The devotional guide to the Gospel Coalition’s New City Catechism is a helpful resource for re-discovering the lost practice of oral instruction and memorization.
The New City Catechism: God’s Truth for Our Hearts and Minds edited by Collin Hansen. Crossway, 2017, 239 pages including notes.
Recommended for: ages 12-up
In his introduction to this devotional guide, Tim Keller harks back to the days when “catechizing” was standard practice in the church. Catechisms (from the Greek katechein, “to instruct by word of mouth”) served at least three purposes: to convey a coherent explanation of the gospel, to guard against heresy, and “to form a distinct people, a counterculture” in the likeness of Christ. Though more common in confessional or Reformed churches, it’s a practices that more broadly Evangelical churches might consider. Why a new catechism? “Culture changes, and so do the errors, temptations, and challenges to the unchanging gospel that people must be equipped to face and answer.” New City, introduced by The Gospel Coalition in 2012, is an attempt to distill the best of the classical confessions (such as Westminster, Belgic, Heidelberg, etc.) into a 52-question document meant to equip contemporary Christians for challenges to the gospel. The questions fall into three broad categories: “God, Creation, and Fall” (20 questions); Christ, Redemption, and Grace (15 questions); and Spirit, Restoriation, and Growing in Grace (17 questions).
Like the catechism, this devotional guide is written from a Reformed point of view but should be acceptable to any orthodox, Bible-believing church. It’s intended for couples, families, and study groups. With such a wide audience, it and would need some adjustment to be understood by smaller children. Format-wise, each devotion features one q&a, with the most essential words of the answer highlighted (younger children and memory challenged adults like me need only to memorize the highlighted part). A relevant scripture passage follows, then commentary by a classical Christian author (such as Edwards, Calvin, Luther, Spurgeon, or Schaeffer) and a contemporary author (Keller, Allistair Begg, D. A. Carson, Thabiti Anyabwile, and many more). Each devotional concludes with a prayer. This is all fairly standard, and if it’s intended for families a few observation or application questions would be welcome (but you could always write your own). Memory tips are included in the introduction, as well as suggestions for use.
All the NCC questions and answers, along with video commentary, are available on the New City Catechism website, but it’s helpful to have the material in a single handy volume. If you’re uncertain about the value of catechizing, Tim Keller wraps up his introduction with a metaphor:
Such instruction, Princeton theologian Archibald Alexander said, is like firewood in a fireplace. Without the fire—the Spirit of God—firewood will not in itself produce a warming flame. But without fuel there can e no fire either, and that is what catechetical instruction is.
Value: 4.5 (out of 5)