Below is a catechism that I composed for my Western Thought classes last year. I’ve worked on it some more and I hope to finish it someday, even if it is for other purposes. One of the great memories from last years is my 9 AM Tuesday and Thursday class answering the questions with such great enthusiasm that they could be heard all down the hall. Another moment of “what is
A Catechism for Western Thought
To be memorized and recited by students
The word “catechism” comes from a Greek word which is used in the New Testament to refer to teaching someone in an orderly and systematic way, by word of mouth, in the form of dialogue–question and answer.  Catechisms have been used since early Christianity to teach the core beliefs of the faith. Some catechisms were composed by individual pastors to teach their congregations the doctrines of the faith, or prepare adults or children to make public professions of faith. Other catechisms have been adopted by entire branches of the Church as their official teaching, such as in my own denomination, the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms, or the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
The catechism that we will learn this year will consist of the principles of conduct among each other, the virtues that we are inspired to attain by the literature that we study, and statements from that literature. My reason for doing this is that our primary purpose in education is to become virtuous people. I hope that through this tool, that I will hold myself accountable to the task of instruction in virtue, and for us in the attainment of virtue.
- What are the rules of our class?
The rules of our class are: Do your work. Don’t be a jerk.
2. What is the fruit of the Spirit?
Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
3. What are the seven virtues?
Kindness, temperance, love, self-control, humility, diligence, patience.
- What are the works of the flesh?
Sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.
- What are the seven deadly sins?
Envy, gluttony, greed, lust, pride, sloth, wrath.
- What is a Christian?
A Christian is a person who receives and rests upon Christ alone for salvation, as He is offered in the gospel, and follows Him as Lord and Master.
- What do Christians believe?
I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth.
And in Jesus Christ His only Son our Lord. Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried. He descended into hell. The third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, from thence He will come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
- What is honor?
Honor is the value of a person in his own eyes and in the eyes of his peers. It is his estimation of his own worth and his excellence recognized by society.
- What is shame?
Shame is the absence of value of a person in his own eyes, and in the eyes of his peers. It is his estimate of his own unworthiness and his disgrace recognized by society.
- How does God reveal Himself?
God reveals Himself in general revelation and in special revelation.
- What is general revelation?
General revelation is God’s revealing of Himself in creation, nature, and providence.
- What is special revelation?
Special revelation is God’s revealing of Himself through His Word and His Son.
- What is conscience?
Conscience is the writing of God’s law on peoples’ hearts.
- What are the primary motivations for human action?
Honor and shame; fear and power; guilt and righteousness.
- What is honor?
Honor is an evaluation of a person’s actions, which determine a person’s worth, his position, or his value in a community.
- What is shame?
Shame is a negative evaluation of one’s actions, which undermine a person’s worth, his position, or his value in a community.
17. What is power?
Power is the ability to act to control or influence people or things in a particular way.
- What is fear?
Fear is the terror that arises from the inability to control or influence people or things in a particular way.
- How is the fear of God different from servile fear?
The fear of God is the proper state of mind before a being who is altogether righteous, holy, powerful, omnipresent, who made this world, and who governs all his creatures and all their actions. God has had mercy upon his people in Christ Jesus. Thus, his children do not fear him from a foreboding of condemnation, but a recognition of his perfect character and his status as Creator and Governor of the universe, and Savior of all his people.
- What is righteousness?
Righteousness is conformity to God’s law in all our thoughts, words, and works.
- What is guilt?
Guilt is the awakening of the conscience to breaking God’s law in our thoughts, words, and works.
- Can human beings become righteous before God by their deeds?
Because we are corrupted in our whole nature through original sin, the corruption of the whole nature, and all actual transgressions, we cannot become morally righteous before God through our own deeds.
- What hope do human beings have, as the Scripture tells us, “without holiness, no one will see the Lord?”
God has provided a righteousness outside of ourselves in the gospel, the righteousness of God, which is from faith to faith, as it is written, ‘the just shall live by faith.’
- What means has God provided that we might have the righteousness of God by faith?
Faith in Jesus Christ, repentance unto life, with the diligent use of all the outward means through which Christ communicates to us the benefits of redemption.
- What was Socrates’ motto?
- How does John Calvin expand on Socrates’ wisdom in the Institutes?
Our wisdom, in so far as it ought to be deemed true and solid Wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.
 Gal. 5:19-21
 Heb. 12:14
 Romans 1:17
 Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q. 85.
 John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Henry Beveridge (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1989), 1:1.1 accessed August 15, 2018. https://www.biblestudytools.com/history/calvin-institutes-christianity/book1/