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The term catechumen refers to the designated recipient of the catechetical work or instruction.

In the Catholic Church, catechumens are those who are preparing to receive the Sacrament of Baptism. What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy Him? The word of God which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.

The catechism is organized on the topics of faith, law, prayer and sacraments.

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Traditionally, they would be placed separately during Holy Mass from those who had been baptized, and would be dismissed from the liturgical assembly before the Profession of Faith (Creed) and General Intercessions (Prayers of the Faithful). The catechism's question-and-answer format, with a view toward the instruction of children, was a form adopted by the various Protestant confessions almost from the beginning of the Reformation.

In 1973, The Common Catechism, the first joint catechism of Catholics and Protestants, was published by theologians of the major Western Christian traditions, as a result of extensive ecumenical dialogue. Among the first projects of the Reformation was the production of catechisms self-consciously modelled after the older traditions of Cyril of Jerusalem and Augustine.

For example, Socinians in Poland published the Racovian Catechism in 1605, using the question and answer format of a catechism for the orderly presentation of their arguments against the Trinity and the doctrine of Hell, as these were understood by the Reformed churches from which they were forced to separate.

The Anabaptists have also produced catechisms of their own, to explain and defend their distinctives.

When Frederick III, Elector Palatine came into power in 1559 he put his authority behind the Calvinistic view on the Lord's Supper, which denied the local presence of the body of Jesus Christ in the elements of the sacrament. That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ; who, with his precious blood, has fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by his Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto him. How many things are necessary for thee to know, that thou, enjoying this comfort, mayest live and die happily? Three; the first, how great my sins and miseries are; the second, how I may be delivered from all my sins and miseries; the third, how I shall express my gratitude to God for such deliverance.

He turned Sapienz College into a school of divinity, and in 1562 he placed over it a pupil and friend of Luther's colleague, Philipp Melanchthon, named Zacharias Ursinus. Together with the Westminster Confession of Faith (1647), the Westminster Assembly also produced two catechisms, a Larger and a Shorter, which were intended for use in Christian families and in churches. The scriptures principally teach, what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man.

In an attempt to resolve the religious disputes in his domain, Frederick called upon Ursinus and his colleague Caspar Olevianus (preacher to Frederick's court) to produce a catechism. The structure of the Heidelberg Catechism is spelled out in the second question; and the three-part structure seen there is based on the belief that the single work of salvation brings forward the three persons of the Trinity in turn, to make God fully and intimately known by his work of salvation, referring to the Apostles' Creed as an epitome of Christian faith. These documents have served as the doctrinal standards, subordinate to the Bible, for Presbyterians and other Reformed churches around the world. Oecolampadius composed the Basel Catechism in 1526, Leo Juda (1534) followed by Bullinger (1555) published catechisms in Zurich.

The two collaborators referred to existing catechetical literature, and especially relied on the catechisms of Calvin and of John Lasco. Assurance of salvation is the unifying theme throughout this catechism: assurance obtained by the work of Christ, applied through the sacraments, and resulting in grateful obedience to the commandments and persistence in prayer. The Shorter Catechism shows the Assembly's reliance upon the previous work of Calvin, Lasco, and the theologians of Heidelberg. Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever. What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him? The Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him. The French Reformed used Calvin's Genevan catechism, as well as works published by Louis Cappel (1619), and Charles Drelincourt (1642).

The scandal of diverse instruction is that it produces diverse baptisms and diverse communions, and diverse faith.

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