The Westminster Catechism
In Cartoons
By Vic Lockman

Dateline: 27 November 2013

Something different….
Vic Lockman's Westminster Catechism Books
(click pictures to see enlarged views)

I grew up reading comic books from a young age. I loved comic books. I mostly liked the Mickey Mouse mysteries, and Uncle Scrooge McDuck, and Richie Rich (the poor little rich boy), and Sad Sack. But I read all sorts of other comics back in the late 1960s. 

After visiting my Grandmother in Maine one summer, I came home to find that my mother had cleaned my room and thrown out all my comic books. I had a comic book stack  probably two feet high, and they were all gone. I couldn't believe it. I thought my mother was kidding me when she told me.

So maybe it was a sort of nostalgia for comics that attracted me to Vic Lockman's catechism cartoon (not comic, but cartoon) books. That, and, of course, an interest in the Westminster Catechism, which has come only in recent years.

My family started going to a evangelical Baptist church when I was a teenager, and I've pretty much gone to evangelical Baptist churches ever since. If my experience is a reliable indicator, evangelical Baptist churches don't have anything to do with catechisms of any kind. And I don't think Pentecostal churches (which I have a little experience with too) have anything to do with catechisms either. Mostly, those churches are concerned with getting people saved.  And when I was younger, they were really focused on end-times prophecy and the rapture.

So I grew up thinking that getting saved, and getting other people saved, and being ready for the rapture was mostly what Christianity was all about. 

Only when I got much older did I come to realize that there is this thing called "sanctification," which, biblically speaking, is what is supposed to happen in a Christian's life after salvation. It turns out there is much more to Christianity than realizing you are a sinner, and putting your faith in Jesus Christ and his shed blood to save you (from going to hell when you die, which is what we we all deserve). 

Catechism Q & A  #35: What is Sanctification?
How many evangelical Christians can answer this simple question?

I'm still trying to figure out why the word "sanctification," and the work of sanctification in the Christian life, is almost never mentioned in evangelical churches. I listen pretty close to most sermons and I've rarely heard it. 

This is confusing to me because when I read the Bible I see almost nothing there instructing all Christians to be evangelizing, or "winning souls to Christ," but I see hundreds of verses encouraging and instructing Christians to live godly lives. 

Sanctification is, as the page picture above indicates, about growing in knowledge and faith as we live life in accord with the teaching of Jesus Christ and the apostles. It's about spiritual maturity and spiritual discernment which comes with obedience to God's word. It is about loving, and forgiving, and helping others. It is about becoming more Christ-like by following Christ daily. I think the word "obedience" is something of a synonym for sanctification.

Anyway, when I came to know about The Westminster Shorter Catechism, put together in 1643 by a gathering of mostly Puritan theologians, that was once widely used to teach children the fundamental doctrines of Christianity (Reformation Christianity), I was interested.  

I have a lot of respect for the Puritans. Fact is, I am a descendent of Puritans who came to America with John Winthrop in 1630 (see My Puritan Roots). So I bought a book about the Westminster Shorter Catechism a few years ago. Right from the start, I learned something I never knew….

Question #1: What is the chief end of man?

(Another way to ask the question is, "What is the primary purpose of man?")

Answer: Man's chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.

I had never heard such a thing, stated so direct and clear, in my history of evangelical church attendance.

We live in a world where everyone (a whole lot of church-going Christians included) is searching for purpose and meaning in their life, and there it is, plain and simple, in Question #1 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism. 

The theology in just Question #1 of the Westminster Catechism is powerfully significant and life changing. 

I don't exactly remember how I found my way to Vic Lockman's web page and his two catechism cartoon books, but I'm glad I got there and I'm glad I now have the books. Together, the two volumes cover all 107 Q & A of the Westminster Shorter Catechism—they are packed with the fundamentals of Orthodox Christian doctrine. 

Even though this catechism was originally developed over 350 years ago for teaching children, it is perfect for me (at 55 years old) as I am trying to better understand what aspects of the Christian faith have been lost (or maybe just neglected) in the rise of modern evangelical Christianity.

My purpose in posting this essay is not to get into a theological discussion (or argument). It is to encourage any Christian readers here who are not familiar with catechisms (and I know that's a lot of evangelicals) to check out The Westminster Shorter Catechism. This Link will take you to all 107 Questions and Answers. If you'd prefer some visuals and additional exegesis, then get Vick Lockman's two books.

You may discover, as I have, that the more traditional doctrines of the Christian faith feed you and resonate with you more than the modernized variations.


shannon templeton said...

Herrick, your blog post today does resonate with me. I have had this drive for a long time now. That "the church" is somehow missing the mark. Why keep preaching the same "repentance of sin" sermon time after time to the same people. Where is the "how to live our daily lives as Christians" and what that really means.

Thanks for the link.... I have grandchildren...

Lisa @ HappyinDoleValley said...

Just one more reason to recommend your blog! We used these in the catechizing of our children, as they are truly *full* of the rich theological truths that deepen one's understanding of the Word and the Christian life. Mr. Lockman's illustrations are fantastic.

Wishing you and yours a blessed Thanksgiving. :)

timfromohio said...

Great post. I think that the focus on evangelism stems from the great commission of Christ. I also go to an evangelical, Baptist, and family-integrated church so I identify with the focus on "winning souls". That said, I believe that striving to live godly life (sanctification) is in and of itself a very powerful form of witnessing.

Mrs. Agrarian @ Redeeming the Time said...

I also never heard of sanctification in all the years I spent in Pentecostal, Apostolic, and "Full Gospel" churches. That's my background, along with a short period in a charismatic ("charismania") church. I am SO thankful that the Lord led me out of that confusion and into the writings of the Puritans and Reformed men of God, although I don't identify with any denomination. I believe that the reason that sanctification is not taught in most churches is because they no longer represent Christ, but have become apostate. That's a radical thought to most people, but the shallow and often erroneous gospel preached today would be anathema to the Puritans and Reformers of the past.

The chief end of man is to glorify God: Yes, and how can we glorify Him without sanctification, which is really the development of holiness in our Christian walk.

Here you and I are, in our 50's, still seeking to know the Lord's truth. That's a good thing! It's far better and more pleasing to God to be seeking Him like a little child than to be content in self-righteousness.

Well, I could go on and on...but thank you for sharing this :-)

Survival Gardener, AKA David the Good said...

I moved towards the "Reformed" side of the spectrum some years back when I got tired of the endless end times stuff and loosy-goosy Christianity elsewhere. I love the catechisms.

Also - Vic Lockman is amazing. He did an awesome Biblical economics comic book. It's a must have. It was so good, when I gave a copy to my pastor... he ordered a box to give out to everyone in the church.

Adam Grimes said...

Mr. Kimball,

I'm so thankful for your blog. You are spot in your connections of tending the land while bowing the knee to Christ. I recently found Vic Lockman as well and we use it on Sunday afternoons. As a 29 y/o father of 4 (and husband of 1), I'm so thankful to God for the men that have gone before us in the Faith. The WCF is such a wonderful tool to guide us through the Scriptures. I come from a similar Baptist background, but have since submitted to more reformed theology and worship in a Presbyterian church.

Anyway, God bless you and yours in Christ. I just wanted to let you know that I am very encouraged by your blog and even though I don't comment all the time, I pray that you know that you bless many people through it. I hope you keep it up.

-Adam from TX

Herrick Kimball said...

Such great comments!

Thank you everyone for reading and posting a response to today's blog. You've added a lot to this subject and I appreciate it very much.

Ivy Mae said...

I had never heard of sanctification until I became a Presbyterian (PCA) in my late 20s after being raised in the Southern Baptist church. I also thought only Catholics used catechism. But once I read the Shorter Catechism and the Confessional I was blown away by how amazing it was to have such important doctrine spelled out so clearly and yet so powerfully. We have been working with our 4 year old son to memorize the children's catechism at breakfast every morning. He's got about half of the questions and answers down pat. My husband and I are both jealous when we think about how much training like this would have helped us in our early years. Thanks for highlighting this!

Tom said...

I left the Evangelical world and began attending Reformed churches over ten years ago (starting when I was about 25) for many of the reasons you cite here. Sanctification, or being made holy, which is to say being made more and more like Christ, is precisely the process of living more and more the kind of human life that God intended from the beginning. The way of life that is advocated on this blog - one which centers on God, community, family, and land - is not merely reactive: something we have to do because God demands it or because our dark times demand it. We live this way because there is no better way to live, despite all the temptations of the world which say the opposite. The Catechism encourages spiritual wholesomeness, which is at the heart of a wholesome way of life. "Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, mind, soul, and strength; and love your neighbor as yourself." No higher calling than that, and no more beautiful life than that.

Owen Family at Far Better Farmstead said...

I too attend a baptist (independent) church. Some years back I found a copy of C.H. Spurgeon's "A Baptist Catechism" and I have really enjoyed it. It's based on the Westminster shorter but is also baptistic.

Pa Mac said...

Great post, Herrick.
My family and I are Reformed Baptists holding to the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith and attending a Reformed Baptist church here in southwest Arkansas. I don't think one person in our fellowship grew up with reformed Baptist theology ... but here we are now; and that thanks to God's sovereign and guiding grace. We now realize the importance of fathers having the responsibility of chief spiritual teachers in the home, and not relying solely on someone else to do it, and "catechising" is key (we use Spurgeon's revision as the Owen family mentioned above). Based on the comments above, it appears that our Lord's grace is moving in the hearts of many ... here there and yonder. There's much to be thankful for this November!
Pa Mac

Anonymous said...

I recommend G.I. Williamson's Westminster Confession of Faith, study guide. The BEST on the subject...


Ezekiel Mossback said...

Catechisms come out of the best of Medieval traditions: the scholasticism that was 'faith seeking understanding.'

Christian scholars inspired by their faith, sought to articulate, as Peter in his letter urges us to do, the reason for their belief.

In doing this they gave us this tradition of catechesis (which word comes from the Greek 'catechumen' which was the person who sought instruction in the prayers and doctrines of the Church in preparation for baptism).

The Baltimore Catechism has as its first question:

"Who made you?
Answer: God made me"

second question:

"Why did God make you?
Answer: To know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this life, and to be happy with Him forever in the next."

Sarah said...

Have you ever checked out the Heidelberg Catechism? I grew up on both the Westminster and the Heidelberg. If you haven't, the first Q and A for the Heidelberg is:

"Q. What is your only comfort
in life and in death?

A. That I am not my own,
but belong—body and soul,
in life and in death—to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.

He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.
He also watches over me in such a way
that not a hair can fall from my head
without the will of my Father in heaven;
in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.

Because I belong to him,
Christ, by his Holy Spirit,
assures me of eternal life
and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him."

Both of these have had a huge impact on my life as a believer.

This is a huge generalization, but I do believe the baptists/pentecostals tend to be very good at getting people saved, but I also believe that the presby/reformed tradition tends to help people's faith grow deeper and wider. The Gospel of Jesus Christ speaks to each and every area of our lives.