Introducing New City Catechism

Question 1. What is the chief end of man?

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


Question 1. What is your only comfort in life and death?

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

* * * * *

Many of you will recognize these words as the opening question and answer of the Westminster and Heidelberg Catechisms. But we’re guessing that a very small number of people will have memorized the entire catechisms from which they derive.

After all, the practice of catechesis, particularly among adults, has been almost completely lost today. It seems so medieval to have children memorizing catechisms, much less doing it as adults. So why did The Gospel Coalition team up with Redeemer Presbyterian Church to develop New City Catechism?

Most people today do not realize that it was once seen as normal, important, and necessary for churches to continually produce new catechisms for their own use. The early Scottish churches, though they had Calvin’s Geneva Catechism of 1541 and the Heidelberg Catechism of 1563, went on to produce and use Craig’s Catechism of 1581, Duncan’s Latin Catechism of 1595, and The New Catechism of 1644, before eventually adopting the Westminster Catechism.

The Puritan pastor Richard Baxter, who ministered in the 17th century town of Kidderminster, was not unusual. He wanted to train heads of families to instruct their households in the faith. To do so, he wrote his own Family Catechism that was adapted to the capacities of his people and that brought the Bible to bear on many of the issues his people were facing at that time.

Three Purposes

Historically catechisms were written with at least three purposes. The first was to set forth a comprehensive exposition of the gospel—not only in order to explain clearly what the gospel is, but also to lay out the building blocks on which the gospel is based, such as the biblical doctrine of God, of human nature, of sin, and so forth. The second purpose was to do this exposition in such a way that the heresies, errors, and false beliefs of the time and culture were addressed and counteracted. The third and more pastoral purpose was to form a distinct people, a counter-culture that reflected the likeness of Christ not only in individual character but also in the church’s communal life.

When looked at together, these three purposes explain why new catechisms must be written. While our exposition of gospel doctrine must be in line with older catechisms that are true to the Word, culture changes, and so do the errors, temptations, and challenges that we must be equipped to face and answer.

So, with all that in mind, we decided to adapt Calvin’s Geneva Catechism, the Westminster Shorter and Larger Catechisms, and especially the Heidelberg Catechism, to produce New City Catechism. While giving exposure to some of the riches and insights across the spectrum of these great Reformation-era catechisms, New City Catechism also looks at some of the questions people are asking today.

We also decided that New City Catechism should comprise only 52 questions and answers (as opposed to Heidelberg’s 129 or Westminster Shorter’s 107). There is therefore only one question and answer for each week of the year, making it simple to fit into church calendars and achievable even for people with demanding schedules.

We wanted to do one more thing. We found that parents who teach their kids a children’s catechism, and then try to learn an adult one for themselves often find the process confusing. The children are learning one set of questions and answers, and the parents are learning another completely different set. So New City Catechism is a joint adult and children’s catechism. In other words, the same questions are asked of both children and adults, and the children’s answer is always part of the adult answer. This means that as parents are teaching it to their children they are learning their answer to the question at the same time.

Attached to each question and answer there is a short written commentary from a historical preacher (e.g., Augustine, Edwards, Spurgeon, Wesley, etc.) and a short video commentary from some of the council members of The Gospel Coalition (e.g., Don Carson, Mark Dever, Kevin DeYoung, John Piper, etc.) and the pastors of Redeemer Presbyterian Church. So the idea is to read a commentary from a historical preacher and then watch a commentary from a modern one.

Why not commit to memorizing New City Catechism? Go to for more information and to download the free interactive iPad app or use the online catechism tool. And starting next week on October 22, you can join the one-year campaign to delight in the attributes and work of God by learning New City Catechism. Next Monday, you can subscribe to weekly updates via e-mail or RSS on the New City Catechism blog.

  • Wesley

    This is awesome – thanks so much for your efforts in this. Been going through the children’s catechism (short Westminster) with my kids but may switch to this in order to be doing it together. Love to see this practice revived and regularly encouraged in all confessing evangelical churches today.

    • Jon

      I would encourage you to include Westminster Shorter Catechism Q.9 in your exercises with your children. WSCQ9: What is the work of creation? A. The work of creation is, God’s making all things of nothing, by the word of his power, in the space of six days, and all very good.
      This phrase has been omitted in the New City Catechism. (John Piper’s catechism is silent as well.) This omission is inexcusable.
      Omitting the phrase “…in the space of six days” from our collective, confessional consciousness seems to smack of historical and theological “revisionism” of the worst sort. The phrase mirrors the words of Scripture, expresses the historic confession of the Church until very recently, and reflects the position of very many Reformed Christians (among whom are quite a few YECist scientists).
      Keep up the efforts with your children! It should yield rich blessings.

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  • keith Duhart

    even here in central Utah in an outreach ministry we are using this tool for new converts it is so important that they know from the scripture what and why they believe.Thanks for this tool.

  • Nancy A. Almodovar

    i have some issues with several of these questions because they promote an emergent-type of post millenial view. However, my research for my dissertation has exposed me to the origins of the Heidelberg, which was a compilation of the Geneva, Ursinus’ Larger and Shorter along with the Lutheran L & S catechisms. Why would we need to update this when it doesn’t combat the biggest errors of our day: gnosticism via charismatic/pentecostal beliefs? This is the area were an addendum should have been placed.

    • pduggie

      What do you mean by “an emergent-type of post millenial view?” which questions?

      Seems pretty amil to me.

    • Waldemar

      Exactly, what do you mean?

    • andrewtlocke

      Nancy, no offense is meant by this, but if you think one of the biggest errors of our day is propelled by Charismatic/Pentecostal beliefs and theology, I’m not sure you’re paying attention. Not that I have the definite handle on the question of what the biggest errors of our day are either, BUT I would be predisposed to think they are the following:

      1. God is not Sovereign (an emerging open theism which is subversively spreading throughout evangelicalism, chipping away at God’s right to do just about anything. Case in point, the upcoming book from Greg Boyd called “The Crucifixion of the Warrior God”)
      2. Jesus did not receive in his body the due penalty for our sins (a denial of penal substitutionary atonement)
      3. Denial of the classic doctrine of Hell

      The question of how charismatic theology is understood and applied in the church today is a great and worthy topic of discussion and debate, but I’m just not sure it qualifies as one of the biggest errors of our day.

      Just my opinion. Take it for what it is.


  • Tad Caldwell

    I hope ya’ll make an interactive android tablet app as well. This looks amazing, so very excited!

    • Scott Eppler

      I second that Tad! I love this but am more of an Android guy than an iPad guy. I mean, the webapp will do but it’s never near as nice.

      • David Juniper

        Q. Does God promise us health and wealth in this life?
        A. No. We must go though many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.

    • Chris Krycho

      I third this, and also suggest that a phone-friendly version would be great. (Even just a responsive version of the website!)

      • Kit

        Echoing Chris: when might the iPhone be able to pick up on this? Thanks!

    • Carlos

      An Android port would be nice. I see no reason why they couldn’t have made one already. Subsplash Consulting did the TGC app and it works well. Must be patient.

  • Nathan B

    I’d like to see a regular text version of this in list form or maybe a simple PDF. Can we get all the Q&A’s on one or two pages?

    • Tad Caldwell

      A pdf is on the site, the link is in the top right hand side once you open the interactive browser version.

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  • Rick Owen

    Catechizing seems like a good opportunity for psalms, hymns and spiritual songs to serve (Col. 3:16). Anyone aware of much that’s been organized catechetically in this way?

    I believe Susan Harding’s “Tell Me About God” did something similar to this, including Shorter Catechism questions, brief Bible stories and verses, and songs arranged alphabetically around the attributes of God.
    I used this with my own kids when they were small, as well as with 3-5 year olds at church. I also used “Leading Little Ones to God” when the kids were a little older.

    I’m thinking a fuller catechetical version of these books might be handy for training up children in the Lord at church and home.

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  • Cameron

    I wasn’t clear on whether Questions 46 and 47 teach that Christ is present in the Lord’s Supper in any particularly specific or unique way. Any insights into this?

    • pduggie

      They were vaguer on the supper than baptism. Clear that baptism doesn’t actually cleanse from sin. But the Supper “brings us into communion with God”. Full stop. No qualification.

      • Daniel Schrock

        You’re right Cameron. It seemed to me that the catechism is purposefully vague on the entire matter of sacraments. Since TGC is ecumenical on the matter of sacraments, (i.e. there are Reformed and Baptist participants of TGC) this makes sense. Go and read through the Westminster Shorter Catechism sections on baptism and the Lord’s supper and compare. Not only is the matter of who should be baptized left out, but the clear language of the sacraments as means of grace in which God applies salvation to believers has been softened and made ambiguous. It seems to me (I may be wrong, but…) that someone holding a memorial baptist position could probably affirm this catechism. One reason why I as a Presbyterian pastor will probably not use it for my congregation.

  • Dominick

    I was able to print out the PDF.. but can you maek one available to print that includes the commentary and prayers..

    • Collin Hansen

      Unfortunately we cannot, as a print version would violate copyright on the commentary and prayers.

  • LAteach

    Starr Meade wrote an excellent book of devotions to use during family catechism time (based on the Westminster Shorter Catechism) called Teaching Hearts Training Minds: It’s great for elementary aged kiddos. :)

    I’ve always been pleased with the shorter catechism as is and wonder about the “need” for another version? I don’t want to be cynical about the motivation for publishing a new (not really?) one, but I am curious!

  • Rae Whitlock

    “Many of you will recognize these words as the opening question and answer of the Westminster and Heidelberg Catechisms.”

    Not the Heidelberg. :-)

    • Kit

      Q1 – What is my only comfort in life and in death? A1 – That I am not my own, but belong, body and soul, in life and in death, to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.

      Rae … how does your Heidelberg Catechism begin?

  • Andrew Terry

    I’d like to see this as a kindle book too. Though, the pdf will work well. Cannot wait to use this with my family.

  • Ryan

    This looks like a great tool. Lots of great work involved, and I think it will be very useful. But why does it have to be a called the “New CITY Catechism”? Why does everything have to be CITY this and CITY that? Is this catechism invalid for those in the suburbs? Do people in rural townships get a different catechism to use?

    I live and minister in a major city and my heart is for the city. And there are lots of people here, so lots of effort must be given to cities. But in my job, I happen to work with young pastors of all sorts. And one thing I often hear from guys in rural or small town churches is that they feel like they aren’t haven’t made it because all they hear about from the blogs and books are how important cities are.

    This is just another example of an unnecessary plug of cities. Please tone down the city, unless it really is a tool for urban ministry.

    • Collin Hansen

      Be careful about your assumptions, Ryan. Read Revelation 3 and 21 if you want to understand the biblical significance of “new city.”

      • Daniel Schrock

        I indeed revel in the biblical theological implications of John’s vision for how we view human culture as Christians. But to push back a little Colin there is just as much eschatological significance to agricultural/rural imagery that can be found in the OT prophets surrounding the New Creation. Urban is not the only eschatological motif. Why exclusively zero in on “new city?” If the emphasis is on New Creation, why not call it “New Jerusalem Catechism,” or “New Creation Catechism?” Why include “city” in the title if not to elevate urban ministry? And I ask that honestly not just rhetorically. I would love to hear other reasons there might be.

        • Collin Hansen

          Thank you for asking, Daniel. There’s a simple response: catechisms are often named for the place where they originated (Heidelberg, Geneva, Westminster, to name just three examples). This one was adapted by a church in New (York) City.

    • pduggie

      Yeah, how come we can’t use the Heidelberg catechism in Munster?

      Or use the Westminster catechism in St Andrews?

  • Esteban

    No sé si tienen planes de traducir al español este valioso recurso. Sería algo excelente si lo hicieran. Podrían contactar a pastores como: Henry Tolopilo, Miguel Núñez, Sugel Michelén, Paul Washer, Evis Luis Carballosa … Para que hicieran los comentarios en video. Que Dios les bendiga.

    • Jose L. Garcia

      I totally agree with Esteban to have a spanish version and include commentaries from spanish spoken ministers. I suggest also to include Wenceslao Calvo, Cesar Vidal Manzanares, Samuel Solivan among others.

  • bruce

    oh well. back to the drawing board on creating songs for each (westminster) catechism question. Anyone want to patron a version for the new city catechism??

  • Jason Allen

    Regarding question 44: Can someone help me understand the use of the word “seals” found in the answer. I’m not Presbyterian so I was not sure if this language is significant to Presbyterian doctrine.

  • http://GospelCoalition John Iversen

    I’m sorry you only have a down loadable app for i phone and not a downloadable for those of us who only have a computer. Will this be available to download in the future?

    • ScriptureZealot

      See the “Open the Web-Based Catechism Tools in a Browser >” link.

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  • Bean

    Will there be an iPhone version as well?

  • Jeff D

    I’m thankful that you’re working to reintroduce catechisms.

    That said, I’d love for the introduction to at least suggest memorizing some of the scripture that the catechism is based on.

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  • Tim Corbeau

    I co-author a french blog in which I would like to share the (translated) content of the New City Catechism over the next year – with links and credit aknowledgement.
    What can I share on the blog and not infringe any copyright? Are there sections I should not include?

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  • Marty Earls

    Love it. Android Please :)

  • Sarah Moore

    Thank you!! This will be a great resource for teaching my children–and myself–the great truths of our faith.

    Please, please, please–Android app asap? :-)

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  • Daniel Schrock

    I wonder if there is a particular reason why God’s being was left out of Q2 in what is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable about him.

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  • kerwyn wilson

    Will you also be releasing an Android version of this app?

  • John Wade Long, Jr.

    Re: The new catechism’s definition of God: At the age of eight, having recited the Child’s Catechism, my mother got me started on the Shorter Catechism which I completed at 12. At Belhaven College in the early 60s, Prof. Morton Smith gave us extra credit in Bible for learning it, and required it again when he taught us Systematics at RTS. Wonderful! For many of us, it was our grounding and still is our theological spine!
    I note with sorrow that in defining God, like the Shorter Catechism, this new one omits love as one of God’s defining attributes. In the accompanying teaching video, the speaker mentions it. Why not put it in the answer proper? 1 John 4:8

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  • Mike

    Is there a paper version available yet? If so, can you please point me to where I could purchase it, thanks!

  • Dan

    In Q1, we believe that we “belong to God and to our Savior Jesus Christ”, but it doesn’t say that we belong to the Holy Spirit.

    Does anyone know why the Holy Spirit is excluded?

    Thanks! Also, is there a better place to post these kinds of questions?

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  • Jonathan Romig

    I’d love to see this app out for the iphone and for mac apps so we can use it on our computers. This seems like a great teaching tool I’d love to use.

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