Review: Internalizing the Faith

Internalizing the Faith: A Pilgrim’s Catechism
by J. Brandon Burks

A catechism summarizes the confession of a church in a simple form that can be memorized and passed down easily. In Internalizing the Faith, J. Brandon Burks presents a Reformed catechism to teach the youth of his church body and reinforce the beliefs of those who already know their faith.

Burks has written a pretty good encapsulation of Reformed theology here. The book is slim, to the point, and generally clear. I appreciated the format. Burks presents one hundred seven questions, most with one-sentence answers. Each answer has one Biblical reference with an endnote. The endnotes present a paragraph for each question in the main body of the book. Each paragraph has a number of biblical references and books for further reading.

I like how the summary of the faith is not bogged down with all the Bible verses; a summary is meant to be short! However, I would have appreciated having the one verse written out. The power is in the Word, after all.

I also appreciated that Burks made three “cycles” of questions. In the first cycle, he teaches very, very basic levels of the faith. Every cycle he gets deeper as understanding grows. I think it was an ingenious way to teach.

And much of what he teaches is correct. I was happily surprised to see him teach the image of God correctly, for instance. He talks about the three offices of Christ: Prophet, Priest, and King. He speaks about the three uses of the Law. Though he uses slightly different pictures, his meaning there is right on. There is much to which I can say, “Yes, this is most certainly true!” 

Having said all that… his book leads me to appreciate Luther’s Small Catechism all the more. Luther speaks of motivation in every commandment: “We should fear and love God.” Burks writes, “The second commandment requires…” Luther’s focus on the Gospel can overwhelm, particularly when he writes on the Creed. While Burks does have the Gospel here, it feels like a lot of Law.

And, of course, this is a Reformed catechism. If you want to know what a Reformed church teaches, this is a great place to go. However, there’s a reason I’m Lutheran, not Reformed. This catechism openly teaches that once a person comes to faith, they cannot fall, for instance. Meanwhile, the Bible warns to be careful, lest you fall. If you can’t fall, that warning is hardly necessary! TULIP theology is in full display. 

Which means I won’t be using this catechism with my youth. I’m glad I have it, as there are some useful phrasings, and it’s always encouraging to know that others have Jesus, even if I’m not in fellowship with them. It’s also encouraging to see others thinking about what Christ says! If you’re looking to know what Reformed churches teach, this is incredibly useful. Otherwise… go check out Luther’s Small Catechism. It’s well worth your time!

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