Saturday, October 20, 2007

Augustus Toplady: Rock of Ages

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure;
Save me from its guilt and power.

Not the labor of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.

Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to the cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.

While I draw this fleeting breath,
When mine eyes shall close in death,
When I soar to worlds unknown,
See Thee on Thy judgment throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee.
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"[T]here are hymns that contain doctrinal insight to rival that of the best theology ever produced. The fact that they are falling out of the church's collective memory is something to be deeply regretted as it is one more facet of what at times seems to be a concerted effort to fail catechetically." - WTM

5 comments:

Andy said...

I asked this on a previous post... I guess I was too late. But I'm still curious: given that many of us have a sense of what catechetical failure looks like, what would constitute catechetical "success"? I ask this sincerely as a pastor, one who wants to catechize effectively and faithfully.

WTM said...

Andy,

Sorry to have forgotten about your question. I remember receiving it and thinking that I should reply, but it slipped out of my mind. Again, my apologies.

What catechetical success would look like is terribly difficult to imagine, since we have lived without it for so long. Of course, it cannot refer to a spiritual reality, since we as mere human beings are not capable of bringing about such things. So, we must think of success in more empirical, testable terms.

So, I would consider catechetical success something like the better part of a congregation being enough aware with the language and content of the Bible and theology as to make use of intelligent use of them in their lives. The mastery of content is certainly something that can be tested.

Importantly, catechesis is a lifelong endeavor. Whatever is finally considered to be the basic level for which we will test, the study of Scripture and theology should continue throughout the Christian's life.

As a final parting shot, I wonder if the majority of seminarians are adequately catechized.

D.W. Congdon said...

Great hymn, Travis, and interesting question, Andy. Since I've never experienced "catechetical success," I have very little idea what it might look like. I feel like saying with Luther, after he witnessed the lack of catechesis among the parishioners, "Good God, what wretched I beheld ..." I'm a little wary about making "success" too empirical, because then each church would be forced to give some kind of exam to its parishioners in order to assess their level of catechetical instruction. But I'm not sure if I have a better answer.

WTM said...

Precisely what such an 'exam' would look like will certainly vary. And I'm not advocating some sort of scantron system, by any means! But, certainly some form of 'testing' ought to be employed, even if only at the level of oral interview.

Andy said...

Thanks for these comments. It certainly is complicated, which is why I asked about "success" (in scare quotes). I can think of people in my congregation who would almost certainly fail a catechesis "exam" of whatever sort, but yet still have deep and abiding orthodox faith. That is to say, they understand the faith even if they can't quite articulate it effectively. Conversely, I can think of people in my congregation who know all the correct answers, but whose lives bear few fruits of the Spirit. As in other areas of the life of faith, catechesis must encompass both mind and heart, or better, as George Hunsinger said, head, heart, and hand.

What a task for pastors like me, and teachers-to-be, like you!