The great C.H. Spurgeon had the following to say about the Shorter Catechism:
'For my part, I am more and more persuaded that the study of a good Scriptural catechism is of infinite value to our children, and I shall see that it is reprinted as cheaply as possible for your use. Even if the youngsters do not understand all the questions and answers in the “Westminster Assembly’s Catechism,” yet, abiding in their memories, it will be of infinite service when the time of understanding comes, to have those very excellent, wise, and judicious definitions of the things of God. If we would maintain orthodoxy in our midst, and see good old Calvinistic doctrines handed down from father to son, I think we must use the method of catechising, and endeavour with all our might to impregnate their minds with the things of God'
Sadly today there are many who put little value on teaching the Catechism to children. Entertainment in the church has taken over from teaching, and one place where this can be seen is in the lack of systematic catechising of children. Yet the same can be said of many adults also. They have never acquainted themselves with the contents of the Shorter Catechism, something which surely goes some way to explaining the deficiency of theological knowledge in many believers. Over the past 18 months I have managed to memorise the answer to all 107 questions in the Shorter Catechism, and can confirm from personal experience that it has been of great benefit. We would recommend that all believers seek to master it's contents, and that Sunday School teachers teach them to the children under their influence. The advantages gained from learning the Shorter Catechism are considerable.
1. It provides a solid doctrinal foundation
The Shorter Catechism is never to be considered on a par with scripture. It does however provide a systematic summary of the main doctrinal truths that are found in the word of God. Doctrine today is derided by many, yet it is essential that we actually know what the bible teaches. The great truths of justification, sanctification and faith in Jesus Christ are clearly defined in the Shorter Catechism. If we do not have an understanding of the fundamental truths of our salvation, then our faith will have very shaky foundations. Our faith is not founded on feelings, emotions or experiences, but on doctrine.
2. It provides a defence against error
The greatest defence against error is to know the truth. How can we tell the counterfeit from the genuine if do not know the characteristics of that which is true? If we are well versed in the truths of God's word then we will be well guarded against the 'doctrines of devils' when they arise. The Shorter Catechism provides one of the finest summaries that there is of the reformed evangelical faith. How many people could have been prevented from following after false teachers and teaching if they had given the time to study and master it's contents.
3. It will draw us closer to God
The Shorter Catechism does not simply teach dry doctrine but many of the questions also give guidance for how we are to conduct ourselves in our Christian life, and how God would have us live. Much of the Catechism is given over to what is both required and prohibited in the 10 Commandments. Another significant portion focuses on the Lord's Prayer. To know who God is, to know of what he has done for us, and to know what he requires of us in living for him will surely help us to walk closer with him. All of this is answered in the Shorter Catechism.
4. It is based on scripture
Although the Shorter Catechism is a document produced by man, and never to be considered infallible, it is soundly based on the word of God. A good copy of the Catechism will provide scripture references for every question and show that although it was written by man, the Catechism is soundly based on the teaching of God's holy word. So much of what is written today by professed theologians has little or no basis in the word of God. The great benefit of the Shorter Catechism lies in how it is based on the Bible.
5. It is easy to learn!
Is it? All 107 questions? When we consider that there are 196 questions in the Larger Catechism, when we consider the length of the Westminster Confession of Faith, when we consider the hefty volumes of systematic theology produced over the centuries, we have to say yes, it is easy to learn. Many young people have memorised it by their mid teenage years. Should it then be beyond us? Most of the questions and answers are very short, indeed the longest are still only a few lines.The greatest challenge is not so much the memorisation, but the will power to complete the task.
Get into the Shorter Catechism and start learning it today and you will surely reap the benefits.
An online version of the Shorter Catechism, along with scripture proofs is available here