Friday, January 04, 2013

The New City Catechism: Analysis Part 3

Westminster Shorter Catechism

Q9. What is the work of creation?
A. The work of creation is, God’s making all things of nothing, by the word of his power, in the space of six days, and all very good.

Q10. How did God create man?
A. God created man male and female, after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, with dominion over the creatures.

Westminster Larger Catechism:

Q15. What is the work of creation?
A. The work of creation is that wherein God did in the beginning, by the word of his power, make of nothing the world, and all things therein, for himself, within the space of six days, and all very good.

Q. 16. How did God create angels?
A. God created all the angels spirits, immortal, holy, excelling in knowledge, mighty in power, to execute his commandments, and to praise his name, yet subject to change.

Q17. How did God create man?
A. After God had made all other creatures, he created man male and female; formed the body of the man of the dust of the ground, and the woman of the rib of the man, endued them with living, reasonable, and immortal souls; made them after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness; having the law of God written in their hearts, and power to fulfill it, and dominion over the creatures; yet subject to fall.

The New City Catechism:

Q4: How and why did God create us?
A: God created us male and female in his own image to know him, love him, live with him, and glorify him. And it is right that we who were created by God should live to his glory.

Q5: What else did God create?
A: God created all things by his powerful Word, and all his creation was very good; everything flourished under his loving rule.

The issue of creation has been one that in recent times have seen much controversy. How the issue is handled in a catechism is therefore illuminative of what the framers thought of the issue.

First, we would look at the creation of Man. As it can be seen, the New City Catechism has omitted quite a few things. First of all, there is nothing mentioned of what the image of God contains. Secondly, there is nothing said of how God created Man. It is noted that although the Shorter Catechism is briefer on this issue, question 17 of the Larger Catechism stated explicitly that God creates Man (1) after He created all other creatures, (2) from dust, (3) the woman from the rib of the Man. This explicitly rules out all views that deny the special creation of Man. It rules out any polygenesis theory of the origins of Man, it rules out the view that God just gave souls to existing souless hominids to create Man. It rules out the views that Adam and Eve were the heads of a tribe of hominids who were all given souls some time in the past. It rules out everything except the plain meaning of the Genesis account of the creation of Mankind.

The New City Catechism thus focuses more on the relational aspect, yet in so doing it fails to do justice to both the relational aspect of creation and the ontological aspect of creation. It fails to do justice to the relational aspect of creation because in speaking of it it fails to adequately differentiate between the penultimate and ultimate purposes of Man. Both the Westminster Shorter and Larger Catechisms in this sense focus on the ontological aspect of creation. The relational aspect of creation is seen in the Westminster standards in the idea of the Covenant of Works, which the New City Catechism does not expound on. Now of course, it is true that Man is created that he should know God, "love Him, live with Him and glorify Him." But Man's original purpose was to tend the Garden as God's holy temple city. That was his goal in life. Knowing God etc is the means, the instruments for glorifying God, not the end of Man (which is glorifying God c.f. WSC1). Yes, we ought to know God, and we should strive for that, but that is penultimate. The ultimate is God's glory, not our knowledge of God.

Secondly, the New City Catechism is also defective in its treatment of the creation of all things. It is wondered why the question about general creation is placed after the creation of Man. It does not bode well especially when compared with the specific teachings in the Larger Catechism of the order of creation, and in both catechisms of creation in six days. Moreover, the omission of these details show that the New City Catechism was intended to give extreme latitude on the issue of creation such that theistic evolutionists could hold on to sign on it.

The answers given by the New City Catechism, while not totally wrong, pale in content and clarity to that given in the Westminster Catechisms. It is therefore inferior to it, and serves only to confuse rather than clarify what the Church believes about this important doctrine of creation.


Charlie J. Ray said...

Looks like the creation in the space of six literal days is missing from the New City Catechism as well. This is clearly a departure from the Westminster Standards as well.

PuritanReformed said...