Teach Your Children Well

As the head of the family should teach them in a simple way to his household.

– Luther’s Small Catechism

And all Fathers, Mothers, Masters, and Mistresses, shall cause their Children, Servants, and Apprentices, who have not learned their Catechism, to come to the Church at the time appointed, and obediently to hear and to be ordered by the Minister, until such time as they have learned all that is here appointed for them to learn.

– U.S. Book of Common Prayer, Catechism, 1928

The duty of the head of the household is to teach the family the catechism of the church.  The catechism is not important in and of itself but is only insofar as it reflects the teaching of Scripture.  Fortunately, both Dr. Martin Luther and the catechism in the Book of Common Prayer are firmly rooted in Scripture.

Both catechisms focus on the ancient requirement that catechumens learn the Ten Commandments, the Apostle’s Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer.  The Ten Commandments are learned first to announce the law by which we have all fallen short.   The Apostle’s Creed and Lord’s Prayer are taught next to proclaim the good news that Christ has accomplished what the law requires.  In other words, law and Gospel.

It is important that fathers or the head of the household raise their children in the faith:

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

– Deuteronomy 6:4-7

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

– Ephesians 56:4

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

– Proverbs 2:6

At first glance, the Book of Common Prayer may appear to rest the responsibility of catechesis on the church, but let’s reexamine the wording of the relevant rubric more carefully:

And all Fathers, Mothers, Masters, and Mistresses, shall cause their Children, Servants, and Apprentices, who have not learned their Catechism, to come to the Church at the time appointed, and obediently to hear and to be ordered by the Minister, until such time as they have learned all that is here appointed for them to learn.

The requirement that children learn from the local minister is not a universal command, but is contingent on those who have failed to memorize and understand the contents of the prayer book catechism.  When the father or head of household neglect their duty to catechize their children only then are they are required to send their children to the church to be taught the catechism by the resident clergyman.  This implies that the preferred and expected scenario is one in which the father has taught his children the catechism.

Unfortunately, many Christian parents neglect their duty to God, the church, and their own children by failing to teach them the faith.  The Book of Common Prayer’s catechism can and should be used by families to train their children to become disciples of Christ.  Additionally, the 1928 U.S. Book of Common Prayer contains several flexible and easy-to-use condensed daily offices to teach doctrine, encourage Bible reading, and teach the faith.  This section is known as the “Forms of Prayer to be used in Families” at pages 587-600 of the 1928 BCP.  (I have submitted my slightly modernized version with expanded content from Bishop Edmund Gibson to the ACNA Liturgy Task Force for their consideration in including in the 2019 ACNA BCP project.  If this proposed text is beneficial, please let the Liturgy Task Force know by contacting them.).

Reviewing the catechism provides a solid Biblical and theological foundation for children.  Additionally, teaching the catechism ensures that the children can be confirmed as members of the church and begin receiving Holy Communion.  The catechesis of children provides them with a library of information they can rely upon as they grow in faith.  Likewise, when asked about their faith, such as “what is a sacrament,” they will have a ready answer: “an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace given unto us; ordained by Christ himself, as a means whereby we receive the same, and a pledge to assure us thereof.”  In theory, they will be able to draw upon the wisdom of the church and have an answer regarding the basic facts of Christianity.

Teaching the catechism can be tailored to suit a child’s age and learning level.  Beginning with regular family prayer and including the memorization of one of the Ten Commandments, reciting the Apostle’s Creed, and praying the Lord’s Prayer is a great start.  Over time, the Ten Commandments will be memorized and the Creed and Lord’s Prayer will become second nature.  After learning the Ten Commandments, the Creed and Lord’s Prayer provide more than enough material to review in detail.  The bite-size theology within the Creed and Lord’s Prayer can easily be expanded upon when explaining to children, much less adults.  Eventually, the theological meat of the rest of the catechism can be broached as children advance to school-age.

It is our duty to discipline, or disciple, our children in our faith.  If we truly believe that God has revealed His love for us sinners through His Son then we not only need to share this good news but raise our children to know and understand these facts.  The catechism is not merely a tool to disciple our children but also a requirement for those of us within Anglicanism.  As parents, we would not fail to educate our children as to hygiene, nutrition, or the sciences.  Why then should we neglect to teach them the riches, depth, and joy of God’s mercy in providing for our salvation and the redemption of the world?

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Reformation, Authority, Anglicanism, & the Home

On the eve of the 500th anniversary of Luther’s 95 Theses, we face the same question the Augustinian monk faced: authority. Be it a pope in the Vatican or a Baptist pronouncing truth as though he were pope Christians face the same question as to who, or what, is authoritative in the Christian life.

The Reformers answered the question by pointing to Scripture as the primary authority.  The English Reformation agreed that as it pertains to matters of salvation, sola scriptura wins the day. (Art. VI of 39 Articles of Religion).  The tradition of the church and church fathers were not discarded, as one can plainly read in the writings of the magisterial reformers and in the numerous citations to the church fathers in the Anglican two Books of Homilies.  Instead, the Reformers set the writings of the church fathers beneath the Scriptures to ensure that authority started and rested with the Word of God.

Unfortunately, contemporary Protestantism has forgotten the works of the Reformers and their actual teachings. Protestants today are typically more likely to read Scripture and interpret it as they subjectively feel and without any guidance of the church, much less ancient church fathers.  Shockingly, many denominations and their followers, have not the slightest idea about the confessions the Reformers subscribed to that detail their reformed or reforming Catholicism.

However, not everyone in Protestant circles have forgotten that Protestantism, at its best, is a reformed Catholic religion.  The Reforming Catholic Confession is an effort to demonstrate the highest common denominator of Protestant catholicity and is an effort to be commended, although certainly not a perfect exercise.

The lack of authority and trading in one pope in the Vatican for a dozen in every Bible study is not a uniquely Protestant problem, but a modern one.  The Bible study (or Christian denomination) that trades objective truth for “my truth” or “this is how I read/understand this passage” is not what the Reformers had in mind.  This stereotype serves as cannon fodder for Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic polemics (which ignores the same problem that infects both churches as well – this is a modern, cultural issues that does not limit itself to Protestant circles).

Indeed, the Anglican Communion has lost her way in holding to an authority that transcends the globe and unites multiple national churches behind a common belief.  In the spirit of the 500th anniversary of Luther’s 95 theses, the Anglican churches and her members must remember what unites them as Anglicans.  In order to do so, Anglicans must remember what makes them Anglican.

Ultimately, the basis of our rule of faith is the Holy Scriptures, with the Apocrypha included for the edification of the Christian but not as a source for doctrine.  This decision to include the Apocrypha as useful instruction but not for determining doctrine firmly lies within church history by relying on the church fathers.  Article VI of the Articles of Religion cite St. Jerome for this proposition.  The ultimate rule as to our salvation comes from Scripture alone. But what if the Scriptures are silent? Article XX explains that the church has the authority to determine rites and ceremonies in addition to determining controversies but the church must never contradict the ultimate authority of Holy Scripture.

Anglicans have another guide to walking and living life as reformed Catholics, namely the 39 Articles of Religion. They have been tossed aside to small print and behind the section “Historical Documents” in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer or used as a weapon by those with Genevan sympathies to erect a hardline Calvinism.  But the 39 Articles are a work of genius that were enacted in the Elizabethan settlement and walk in and out of the theologies of Geneva and Wittenburg with a solid foothold on historic catholic teaching.  I dare say the 39 Articles embody the essence of a reformed Catholicism with the insight of Luther, Calvin, and historic Christianity.  All the while without throwing any babies out of the bathwater.

The old saying is the rule of prayer is the rule of belief: lex orandi, lex credendi.  Enter the next guideline for Anglicans, the Book of Common Prayer.  The classical prayer book serves as the source for public worship for reformed Catholics in the Anglican tradition.  The abbreviated daily office (from seven to two offices) allow the laity to worship in a manner similar to the Rule of St. Benedict.  The Eucharist is restored to the laity and encouraged to be performed often.  And the Ordinal attached is the defining fence post for church leadership and the role of  ordained minsters.

Fortunately, the three “guideposts” defining Anglicanism: the Book of Common Prayer, 39 Articles, and Ordinal are all included within published versions of the Book of Common Prayer.  One can even purchase the Holy Scriptures (with Apocrypha) and Book of Common Prayer (with 39 Articles and the Ordinal) in one bound volume (see picture at top).

As it relates to family oratories, the primary authority of Scripture, followed by the guidance of the Book of Common Prayer, 39 Articles, and the Ordinal serve as the backbone of practicing reformed Catholicism in the home.  The 1928, 2003 REC, and to a lesser extent the ACNA Books of Common Prayer also have the benefit of including family prayers to guide family praise, worship, and petitions.  Additionally, the church catechism provide a succinct overview of the Christian faith and life easily digestible for children and adults alike.

Singing can also be accomplished through singing the Psalter included in the Book of Common Prayer.  Since plainsong, chant, or metrical tune is rare (but if you want to learn check this out), the authorized hymnal can provide the source for singing in a family context.  Indeed, hymnals with theologically rich songs serve as a lesser authority to the Anglican formularies outlined earlier, but nevertheless can support the mission of an oratory to disciple children and adults in the faith.

Finally, a forgotten “semi-guidepost”, are the two Books of Homilies.  These sermons were officially written by the Church of England and although several are dated, can still be useful in the home when teaching and useful for laity in understanding the church’s doctrine.  Although not on the same level as the Book of Common Prayer and Articles of Religion, Article XI cites directly to one of the homilies for a deeper understanding of the official position for Anglicans on justification by faith.  This homily (Homily on Salvation, but cited as Homily on Justification in Article XI) refutes the typical polemic that Protestants reject good works by explaining succinctly:

Faith alone, how it is to be understood. Nevertheless, this sentence, that we be justified by faith only, is not so meant of them, that the said justifying faith is alone in man, without true repentance, hope, charity, dread, and the fear of GOD, at any time and season. Nor when they say, That we be justified freely, they mean not that we should or might afterward be idle, and that nothing should be required on our parts afterward: Neither they mean not so to be justified without good works, that we should do no good works at all, like as shall be more expressed at large hereafter. But this saying, That we be justified by faith only, freely and without works, is spoken for to take away clearly all merit of our works, as being unable to deserve our justification at GODS hands, and thereby most plainly to express the weakness of man, and the goodness of GOD, the great infirmity of our selves, and the might and power of GOD, the imperfectness of our own works, and the most abundant grace of our Savior Christ, and therefore wholly to ascribe the merit and deserving of our justification unto Christ only, and his most precious blood shedding.

They that continue in evil living, have not true faith. For how can a man have this true faith, this sure trust and confidence in GOD, that by the merits of Christ, his sins be forgiven, and be reconciled to the favor of GOD, and to be partaker of the kingdom of heaven by Christ, when he lives ungodly, and denies Christ in his deeds? Surely no such ungodly man can have this faith and trust in GOD. For as they know Christ to be the only savior of the world: so they know also that wicked men shall not enjoy the kingdom of GOD. They know that GOD hates unrighteousness (Psalms 5.5-6), that he will destroy all those that speak untruly, that those which have done good works (which cannot be done without a lively faith in Christ) shall come forth into the resurrection of life, and those that have done evil, shall come unto the resurrection of judgement: very well they know also, that to them that be contentious, and to them that will not be obedient unto the truth, but will obey unrighteousness, shall come indignation, wrath, and affliction, &c.

The bottom line is a Christian must be governed and rooted in an authority, the question is who or what?  Although contemporary Protestantism, Anglicanism, and frankly Christians of all persuasions have deviated to following what their gut, emotions, or a bad piece of cheese (as C.S. Lewis puts it) provide, there are guideposts that fence-in the beliefs and interpretations of reformed Catholics. Families seeking such a guidepost for their own discipleship should look to the Anglican path as one that provides a number of resources and tools that are catholic and reformed in the best sense of both words, and both worlds.

Online BCP, Sermon, & Catechesis Resources

The Homely Hours has an excellent post compiling Book of Common Prayer Resources: https://thehomelyhours.com/2017/04/20/great-prayer-book-online-resources/

I also recommend the following Anglican resources:

iPray app: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/ipray-bcp/id431349318

Variety of BCPs across the Anglican Communion: http://justus.anglican.org/resources/bcp/

Sermons for Lay Readers: http://www.angelfire.com/sc3/kaysplace/

Lectionary Central: http://www.lectionarycentral.com/

Read the Fathers: http://readthefathers.org/calendar/

Two Books of Homilies: http://footstoolpublications.com/Homilies/index.htm

Compilation of Anglican Resources: http://www.anglican.net/

The Anglican Library: http://www.anglicanlibrary.org/

Anglican Books Revitalized: http://newscriptorium.com/

1928 Daily Office Updated Daily: http://commonprayer.org/

Prayer Book Society US Catechesis Project: http://www.pbsusa.org/catechesis-project/

ACNA Catechism: http://anglicanchurch.net/?/main/catechism