian Perection’, constantly revised throughout his lifetime ,is hard to beat.

    Or maybe a really good Bible companion.John Wesley’s guide to the New Testament is very good.Then a really good Bible Concordance makes a strong claim .

    There are several good books nowadays that discuss several basic Christian concepts ,such as The Trinity and Salvation.These are very useful.

    But I have to say I agree with the idea of a Catechism as most necessary,next to the Bible. .One that covers everything essential and is anchored firmly to the Bible ,referring back constantly to the Bible chapter and verse.Since this Just Call Me Pastor blog ,I have found the very Catechism at last.

    I remember wanting to know what are the fundamental principals of Biblical Christianity, and also to have a guide to how to live the Christian life to the Biblical standard.

    I had seen the huge 600 page Roman Catholic Catechism and sought a similar Catechism for Protestants.Without some of the more Roman catholic doctrines .For instance the paragraphs about purgatory are clearly based on the Bible and there are clear references to chapter and verse. But I’m not sure that Biblical reference to cleansing fires justifies such a positive concept of purgatory.Or that it is essential to salvation to believe in purgatory.

    I never found the Anglican Catechism I needed though I kept asking for one.All I found is a few basic Q and As in the Book of Common Prayer,for candidates for Confirmation.

    I wanted all the basic Christian beliefs plainly writ large and at the ame time ethical guidance.How to live as a good Christian in a fallen world.I sought these two things – an outline of basic Biblical Christian beliefs firstly.Secondly basic ground rules and parameters,based closely on the Bible,as to how to live the Christian life in the beauty of holiness. With reference to everyday moral dilemmas that may crop up.

    For years I never found any Protestant equivalent to the comprehensive Roman Catholic Catechism and was even told by one Anlican minister that we didn’t really have or indeed need a Catechism.But I needed one.I knew that. So I bought the Roman Catholic Catechism to help me.It did ,though I felt it was too comprehensive,going beyond what is necessary to salvation.

    And of course the Roman Catholic Catechism refers often to the Apocrypha since they are present in the Roman Cathlic Bible -between the Old Testament and the New.Just as they are in the first edition of the 1605 King James Bible ,the so called Authorized Version.

    For a year or so I referred often to the Roman Catechism alongside the Bible ,the Book of Common Prayer and the Books of Common Worship,as well as the annual Lectionary.

    Then a young overseas Methodist talked to me about love based faith,convincing me as never before of the nature of God’s power and glory.It hit me that God’s power and glory is the power and glory of love.

    That His Love for us,who are His creation ,isunconditional,patient ,forgiving,nurturing and encouraging Love.The ideal parental love.Divine parental love .

    I had this strong feeling that God couldn’t love us more and never gives up on us.I felt an overwhelming sense of God in my life

    On learning this Christian who had evangelized me to the new birth was a Free Methodist, of a Wesleyan church I had never heard of , I sought out all I could about this church.I contacted the Free Methodist Church of UK.Soon I had the Handbook of the Free Methodist Church of UK and this became like a catechism to me.

    Every ‘Just Call Me Pastor’ blog has been of great value to me.When I learned in this one, of a Free Methodist Catechism I at once realized this is just what I’d been looking for.

    Immediately I googled it and saw where to get one,published by Life and Light.Unfortunately the page said it was not available at present.

    So I looked on e bay and Amazon and eventually found a copy for sale in the Academic Bookman ,a shop in Santa Cruz,,across the Atlantic across the American continent in California.

    So I secured ‘Foundations of a Living Faith : The Catechism of the Free Methodist Church ‘ Light and Life 1996.It was described as very good condition in an unknown binding and I learned it would arrive by the end of October.

    In fact it arrived a week later.like new,in the normal Light and Life binding ,just like I;’d seen online ,as being not available at present.I was delighted. Even more so when I read it.it has exceeded my expectations in every way.

    It is the perfect Catechism.The one I have so wanted.

    It is concise and can be initially read in one sitting,being a compact 61 pages.I wanted a Biblically based Catechism and this is ideal.There are no less than 520 Biblical references,chapter and verse.It reminds me of the patient,step by step ,Biblically argued writing of John Wesley, or ‘Benjamin T Roberts in for example , ‘On The Ordination of Women’. Step by step explanation with always Bibnlical reference and justification.

    Every point ,every sentence ,every clause is justified by a Bible reference.So that initial reading may be one condensed sitting,but the next reading,following up each Bible reference.is a much longer and fuller exercise.

    Methodists are methodical and write so.

    The layout of ‘Foundatons of a Living Faith’ is very ideal to use.

    The first 3 chapters are headed Faith,Hope and Love – the three principals of Christianity.I thought of Faith,Hope and Charity.For Charity or Caritas is the old fashioned word for Christian love,I think.

    Chapter 1 ,Faith is qualified as Christian belief.The Apostles Creed is methodically gone through ,line by line.First the general declaration of faith – ‘I believe’,followed by the 12 affirmations ,one by one.From the first affirmation – belief in God the Father.To the 12th affirmation – belief in ‘The Life Everlasting’.Each affirmation is explained and exegeted in the most precise detail.

    The second chapter is Hope ,qualified as Christian Prayer.
    Here the Lord’s Prayer is gone through,carefully explained line by line,the same way as The Apostles Creed in chapter 1.

    Starting with the Invocation – ‘Our Father Who Art in Heaven’,then
    line by line through the 6 petitions.From the first – ‘Hallowed Be Thy Name’ To the 6th petition ‘Lead us not into Temptation but Deliver us from Evil’

    Finally the Doxology ,that final note of due praise and adoration – ‘For thine is the Kingdom,the Power and the Glory ,for ever and ever,Amen’

    God’s power is the power of unconditional and unending love and His glory the Glory of Love.Such is God’s Love we cannot but love and adore Him.He gave His Son unto death for us.Something which faithful Abraham was prepared to do and God actually did do! No angel stayed His Hand ,as did Abraham’s on Mount Moriah.

    ‘’faith ,hope and love .But the greatest of these is love’ 1 Cor 13:13

    So we come to the third chapter of the Catechism of the Free Methodist Church.This 3rd chapter is Love,qualified as the Christian Life.This chapter has 3 parts.

    Part 1 is The Ten Commandments.Which comprise the ritual commandments,the civil commandments and the moral commandments.

    The 3 uses of God’s law are explained

    – to restrain us from selfishness,violence,anarchy and war

    – to bring us to repentance and faith & show us we need God’s forgiveness and mercy

    – to guide our daily moral life

    It is first explained that the Ten Commandments are summarized by Christ’s two great Commandments – love God with all our strength and love our neighbour as ourselves. Upon these two hang all the Law,all the Ten Commandments.

    The two Tables or tablets , upon which God gave the Ten Commandments are described,showing how they correspond with Christ’s Two Commandments ( to love God and love neighbour).The first 4 correspond to Christ’s commandment to love God.The last 6 correspond to Christ’s command to love our neighbour.

    The preamble in which God establishes His authority is explained. God is our Creator and Saviour.We are His and bought by Him with His Son’s Blood.

    The first table of Commandments ,1 to 4 are then fully articulated one by one.From ‘You shall have no other gods before Me’ to ‘Remember the Sabath and keep it Holy’ It is explained that since Christ’s resurrection our new Sabbath is The Lord’s Day,and that for Christians the Sabbath was changed from the last day of the week to the first,by the early church.

    This is something I’ve always worried about.Wary of Emperor Constantine’s attachment to Apollo ,the so called sun god, prior to Constantine’s Christian rebirth,I feared he,Constantine, may have changed the Christian Sabbath to Sunday in vestigial attachment to his pagan past.But of course it was our Saviour’s resurrection that changed evertything.The old Sabbath naturally gave way to the new Lord’s Day.

    After the 4 Commandments to love God,come the 6 Love our neighbour Commandments.From 5.Honour your Father and Mother’ to 10.’You shall not cove’t.

    Each commandment is explained in the clearest and finest detail.So the 6th Commandment ‘Thou Shalt not Murder’ leaves no doubt.

    It is explained that this most serious law includes murder in all it’s forms.

    – Negligence which leads to death

    – Abortion

    – Suicide or self murder

    – Euthanasia or assisted death or so called ‘mercy killing’.

    No wriggle room is given though self defence and ‘just wars’ are explained.Everything is covered.

    Also,as in each Commandment,it is explained how Jesus demands even more of us ,nothing less than holiness.We must not even be guilty of spiritual murder in our hearts – anger or calling another a fool.Just as with adultery ,it is unacceptable to lie with someone not ones spouse,even in one’s mind’s eye.

    After the most perfectly full coverage of the 10 Commandments ,comes the 2nd part of’’ Chapter 3 Love,The Christian Life.’

    Part 2 of Chapter 3 ,Love is Christ’s 8 Beatitudes or Blessings.These are the eight blessings Jesus gave during His sermon on the Mount ,as recorded in Matthew.Those unfortunate in earthly life are more than comforted and consoled.They are blessed !

    Each beatitude is carefully delineated.From Blessed are the poor in spirit to Blessed are the persecuted.

    By the end of the Free Methodist Catechism,the Bibles central teachings on how to be saved and how to lead a Christian life,are clearly summarized.In just 61 pages.With comprehensive Biblical reference.The Catechism never strays from the Biblical path.

    It is all I have looked for in a Catechism and all I could ever ask for.Nothing is superfluous and no central point missing.What delights me most is the way it is divided into three chapters based on the great Christian principal virtues : Faith,Hope and Love.Corresponding to Belief,Prayer and the Christian Life.

    It was a happy day for me,that Monday when I received in my inbox , the Just Call Me Pastor blog entitled ‘What Book Should Come Next To The Bible ?’ It led to me now holding in my hand ‘Foundations of a Living Faith:The Catechism of The Free Methodist Church’.A book which I very much wanted but didn’t even know existed.

    For me it is now certainly the book which comes next to and sits next to my Bibles.Thankyou for introducing me to this book Pastor Don.It is so thoroughly written ,primarily by Paul Livermore on behalf of the Board of Bishops an Study Commission on Doctrine of the Free Methodist Church. It is a valuable tool I chrish,just what I was looking for.

    .

  7. Having found and got a copy of ‘Foundations of a Living Faith : The Catechism of the Free Methodist Church ‘Light and Life 1996,
    I have now ordered a copy of ‘Classic Catechism’ edited and compiled by Illinois Free Methodist pastor Russell J Veldman 111,a newer Free Methodist Catechism ,written this millenium.

    From ‘Just Call Me Pastor’ I gather it is set down in the Q & A form familiar to Anglican confirmation candidates, going back to John and Charles Wesley and even earlier.Sadly,since the demise of the Book of Common Prayer in Anglican churches,getting catechized in one’s teens prior to confirming the baptismal vows made on the candidates behalf,seems to have declined.

    I got ‘Foundations of a Living Faith’ first because I understand it was created especially for adults so suitable for evangelized disciples.Since I was not brought up Christian ,came to the new birth as an adult and became baptized and confirmed at the same time ,in my later life,I thought this was the best initial Free Methodist catechism for me.It sounds like ‘Classic Catechism’is the ideal catechism for young people starting their Christian life.

    I see such books as not exclusively for the young,but as suitable for all ages.We’re never too old to learn and I don’t want to miss anything I could gain from. So now I look forward reading ‘Classic Catechism ‘ on it’s arrival.

    Before this ‘Just Call Me Pastor’ I didn’t even know there was one Free Methodist catechisms.Now I have learned there are three.I have one,another is on order and one day maybe I’ll also look out for the 1902 Free Methodist Catechism ,refurbished in 1952,since I’m deeply interested in the history of the Free Methodist Church since it’s beginning in New York in 1860.

    Once again ,thankyou for your blog , Pastor Don .Now I have a Free Methodist Catechism for made adult disciples and another ,for Free Methodists of all ages, is on it’s way to me.

  8. ‘Classic Catechism’,edited & compiled by Russell J.Veldman 111 ,Light and Life,2006,arrived this morning.Now I have two different Free Methodist catechisms.

    On first reading this blog I immediately sought to get the Free Methodist Catechism online. When it arrived I saw it was a different,earlier Free Methodist Catechism than the one you wrote about, Pastor Don.

    It was ‘Foundations of a Living Faith: Catechism of The Free Methodist Church’,Light and Life 1996. In fact it was ideal for me,discipled in later life.

    Now I’m very pleased to have the’ Classic Catechism’ as well.This is an ideal catechism for the young Christian,being in the question and answer form familiar to Anglicans.

    For in the Anglican ‘Book of Common Prayer’ ,pages 343 to 350 consist of ‘A Catechism,that is to say ,an instructon to be learned of every person before he be brought to be confirmed by the Bishop’ The few pages of catechism in the BCP are in the question and answer form too,.The first questions are ‘What is yiour name’,’Who gave you this name’ &’What did your Godfathers and Godmothers then for you’

    The BCP questions and answers are in very old fashioned language .For instance – ‘Dost thou not think that thou art bound to believe’ to which the answer is ‘Yes verily and by God’s help so I will’

    ‘Classic Catechism’ is written in today’s language is far more thorough ,having 178 questions and answers.What’s more,there are as many biblical references,chapter and verse’ as there are questions.I think this is a great merit making it clear the Bible must guide our Chruistian life.

    After the 178 questions and answers,to be known and understood ,come s a valuable appendix of 16 pages .This consists of 36 articles of religion.

    The Book of Common Prayer of the Anglicans,which will have been very familiar to John Wesley,contains 39 Articles at it’s concusion. I look forward to comparing the two,the old Anglican 39 and the new 36 ,after the Wesleyan Revival

    The Anglican church grew out of the Roman Catholic church,reformed. The Wesley brothers being Anglicans, ,it follows Methodism grew out of the Anglican church,reformed, maybe .In the History of the church in England,the Wesleyan Revival came like a second Reformation.Then,in 1860 America.,perhaps the Free Methodist Church grew out of the Methodist church,reformed.

    Free Methodism quickly spread from America to Canada ,I believe,and some time around the 1970s, back to England,where in 18th century Oxford ,the Holiness club had launched Wesleyan Methodism. In this kind of way ,the universal church refines and renews itself,through local churches.

    The second part of the appendix of Classic Catechism’ consists of ‘The Apostles Creed’,the core belief of Christians.

    ‘Classic Catechism’ is a wonderfully clear plain introduction to the Christian life.Whole books have been written about the nature of the Trinity ,which can afford hours of fruitful contemplation..’Classic Catechism’ gives the basic essentials,the starting point.

    For instance ,as to the 6th commandment,,the Law is simply given – ‘Thou shalt not murder’ and then the reason for the law is given ( people are sacred,being in God’s image )

    .From this grounding ,details can be developed at a later date in the young Christians life.,When appropriate, it can be seen that abortion ,suicide and euthanasia are all forms of murder.

    Thornier problems ,such as the concepts of self defense and of just wars can be faced as the young Christian matures,through discussion with church leaders and fellow Christians ,always referring back to the Bible.

    I am so pleased to now have two Free Methodist Church catechisms ,which complement each other.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s