An Introduction to

authentic christianity
by Joe Morecraft, III
An address given at the American Vision
Super Worldview Conference, 2010
A
merican Vision has just published
a five-volume commentary entitled
Authentic Christianity. It is an explana-
tion and application of the Westminster
Larger Catechism and of the Reformed
Faith of which that catechism is its
most mature representation.
Te reason for its title – Authentic
Christianity – is to identify biblical and
historical Christianity in its purest hu-
man expression in contrast to all the
counterfeit and synthetic expressions
of the Christian Faith that swirl around
us today, deceiving so many.
Te apostle Paul wrote that the
church of the living God is the pillar
and support of the truth making her not
only the proclaimer and teacher of the
truth, but also the guardian and cus-
todian of the truth. Terefore he gives
her this exhortation: …guard the trea-
sure [of revealed truth] that has been
entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and
empty chatter and the opposing argu-
ments of what is falsely called knowl-
edge, which some have professed and
thus gone astray from the faith. Tis
commentary is an attempt to do just
that and to show generations to come
that people in the twenty-first century
believed the faith of our fathers.
Why the Westminster Larger Cat-
echism? In the 1640’s England was in
the social, economic, political, and re-
ligious turmoil of civil war. England’s
king, Charles I, marched a mercenary
army on his own people to impose his
despotic will on them as the unques-
tioned head of church and state. In
response to his actions, Charles was
arrested and found guilty in a court of
law of tyranny, treason, and murder, as
an implacable enemy of the common-
wealth of England and sentenced to be
beheaded, January 30, 1649.
In the midst of all this, the English
Parliament with a Puritan majority, and
with the assistance of Reformed Scot-
land, sought to end the tyranny of King
Charles and advance the Reformation
by uniting the nation in biblical truth.
Parliament summoned about 120
theologians and ministers to meet in
the Westminster Abbey in London, be-
ginning in 1643, to perfect the theology
of the Church of England. However, as
the crisis intensified, the English Par-
liament needed the military assistance
of Scotland to defend itself from the
king. Tis led to the Solemn League
and Covenant in 1643 between the two
nations. Scotland swore to give mili-
tary aid to the English Parliament and
both nations swore to strive for “the
preservation of the Reformed religion
in the Church of Scotland, in doctrine,
33 Counsel of Chalcedon • Issue 4 • 2010
An Introduction to Authentic Christianity
worship, discipline and government,
against our common enemies” and “the
reformation of religion in the kingdoms
of England and Ireland, in doctrine,
worship, discipline and government ac-
cording to the word of God and the ex-
ample of the best Reformed churches”
that “the churches of God in the three
kingdoms” might be brought “to the
nearest conjunction and uniformity
in religion, confession of faith, form of
church government, directory for wor-
ship and catechizing.”
Out of this mutual commitment
the Westminster Assembly produced:
THE FORM OF PRESBYTERIAL
CHURCH GOVERNMENT (1644)
THE DIRECTORY FOR THE PUB-
LIC WORSHIP OF GOD (1645)
THE CONFESSION OF FAITH
(1646)
THE LARGER CATECHISM
(1647-48)
THE SHORTER CATECHISM
(1647-48)
Te Westminster fathers were expert
catechists, trained and thoroughly
practiced in the art of catechizing. But
they had a difficult time carrying out
the mandate of the Solemn League and
Covenant for a catechism. Tey rec-
ognized that it was an impossible task
trying, in their words, “to dress up milk
and meat both in one dish.” So they pre-
pared two catechisms “one more exact
and comprehensive, another more easy
and short for beginners.” Tey finished
the Larger Catechism in October 1647
and sent it to Parliament for approval
on October 22. It was approved by the
House of Commons but not by the
House of Lords. However it was ap-
proved by the General Assembly of the
Church of Scotland in 1648 and by the
Scottish Parliament in 1649.
Catechetical instruction in fami-
lies and churches is “a reality clearly
assumed by the Scriptures” in such pas-
sages as Exodus 12:26-27 and Deuter-
onomy 6:7, 20-25. A catechism is a form
of instruction by means of questions
and answers. Noah Webster’s Ameri-
can Dictionary says that to catechize is
“to instruct by asking questions, requir-
ing answers, and offering explanations
and corrections.”
Archbishop Usher, whose Irish Ar-
ticles of 1615 were so influential on the
foundation of the Westminster Confes-
sion of Faith, wrote:
What is catechizing? A. A teaching
by voice and repetition of the ground of
Christian religion. When should it be
used and by whom? A. Both at home
by the master of the house and in the
Church likewise by the minister. Why
at home? A. Because houses are the
nurseries of the Church.
What is the value of
the Larger Catechism
for today?
1. It contains some outstanding sum-
maries of biblical doctrine. Here are
four examples:
Q. 45. How doth Christ
execute the office of a
king?
A. Christ executeth the office of a king,
in calling out of the world a people to
himself, and giving them officers, laws,
Counsel of Chalcedon • Issue 5 • 2010
34
An Introduction to Authentic Christianity
and censures, by which he visibly gov-
erns them; in bestowing saving grace
upon his elect, rewarding their obedi-
ence, and correcting them for their
sins, preserving and supporting them
under all their temptations and suffer-
ings, restraining and overcoming all
their enemies, and powerfully ordering
all things for his own glory, and their
good; and also in taking vengeance on
the rest, who know not God, and obey
not the gospel.
Q. 67. What is effectual
calling?
A. Effectual calling is the work of God’s
almighty power and grace, whereby
(out of his free and special love to his
elect, and from nothing in them moving
him thereunto) he doth, in his accepted
time, invite and draw them to Jesus
Christ, by his word and Spirit; savingly
enlightening their minds, renewing and
powerfully determining their wills, so
as they (although in themselves dead in
sin) are hereby made willing and able
freely to answer his call, and to accept
and embrace the grace offered and con-
veyed therein.
Q. 70. What is
justification?
A. Justification is an act of God’s free
grace unto sinners, in which he par-
doneth all their sins, accepteth and
accounteth their persons righteous in
his sight; not for any thing wrought in
them, or done by them, but only for the
perfect obedience and full satisfaction
of Christ, by God imputed to them, and
received by faith alone.
Q. 77. Wherein do
justification and
sanctification differ?
A. Although sanctification be insepa-
rably joined with justification, yet they
differ, in that God in justification im-
puteth the righteousness of Christ; in
sanctification his Spirit infuseth grace,
and enableth to the exercise thereof; in
the former, sin is pardoned; in the other,
it is subdued: the one doth equally free
all believers from the revenging wrath
of God, and that perfectly in this life,
that they never fall into condemnation;
the other is neither equal in all, nor in
this life perfect in any, but growing up
to perfection.
2. It is superior to the Confession of
Faith in some of its doctrinal founda-
tions. Just to give two examples that
you can look up sometime:
(1). Te covenant of grace is better ex-
plained in Larger Catechism Questions
30-32 that in the Westminster Confes-
sion of Faith,7.3; and
(2). Question 22 connects the imputa-
tion of Adam’s sin to his status in the
covenant of works more clearly than the
Confession 6.3.
3. It gives a rich and full exposition
of the ten commandments. No other
such exposition gives us a more help-
ful and detailed treatment of the eth-
ical and social teachings of the Bible.
Of the 196 questions in the Larger
Catechism, 61 are concerned with the
ten commandments and the moral
law of God.
Avoiding a legalistic tone or excessive
and trivial details, “the Larger Cat-
35 Counsel of Chalcedon • Issue 4 • 2010
An Introduction to Authentic Christianity
echism’s exposition of the law is in fact
a useful basis for meditation and self-
examination as it opens up the meaning
of the commandments for the benefit of
the believer who seeks to lead a godly
life,” wrote Robert Godfrey.
4. It gives a full-orbed doctrine of
the church, a subject almost entirely
absent from the Shorter Catechism.
“Te Shorter Catechism deliberately
focuses on individuals while the
Larger Catechism focuses much more
on the Christian community,” wrote
Robert Godfrey.
5. It is a full, balanced, edifying sum-
mary of the Christian Faith, a useful
aid to the Christian growing in the
knowledge of the word of God, not at
all difficult to read and understand.
Te sentences are sometimes long, but
studied one clause at a time, they are
easy to understand.
As one has said, “Te Westminster As-
sembly was remarkable in many ways.
Te standards it produced are one of
the great treasures in Christ’s church.
Te Larger Catechism is a crucial part
of that treasure, and churches…” im-
poverish themselves if they neglect it.
Te distinctive traits of the Larger
Catechism recommend it to the church
of the Twenty-first century.
1. It was prepared with great care.
Te Westminster fathers were fully
competent for the task. A body of men
more competent for their task could
not have been brought together. Such
a body of superior men could not be
put together today.
2. It contains all the basic truths of
the gospel. It is a complete manual of
the great fundamental doctrines of
divine revelation. In fact, I think it is
the most complete in existence.
3. It provides us with what no other
catechism offers: a complete system of
united truth, each doctrine in its right
place and in its right relations to other
doctrines. Its system of doctrine is
comprehensive, unified, and logically
self-consistent with an orderly struc-
ture. It is the system of doctrines re-
vealed in the Bible. Its focus is on God
and His will. Te revealed truths of the
Bible are systematic because the God
who gave them is sovereign, rational,
unchangeable, omniscient, and know-
able by revelation. Only such a God
could reveal a self-consistent system
of doctrine and only about such a God
is a systematic word possible. Modern
theology, based as it is on irrational-
ism, cannot produce a systematic the-
ology. Nor can synthetic Christianity
produce a systematic theology because
it does not take seriously the full Bib-
lical revelation nor does it start with
the premise hat God is unchangeable,
totally self-consistent, self-contained,
and absolutely sovereign. Only Re-
formed Christianity can develop, and
has developed, such a comprehensive,
harmonious and self-consistent sys-
tematic theology.
4. Te Larger Catechism along with
the Confession of Faith and the Short-
er Catechism not only present the
truths of the Bible with precision, they
also present them in such a way as to
guard against the most serious errors
by which those truths have been as-
sailed. Te doctrines of the Catechism
Counsel of Chalcedon • Issue 5 • 2010
36
An Introduction to Authentic Christianity
are stated with such care and full-
ness that at every point the learner is
guarded against every serious error
brought against that doctrine.
A clarification should be made here.
Te Larger Catechism is inferior, sec-
ondary, and subordinate to the Bible.
Te Bible is our only infallible rule of
faith and practice, and our catechism
is a help in understanding and applying
that one rule of faith and practice.
Our divinely-produced creed is the
Bible, and the church-produced creed
is the church’s interpretation of that
divine creed. Terefore the church’s
creed, found in the confession and cat-
echisms, is derived from, depends upon
and is subordinate to the Bible, and her
creed may never be placed above or on
par with the Bible.
Te Larger Catechism, along with
the Confession of Faith and the Shorter
Catechism, has made a significant im-
pact on western civilization. Although
written in the seventeenth century it
still has the spiritual power to trans-
form individuals, families, churches
and entire cultures in the Twenty-first
Century. As no other book, outside the
Bible, the Westminster Standards have
been informing, inspiring, and trans-
forming people for over 350 years. Why?
Because the Standards take seriously all
the facts of the written word of God and
all the facts of reality and human life.
Tey teach us to look at all of life from
the perspective of God revealed in the
Bible, “for from Him and through Him
and to Him are all things. To Him be
the glory forever.” It is for that reason
that the Larger Catechism begins with
these famous words: “Man’s chief and
highest end is to glorify God, and fully
to enjoy Him forever.”
1. Te Impact of the Larger Catechism
on the Individual
A vital relation exists between faith and
life, belief and conduct, creed and char-
acter, for as a man thinks in his heart
so is he.
It can be documented from history
that wherever the system of truth of the
Larger Catechism has been embraced
it has produced individuals of a noble
and distinct type of character. Consider
the morally superior men and women
of the Hugenots of France, the Protes-
tant Dutch of Holland, the Puritans of
England, and the Covenanters of Scot-
land. Te distinct, pure and noble type
of character developed among these
people has never been surpassed in his-
tory. Fill your library with biographies
of these great men and women.
Tis character has been marked by
a strictness of life and worship which
regulates both by the word of God. Ad-
herents to the Larger Catechism have
been distinguished by intelligence. One
has written that “it is a plain fact of his-
tory that Calvinism and ignorance have
never dwelt together in unity. Wherever
they have met one or the other has had
to quit the field.” Tose molded by the
Larger Catechism have been marked
by courage. Faith in a sovereign and
almighty God of grace makes a man or
a woman a hero. And those who truly
believe the Larger Catechism have had
a high regard for the needs and duties
of mankind. As one has written: “It is
not too much to claim that the Calvin-
istic peoples have been marked by a
love of truth and justice, a devotion to
duty, an unswerving allegiance to right,
a personal uprightness and purity of
character, not surpassed by the adher-
ents of any other creed or system. We
37 Counsel of Chalcedon • Issue 4 • 2010
An Introduction to Authentic Christianity
may with confidence maintain that the
world has never known a higher type of
stalwart manhood, nor a gentler, purer
or more lovable womanhood than have
prevailed into whose hearts and life has
entered this Calvinistic creed.”
2. Te Impact of the Larger Catechism
on Marriage and the Family
As one historian has said, “Home as
we conceive it was the creation of the
Puritan.” The reality of a Christian
family has been most nearly realized
in those places where the influence of
the Westminster Standards has been
most dominant. “Westminster Chris-
tians” perceived more clearly than
others the Biblical truths that:
(a) Te family, rather than the individu-
al, is the basic unit upon which church
and society are built;
(b) Te children of believers have a place
in the church covenant and kingdom of
God. One has said, “No smaller gospel
can adequately express the exceeding
riches of redeeming grace; no smaller
gospel can perfectly satisfy the need of
the human soul. – Tat deep yearning
of the soul this gospel answers with the
assurance that as we confidently com-
mit ourselves, so may we commit our
children, into the arms of redeeming
love.” And wherever the Reformed Faith
as expressed in the Larger Catechism
has prevailed, families have been char-
acterized by two features: family disci-
pline and family worship.
3. Te Impact of the Larger Catechism
on Society
(a) Along with the Reformed emphasis
on self-government, family government,
and church government it has empha-
sized the necessity for representative,
Christian republicanism as essential to
liberty and justice for all.
(b) Te faith of the Larger Catechism has
caused its adherents to stand against all
forms of tyranny and totalitarianism in
church and state. In the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries, these Reformed
Christians stood almost alone in teach-
ing that tyrants are usurpers and are to
be resisted and deposed.
(c) It is not an exaggeration to say that
it was the principles of the Westmin-
ster Standards, applied, and defended
by the adherents of those principles
that gave birth to the Declaration of
Independence, our War for Indepen-
dence, the U.S. Constitution and this
American republic.
My prayer is that the Westminster
Larger Catechism will have this kind
of influence in the twenty-first century
on individuals, families, churches and
whole societies and cultures.
4. Te Impact of the Larger Catechism
on the Twenty-first Century.
We live in an age of anti-Christianity,
an age of intensifying hostility toward
Reformed Christianity. Te apostasy
and moral bankruptcy of the Ameri-
can culture deepens every day. To such
a culture and society the Westminster
Larger Catechism is symbolic of all that
is obscure, irrelevant, and unworthy of
modern man. What are we to do? Mod-
ify the Catechism to suit the objections
of this humanistic world? No! Are we to
retreat inside the walls of our churches
and isolate ourselves from the ques-
tions and issues of our day? No!
Counsel of Chalcedon • Issue 5 • 2010
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An Introduction to Authentic Christianity
We must confess our faith coura-
geously and without hesitation or com-
promise. We must confess it clearly and
relevantly to this increasingly hostile
society as its only hope or salvation.
We cannot be nostalgic obscurantists
who live in and long for the past. Our
confession of faith must be bold, clear,
and relevant to the specific needs of
twenty-first century men and women.
And nothing clarifies our confession of
Christ more effectively and relevantly
than the careful exposition and appli-
cation of the word of God as expressed
in the theology, ethics, and worldviews
of the Westminster Larger Catechism.
It, along with the Confession of Faith
and Shorter Catechism, is sufficiently
relevant in its contents and emphasis to
all the vital issues of our modern world.
As F.N. Lee has written:
Our confession of Christ in
modern society must, without
in any way compromising the
unchangeable truths of Chris-
tianity, also take account of
these characteristics of our so-
ciety. Our affluent society must
be confronted with the greater
affluence of [Reformed] Chris-
tianity to make it realize its
own relative poverty; our soci-
ety’s over-specialization must
be challenged by [Reformed]
Christianty’s even greater ca-
pacity for detail yet overrid-
ing and unified life and world
view; we must confront society’s
increasing decay with the be-
nevolent discipline yet perfect
freedom of [Reformed] Chris-
tianity; and by this rich and
relevant manner of confessing
Christ, we must show society
the irrelevant poverty of its own
Godless smugness.
What is the best way
to study the Larger
Catechism?
First, ask the Holy Spirit to lead you
into all truth, to preserve you from
false doctrine, and to enable you to
apply the truth to all areas of your
thought and life.
Second, read through the West-
minster Confession of Faith to get an
overview of the system of revealed truth
explained in the Standards. Ten read
the Shorter Catechism to understand
the main ideas of the Standards con-
cisely stated.
Tird, read the Larger Catechism
through slowly trying to understand as
much of it as possible.
Fourth, read the Larger Catechism
again, this time studying the Scriptural
footnotes that support the phrases in
the answers to the Catechism’s ques-
tions. Bear in mind that the Westmin-
ster fathers used these footnotes in a
variety of ways: some footnotes define
the words and phrases used; some give
the source of the words and phrases
used in the text; still others are illustra-
tions of the truth set forth assuming its
Biblical nature.
Fifth, read, re-read and meditate
on the Larger Catechism the rest of
your life. After you have taught your
children the Shorter Catechism, teach
them the Larger Catechism. Encour-
age your preacher to preach through
the Larger Catechism on Sunday eve-
nings. It took me over 400 hours of
sermons, which are available through
our church, and I have not even begun
39 Counsel of Chalcedon • Issue 4 • 2010
An Introduction to Authentic Christianity
preaching on the catechism’s exposi-
tion of the ten commandments.
What is the best way to
read the commentary
on the Larger
Catechism which
American Vision has
just published? Let me
suggest three ways.
First use it as part of the curriculum of
your home school. Second, use it as a
reference on theology and ethics, using
the table of contents and the CD-ROM
that comes with the commentary, which
contains a completely digital version of
the entire five volumes. Tird, do what
some have already begun, start with vol-
ume one and discipline yourself not to
stop until you have read all five volumes
underlining and writing things in the
margin as you go. It will be exhaustive
and exhausting, but hopefully edifying.
One final clarification: I have used
words like the Reformed Faith and Cal-
vinism to describe the theology and
ethics of the Larger Catechism. Let me
briefly explain what I mean by quoting
one of the greatest Christian scholars of
the twentieth century, Benjamin Warf-
ield of old Princeton Seminary.
“Te Calvinist is the man who
has seen God, and who, having
seen God in His glory, is filled
on the one hand, with a sense of
his own unworthiness to stand
in God’s sight as a creature,
and much more as a sinner,
and on the other hand, with
adoring wonder that neverthe-
less this God is a God who re-
ceives sinners. He who believes
in God without reserve and is
determined that God shall be
God to him, in all his thinking,
feeling, willing – in the entire
compass of his life activities,
intellectual, moral, spiritual –
throughout all his individual,
social, religious relations --- is,
by the force of that strictest of
all logic which presides over the
outworking of principles into
thought and life, by the very ne-
cessity of the case, a Calvinist…
Te Calvinist is the man who sees God
behind all phenomena, and in all that
occurs recognizes the hand of God,
working out His will; who makes the at-
titude of the soul to God in prayer the
permanent attitude in all its life activi-
ties; and who casts himself on the grace
of God alone, excluding every trace
of dependence on self from the whole
work of salvation…
Te Calvinist, in a word, is the man
who sees God. He has caught sight of
the ineffable Vision; and he will not let it
fade for a moment from his eyes. – God
in nature, God in history, God in grace.
Everywhere he sees God in his mighty
stepping; everywhere he feels the work-
ing of His mighty arm, the throbbing of
His mighty heart.”
As Charles Spurgeon said, “I have
my own private opinion that there is
no such thing as preaching Christ and
Him crucified, unless we preach what is
nowadays called Calvinism. It is a nick-
name to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is
the gospel, and nothing else.”
One of the reasons I wrote this com-
mentary on the Larger Catechism was
because of a secret meeting that took
place in Texas several years ago. Te
Counsel of Chalcedon • Issue 5 • 2010
40
An Introduction to Authentic Christianity
media wanted in but were not allowed.
It was reported on CBS by Bill Moyers.
Te meeting was between several
leading Christian reconstructionists
and representatives of nationally fa-
mous charismatic leaders. Te attack
on Christian churches and ministries
and on Christianity in general was
heating up and these charismatic lead-
ers were adopting a generally Reformed
worldview and eschatology as well as a
generally Reformed view of ethics and
politics to answer their critics. Tey had
many questions since all this was so
foreign to their heritage. Tey wanted
to know more. Hours were spent over a
couple of days talking about the issues.
Te reconstructionists explained
their worldview in greater detail, show-
ing them that the worldview to which
they were attracted grew out of a dis-
tinctively Reformed theology represent-
ed in the confessions and catechisms of
the 16th and 17th centuries.
Te reconstructionists present re-
alized that these men would have to
change their theologies drastically to
continue holding our worldview be-
cause a correct worldview imposed on a
false theology is a house built on sand.
Without Reformed theology a Reformed
worldview will either radicalize and be-
come revolutionary, or be superficial and
unconvincing, or be compromised and
synthesized as those who reject it turn
to the worldviews of their enemies.
Te men at that meeting had a
choice to make. After counting the
cost, would they pay the price? Tey
made the wrong choice and returned to
their old, irrelevant, escapist, irrational,
man-centered theologies and the po-
tential influence on America they could
have had vanished.
Te desire of my heart is that our
comrades-in-arms will have a well-
thought-out and thoroughly Biblical
theology, ethics, and worldview because
a correct and comprehensive worldview
is impossible unless it is built on a thor-
oughly Reformed foundation.
Te only worldview and theology
that is true enough and comprehensive
enough to refute and overturn the
comprehensive humanistic and Islamic
worldviews of our day is a Reformed
worldview, a Reformed ethic and a Re-
formed theology because the Reformed
Faith as represented in the Larger Cate-
chism, as Warfield said, is Biblical Chris-
tianity in its purest human expression.
Te Larger Catechism has a vigor-
ous victory-orientation with regard to
Christ’s kingdom and church in his-
tory before the return of Christ; it has
a workable and life-wide strategy for
victory in Biblical law that meets all the
demands of justice and love; and it has
the power to take the future, conquer
the world for Christ and create a second
and far better Christendom in its gospel
of sovereign grace.
Know well what you believe, and
don’t rest until the world’s nations be-
come Christ’s disciples. Don’t grow
weary in well-doing, for in due time you
shall reap if you do not faint!
Joe Morecraft, III