Category Archives: Professional Articles

The Quiet Crisis of Catechesis, Part 3, Published on Brothers of John the Steadfast

Brothers of John the Steadfast has published Part 3 in its serialization of William E. Thompson, “Catechesis: The Quiet CrisisConcordia Theological Quarterly 56  (1992) No. 2-3: 99-121. This serialization is published with the kind permission gladly given by the editor of Concordia Theological Quarterly .

Part 3 identifies the causes of the crisis. The late Rev. Thompson sets out the following:

Part 3 II. Causes of the Crisis
A. A Disrespectful Attitude
B. A Lack of Faith in the Means of Grace
C. The Adoption of Legalistic Goals
D. A Search for ShortcutsE. A Confusion in Ecclesiology

Head on over to Brothers of John the Steadfast to see this important discussion

What is our basic view of the Small Catechism? Dr. Pless reminds us what it is.

In answer to this question, a key addition to the Documents Library:

Pless, John T., “The Small Catechism: Pattern and Shape of Christian Doctrine,” For the Life of the World, vol, 4, no. 4 (Concordia Theological Seminary Press, October 2000).

The Small Catechism is the handbook for the Royal Priesthood of Believers. As such, it is:

1.  User’s guide to the Bible

2.  Our prayer book

3.  Handbook for the baptismal life.

Professor Pless writes:

The Small Catechism is the handbook for the Royal Priesthood of Believers. As such, the Small Catechism fulfills at least three functions for the Christian. First. the Small Catechism is a “user’s guide to the Bible.” In other words, the Small Catechism is …

Second, the Small Catechism is our prayer book. Not only does the Small Catechism teach us what Christian prayer is by unfolding for us the prayer which our Lord gave His disciples, the Small Catechism provides us with …

Third, the Small Catechism is a handbook for the baptismal life. Writing his treatise on The Freedom of a Christian, Luther notes that a Christian ” lives not …

Those are three tantalizing openings. I could not do justice to Professor Pless’ development of them. Better to give you the full article here, from the Document Library. This is worth printing and placing at the top of your stack of things you want to keep handy for reference. The quiet crisis of catechesis cries for regular reminders of the things written in this article.

As Pless says, “Luther prepared his Catechism as an act of pastoral care for God’s people. The Saxon Visitation of 1528 revealed how deeply both the pastors and people were in need of catechesis.” With that heart concern, Luther prescribed three important teaching practices for using the Small Catechism.

Often overlooked in the Preface is Luther’s threefold outline for catechesis. Much to the chagrin of some contemporary educational theorists, Luther starts with the text. He makes three salient points:

First, don’t be so quick to …

Second, after the text has been learned by heart, then …

Third, after the people have mastered the rudiments of the Small Catechism, go …

He had good reasons, pastoral reasons, reasons of love for strictly prescribing those practices. He was going somewhere with all this. Pless says:

With these principles in place, Luther intended that pastors would catechize their people so that the head of the household would be equipped to teach his family.

At that point, the crisis of catechesis is resolved. That is where we are heading with this. We must keep ourselves constantly in mind of our objective.

Print his article and keep it as a handy reminder.

Catechesis: The Quiet Crisis

A valuable article by the late Rev. William E. Thompson, “Catechesis: The Quiet Crisis,” Concordia Theological Quarterly, Volume: 56 Number: 2 in 1992, p. 99-122. He begins:

Like many young pastors upon their ordination and installation, I had a firm confessional resolve and a definite direction for ministry which were mandated by my ordination vows. Because of this confessional resolve, I chose to begin my Sunday-morning Bible class with a study of the Augsburg Confession. I felt that it would offer an opportunity to deepen the understanding of the faith which was known through Luther’s Small Catechism as well as expose the congregation to another of our church’s confessions. It did not take long for me to realize that the faithful members of this study-group did not have Luther’s Catechism as a basis on which to stand. They had either forgotten through disuse what they had learned of the Catechism or they had simply never been taught the Catechism in the first place. I then asked for a show of hands by those members of the class who had learned the Catechism before confirmation. To my shock, only two out of a group of about twenty-five had been catechized with the Small Catechism. The common reference-point which I naively assumed would be there in any congregation to which I was called was not there.

Since that time I have struggled to answer why this state of catechesis exists in our church. …