The New City Catechism: A Birthday Celebration

Not every birthday is cause for raucous celebration.

But today’s an exception.


On October 14, 2012, The Gospel Coalition, in partnership with Redeemer Presbyterian Churchannounced the New City Catechism (hereafter NCC), a church-wide teaching tool primarily covering The Apostles’ Creed, The Ten Commandments and The Lord’s Prayer. Created by Tim Keller and Sam Shammas, the NCC met a few predictable minor quibbles (e.g., “Why are they messing with the old catechisms?” “The sacraments don’t receive enough attention!” “Only 52 questions?” “There they go with their ‘city = better’ schtick again,” etc.) But on the whole the NCC was widely welcomed as a timely tool in the catechetical arsenal.

If the idea of tackling the esteemed Heidelberg or Westminster catechisms are daunting (for my money, the best edition is this for the former and this for the latter, and for family devotions this set is indispensable), then the NCC is for you. It’s the gateway drug of catechisms. And I mean that as a compliment.

It’s difficult to measure a catechism’s immediate impact, and it will likely take a generation to ascertain lasting effects on individuals, families and churches. But two years since its release, it seems like the NCC is here to stay for the foreseeable future.

I contacted Collin Hansen, TGC’s editorial director, and asked for some internet stats for the NCC. Here’s the lowdown:

  • On an average day, around 500 people visit the New City Catechism website.
  • The iPad app has been downloaded over 30,000 times.

I’m no web metrics guru, but I’d call those decent numbers, especially for something containing the word “catechism,” a word that sounds stodgy, archaic and quasi-Roman Catholic, striking fear and triggering spontaneous nervous ticks for the uninitiated.

But fear no more.

Here’s where to begin with the NCC:

  • Tim Keller’s introduction, where he clearly and simply explains catechism, offering a convincing polemic for the NCC.
  • The iPad app (free). TGC’s web team is nearing a fix for the iOS 8 bug, so stay tuned.
  • Droid user? This app’s for you. (Also free)
  • Luddite? Download the PDF here.
  • My personal favorite? This tabletop version…


…and it’s available here for a paltry $6.00. It’s a beauty.

Redeemer Presbyterian Church and The Gospel Coalition deserve hearty thanks for producing such a deceptively simple yet essential 21st century teaching tool covering the basics of the Christian faith. And although it’s not groundbreaking, if it helps create a catechetical revolution (as I think it is), J.I. Packer would be glad. So would Calvin, Luther, and a host of other notable committed catechists.

So happy 2nd birthday, New City Catechism! You’re looking pretty stout for a toddler. And to think you’ve only got 449 years to go till you reach big brother Heidelberg’s age.

May God grant you—and your older siblings—bigger and better birthdays to come.

New City Catechism—Tabletop Edition

Did you know that the New City Catechism is available in a spiral-bound flip edition for your desk, bedside, table, etc?




Neither did I.

Truth for Life (Alistair Begg’s ministry) publishes it.

I looked at a copy yesterday and it’s beautiful. High quality, nice aesthetics. And for $6.00, it’s a steal.

Get your copy of the New City Catechism table-top edition here.


Quack! How a Simple Catechism Could Have Saved a Duck

Following the Phil Roberston/Duck Dynasty snafu, I had a discussion with my teenage son (nearly 17) and his good friend and next door neighbor (almost 18) about homosexuality, imgres-4Christianity, and navigating these waters in the increasingly complicated public square. Our talk occurred late at night while we were watching Rebel Without a Cause on PBS. Young men with pressing questions about Christianity, homosexuality and pluralism amid a James Dean flick during Advent? Interesting combination to be sure. But I was up to the task.

Given that Roberston’s trouble began by 1.) agreeing to be interviewed by GQ and 2.) being asked by the interviewer, “what, in your mind, is sin?” I simply asked my son how he would have answered that question. With little hesitation he responded, “sin is disobeying or not keeping God’s laws in any way.”

Surely my son didn’t come up with this answer on his own. He needed a little help, which he received from a catechism we’ve used with all of our kids.  A longer answer comes from the recent New City Catechism, which answers the question “what is sin?” this way:

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.

Suddenly, Roberston’s root problem became clear to me: he wasn’t catechized

How do I know? Because he wouldn’t have responded as he did, i.e. wrongly beginning with a imgres-3specific sin (in this case homosexuality). Instead, using a simple children’s catechism he could have answered the question “what, in your mind, is sin?” that, far being cold, canned, and clinical, was instead a helpful point of reference to better inform his answer.

This is part of the beauty, and necessity, of catechisms–learning biblical truth about God and humanity not only for ourselves, but also as a point of reference while in conversations with others, many whom are curious, skeptical, or hostile about Christianity and its place in the modern world. A catechism combined with wisdom, tact, grace, and a dose of shrewdness is a surprisingly effective tool in the public square.

So do yourself, your kids (if you have them) and others a much-needed favor: catechize. Among the many benefits, you will likely avoid stepping into a trap question and becoming a lame duck.

Now Available: New City Catechism App (For Android)

Here’s a welcome addition to Droid apps that arrived with surprisingly little fanfare: Redeemer’s  New City Catechism. Unlike the iPhone version, this app also includes an unexpected bonus: Packer’s Concise Theology. It’s even seamlessly integrated with the catechism or to read as a stand alone book. Golden. And it’s all free! What a gift to the Church.

The app’s developer also released some other great apps, including Matthias Media’s popular gospel presentation Two Ways to Live and Who Will Be King, a kid-friendly version of TWTL.

Amper (the apps’ developer) only recently entered the app developing scene. From what little I know about that world, he’s off to a smashing start.

04/04/14: Regrettably, Packer’s Concise Theology is no longer included in the app. (But it’s still a great tool!)