I woke up thinking through Plato’s view of the human body today. This will come up next week when I teach Books IV and V of the Republic. Expecting some associations with and attempted slanders of the Roman Catholic view of marriage and physical relations in marriage, I read up in The Catechism of the Catholic Church on marriage and the expression of marital love to confirm that the Roman Church is not Neo-Platonic in her conception of the physical body. The degree in which the Catechism is not Neo-Platonic in its view of the human body, marital love, and the gift of children is rather astonishing. Plus, I experienced the added bonus of reaching the beautifully written and theologically informative document that the Catechism of the Catholic Church is. If only we had something like this as Protestants!
We do have the Westminster Larger Catechism, Baxter’s A Christian Directory, and the 1559 edition of Calvin’s Institutes that are somewhat comparable in scope. However, the Reformers wrote catechisms for every generation and even sometimes the faithful in their own churches. Alas, I think it was David Wells who said, “our is not a creed-making age”. If this is an accurate observation it makes the Catechism of the Catholic Church an even more amazing achievement. It seems to me that this is the one theological work of the 20th century that future generations will see as a “classic.”
The Catechism covers not only issues of personal belief and conduct, but also social issues such as just war, birth control, abortion, etc. and is so beautifully written. I probably should put it on the reading list for this summer.
The structure of the Catechism is the same as most Reformation era catechisms. The first part contains “what we are to believe concerning God.” The second part contains “what duties God requires of us.” Another way to summarize the Catechism is that it has three sections: The Apostle’s Creed, the Ten Commandments, and the Lord’s Prayer. All of the Reformation catechisms except the Westminster are organized around these three symbols of the faith: what to believe, how to live, and how to pray.
I haven’t been able to read much in it. But from what I’ve read, I highly recommend it for both Protestants and Catholics. Protestants will find much more common ground with our separated brethren than many would expect, and where there are differences, It behooves both Protestants and Catholics to be informed about what those differences are and be able to accurately understand and express those differences.