John Calvin, Calvinism, and Catechizing Children


One of the overlooked aspects of Calvin in the whole Young, Restless, and Reformed movement is perhaps his pastoral concern for the nurture of children. Evangelicals, whether they be paedobaptist or credobaptist, can find some common ground from Calvin’s concern for the nurture of children in the faith. The Reformed tradition has their catechisms, while the more baptistic base of the church has turned to ministries like Awana, respectively, in rearing their children with a sound Biblical and theological base.

John Calvin was very much concerned about the rearing and instruction of children in the Christian faith, as can be seen in the fact that he developed, not one,  but two catechisms for children. The second catechism, written in 1545, was really a revision of the first one, written in 1537. Why did Calvin revise the catechism? There is much speculation, but it seems as if Calvin was displeased with the effectiveness of the first catechism from the firsthand experience of teaching it. The second catechism differed in that it incorporated a more pastoral feel through its question and answer format. the most notable revisions, as far as content is concerned, is the deletion of material dealing with free choice of the will, election, and reprobation. Perhaps Calvin realized these were difficult concepts for young children and bred more speculation than edifying assurance about the central items of the Christian faith. I can’t help but think that some would accuse Calvin of distancing himself from Calvinism. Calvin was not distancing himself from these doctrines, but rather saw them as subordinate to more central claims about the Christian faith; this is something else the YRR crowd can learn from: not making free will, election, and reprobation the leading topics in discussion about Calvinism.

The takeaway for parents is that we can be content in training our children in the central tenets of the apostolic faith without being frustrated over their failures to comprehend TULIP. Calvin was concerned about instructing children in the apostolic, catholic faith – and made the necessary revision to his catechism to reflect this commitment. We can also be content in knowing and trusting that consistent instruction in the Word of God is the primary and normative means whereby God saves our children.

© 2013, Rick Hogaboam. All rights reserved.

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