Westminster Shorter Catechism

From Academic Kids

The Westminster Shorter Catechism (also known simply as the Shorter Catechism, hereinafter referred to as the WSC) was written in the 1640s by English and Scottish divines. The assembly also produced the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Westminster Larger Catechism. The three documents are considered by many to be the grandest doctrinal statements to come out of the English Reformation, and one of the important documents of the Reformation.

The purpose of the Shorter Catechism is to educate lay persons in matters of doctrine and belief. The WSC is in a simple question and answer format to facilitate memorization. Typically, the parents and the church would use the shorter catechism to train their children in the ways of the Lord. New converts are also given the WSC as well as the Confession of Faith and Holy Scripture to study. Various denominations have used the Westminster Confession and Catechism to instruct their members.

The catechism is composed of 107 questions and answers. The first 12 questions concern God as Creator. Questions 13-20 deal with original sin and the fallen state of man's nature. Questions 21-38 concern Christ the Redeemer and the benefits that flow from redemption. The next set of questions, 39-84, discuss the ten commandments. Questions 85-97 teach concerning the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion. The final set of questions 98-107 teach and explain the Lord's prayer. This organization mimics the earlier Heidelberg Catechism of the continental Reformed churches.

The most famous of the questions (known to a great many Presbyterian children) is the first:

Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

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