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Scripture Memory: Rejoicing.

VERSE : Philippians 4:4 “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.”

 

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O Worship the LORD in the Beauty of Holiness

3 July 2016

8am & 11am: Worship Service

Rev Quek Keng Khwang (The Unstoppable God, Acts 12:1-25)

6:00 pm Evening Service

Rev Charles Seet (The Invited Guest at the Wedding, Jn 2:1-11)

10 July 2016

8am & 11am: Worship Service

Rev Lee Hock Chin (Called to Serve, Acts 13:1-5)

6:00 pm Evening Service

Rev Quek Keng Khwang (Believing Without Seeing, Jn 4:46-54)

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THE HISTORY OF CATECHIZING (Part 1)

By Rev Mark Chen

When I hear the term “catechism,” I think back to the time a school friend said he had to go for catechism class at the Diocesan school to be instructed in his faith. He was Roman Catholic. And so immediately, as a Protestant, I had a negative impression of the practice of catechism. And growing up in various non-denominational churches, I thought the practice of catechism was a man-made guide to faith, and hence useless to true faith which was founded on the Bible alone. To me, it represented dead orthodoxy.

However, I have come to realize that catechism, as a practice, was something very biblical. The term catechizing, itself, is a Greek word, being derived from katêcheô which means “to sound against.” This word is used seven times in the New Testament and it refers to oral instruction. This is seen in Luke 1:3-4, where the Evangelist addresses the recipient of this Gospel – “It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, that thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.”

The root of this word “instructed” is the word katêcheô. It is taken from two Greek words – kata which means “against” and echo which means “sound.” It gives the idea of someone sounding out ideas against someone else – where one speaks and the other listens, who then is able to echo back what has been spoken. It is oral instruction, but more than simple oral instruction, it later came to refer to an instruction by means of question and answer.

Before the completion of the New Testament canon, the teachings of Christ and the Apostles would have been imparted orally. And in the early church when literacy was not widespread, those converted into Christianity would have been instructed in this manner. It was to ensure that the truths of the Bible were drummed into the minds of the new believers. It was not just preaching or teaching, but it was a systematic instruction. Believers were instructed until they could repeat what was taught.

It proved so useful that a catechetical school was founded in Alexandria in the late 2nd century AD. Church Fathers who advocated this kind of instruction were Clement and Origen, who began their celebrated careers first as catechists in the Alexandrian school. The first catechisms were constructed as brief creeds and manuals of doctrine, and there were even catechetical material for several books of the Bible, not unlike Bible study guides.

But the first person to use the word “catechism” in conjunction with this kind of question and answer instruction was St. Augustine. In his Catechizing of the Uninstructed, he teaches people how to go about doing catechism. Aside from Augustine, many of his contemporaries placed great importance on this kind of instruction – it was an effective way of fulfilling the Great Commission of Christ to His disciples, in teaching all that He had commanded.

It was through schools like these that summaries of doctrines were produced and handed down to succeeding generations. This was how the church grew and Christians were instructed. However, an important event in Church history led to the decline of catechetical instruction. That event was when Christianity was made the official religion of the Roman Empire. Now, one might ask why this would have sounded the death knell to catechism. There were several contributing factors.

In AD 312, when the Roman Emperor Constantine appeared to have converted to Christianity, his Edict of Milan in AD 314 made Christianity the official religion in the Roman Empire. And thus, during this time church schools sprung up all over the empire – a good thing. But when Constantine died, his nephew Julian succeeded him. This new emperor rejected Christianity (he was called Julian the Apostate) and in AD 362, Julian decreed that no teacher could continue to teach in those schools without government approval. But providence would have it that he died the next year at war. And his decree was revoked. However, this did not stop the decline of the practice.

One might ask how the legalizing of Christianity diminished catechetical instruction. It happened in this manner. When Christianity was legalized, hoards of barbarous nations to the north of Rome mass converted. Such conversions, of course, were often false. And along with the “conversion,” they brought with them their superstitions and own beliefs. These, intermingled with the true doctrines of Christianity, soon formed a syncretistic and mixed religion, which would pass as Christianity for the next millennium, but could be hardly called true Christianity.

And so, as the Church grew in its heresy and subsequent ungodliness, rituals and superstition replaced instruction – hence, there was little need and requirement in the Church’s eyes, to continue with this practice, and it died down among the general populace. It is no surprise why this age in history is called the Dark Ages. Fraught with intrigue and immorality, the Church declined in its moral influence over the people, and hence the people continued to nurse their depravity. However, it stands out clearly during this time, that wherever this instruction continued to be adhered, Christianity and holiness flourished. These pockets of true Christianity were few, but were the catalyst for Reformation; they were the Waldenses, the Albigenses, the Hussites, and the Lollards. These groups kept the practice of catechizing alive in the midst of apostasy and error. The Lollards, especially, are credited for establishing the form for all major modern Reformed catechisms; in them we trace the earliest of Protestant catechisms. Called A Fruitful Mirror of Small Handbook for Christians, it was written in 1470 and made available to many heads of homes to catechize their family members.

These pockets of Christianity jump started the Reformation. And with the Reformation, catechetical instruction came back with a vengeance. Martin Luther is often regarded as the father of Protestant catechisms. And it was he that not only wrote the very first Reformation catechism, but also explained the uses of such catechisms as well as explained the motivation for using them. Luther wrote two catechisms: the Large (1530) and the Small. He instructed that “it is the duty of every father of a family to question and examine his children and servants at least once a week and to ascertain what they know of it, or are learning and, if they do not know it, to keep them faithfully at it.”

As the Father of the Reformed tradition, John Calvin also produced his own catechism. The Genevan Catechism (1541) underwent two revisions, and was written in order to set a basic pattern of doctrine, which would affirm the major doctrines of the faith, and would set a pattern for what was expected to be taught by Christian fathers and other teachers of children in the Church.

In fact, in the latter half of the 16th and first half of the 17th centuries, many catechisms were written. The great leaders of the Reformation all attacked the colossal ignorance of the Christian faith in their own countries by way of catechisms. The Genevan Catechism was framed for the French speaking Reformed churches, the Heidelberg Catechism was framed for the German Reformed churches (which was then translated into Flemish and other languages), the Basel Catechism for the Helvetic Reformed Church, the Westminster Catechism for the English and Scottish Reformed churches, etc.

But the region which produced the greatest number of Reformed catechisms was Great Britain. As one historian quotes, “It may be said, without exaggeration, of the catechisms framed on the system of the doctrinal Puritans, and published in England between the years 1600 and 1645, that their name is Legion.” Richard Baxter, the great Puritan pastor, wrote in 1656, “How many scores, if not hundreds, of catechisms are written in England.”

But it was not so much the number of catechisms that the Reformers in Scotland and England were concerned about; it was the actual practice of catechizing. This can be seen in some of the admonitions by ministers and by councils. The Westminster Directory of Family Worship states that families should spend time “reading of the scriptures, with catechizing in a plain way, that the understandings of the simpler may be the better enabled to profit under the public ordinances…” And not only would catechism be done at home, but also at church. The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland instructed that each church should have two services – the first service consisting of worship and preaching, and the second would consist of worship and catechizing (of the young and ignorant).

This practice of both public and private catechism bolstered the spirituality of the Reformed churches in Scotland and England, yea, even the populace. Both countries could rightly be called Christian nations And with the emigration to the Americas, confessing Reformed churches were founded in the New World. These brought with them Puritan ethics and the vital practice of catechism, making America a Christian nation.

(To be continued)

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GOSPEL SUNDAY

Date: 31st July 2016    Time: 8 am & 11 am

Topic: “The Unchanging Christ in a Changing World”

Speakers:   Rev Peter Tan (English Service)

Rev Kew See Seong (Mandarin/Cantonese)

Members are encouraged to invite their friends and relatives.

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CMI SEMINAR

Topic: QUESTION EVOLUTION! ARE YOU READY FOR ANSWERS?
Speaker: Dr Mark Harwood
Date: 23 July 2016 (Saturday)
Time: 9.30am – 2.30pm  (Lunch provided)
Venue: Beulah Centre MPH
On-line registration:
http://www.lifebpc.com/cmi-seminar

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ERBL LECTURES (JUL-NOV 2016)

 

Day                         Time                 Course   Lecturer

Mon              7.30 - 9.30 pm    New Age, Cults & Occults           Rev Dr Jack Sin

Tue               10 - 12.00 pm     Unfolding Drama of Redemption           Rev Ho Chee Lai

Wed              10 - 12.00 pm     Epistles of Peter    Rev Isaac Ong

Thu               10 - 12.00 pm     Missions      Rev Jack Sin

      7.30 - 9.30 pm                    Revelation  Rev Ho Chee Lai

Fri 10 - 12.00 pm                     The Pentateuch     Rev Charles Seet

Lectures begin on 11 Jul 16. Please complete registration forms and place them in the box, together with payment. 

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1) Scripture Memory Verse Review No. 2.  Please submit by today.

2) Catechism Class for Anniversary Baptism on 16 Oct 2016 commences on 10 Jul 16 at Beulah Centre Rm 2-1, 9.40am. Please pre-register by emailing church office or filling up the form available at the front counter. Those seeking baptism, reaffirmation of faith and transfer of membership must attend the catechism class. Closing date: tomorrow.

3) Coffee Corner. 3 more helpers required at 8.30 am. Please contact Daniel Phang .

4) Musicians are needed for vigil services. Please contact Daniel Phang . 

5) Our condolences to Bro Lim Seng Hoo & family on the demise of his brother, Lim Seng Chiang (57 yrs old) on 30 Jun 16. Funeral will be held today at 2.30 pm by Rev Lee Hock Chin. The cortege will leave Fides Room, Church of St Theresa, 510 Kampong Bahru Road at 3:00 pm for a burial service at Choa Chu Kang Lawn Cemetery at 3:45 pm.

 

Preaching appt:  Rev Seet at Thai Service, 2.30 pm. Rev Wong in Batam. Rev Khoo at Chinese Evening BSF, 7.00 pm.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25