Throwback Thursday: T.F. Torrance on the Goal of Catechesis

Throwback Thursday3Last night at Trace Crossing, we resumed our Wednesday night equipping classes. For the past year, I’ve been leading students through The Lighthouse Catechism, an adaptation of a few Reformation era catechisms. Catechesis is a proven historical method for instructing children and adults in Christian doctrine. It has been an effective and fruitful method for us at Trace Crossing as well. One girl last night remembered 14 out of 22 questions we learned last semester even though she hadn’t practiced at all over the summer. The beauty of catechesis is that through memorization, rich biblical truth is planted in the mind.

There are many reasons I believe in catechesis as a preferred method of teaching Christian doctrine to children. But the purpose of catechesis is summarized best by T.F. Torrance. In the following excerpt, Torrance describes the aim of the Reformation-era catechisms, which reflects the aim of The Lighthouse Catechism being used in Tupelo, MS in 2016.

The aim of the catechism is to give a comprehensive exposition of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the context of the whole Counsel of God and the whole life of the people of God. They sow the seed that germinates in the soil, brings forth living fruit, and provides good grain for use in the next generation. They shape the mind of the historical Church, building up its understanding of the Faith and directing its growth and development so that throughout all its changes from age to age it ever remains the same Household and Habitation of God built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the chief cornerstone…the Catechism is designed, not for the self-expression and self-culture of a particular Church, but to serve the Communion of Saints, so that all who use it may worship one God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and he schooled in one Faith in the unity of the whole Church of God past and present. (T.F. Torrance, The School of Faith: The Catechisms of the Reformed Church, xi)

The aim of the Reformation-era catechisms was to clearly teach and explain the gospel and to serve the saints with worship as the great end. That’s exactly why I prepared The Lighthouse Catechism and that’s exactly why we teach it at Trace Crossing–so our people will hear the gospel, know the gospel, and worship the God of the gospel. Glad-hearted worship of God in Christ is the aim of catechesis.


Mathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is Associate Pastor for Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is the author of Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (Westbow Press, 2016). He is a M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew is married to his high school sweetheart, Erica. Mathew and Erica live in Tupelo with their son, Jude. You can follow him on Twitter @mat_gilbert.

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