Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The New City Catechism: Analysis Part 12

The Church

Heidelberg Catechism:

Q54: What believest thou concerning the "holy catholic church" of Christ?
A: That the Son of God from the beginning to the end of the world, gathers, defends, and preserves to himself by his Spirit and word, out of the whole human race, a church chosen to everlasting life, agreeing in true faith; and that I am and forever shall remain, a living member thereof.

Q55: What do you understand by "the communion of saints"?
A: First, that all and every one, who believes, being members of Christ, are in common, partakers of him, and of all his riches and gifts; secondly, that every one must know it to be his duty, readily and cheerfully to employ his gifts, for the advantage and salvation of other members.

New City Catechism:

Q48: What is the church?
A: God chooses and preserves for himself a community elected for eternal life and united by faith, who love, follow, learn from, and worship God together. God sends out this community to proclaim the gospel and prefigure Christ’s kingdom by the quality of their life together and their love for one another.

What is the church? In this age of radical individualism and anti-institutionalism, having a question on the church is probably a good thing. Christians are not called to salvation and then they can choose to join or not join the church after all.

When we examine the New City Catechism here though, its ecclesiology has more in line with Baptistic ecclesiology than Reformed ecclesiology. It speaks of the church as compromising of all believers. Nowhere in here is there an acknowledge of the difference between the covenant community, and the elect, and certainly nothing is spoken of the children of believers. One can be excused if one looks at this answer and think that the Church is comprised of adults alone.

Moreover, the focus continues to be on us, instead of God. Now certainly believers and their children join the church by a profession of faith, but even then the Church begins with God. It is God who gathers His Church, not people joining together to form the Church. In this regard, the Heidelberg Catechism's answers are better, since the focus is on God first, not the gathering of people.

Christ's ascension and end-times

Heidelberg Catechism:

Q46: How dost thou understand these words, "he ascended into heaven"?
A: That Christ, in sight of his disciples, was taken up from earth into heaven; and that he continues there for our interest, until he comes again to judge the quick and the dead.

Q47: Is not Christ then with us even to the end of the world, as he has promised?
A: Christ is very man and very God; with respect to his human nature, he is no more on earth; but with respect to his Godhead, majesty, grace and spirit, he is at no time absent from us.

Q49: Of what advantage to us is Christ's ascension into heaven?
A: First, that he is our advocate in the presence of his Father in heaven; secondly, that we have our flesh in heaven as a sure pledge that he, as the head, will also take up to himself, us, his members; thirdly, that he sends us his Spirit as an earnest, by whose power we "seek the things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God, and not things on earth."

Q50: Why is it added, "and sitteth at the right hand of God"?
A: Because Christ is ascended into heaven for this end, that he might appear as head of his church, by whom the Father governs all things.

Q51: What profit is this glory of Christ, our head, unto us?
A: First, that by his Holy Spirit he pours out heavenly graces upon us his members; and then that by his power he defends and preserves us against all enemies.

Q52: What comfort is it to thee that "Christ shall come again to judge the quick and the dead"?
A: That in all my sorrows and persecutions, with uplifted head I look for the very same person, who before offered himself for my sake, to the tribunal of God, and has removed all curse from me, to come as judge from heaven: who shall cast all his and my enemies into everlasting condemnation, but shall translate me with all his chosen ones to himself, into heavenly joys and glory.


Q37: What benefits do believers receive from Christ at death?
A: The souls of believers are at their death made perfect in holiness, and do immediately pass into glory; and their bodies, being still united in Christ, do rest in their graves, till the resurrection.

Q38: What benefits do believers receive from Christ at the resurrection?
A: At the resurrection, believers, being raised up in glory, shall be openly acknowledged and acquitted in the day of judgment, and made perfectly blessed in the full enjoying of God to all eternity

The New City Catechism:

Q49: Where is Christ now?
A: Christ rose bodily from the grave on the third day after his death and is seated at the right hand of the Father, ruling his kingdom and interceding for us, until he returns to judge and renew the whole world.

Q50: What does Christ’s resurrection mean for us?
A: Christ triumphed over sin and death by being physically resurrected, so that all who trust in him are raised to new life in this world and to everlasting life in the world to come. Just as we will one day be resurrected, so this world will one day be restored. But those who do not trust in Christ will be raised to everlasting death.

Q51: Of what advantage to us is Christ's ascension?
A: Christ physically ascended on our behalf, just as he came down to earth physically on our account, and he is now advocating for us in the presence of his Father, preparing a place for us, and also sends us his Spirit.

Q52: What hope does everlasting life hold for us?
A: It reminds us that this present fallen world is not all there is; soon we will live with and enjoy God forever in the new city, in the new heaven and the new earth, where we will be fully and forever freed from all sin and will inhabit renewed, resurrection bodies in a renewed, restored creation.

The New City Catechism deals with the end time by focusing on Christ first and foremost, for Christ is the guarantor of our resurrection. His resurrection and ascension is of benefit to us, and in this the NCC does a good job in focusing our attention to these. The NCC also does a good job in speaking of the goodness of matter, and that we will live in "renewed, resurrection bodies" in the new heavens and the new earth, not in the Elysian Fields.

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