Each of these iCatechisms takes a slightly different angle, but let’s return to a question I’ve been posing: why take one angle and not another? Despite the differences between the three iCatechisms, there’s one thing they all have in common: they’re about belief. They’re like miniature systematic theologies. And although they attempt to depict ‘the Christian worldview’, they pretty much treat it as a matter of thinking. I reckon there’s a reason for this: they each assume, to some degree, that that’s exactly where faith begins: with a certain level of understanding, a certain amount of intellectual content. The story must be something we know before it can be something we live.
However, as I’ve suggested, this might not be the full story. Consider Jesus’ command: ‘Follow me.’ It’s a statement suggesting that faith can begin with obedience. It invites more questions: is faith actually more about doing than thinking? As the apostle James says: don’t just listen to the word; do what it says. ‘Discipleship’ certainly involves learning, but the idea is to emulate or even embody your master, and acquiring knowledge or thinking in a particular way is just one part of that. ‘Christlikeness’ naturally includes thinking like Christ, but obviously can’t be separated from acting like Christ.
Belief and practice go together, but each of the iCatechisms assumes you have to start with one and not the other. So — why not flip it around?
In the course of this series, I’ve raised two neglected themes: the life of the church and life in the Spirit. Both are impossible to address unless we start talking practice.
I wonder, is it worth rendering this in an ‘iCatechism’ format? Right now I don’t have time to develop this further, so I’m filing it for future use along with some more questions:
- What about an iCatechism based on one whole book of the Bible? Ephesians is Paul’s great rah-rah speech to the nations who are now invited to share in the Father’s promise with the Jewish people. This combined community is the unveiling of an ancient mystery: a new humanity united under Jesus the Christ. ‘He himself is our peace.’ How will this come about? It is embodied in the unity of the church, where the Spirit is doing his work — Paul even says, ‘to him be glory in the church’. This is where people bear with one another in love, living lives of truth and service instead of deceit and greed. ‘Live as children of light… Be filled with the Spirit.’
- What about an iCatechism based on just one of the Gospels? None of the three iCatechisms are exactly gospels — for that, look to the Four Gospels themselves. John Dickson has already paved the way on this, summing up Jesus in 12 categories, and using four of those categories in Christianity.net.au, a sort of iCatechism from 10 years ago.
- What about an iCatechism based on life in the Spirit? There are a number of potential angles here, like ‘faith, hope and love’, or the ninefold fruit. Langham’s study (part of the 9-a-day campaign) might be one place to start.
Arthur Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.