Why a Second Edition? (PART 2)
What follows is part 2 of the answer. This post was written some time ago, so the language may reflect that perspective.
As we approach the tenth anniversary (2016) of the publication of Simple Truths, we believe it is time to integrate these lessons into the text and create a second edition. This piece will continue to provide all of the basic theology of the first edition. It will continue to use the question and answer format. Whenever possible, simplified English terminology will be used and more complex terms will be defined in simple language in a glossary. Perhaps most significant though, the very thoughtful suggestions of our global users will be incorporated into the text.
In addition to a SECOND EDITION of Simple Truths, we have completed a short version that is yet to be named. This shorter edition (64 Questions and Answers) comes from the larger publication, but concentrates on the essential elements of the gospel story from creation to Christ’s return. Over the years, it has been suggested that a shorter edition might be useful as an evangelistic tool – and that “64 questions seems much more manageable than 150”. One other reason for a shortened version is to eliminate the questions that have the potential to find good evangelicals in disagreement. Since the unity of the body is one of the important and problematic issues in some countries, this shorter edition allows for many different denominations (providing they are clearly evangelical) to share a basic discipleship tool for their new converts.
We have also been encouraged by the publication of Grounded in the Gospel: Building Believers the Old-Fashioned Way, by Gary Parrett and J. I. Packer (2010). This thoughtful volume reinforces the direction we have taken and informs us in so many helpful ways. With the recent publication of The New City Catechism by the Gospel Coalition (2012), we have been helped as well. The structure of the catechism itself, the format, and the insightful support materials have certainly influenced us as we made our way ahead.
In some ways, I approach this project with much “fear and trembling”. Since this work has been seen as helpful to so many different people, it means that it is likely to enjoy a wide distribution. The weight of such a responsibility is not lost on me.
I am also keenly aware of many of the problems in publishing a catechism that attempts to be “simple”. In so many ways, the Bible is not a simple book. Theology is not a simple subject matter. I am also aware that there are limits to what a catechism can do. A catechism requires (and assumes) a church. A catechism can help a church accomplish one of its primary discipleship tasks, but it is no substitute for the church. Like a hammer or a wrench, it needs to be “in the hands” of a competent practitioner. The limitations of a “shorter” catechism are even greater. Size limitations will require that we will not be able to address every possible idea in every counter-catechesis across a variety of cultures. It also means that many of our answers, while faithful to the scriptures and complete in as far as they go, will always be, in some ways, incomplete. The Bible texts will help give a more robust view of things, but in ways that we acknowledge, this “little book” cannot say everything that needs to be said. It will never be able to anticipate every misreading or over-reading of the text. Nor will it be able to anticipate every linguistic land mine or potential cultural misreading across translation possibilities. But we will take all we have learned and try to be as wise and thoughtful as we can in these matters.
A catechism is a map. Not a map with all of the detail one might expect from National Geographic. It is a map like the one you might draw for a friend on the back of a napkin in a coffee shop. It does not include every GPS waypoint or mark every contour in elevation. It won’t be to scale or in perfect proportion. But if your friend follows it, it can get him to where he needs to go, help him know if he’s lost, and help get him back on the right track so he can find his way home. This is our hope for this second edition.