Training up in the Confession
I love catechisms. There is hardly a sermon that I preach where a catechism doesn't come into it at some point. Last week we were in Wisconsin and at one point in the car Calvin started to cry. Taryn and I looked at each other and thought that the way to calm him down was to put in the CD with the Children's Catechism. For a half hour we sang the questions and answers to Calvin along with the catechism. I love catechisms.
It is striking how easy it can be to think that all that is necessary for catechizing people is that they memorize the catechism. The catechism gives us content to our faith. The Word of God is the rule of faith. It is the foundation to our faith and catechism's function as a distillation of everything that is contained in Holy Scripture. Catechisms do not go beyond Scripture, but they thoughtfully and rationally extract the content of Scripture to give the fundamental beliefs found in it. Bavinck says this of the need for instruction in the faith:
Instruction therefore must take place—instruction in the doctrines of the truth, carefully and exactly, so that pure representations, clear ideas and correct judgments may be implanted in the child, and an essential knowledge of the truth may be formed in its consciousness or mind. The cultivation of emotions and the awakening of affections without true and clear representations is even dangerous; it is detrimental to the truth, opens the door for falsehood and errors and is very often the cause of great and gross excesses.
Bavinck is pointing to the need for clear teaching of the truths of Scripture. His point is that having a 'passion' for God is not enough. Our passion has to be wed to a depth of knowledge in the truth. In fact, having our emotions cultivated without having any content is dangerous.
Now as a Presbyterian, I can say a hearty 'Amen' to not having my emotions all riled up. What I find interesting and helpful for me is the fact that Bavinck doesn't stop with need to catechize. He goes on and says there is a proper place for emotions in all of this.
But nevertheless clear representations and pure ideas are not sufficient. But indeed, hardly anywhere and especially in the religious sphere, it is almost an utter impossibility to obtain and possess these without being influenced in our disposition and heart. For, a right understanding and an essential knowledge is never obtained without the heart. In all learning there must of necessity be attention, interest, love; if we do not know a certain thing we do not love it, we really and in truth only know that which we love in the deepest depths of our souls.
I love catechisms, but often I can miss the importance of teaching others to love catechisms as well. Without the heart engaged in the process, nothing actually gets learned. It is only through an organic connection between the head and heart that true knowledge is cultivated. I love catechisms and that love engages both my head and my heart.