Catechism

In my ongoing religious studies, mainly of Catholicism, I decided to do something interesting. I signed up for an online class at a place called CatechismClass.com. It is, so they advertise, basically what you would get from an RCIA instruction. There is only so much you can get from a study Bible, this certainly does a large amount of filling in blanks. It was pretty cheap too, $57! The lessons offered follows:

 

Funny, about the only thing I knew about this religion a year ago or so I learned from The Exorcist! I just bought the course last night and will not even get into it until next weekend. However, I did do a cursory look over. And here are a few observations.

Something similar to this is required if you wish to join the Catholic church. It takes about a year from what I read. This is way different from my family’s church (if you want to call it that, I remember going to Bible camp once, and church once when I was very young) of Lutheranism. You don’t have to do jack to be a Lutheran. There are no classes required, although most have them if you wish. You go to church on Sunday (if ya wanna) take a nap, go home, never go again, whatever.

There is a whole detailed process for Catholics. After a year or so of going to RCIA classes (if you are an adult, it is different for children) you have a whole other process where you get confirmed during Easter. Something like that, I just glanced that over!

And the stuff you have to keep track of. There are daily readings in something called a Lectionary. There are daily observations, feasts and fasts, for an endless array of saints. There are a litany of prayers, something called the Rosary – which I thought were merely beads that priests used in excising demons from hapless little girls. As is shown above there is a bunch of sacraments and then there is a bunch of stuff they do at Mass (which I guess is the equivalent of what Lutherans do on Sunday, but probably more formal).

Holy moly, makes the head spin.

I was kind of disappointed to read one thing. One of the teaching tools they use is a reference work called the Baltimore Catechism. In it I came across the following:

Q. 345. How many years passed from the time Adam sinned till the time the Redeemer came?

A. About 4,000 years passed from the time Adam sinned till the time the Redeemer came.

Usually I am quite comfortable with how Catholicism handles a lot of these issues. But 4,000 years? From the first man, Adam, to Jesus Christ? Sorry, not going all Evolution! on anyone, but 4,000 years don’t fly. No way. Unless someone wants to claim the people of Sumer, for instance, were not human. That is just a civilization that attained enough size to be known to us.

But other than that, this is very fascinating.


8 responses to “Catechism

  • Darrell

    You might also find The Living God (http://www.amazon.com/Living-God-Catechism-Christian-Volumes/dp/0881410403/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1379939508&sr=8-1&keywords=the+living+god) to be of interest to you. You can think of this two-volume set as an Orthodox Christian home study catechism.

    The above mentioned book might be worthwhile reading as while I am not an expert on Roman Catholicism, at an axiomatic level it is very similar to Orthodox Christianity. Where they differ is that Roman Catholicism has added a few axioms (or, to their POV, Orthodox Christianity has rejected a few axioms) and this has led the traditions to either eventually arrive at different locations on several theological points or to place emphasis on them differently.

    Also, I believe that the Baltimore Catechism is an American precursor of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), which is the catechism that most Roman Catholics seem to quote. A point that many Roman Catholics seem to miss (and the same can be said of the far less formalized approach of Orthodox Christianity) is that whatever catechism is being discussed, it contains a significant amount of theological speculation (theologoumenon) that could be confused for dogma. The number of years between Adam and Jesus Christ has not been dogmatized by Roman Catholicism nor Orthodox Christianity — even Adam as a historical individual is not dogmatic.

    • bensira587

      Hi Darrell,

      Thanks for the suggestion. I do plan on studying the differences after I tackle the giant beast that is Catholicism. I can almost see why some people are attracted to the hokey community churches that require almost nothing of their parishioners in act or understanding. You could spend a lifetime studying Catholicism, and perhaps the same could be said of the Orthodox.

      However I do not even know what you mean by differences on an axiomatic level. I know what an axiom is and how it functions in philosophy, but I’m afraid my ignorance of Catholicism and the Orthodox is complete enough to render my understanding nil.

      I did notice that the Baltimore Catechism was originally published in 1890 something, and that predates a lot of archeological and anthropological findings. I am assuming you are saying that since it is not dogma, it is not required for a Catholic to believe. I have the CCC, and it makes no definitive statement as to dates about early man. I believe also the Baltimore Catechism was designed for children of a certain age since the questions and the answers are quite simplistic and usually in the form of assertions. I also assume it was part of a curriculum that had a wider frame of context. At least I hope.

      • Darrell

        By axiom I mean a statement accepted as true for the basis of argument or inference; a postulate. I will provide a bit of context to my explication as I’m not certain of your understanding of the storied history of Christianity. Relatively early on there were two schisms that left us with three significant Churches that all have a non-conspiratorial, historical claim to be the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church established by Jesus Christ. Those Churches are what are typically referred to as the Oriental Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Eastern Orthodox Church.

        The Oriental Orthodox schismed from the Church over the nature of Jesus Christ. At the time there were two competing understandings of Jesus Christ: Eutychianism (monophysitism) and Nestorianism (dyophysitism). Eutychianism or monophysitism held that Jesus Christ was of one nature (divine) while Nestorianism or dyophysitism held that Jesus Christ was of two natures (divine and human). The ecumenical Council of Chalcedon (451) ruled that dyophysitism was correct WHEN understood as a union of Christ’s humanity and divinity in one hypostasis – two natures but one subsistence. What became the Oriental Orthodox Church (non-Chalcedonian) took this to mean that their brethren had accepted the heresy of Nestorianism and communion was broken, while the Chalcedonians (everyone else) took the break in communion to mean that their brethren had accepted the heresy of Eutychianism. Neither actually properly understood one another’s position (much like the interminable debate between Mr. Wright and Dr. Andreassen) and I would not be surprised if within the next fifty years the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox re-enter into communion with one another.

        If you’ve read this far you are probably wondering why I bring this all up. The above is what I meant by an axiom. You can’t arrive at the theology of Roman Catholicism or Orthodox Christianity if you hold to the axioms of Eutychianism or Nestorianism. This brings us to the schism between Roman Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity.

        If you begin looking at the East-West Schism of 1054 you will usually run into something called the Filioque – the addition of “and (from) the son” to the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed by what became the Roman Catholic Church. It is the addition this phrase that many Roman Catholics think of as the fundamental issue that caused the schism, and they are correct in that but yet are missing the forest for the trees. What this means is that the Orthodox Christian Church believes that the Filioque is theologically unsound (similar to the monophysitism/dyophysitism issue) but more importantly the Orthodox Christian Church holds it unlawful HOW the Filioque was inserted into the Creed – the Pope lacks the authority to act as an Ecumenical Council of one.

        It is axiomatic within the Roman Catholic Church that the Pope has supremacy over all of the other bishops. His authority is greater than all other bishops and he can declare dogma and otherwise act as a general or even local council of one. The Roman Catholic Church then can be regarded as monarchial.

        It is axiomatic within the Orthodox Christian Church that while the Pope has primacy over all of the other bishops his authority is no greater than that of any other bishop (all bishops hold equal authority) and dogma can only be declared via Ecumenical Council. The Orthodox Christian Church can then be held as conciliar.

        So what does this mean? This means that aside from Papal Supremacy, Orthodox Christianity holds all of the dogmatic beliefs that the now Roman Catholic Church held until 1054. This is why sometimes Roman Catholics will refer to the Orthodox Christian Church as the primitive Church. Some of the interpretation of the dogmas shared between Orthodox Christianity and Roman Catholicism changed over time because Roman Catholicism tends to look at dogma through the lens of St. Thomas Aquinas (1225 – 1274) and because Roman Catholicism has so many more dogmatic pronouncements than Orthodox Christianity – as an example, Roman Catholicism acknowledges 21 Ecumenical Councils versus the 7 recognized by Orthodox Christianity – and each of these dogma have to be understood within the context of all of the others.

        Hopefully I have not unduly bored you.

        • bensira587

          No, you did not bore me at all, thank you very much for such a detailed response. That does clarify what an axiom means in this context.

          My knowledge of the history of Christianity is, apparently, worse than I thought. On the one hand if you mention the Council of Nicaea, I will know what you are talking about; on the other I didn’t even know the Oriental Orthodox Church existed.

          I assume most of the schisms and heretical controversies would center on some axiom or other then?

          • dpmoring

            Depends on what you mean. Heresy is one of those concepts that is often thrown around without much thought. As you are aware, the purpose of Ecumenical Councils is to define dogma — so really theological opinion is not heretical when taught until an Ecumenical Council settles a theological dispute that has bearing on the dispute. Even then, a disagreement with an Ecumenical Council is not heretical unless you teach it in awareness that you are teaching counter to Church dogma. Also, if a former Christian rejects Christianity then they would be an apostate, not a Christian. Thus even if, for example, Mr. Wright were correct about Islam it would not be a heresy but a separate religion founded by an apostate.

            Schisms are where two groups lose communion with one another because they do not accept one another’s Church authority. Thus Roman Catholicism views Orthodox Christianity as schismatic. Orthodox Christianity conversely views Roman Catholicism as schismatic _and_ heretical.

            Dogma is revealed truth defined by the Church through Ecumenical Council. All dogma within the Orthodox Christian Church can be found in St. John Damascene’s EXACT EXPOSITION OF THE ORTHODOX FAITH (http://www.amazon.com/Writings-Knowledge–Philosophical-Chapters-Heresies/dp/1470149249/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1380659500&sr=8-1&keywords=%27Writings%3A+The+Fount+of+Knowledge).

            Dogma can be viewed as lighthouses or navigation buoys. They are things that you must believe to avoid falling prey to false beliefs and drift away from God’s revealed truth into dangerous error.

  • taichiwawa

    One of history’s ironies is that the individual responsible for really turbo-charging the progress of Christianity in Western culture, i.e., Constantine, called the Council of Nicea to resolve the issue of Arianism and while the council sided against the Arians, Constantine was baptized on his deathbed by Eusebius, an Arian (who had, nevertheless, nominally acquiesced to the Nicene decision).

  • We Now (Slowly) Return You to Our Regularly Scheduled Programming | R.J. Wizard

    […] At the end of this course you get a certificate and I think I would be prouder of this one than any other. They also added a level two which is more generally theological/philosophical. The course curriculum for level 1 is here. […]

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