Nathan W. Bingham
Connecting in a Hyper-Connected World

The Westminster Divines on Catechetical Methodology

Michael Ives recently posted an interesting extract from the published minutes showing the Westminster Divines discussing catechetical methodology:

Rutherford ‘—on objections—(l.) It is said the Apostles did not use such a way. I think they did. “Is then the Law of God of none effect ?” is a sort of sample question from the Apostolic Catechism. (2.) It takes away the proper work of the minister. Denied. ‘There is as much art in catechising as in anything in the world. It may be doubted, whether every minister do understand the most dextrous way of doing it.’  Marshall hesitated a little about adhering, too formally, to the bare question-and-answer method of the Catechism.  Bridge: ‘Two ends of catechising: increase of knowledge and test of knowledge. For the first there must be explication of the terms of divinity—redemption, etc., must be first explained. For the test of their knowledge it is better that answers should be made by sentences than by aye and no.’  Gillespie: ‘This is a profitable discourse, which is the best way of catechising. I like the form—capital questions by themselves, and particular questions by aye and no. When we were lately in Scotland, we had occasion to speak of this way, and showed them the example of it, and they all liked it very well.’  Dr. Gouge: ‘Ministers are physicians; they must observe the patient.’ Herle : ‘I would have aye and no to be expressed, but not distinct. It should be the first word of the answer.’ Seaman: ‘There are two things before us: about a catechism, and about catechising. It is a little too much to prescribe to the minister this form or that.’ Reynolds: ‘We all agree that way which is most for ingenerating knowledge is to most to be used—but I do not see that this way before us is the best.” Delmy: ‘A catechism is for propounding knowledge in the most familiar manner, and to find out the measure of the knowledge of the party. The experience of the Reformed churches is to be considered.’ Palmer : ‘You must consider others as well as children.’