5 Reasons You Need the Westminster Shorter Catechism

Here are five reasons I consider this catechism worth engaging today

“Of course there are plenty of other documents that can help with this study. It’s likewise true the Shorter Catechism goes a bit beyond the core on some matters. Nevertheless, the first 38 questions and answers offer a succinct, clear, and heartwarming summary of central Christian beliefs.”

 

My first encounter with the Westminster Shorter Catechism was in a church membership class. I was 18 years old and had recently become a Christian. While I told the pastor I found reading it helpful, I didn’t imagine using it much afterward.

How wrong I was! Thirteen years later, I continually find the Shorter Catechism helpful in my Christian walk and ministry.

Here are five reasons I consider this catechism worth engaging today.

1. The catechism gives a helpful summary of core beliefs. 

In Romans 12 Paul urges Christians to “present their bodies as a living sacrifice” (v. 1). When done in view of God’s mercy, this is an act of “spiritual worship” (v. 2). Among other things, this teaching seems to imply that grasping God’s mercy in both our mind and heart is essential to authentic Christian living. Before we live a gospel-shaped, Christ-exalting life, we must have a firm grip on gospel truth.

Of course there are plenty of other documents that can help with this study. It’s likewise true the Shorter Catechism goes a bit beyond the core on some matters. Nevertheless, the first 38 questions and answers offer a succinct, clear, and heartwarming summary of central Christian beliefs.

Do you want a firmer grip on central Christian truths? Are you looking for a resource that can help you teach these doctrines to others? If so, engaging with the Shorter Catechism is worth it.

2. The catechism rightly views salvation as past, present, and future.

The story goes that an eager evangelist got on a train and asked the man sitting opposite him: “Are you saved?” The other replied, “I am, I am being, and I will be.” Somewhat puzzled at this response, the evangelist tried again: “You don’t understand. Are you saved?” The other man simply reiterated his first answer: “I am, I am being, and I will be.” The other man was Charles Spurgeon.

I’m not sure whether this story is authentic or not, but it illustrates a vital point. It’s easy to misconstrue salvation as merely something that happened when I became a Christian, thus overlooking its present and future dimensions.

Here, too, the catechism can help us when it talks about ongoing salvation, stressing how believers are renewed in God’s image and increasingly enabled to slay sin and live in holiness (Answer 35). The catechism teaches about future salvation, too, pointing us to the day when believers will be “perfectly blessed, in the full enjoying of God to all eternity” (Answer 38).

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