If Baptists do not believe in the formalized confessional creeds of the church, then how do they catechize children?

In the Small Catechism, Martin Luther notes that learning the Creeds is very important in the Christian education. If Baptists avoid confessionalism, then how do they teach the children the exact doctrine of the church?


The short answer is, they don't. They teach Sunday School.

If you ask a Baptist, they'll probably tell you, we don't have a catechism. (Technically, they're wrong, but in practice, most haven't heard of it.)

Furthermore, if asked to decribe what a catechism is, they will focus on the fact that it is a "rehearsed" set of formulaic questions and answers - and nothing but a "vain repetition."

Instead, Baptists believe whole-heartedly in "studying the Scriptures." Many Baptist churches are named "Berea ," for example, becuase the Bereans are commended for searching the Scripures for themselves.

Futhermore, Baptists very keen on "the priesthood of all believers," and in practice, means that most believers need to read the Scriptures as if they were a preacher who has to teach the word "in season and out." Being suffused with the Word

In short, Baptists don't want a set of pre-written questions and standard responses. In their minds, they want to "know" it like you would know a friend.

Do they use standard terminiology? Sure - but even there, Baptists are often very keen to make sure they aren't use "jargon" or "Christianese." Do "we" use? All them time! But we feel bad about it when we do!

  • Ah, so that's what the Berean church in my neighborhood means! I've always thought it was a non-denominational, Fundamentalist church. :P In light of your words, there would be two Baptist churches in my neighborhood then. One is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, and the other is named Berean Bible church. – Double U Feb 2 '15 at 19:04
  • In practice, many evangelical bible churches are very similar to baptist. If you look at my history, you'll see I grew up in a bible church and then joined the Bsptusts. It wasn't much of s leap. – Affable Geek Feb 2 '15 at 19:21
  • Neither the Baptist nor the Berean Bible church seems to be very high-church. Both are very low-church with very simple liturgy. – Double U Feb 2 '15 at 19:25
  • Your comment on "Christianese" leads me to another question on Baptist-Lutheran ecumenical dialogues. I think I can read about that in The A to Z of Lutheranism. – Double U Feb 2 '15 at 19:53
  • Sunday school is a modern invention, even in the relatively brief history of Baptists. Some would say that children are (or should be) catechized at home by their parents. – mojo Feb 4 '15 at 5:23

Baptist is is a broad label which encompasses many divergent groups, so providing anything more than generalizations is difficult. This is complicated by the fact that one of the distinctives of Baptist doctrine is the independence of the local church. As such, these kinds of things are generally up to the discretion of each local congregation. Despite all that, however, some generalizations can be made which will largely hold true in most Baptist churches.

Baptists are opposed to rituals and repetition. They avoid reciting written prayers and following liturgies. For them, religion is a personal relationship between each individual Christian and God. As such, repetition of religious rituals or prayers are considered to be too static and non-individualistic. There is also a strong sense of the fallibility of mankind. As such, rote memorization and recitation of anything other than scripture would be generally frowned upon.

That is not to say that Baptist churches do not have official defined doctrines. Each local church has their own official doctrines which are agreed upon by all of the members of that church. These written doctrinal standards will vary from congregation to congregation, even within the same Baptist association. Typically, prospective members must agree to the entire set of stated doctrines before they are allowed to join the church.

Remember, in a Baptist church, only baptized Christians may join the church. Since Baptists believe in believer's baptism (as opposed to infant baptism), only those who are old enough to be baptized are allowed to join the church. As with everyone else, those being baptized must agree with the doctrines of the church before they can become members.

As far as formal training goes, there is none--at least not in the sense of a formal catechism. Children are typically educated in the doctrines of the church in Sunday School classes. It is also common to have separate services catering to children which occur during the same time as the main service for adults. It is also common for churches to require prospective members (and those seeking baptism) to attend a membership course in which the history, associations, and official doctrines of the church are covered in detail.

  • 1
    The objection to rituals and repetition may explain why, a few years ago, a group of Christian students (probably Baptists or Evangelicals) offered two tables. One was the "religion" table, and the other was the "Jesus" table. The point was to make people think that religion was about "ritualistic works" in vain, and Jesus was about "faith". Having little knowledge of Christianity at the time, I could not discern the differences among denominations, so I assumed all Christians were like that. :P – Double U Feb 2 '15 at 21:18
  • Yes, it's quite common for the term "religion" to have a bad connotation to Baptists. – Steven Doggart Feb 2 '15 at 21:20
  • I find it ironic that Baptists would take "religion" with a bad connotation, even though the Baptists themselves are a religious group. And they perform the same ritual of communion every week or every month or regularly in some way. – Double U Feb 2 '15 at 21:23
  • No more weird than them referring to themselves as "Christians" and all other Christians as Non-Christians :) – Steven Doggart Feb 2 '15 at 21:25
  • Same goes for the almost every Christian denomination that I know. From what I read on Wikipedia, Mormons call everyone else (Non-Mormons) "Gentiles". This is confusing terminology, when "gentiles" is used by the Jews to refer to non-Jews. So, Mormons would be gentiles, but they think of others as gentiles. – Double U Feb 2 '15 at 21:30

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