Amy G. Tan
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Catechisms and the question of the fundamentals of the faith
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Early modern English catechisms have seen some attention from scholars, notably Ian Green; Chapter 4 builds upon, and suggests certain revisions to, Green’s conclusions. Where he sees catechetical materials as largely void of controversial content and high-level theological issues, this study suggests the opposite. From 1607–29, Bernard developed and refined a two-part catechetical method that closely aligned with what we know of his theoretical and practical goals for catechesis. Analysis of this content suggests that Bernard was willing to accept the Prayer Book catechism only when certain theological caveats were added to clarify its teachings. In 1630, however, Bernard produced an entirely new catechism, substantially different from his earlier method: and also published Good Christian Looke to thy Creede, a work largely catechetical in format and content, but which he did not title a catechism. I argue that we can explain this shift within Bernard’s ecclesiastical context, as Bishop Curll took the see of Bath and Wells and began enforcing restrictions on catechetical practice to a greater degree than his predecessors had. This suggests that the timing and the content of Bernard’s catechetical publications were influenced both by his own convictions and by pressures imposed upon him from above, with his publications in the later period demonstrating an impetus toward creative negotiation in which he actively advertised his conformity before ecclesiastical superiors and any reading audiences, yet sought innovative ways to continue providing users (including, but not limited to, his own parishioners) with catechetical materials consonant with his longstanding approach.

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