Archive Authors E.J. Hutchinson Reformed Irenicism

Why Is Catechesis Used in the Church? (Part 1)

About the image with this post: I just had to share. I was shocked to find that such a game actually exists.

Chytraeus’ last question before he moves on to the loci proper draws forth a lengthy answer from him, so I will break it up into a couple of parts. In the last installment we looked at what catechesis itself is; now he wants to explain what its utility is in the church and in general. When students know that they are going to be quizzed on something, especially orally, they pay closer attention, and when they know that they are to answer in a given form of words, they learn to be precise and to take note of the details. In the church in particular, Chytraeus finds this method helpful for giving confession of one’s faith. Christians (and others) have long known of this method’s advantages, and so it was applied (not invented) by Christians in the early church to pass on the faith once delivered. This is one of many areas in which Christians found something useful in classical culture and pedagogy and borrowed it for their own purposes.

Propter quas caussas CATECHESIS, hoc est, talis forma institutionis, quae sit per examen in Ecclesia usurpatur? Seu, Quae sunt utilitates Examinum in genere?

Examina augent in discentibus diligentiam, intentionem animi, & curam recte & integre discendi ea, quae proponuntur, cum sciunt sibi ea, quae audiverunt, in examine reddenda esse. Deinde in ecclesia necesse est singulos homines edere confessionem suae fidei. Ideo in primitiva ecclesia instituebantur Examina, in quibus Catechumeni, priusquam in ecclesiam per baptismum reciperentur, testari seu confiteri solebant, se veram doctrinam de Christo, amplecti. Inde examen in ceremonijs baptismi reliquum est. Pertinet etiam ad fidelitatem Pastorum & docentium in Ecclesia, scire quid intelligant, quomodo proficiant discentes.

For what reasons is catechesis, that is, the form of instruction that takes place through examination by question and answer, taken up in the Church? Or, What are the uses of the question-and-answer format in general?

Examinations by question and answer increase in students their diligence, the application of the mind, and the care for learning correctly and wholly those things that are put before them, since they know that they must give as answers the things that they have heard in response to [the instructor’s] questions [in examine reddenda esse]. Next, in the church it is necessary that each and every man give a confession of his faith. For that reason examinations by question and answer were instituted in the primitive church, in which catechumens, before they could be received into the church through baptism, were accustomed to bear witness or to confess that they understood the true doctrine concerning Christ. Thence we have inherited the custom of an examination in the ceremonies of baptism. It pertains also to the faithfulness of pastors and teachers in the church to know what students understand, [and to know] how they are progressing.

By E.J. Hutchinson

E.J. Hutchinson is Assistant Professor of Classics at Hillsdale College.