January 17, 2014

Baptists rethinking catechisms

This joke may be the most famous in all of Baptist humor.

While crossing a high bridge, a traveler encounters a distressed man who is poised to jump. The first man asks the second if he is religious and a Christian. The suicidal man answers "yes" to both. Catholic or Protestant? The jumper says, "Protestant." And, as it turns out, both men are Baptists.

"Are you Baptist Church of God or Baptist Church of the Lord?" The second man, in a classic version of this joke found at the Ship of Fools website, replies: "Baptist Church of God."

"Me too. Are you original Baptist Church of God, or are you Reformed Baptist Church of God?" Second man: "Reformed Baptist Church of God."

"Me too. Are you Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1879, or Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1915?" Second man: "Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1915."

So the first Baptist pushes the second to his death, shouting: "Die, heretic scum!"

The amazing thing is that they didn't even get to fight about biblical inerrancy, the first chapter of Genesis or the precise details of the Second Coming of Christ.

For centuries, Baptists have had their share of arguments about doctrine and church life, and they cherish their approach to the "priesthood of all believers" and the authority of every local congregation.

As the old saying goes, put two Baptists on an island and you will soon have the First Baptist Church of the Deserted Island and the Second Baptist Church of the Deserted Island.

Thus, it's interesting that some educators, on the Baptist left and right, now believe that it's time for modern Baptists to use an ancient tool -- the catechism -- in their struggles against rising levels of biblical and doctrinal illiteracy. Catechisms are short documents written in a simple, question-and-answer format to help children and new believers learn the basics of the faith.

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