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SPECIAL PROLEGOMENA

WITH REFERENCE TO THE CATECHISM.

THE SPECIAL PROLEGOMENA with reference to catechizing, are five:

  1. What is catechizing, or the system of catechization?

  2. Has it always been practiced in the church, or what is its origin?

  3. What are the principal parts thereof?

  4. Why is it necessary?

  5. What is its design?

 

I. WHAT IS CATECHIZING?

 The Greek word kathchsij is derived from kathxhjw, as kathxituoj is from kathxizw (w. Both words, according to their common signification, mean to sound, to resound, to instruct by word of mouth, and to repeat the sayings of another. Kathxcw more properly, however, signifies to teach the first principles and rudiments of some particular doctrine. As applied to the doctrine of the church, and as understood when thus used, it means to teach the first principles of the Christian religion, in which sense it occurs in Luke 1:4. Acts 18:25. Gal. 6:6, &c. Hence, catechization in its most general and comprehensive sense, means the first brief and elementary instruction which is given by word of mouth in relation to the rudiments of any particular doctrine; but, as used by the church, it signifies a system of instruction relating to the first principles of the Christian religion, designed for the ignorant and unlearned. The system of catechizing, therefore, includes a short, simple, and plain exposition and rehearsal of the Christian doctrine, deduced from the writings of the prophets and apostles, and arranged in the form of questions and answers, adapted to the capacity and comprehension of the ignorant and unlearned; or it is a brief summary of the doctrine of the prophets and apostles, communicated orally to such as are unlearned, which they again are required to repeat.

In the primitive church, those who learned the catechism were called Catechumens; by which it was meant that they were already in the church, and were instructed in the first principles of the Christian religion.  There were two classes of these Catechumens. The first were those of adult age, who were converts to Christianity from the Jews and Gentiles, but were not as yet baptized. Persons of this description were first instructed in the catechism, after which they were baptized and admitted to the Lord s Supper. Such a catechumen was Augustine after his conversion to Christianity from Manichaeism, and wrote many books while he was a Catechumen, and before he was baptized by Ambrose. Ambrose was also a Catechumen of this sort when he was chosen Bishop, the urgent necessity of which arose from the peculiar state and condition of the church of Milan, upon which the Arians were making inroads. Under other and ordinary circumstances the apostle Paul forbids a novice or Catechumen to be chosen to the office of a Bishop. (1 Tim. 3:6.) The νεόφυτος, spoken of by Paul, were those Catechumens who were not yet, or very lately had been baptized; for the Greek word, which in our translation is rendered a novice, according to its literal signification means a new plant; that is, a new hearer and disciple of the church. The other class of Catechumens included the small children of the church, or the children of Christian parents.  These children, very soon after their birth, were baptized, being regarded as members of the church, and after they had grown a little older they were instructed in the catechism, which having learned, they were confirmed by the laying on of hands and were dismissed from the class of Catechumens, and were then permitted, with those of riper years, to celebrate the Lord s Supper. Those who are desirous of seeing more in regard to these Catechumens, are referred to the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius, the tenth book, and latter part of the fourth chapter. Those who taught the catechism, or instructed these Catechumens, were called Catechists

 

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