- Book Reviews
- About me
Welcome to the online home of Tim Challies, blogger, author, and book reviewer.
Grounded in the Faith
August 13, 2013
Catechism. Even worse, catechesis. These were words that once struck fear into my heart, or if not fear, dread at least. Whatever the emotion, I have had an uneven history with catechisms. I was catechized as a child and as a teen. This involved memorizing questions and answers from the Heidelberg Catechism, then standing before a minister and a class of fellow students to recite what I had learned. “What is your only comfort in life and death?” he would ask. And I would recite, “That I am not my own, but belong in body and soul, both in life and death, to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ…”
It is only in adult life that I came to appreciate those Tuesday evenings at the church and those Tuesday afternoons on the school bus, trying desperately to cram those answers into my brain. And it is only more recently still that I came to understand that catechesis is not so much about memorization and rote recital as it is about systematic instruction. Catechizing a child does not demand memorization and recitation, though these may be helpful, but it does demand systematic instruction. The Heidelberg Catechism is not a book to be memorized as much as it is a well-rounded and systematic exposition of the Christian life that is meant to be understood so it may in turn be applied. I am convinced that somewhere, somehow, those classes from long ago are somehow manifesting themselves in my life today.
Catechizing has fallen out of favor in most Christian traditions and we are undoubtedly the worse for it. Just a few years ago J.I. Packer offered this perspective, this challenge: “Where wise catechesis has flourished, the church has flourished. Where it has been neglected, the church has floundered.”
Grounded in the Faith is a new tool for catechesis, that is, for laying a consistent, systematic groundwork for the Christian life. Kenneth Erisman, its author, writes, “The aim of this book is to see the church flourish for the glory of God. We are convinced that by designing this guide to be user-friendly but at the same time keeping Reformation depth, followers of Christ will have a transferable tool to become grounded in the faith.”
Indeed, they will. In three levels (sections) and twenty-four chapters, Erisman advances from the elementary doctrines of the Christian faith (justification, sanctification, overcoming sin and temptation, and the importance of Scripture) to level two (the inspiration of Scripture, prayer, guidance and the will of God, and the Trinity) and finally to level three (the humanity and divinity of Jesus Christ, perseverance and assurance, the attributes of God and the mystery of God’s sovereignty).
Each chapter follows a consistent format of listen (read a short lesson), absorb (pause and think) and interact (answer questions of comprehension and application). Every chapter concludes with a section geared toward cultivating spiritual habits such as Scripture reading, praying and memorizing Scripture. It is all packaged in an attractive and contemporary paperback workbook format.
But I know you have a greater concern than the format and layout. You want to know about the teaching. The author gave a hint earlier when he wrote of “Reformation depth.” Erisman sticks very closely to the doctrine of the Reformation. You can get a good sense of where he goes from the list of sources cited and the list of endorsers. For example, in his discussion of the Trinity he relies primarily on James White with several hat tips to Wayne Grudem, while in two chapters on the sovereignty of God, he cites John Piper, Louis Berkhof, and John Flavel while tracking very closely with R.C. Sproul. Meanwhile, the book carries endorsements from Jerry Bridges (who calls it “an outstanding tool” for discipleship), Bruce Waltke, Sam Storms and Joni Eareckson Tada.
Grounded in the Faith is a book you will find useful for one-on-one or group discipleship or, dare I say it, catechesis. It is a book parents may want to use with their children. It is a book for mature believers to go through with and beside new Christians. It is one for pastors to stock up on. It is, as Sam Storm says, “discipleship as it was meant to be: God-centered, Christ-exalting, and solidly grounded in the authority of Holy Scripture.” I am excited about it and give it my highest recommendation.
You may like to learn more by downloading an excerpt.
Grounded in the Faith