The Catechism is Strategic.
The Catechism is a powerful and recurring proclamation of the Word that is able to make one, from childhood, “wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 3:15)
Through this website, the Editor hopes to stir inclination, focus, encouragement, incentive, morale, knowledge, examples, demonstrations, and resources to:
Restore the Small Catechism to active use by more parents in the home. Dr. Luther said repeatedly in the Catechism, “As the head of the family should teach it in a simple way to his household.”
Provide ideas and resources for pastoral catechesis.
- Teachers in Congregations.
Provide assistance to teachers in Sunday school, vacation Bible school, Bible camps, and other teaching ministries.
Genius of Luther’s Small Catechism
There is far more genius in Luther’s Small Catechism than is commonly supposed. He did not slapdash it together in a hurry as one might be tempted to think from its brevity. Making it short took time, as when Winston Churchill apologized at the end of a long letter to his friend during the War for having written such a long letter. He explained that he did not have time to write a short one. Luther took the time to write a short catechism.
There were many options before him for its overall content and design, and in the development of its parts. His decisions reflect the work of a theologian through oratio, meditatio, and tentatio – prayer, meditation, and spiritual attack – together with visitation and preaching.
He here adapts the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven to the capacity of children, and becomes himself a child with children, a learner with the teacher, as he said, “I am a doctor and a preacher, yet I am like a child who is taught the Catechism, and I read and recite word by word in the morning, the Ten Commandments, the Articles of the Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer, and cheerfully remain a child and pupil of the Catechism.”
Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, vol. vii, pp. 550-51 (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1910).
The catechism is basic: As a true “lay bible,” it desires to offer what is foundational in the Christian faith. It desires to make the center of Scripture, expressed in the core parts of the churchly tradition, fruitful for daily life. By doing so, it desires to hammer into us what is decisive in life and death for our salvation. In this, the catechetical struggle of Christianity, as it reaches an apex in Luther’s Small Catechism, remains able to offer directive aid to us today. What is basic is presented in an equally simple yet profound way. It can be recognized and uttered as what is exemplary only in the spiritual discipline of the praying mind. In the twentieth century it is no less important than in the sixteenth to find what is decisive for our salvation. Today, as well as then, this does not happen by “security and boredom” but only by humble kneeling and through the disciplined thinking of faith. Time and again it remains impressive how little is truly decisive for salvation and, at the same time, how infinitely much this “little” is.
Albrecht Peters, Commentary on Luther’s Catechisms: Ten Commandments, p. 21 (Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, 2009).
The catechism moves Scripture, the confession of the Church, and our daily life into the light of the Last Day. … Luther does not offer a miniature dogmatics textbook nor even a “popular abstract of the entire doctrine of faith and morals.” Rather, he consciously focused on what was necessary for life and death, on the iron ration, as it were. This is why we do well always to keep the beginning of Luther’s 1522 Invocavit Sermons in mind: “The summons of death comes to us all, and no one can die for another. Every one must fight his own battle with death by himself, alone. . . . Therefore, every one for himself must know and be armed with the chief things that concern a Christian. “
Albrecht Peters, Commentary on Luther’s Catechisms: Ten Commandments, p. 20 (Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, 2009). (The so-called ‘Iron Ration’ comprised an emergency ration of preserved meat, cheese, biscuit, tea, sugar and salt carried by all British soldiers in the field for use in the event of their being cut off from regular food supplies. First World War’s definition.)
This site is devoted to identifying, gathering, propagating, and pointing to resources to promote the use of Luther’s catechisms.
Let each one of us do what we can, when we can, where we can to serve the Iron Ration of the Catechism to as many saints as possible. If we band together in this, many hands will make light work.