Sunday, February 10, 2013

The New City Catechism: Analysis Part 5

Sin

Heidelberg Catechism:

Q7: Whence then proceeds this depravity of human nature?
A: From the fall and disobedience of our first parents, Adam and Eve, in Paradise; hence our nature is become so corrupt, that we are all conceived and born in sin.

Q8: Are we then so corrupt that we are wholly incapable of doing any good, and inclined to all wickedness?
A: Indeed we are; except we are regenerated by the Spirit of God.

Q9: Does not God then do injustice to man, by requiring from him in his law, that which he cannot perform?
A: Not at all; for God made man capable of performing it; but man, by the instigation of the devil, and his own wilful disobedience, deprived himself and all his posterity of those divine gifts.

Q10: Will God suffer such disobedience and rebellion to go unpunished?
A: By no means; but is terribly displeased with our original as well as actual sins; and will punish them in his just judgment temporally and eternally, as he has declared, "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things, which are written in the book of the law, to do them."

Q11: Is not God then also merciful?
A: God is indeed merciful, but also just; therefore his justice requires, that sin which is committed against the most high majesty of God, be also punished with extreme, that is, with everlasting punishment of body and soul.

Westminster Shorter Catechism:

Q14: What is sin?
A: Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.

Q15: What was the sin whereby our first parents fell from the estate wherein they were created?
A: The sin whereby our first parents fell from the estate wherein they were created, was their eating the forbidden fruit.

Q16: Did all mankind fall in Adam’s first transgression?
A: The covenant being made with Adam, not only for himself, but for his posterity; all mankind, descending from him by ordinary generation, sinned in him, and fell with him, in his first transgression.

Q17: Into what estate did the fall bring mankind?
A: The fall brought mankind into an estate of sin and misery.

Q18: Wherein consists the sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell?
A: The sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell, consists in the guilt of Adam’s first sin, the want of original righteousness, and the corruption of his whole nature, which is commonly called original sin; together with all actual transgressions which proceed from it.

Q19: What is the misery of that estate whereinto man fell?
A: All mankind by their fall lost communion with God, are under his wrath and curse, and so made liable to all the miseries of this life, to death itself, and to the pains of hell forever.

Q20: Did God leave all mankind to perish in the estate of sin and misery?
A: God, having out of his mere good pleasure, from all eternity, elected some to everlasting life, did enter into a covenant of grace to deliver them out of the estate of sin and misery, and to bring them into an estate of salvation by a Redeemer.

New City Catechism:

Q16: What is sin?
Sin is rejecting or ignoring God in the world he created, rebelling against him by living without reference to him, not being or doing what he requires in his law—resulting in our death and the disintegration of all creation.

Q17: What is idolatry?
Idolatry is trusting in created things rather than the Creator for our hope and happiness, significance and security.

Q18: Will God allow our disobedience and idolatry to go unpunished?
No, every sin is against the sovereignty, holiness, and goodness of God, and against his righteous law, and God is righteously angry with our sins and will punish them in his just judgment both in this life, and in the life to come.

Q19: Is there any way to escape punishment and be brought back into God’s favor?
Yes, to satisfy his justice, God himself, out of mere mercy, reconciles us to himself and delivers us from sin and from the punishment for sin, by a Redeemer.

The New City Catechism attempts to speak of the issue of sin to a more contemporary audience. How does it fare compared with the earlier Reformed standards?

Comparing the standards on this issue is hard, since they are quite divergent in how they even go about framing the issue of sin. The Heidelberg Catechism speaks about sin primarily from the viewpoint of God's justice, the Westminster Shorter Catechism speaks about sin from the viewpoint of covenant, while the New City Catechism speaks about it primarily in terms of rebellion and mistrust. All three points of view are valid in speaking of the problem of sin.

In comparing these, it must be said that the New City Catechism is using simpler language to express biblical truth. In this respect, the New City Catechism is superior to the older standards in conveying what sin is. That said, this superiority is tempered with the issue of sin being divorced from the creation account. The impression is given that sin only pertains to our actual sins, while the concept of original sin is obscured, a problem that the older catechisms do not have.

In comparison with the older standards therefore, the New City Catechism has a plus point and a minus point. It is better in conveying what actual sin is, but it is worse in not speaking about original sin. Here, therefore, the New City Catechism can be seen as a helpful pedagogical tool on the nature of sin, but only as a supplement to the older Reformed catechisms on this issue.

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