Two Lutheran Elephants: Negligent House Pastors and Divorce

The decline in membership of Lutheran churches in America is a like a migraine headache. It is always there. We keep explaining it with the same explanations. We keep taking the same medications. The pain continues. What is the right word for that?

In The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, the current (March 2017) issue of Reporter carries an extensive page two story, “Reversing LCMS membership decline: not just by having more children.” The article is based in part on a special edition (December 2016, vol. 3. No. 3) of Journal of Lutheran Mission. The article and the journal edition both are well worth your time.

The journal edition contains valuable raw information, hard facts that we need to face. It provides some bright spots of diagnosis and prescription for our migraine. I turned first to part three because of familiarity with the author, Dr. Ryan C. MacPherson. He is an inspiration to me because of his work with catechization and the family altar. His contribution to the journal edition should be read by everyone concerned with membership decline.

One of the most significant observations on the raw data is made by Synod President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison in his “From the President” introduction:

Thus there is no wedge that can be driven between openness to life (family size) and sharing life (evangelism). They are two sides of the same coin. Even down to the congregational level, churches with lots of growing families have lots of adult converts. The two simply go together; they either increase or decline together as these data demonstrate.

This is borne out by the raw demographic data in the report, and it is intuitive. People engaged in catechizing their children are more able and ready to also speak the Gospel to their friends, neighbors, and coworkers. Because of their children, they are fresh on the basics of the faith. Their children’s questions have oiled their jaws. Family does not crowd out evangelism. Family life equips outreach.

President Harrison says, “The retention of baptized and confirmed youth is a key area on which to focus.” So true. The church is hemorrhaging its own children.

Some good things are happening. The Office of National Mission is implementing “Everyone His Witness,” an outreach program that has a healthy catechism component, just as it should. Pastors and elders, direct yourself to find out about this program and consider it for your congregations.

Overall, we can help the situation by heeding the report, and we should be grateful to the people who put much labor, study, and prayer into it.

But, our prospects will continue to be hindered—the migraine will continue—if we don’t admit two elephants in the middle of the room. There they are … big, fat, and wide, but we don’t talk about them.

  • Our husbands do not catechize their wives. Our fathers do not catechize their children.
  • Our husbands and wives divorce. Our fathers and mothers divorce. The church remarries them.

“The retention of baptized and confirmed youth is a key area on which to focus.” Good luck with that, when youth know that religion is for women and children. That’s what we taught them and that’s how they know it. They learned our orthodoxy from our orthopraxy. Kids aren’t stupid. We are. They see what’s going on. They know the truth. We lie. They know that once they no longer are children, religion is not for them. We said so by the way we act.

The demographic study, for all the money spent on it, fails to tell us what share of men catechize their wives. There is no statistic about the percentage of fathers who teach the catechism to their children. We don’t know these things because we don’t care. Don’t claim to care when decade after decade after decade, we never look into it. The migraine continues. We have chosen our pain. We think this migraine is more tolerable than the pain that would be involved in men being manly, in men answering the call of God on their offices as husband and father. We don’t actually believe that husband and father are offices.

It would do no good to have more children. Why not? Because as long as religion is for women and children, as long as husbands are unhusbandly, as long as fathers are unfatherly, having more children would only be procreating to fill hell. The youth still would be falling away for lack of spiritual fathering.

If that weren’t devastating enough, we put another nail in our children’s coffin lid with divorce and remarriage. By these, we fork the tongue of the Law, and we fork the tongue of the Gospel. We fork both. We have no message left. Our children lose faith because we do. Don’t say they are not following in our ways. They are. Our children are a mirror in which we see ourselves.

When do our children hear the church tell their parents to forgive each other? When do they hear the church tell their parents to stay together and be pleasant about it? When do they hear the church tell their parents to obey the Sixth Commandment? When our children see the church remarry their adulterous parents, how many sermons does that shout down? What does that leave them to believe?

Our kids are good kids. They are well behaved. They don’t tell us what they are thinking. They don’t tell us how they hurt. There were not two dollars of the study spent on finding out what the damage of adultery, divorce, and remarriage is on our children. Divorce is discussed only for its demographic impact on the number of children, and not for the knife to their hearts. We are a hateful bunch. We are materialistic and selfish.

Fathers are all over Facebook about the Cardinals and the Packers, and say life is so busy there is no time for the catechism in the home. They say they cannot memorize, but they quote stats. Where are the mothers? Buying jerseys and following their husbands. Men, you are leading them, to hell.

“The retention of baptized and confirmed youth is a key area on which to focus.” Not going to happen. Not until we are a peculiar people. Here is a picture of the peculiar people we need to be, painted by Dr. Luther in the Large Catechism:

It is the duty of every father of a family to question and examine his children and servants at least once a week and to ascertain what they know of it [the catechism], or are learning, and, if they do not know it, to keep them faithfully at it.[1]

These [the Ten Commandments, Creed, and Lord’s Prayer] are the most necessary parts which one should first learn to repeat word for word, and which our children should be accustomed to recite daily when they arise in the morning, when they sit down to their meals, and when they retire at night; and until they repeat them, they should be given neither food nor drink. Likewise every head of a household is obliged to do the same with respect to his domestics, man-servants and maid-servants, and not to keep them in his house if they do not know these things and are unwilling to learn them. For a person who is so rude and unruly as to be unwilling to learn these things is not to be tolerated; for in these three parts everything that we have in the Scriptures is comprehended in short, plain, and simple terms.[2]

This is a part of the confessions that even the confessionals throw out. I am ready to throw it out too. Forget about sending the children to bed without supper if they won’t learn the catechism. How many fathers are even giving their children a shot at it? Send the fathers home without their paychecks instead, until they teach the commandments, creed, prayer, baptism, and communion “In the plain for in which the head of the family shall teach them to his household.” You don’t deserve to eat when you won’t feed your children.

And he will turn
The hearts of the fathers to the children,
And the hearts of the children to their fathers,
Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.
(Malachi 4:6; Luke 1:17)


[1] Short Preface of Dr. Martin Luther, Large Catechism, ¶ 4.

[2] Id., ¶¶ 15-17.

About T. R. Halvorson

T. R. Halvorson was born in Sidney, Montana on July 14, 1953, baptized at Pella Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sidney, Montana on November 8, 1953, and confirmed at First Lutheran Church in Williston, North Dakota in 1968. He and his wife, Marilyn, are members of Trinity Lutheran Church (LCMS) in Sidney, Montana. They have three sons and six grandchildren. T. R. farms at Wildrose, North Dakota, and is Deputy County Attorney in Sidney, Montana. He has been a computer programmer; and an author, conference speaker, instructor, and consultant to industry in online legal information. He is among the authors of the religion column in the Sidney Herald at Sidney, Montana. He is the Editor of


Two Lutheran Elephants: Negligent House Pastors and Divorce — 93 Comments

  1. “We have chosen our pain. We think this migraine is more tolerable than the pain that would be involved in men being manly, in men answering the call of God on their offices as husband and father.”

    Incisive diagnosis, Mr. Halvorson. Would that more men learn that the alternative to the migraine is not more pain, but joy from our Father in heaven.

  2. Excellent, excellent, T.R. I greatly appreciate your efforts at promoting catechesis with the head of the house leading. Thank you.

  3. I appreciate Dr. Luther’s catechism and all his writings, but it is no longer the 1500’s and we cannot return to the 1500’s. They had different problems in a completely different society. As long as the church tries to return to that time, we will fail. How many children of pastors do we see who no longer attend church? Even if they have gone through catechism, have been required to do daily devotions, usually by their pastor father, and probably still have belief, but they no longer attend church. The LCMS, as a church, does have a huge problem with education, especially if we think memorizing the catechism, whether at home or church, is the answer. We educate for information and not understanding or application. We tell them what to think and believe instead of asking questions about what they think and believe. We don’t let people ask questions. We don’t let people struggle with biblical issues. We publish terrible educational materials. And it would appear that we don’t trust the Holy Spirit. I agree that men need to step up and be the spiritual leader of the household, but we don’t equip them to do so. It’s time.

  4. I would really hope that this article is only one of many. While you are absolutely correct, the fact is that it is only one symptom.

    For example, Lutherans would benefit a better understanding of the historical culture of American Lutheranism as well. Why do we do the things we do, and why is it a problem now?

  5. I believe I would settle for Scriptural literacy initially instead of The Small Catechism or one of the other confessional documents we love so much. Ephesians 5:25 and 28 come to mind and should be a key component of pre-marital counseling. And a close study of passages like Ephesians 6:4 during Baptismal counseling. We may have inadvertently put our confessional documents a bit ahead of the Word of God, thinking that since the confessions reflect on, expand upon, and are derived from the Word, they should be the primary documents used in catechesis. Personally, I go with “The Source” first — every time.

  6. @Laura Langhoff Arndt #4

    @Rev Michael Giese #5

    I think you both raise great points. The catechism is a great tool in an era that assumes Christianity. But we are not there anymore. Our kids are being raised in a post-Christian era where every facet of what we believe is being openly challenged. The basics of the 10 commandments, the apostle’s creed, and the sacraments will not be enough to inculcate in them a lasting faith. The catechism gives a great summary of the what’s of Lutheran doctrine, but not so much the why behind them. Why do we believe in the 10 commandments in the first place? Well that starts with the story of creation and moves through Moses, all the way up to the gospels. Why do we believe in the trinity and where does the creed come from? Well, we see evidence of the trinity in the revelation of Jesus Christ, and epistles, and can support it with OT references as well. Why do Lutherans believe in justification by faith alone? Well, we need to have a deep working knowledge of epistles such as Romans and Hebrews. In short, the catechism is only a start. We need to immerse our kids in the Bible. We need to have meaningful conversations on why we believe what we believe. I think we may also need to look at some of the tools we use in church. For example, I like the lectionary. But sometimes I think it would be beneficial for pastors to depart from it and go through some of the key books of the bible such as the epistles, chapter by chapter. I don’t know. Sometimes I get pissed at the conversations here. The starting point often is what did Luther or the Book of Concord say about (name your topic)? The conversation should always start with what the Bible said, then work outward from there to what the Book of Concord has to say. Luther, Melancthon, Chemnitz, etc., were influential guys, but they are only influential if you agree that they hold to what the Bible originally said. We need to get back to that source to establish the authority of Lutheranism, not just assume its authority. Sorry if that came off wrong. I meant no disrespect by it. We need to do better, myself included.

  7. Start teaching that contraception is a sin, and stop remarrying illegitimately divorced people, as Pieper, Walther, Calov, Gerhard, Chemnitz, Melanchthon, Luther, Augustine, Paul, and Jesus believed.

    Until the clergy start pointing the laser beam of the Law on their own lives, the lives of the laity will. not. improve. period.

  8. If we really want to address these issues, then we need to cast down our false idol of feminism.

    You cannot expect Lutherans husband to act as heads of household when we don’t treat them as such. You cannot expect them to take charge when we teach them to submit to their wives. You cannot expect them to be leaders when so many Lutherans pretend that the only meaningful verses about marriage in Ephesians 5 are 25 & 28.

    Likewise, you cannot address the issue of divorce in the church until you can publically acknowledge that (and understand why) the super-majority of divorces are unilaterally committed by wives against faithful husbands.

    Pastors, how can you be disappointed that the husbands you shepherd aren’t catechizing their wives, when you yourselves are terrified of teaching them the parts of God’s Word that defy the spirit of the age?

  9. Following is a collected list of things that have been offered as better than starting with the Catechism. Now I ask you, how many fathers–what percentage of them–who will not teach the Catechism to their children would do any of the following. Nowhere have I said that all these other things you list shouldn’t be done. I am just saying that if a father won’t do the least and easiest spoon fed work, he is not likely to do the more complex, harder, taylor made work.

    – Why do we believe in the 10 commandments in the first place?

    – that starts with the story of creation and moves through Moses, all the way up to the gospels.

    – Why do we believe in the trinity and where does the creed come from?

    – we see evidence of the trinity in the revelation of Jesus Christ, and epistles, and can support it with OT references as well.

    – Why do Lutherans believe in justification by faith alone?

    – we need to have a deep working knowledge of epistles such as Romans and Hebrews.

    – We need to immerse our kids in the Bible.

    – We need to have meaningful conversations on why we believe what we believe.

    – Scriptural literacy initially instead of The Small Catechism

    – asking questions about what they think and believe

    – We don’t let people ask questions. We don’t let people struggle with biblical issues.

    Yes, we must reach a stage of understanding and ability to ask questions and find answers in the Bible. But are you really saying that a father who won’t teach the commandments, creed, and prayer is going to do all those other advanced marvels? Somehow that does not look probable to me. I am 63 years old and never have seen that happen once.

  10. it is no longer the 1500’s and we cannot return to the 1500’s. They had different problems in a completely different society

    Luther did not invent the catechism. From Exodus on, God’s people have used catechetical instruction. Note, they did this because God commanded and explained how to do it.

    The church has been using catechisms for 2000 years.

    Times have changed. Has idolatry changed?

    Times have changed. Has coveting changed?

    Times have changed. Have gossip and false witness changed?

    Times have changed. Has adultery changed?

    Times have changed. Have murder and hatred changed?

    How, then, did the Ten Commandments lose their relevance simply because times changed but God’s law did not.

    Has the Gospel changed. Is the creed now wrong and not worth knowing?

    Has prayer changed? Would Christ now rather that your children did not know the Lord’s Prayer?

    Has Baptism changed?

    Has Communion changed?

    Have our duties in various stations and offices of life changed?

    Yes, the times have changed, and no one needs to teach the children that the times have changed. They fully get that, and there are plenty of people and systems in place to impress upon them that times change. If we don’t teach them the things that do not change — law, gospel, prayer, and sacraments — then the only thing they will know is what has changed, and they will not know what has not changed. They will be taught nothing that is stable.

  11. @Laura Langhoff Arndt #4

    Teaching people what to think and believe is exactly what the Christian Church has been called to do. Jesus even said so, I’m happy to quote some passages if you’d like. But then I suppose I would be telling you what to think and believe.

    You can’t “appreciate” the catechism. Either it is the truth that it is to be taught and believed or it isn’t. It is through means of the Word of God (which the catechism summarizes) that the Holy Spirit works, and through that means alone. I trust Him to create and sustain faith in the hearers of the Word as they are taught what to think and what to believe.

  12. @Laura Langhoff Arndt #4

    Thanks. You gotten to he point better than the article. I was taught to allow questions and help people struggle with their questions if always have ful Bible classes.t hanks again.

  13. @Laura Langhoff Arndt #4

    “…asking questions about what they think and believe.”

    Seems like a good way to find out what has been learned AFTER it has been taught, word-for-word, in the household and in the congregation. The key here is teaching the faith (and feeding it) earlier, before the ways of the world sink their teeth and inject their venom into the children of the congregation.

  14. I am one of those mothers who is currently teaching the catechism to my son alone. Our current local LCMS church took the approach that kids can learn everything they need to know for confirmation in four easy Saturday morning sessions. I beg to differ. The same congregation is confirming these students in the faith without ever teaching them the small catechism. Until we can move and find a confessional Lutheran church, I am faithfully teaching the small catechism every week. And for those who feel the small catechism is out of touch in the 21st century, I urge you to get a copy (with explanations) and read through it yourself. Every week’s lesson is totally relevant to the culture that we are living in and battling on a daily basis. It has spawned real ongoing discussions with our adolescent son. I would also highly recommend the book “Teaching The Faith at Home” by David L. Reuter. It has been an excellent resource as I navigate my way through this homeschooled approach.

  15. Call me crazy but it seems incredibly sad to see the low opinion the pastors on this site have of their laity.

  16. @Jason #16
    I know, well with only 10 laity as authors (including the author of this article), a sister site run entirely by laity, laity on our board of directors, conferences designed for laity and often featuring laity as speakers – it’s like the clergy just dominate this place.

    Find a different narrative, this one just has no proof behind it.

  17. The proof is in the articles and commentary my friend. Apparently the view of the church here is that if the Pharisee thanking god he isn’t like the tax collector. Not so much like the tax collector who lowers his eyes and beats his chest confessing he’s a sinner. When we constantly assume the worst of our laity at every turn, and reject that people are in different places in their faith walk, then my statement stands.

  18. @Jason #18

    Sure it is. I count four comments (besides mine) by pastors on this article (which would be the context of your comment) and none of them exhibit a low opinion. In fact, this article, published by this site puts the instruction of the children in the home by laity. Still not seeing the low opinion.

    Either way, get on track with the article or have your comments deleted for being off topic.

  19. @Pastor Joshua Scheer #19

    Do what you gotta do. No feelings harmed from my end. When a pastor tries to tell me that in his 63 years he has never seen the layperson in his care try to teach his kids the Bible if they don’t use the small catechism I think that shows an incredibly low opinion.

  20. @Maryrose #15


    The Lord bless you and your children and your children’s children.

    There is a word in the Proverbs that describes you. It is a very rich Hebrew word that is not easy to translate into a single English word. Too much is going on in this Hebrew word for any of our English words to contain it. The footnote in the NKJV explains it a little bit, at Proverbs 31:10: “Literally a wife of valor in the sense of all forms of excellence.” The word valor does not convey all of what the Hebrew word contains, but it is suggestive of something more than virtue as being moral, though it surely includes morals. It is more in the direction of bravery, courage, and valiance. Your children are in the crossfire of spiritual war, and a mother must have valor in the defense of her children. The word is חַיִל chayil, and sometimes it is translated as a force, an army, or a strength. In phrases, it can be about a band of soldiers. From you comment it is obvious that you are aware of the spiritual danger and conflict surrounding your son, and you are wielding the sword of the Spirit in his defense. That is valor. That is virtue. That is mothering.

  21. @Dennis FItzpatrick #13

    You, and the other commenter to whom you are replying, both are correct that children should be not only allowed, but encouraged to ask questions. If the article said anything to the contrary, I would be willing to change it.

    The thing is, the children need something to have questions about. The catechism primes the pump, so to speak, for asking questions. The catechism is not the only thing. For example, I have written several articles here promoting the use of Arch Books and other materials with children.

    But I just don’t see fathers who won’t use simple techniques, like the catechism, using more advance techniques. I surely want the children to advance from knowing the catechism by heart to pondering, questioning, and understanding it.

    Note that the article does say, “Their children’s questions have oiled their jaws.

  22. I really dig reading through a bible story with one or two main points in mind. I usually ask the kids what they like or what stood out to them, then I usually have some leading questions in mind to get to a main point or theme. The kids seem to enjoy it.

  23. @Jason #20

    Hi Jason,

    You said, “When a pastor tries to tell me that in his 63 years.”

    Um, that was me who said that, and I am not a pastor.

    This site published my article, and I am not a pastor.

    The article is about parents being the primary teachers of children, not pastors.

    If I say that I have not seen something in my life, and if that is a true statement, how am I supposed to help the truth of what I have seen? Is it only an attitude, or is it what I have seen? Simply by adopting your attitude in replacement of mine, will the facts that I have seen in my life change? That sounds mystical.

  24. @Laura Langhoff Arndt #4

    The Bible and Catechism do not encourage free thinking, but right thinking, thoughts on heavenly things rather than earthly things. The primary texts of the Christian faith (Catechism) were not written by Luther…they are Biblical words and teachings. It is Luther’s explanations to these Biblical texts that fosters questions, which is good, right, and salutary. But to insinuate that the Catechism, because it is from the 1500s, is no longer applicable in today’s Church, is another form of higher criticism without theological or logical rationale. The Catechism is the handbook of Christianity that draws us further into the Bible and its teachings. The Catechism and Bible are to be used in tandem, not as mutually exclusive parts.

  25. You have to understand that, in our present culture and going back at least 30 years, America has grown accustomed and even dependent upon the practice of “dropping off the kids and going to work.” Schooling, in general, has taken the place of parenting – of teaching the kids. If the kids are getting A’s and B’s at school, they’re learning everything they need to. Liberals eat this up like candy, by the way.

    It’s no different for churches. Parents drop their kids of at church so that the teachers or pastor give them their weekly dose of moralism and spiritualism and then don’t even mention Jesus for the rest of the week. This is my experience. Kids are taught, from early on, that Christianity is a Sunday morning (or maybe Wednesday evening) activity and that it is important, only if football practice or the school dance or X-box doesn’t get in the way.

    Well OF COURSE the world is going to get in the way! The devil makes the things of the world more important and more frequent because he knows it will take God’s children away from the faith. Nothing new here; only now we have cars and phones and the FATHERS expect their boys to play 3 sports.

    I grew up in an era when Confirmation wasn’t an option, though I can tell you that even my parents – the baby boomers – weren’t as concerned as, say, my grandmother was with regard to church. Yeah, they saw it as important, but my mom would sign a note should I miss, and say “it’s okay”. Our parents – those baby boomers – were more concerned about experiencing each other and keeping their marriage strong, so we kids, the “latch key kids”, got the raw deal. As a result, the next generation, the parents of today, don’t want to leave their kids home alone, so they treat them like the kings and queens of the house, bending to their every wish. If the kid doesn’t want to go to church or confirmation, “your wish is our command” and the kids aren’t forced into anything. And what kid “wants” to wake up early on a Sunday and sit for an hour or so listening to “boring” music and “long sermons” from a “boring” pastor, and then have to sit for another hour crayoning in Jesus riding on a donkey? And then to add another hour on top of that reading out of some old book called the “Catechism”…just not fun. We want XBox!

    See? This won’t be solved overnight. This will take a generation, maybe two. We’re not going to convince most of the parents (or grandparents) to do better. We’re not going to convince many of the dads to be dads and teach their kids the faith, and I don’t care what book or materials we use.

    We MUST start with what we have, and we DON’T have the fathers. No use crying over spilled milk here. I’d rather teach a room filled with woman for certain than a room where men should be but aren’t. We need to get through these next couple of generations and, unless our Lord returns, remain faithful to our callings as pastors, remain steadfast in teaching and confessing the faith boldly to all who will hear, and continue to trust that God and God alone will lead His children through the deserts of church work to the promised land of returning fathers and growing congregations. Will churches close in the process? Yes. But if I’m not mistaken, even some of the churches that St. Paul planted disappeared over time. Churches aren’t meant to last forever, and the fallen world plays a part in that…the CHURCH stands forever either way, and of that we can be certain.

    So we just do what we are called to do, and we teach where we can and teach others to be Gospel-bearers as we’re able, and let God deal with the rest. Ultimately, it will be fine; we just may not have “I grew my church by 10% per year” badges awarded to us by our DP’s. But hey, we’re not a department store where bottom-line is all that matters. We’re just not. And worrying more about “church growth” and filling pews is far less important than nurturing faith in those who are already here.

    If the concern is about money, how the bills are going to get paid, well frankly, the building you gather in is expendable. Sell the building and move into a facility that you can afford! It may be beneficial for all, actually, to see that the building isn’t what the faith is all about. We LOVE our buildings, but as stewards, we also need to think about how to use God’s gifts to us wisely. If you can’t afford catechisms and good teaching materials because the cost of maintaining the 90 rank pipe organ is too high…then get a cheaper organ and buy your catechisms. Right? Or if maintaining the structure is stretching your budget so that you can’t afford to pay for a pastor…ask yourself what’s more important and then do what’s necessary. But if this isn’t the concern, then as I’ve already said, let’s get through these next generations and remain faithful. It will be okay!

  26. @Matt Cochran #9

    Thank you so much for pointing this out Matt, such valuable insight and an uphill battle that is happening in culture today. How many churches, even LCMS ones, on mother’s day, practically tell us to worship mothers. On father’s day, however, men are treated like garbage. You’re right about the divorce statistics; the vast majority are from women who blow up their families because they know that the government will reward them with cash and prizes in the form of custody and child support. Yet do we even address this in the church? Nope, we don’t. But thank you for your comments, they are read and appreciated.

  27. The synod needs to repent of changing its doctrine on the roles of lay men and women.

    Even if a dad does a great job at home and is faithful in worship, his family will know that in the church assembly (if he even participates) he is just one of the women and children.

  28. I do not believe that the catechism is not relevant, but how we use it is. Pastors (and most other church workers) are not taught how to teach. I keep hearing Pastors talk about how parents should be teaching confirmation. Luther said that because the priests were so totally ill equipped to do it (1529 treatise to governors). How well are parents equipped today? 10% of parents attend Bible study themselves. What I’m saying is that Luther was great with theology, but we know a lot more about educating people today than he knew then. Perhaps how we educate does not have to come from the 1500’s. And I’m talking about how we teach adults as well as children.

  29. Also, Luther did not say do this between the ages of 12 and 14 on Wednesdays. It was expected to be taught/discussed in the household EVERY day, all year, every year. Luther did not write a confirmation textbook.

  30. @mbw #34

    In isolation, as a free-standing statement, apart its actual meaning, yes it sounds like a horrendous statement. But then, it was not stated in isolation, was not free-standing, and did not have the meaning you ascribe to it. The horrendous meaning was read into it, not written in it.

  31. @Laura Langhoff Arndt #32

    Well, actually, it could be even worse than that, because Luther’s pedagogy was not 1500s. He reached back farther in order to reform. He had as great a grasp as any person in Europe on the history of pedagogy. I am not too sold on the pedagogy of our own day, given its results.

  32. A general comment.

    Several of you have observed that the catechism is not being used in the home by parents.

    You have observed that the faith is not well nurtured in the children.

    Yet some of you think that adds up to reasons to try something new.

    Yes, the catechism. You said it yourself. Trying the catechism would be new, since you observed yourself that it has not been rightly tried.

  33. Well, I’ve been a secondary teacher for years and have a M.A. in Classroom Instruction and I’m pretty sure we’re more successful in many ways. Pedagogy in the 1500s was so much better than now? Citations? Research?

  34. Reuter’s book speaks of an approach of lifelong catechism. It is the job of the church to equip the parents and to teach the faith to the adults as well as the children on a continual basis. Reuter’s writes:
    ” The purpose of confirmation is not to merely pass on a set of facts, but to pass along a vibrant living faith capable of being sustained by the Holy Spirit through all adversity.” Sadly, there are too many folks in the pews who do not know the small catechism because it is not being preached and taught. I recently had to tell my pastor that I could not teach or participate in the church’s Awana program because of its basis in dispensationalism and decision based theology. In other words, not Lutheran. And then I had to justify my reason with Luther’s explanation of the Third Article of the Creed. I know the third article of the creed because it was taught to me in my own youth, and I memorized it. I am saddened to think of the families at the church who do not know and understand that the programs and studies offered there are not a representative of our faith. If this trend continues, I fear for the church and the next generation. I am encountering way too many young adults from the contemporvant camp who do not know what they believe and why they believe it. I have made the heritage of our faith a new mission by keeping it in constant dialog in our home…exactly what catechism should be.

  35. @Laura Langhoff Arndt #4

    I cannot say I appreciate all the writings of Dr. Luther because I have not read them all, but I do subscribe to the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments to be the inspired Word of God and the only infallible rule of faith and practice; I do accept the statement and exposition of that Word of God in the Ecumenical Creeds, namely, the Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds, and in the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, namely, the Augsburg Confession and its Apology, the Small Catechism, the Large Catechism, and the Smalcald Articles, the Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope, and the Formula of Concord—as these are contained in the Book of Concord of 1580.

    Mr. Arndt, your wife appears to make a fine effort to encourage parents to teach their children well and to encourage husbands to lead their households; perhaps, it would be good to remind our households the Truth (whether 500, 2000, or 5000 years old) never changes, neither does the problem of sin; we still struggle with the same sins with which mankind has struggled since before The Flood. What has changed, among other worldly things, is how much time we allow the world to influence the thinking and believing and development of us and our children through various media.

    We believe the Small Catechism teaches the Truth, yet, compared to all the other things on our screens, give it very little time to influence us and our children. We believe teaching the catechism is not an attempt to “return to the 1500s” but is the actual handing over of the one true faith, once for all delivered to the saints. (Jude 1:3) It is time to give the Catechism more time in our lives.

    Mr. Arndt, your wife has observed that even in households where more time to the catechism has been required, some children have still drifted away. I think we all would agree that memorizing the catechism is not the whole answer. Perhaps, other circumstances may also be contributing to the self-imposed excommunications of some well-catechized children of pastors. Faith and repentance still only come through the work of the Holy Spirit through the faithful proclamation of God’s Word and right administration of His Sacraments. Herein, lies the full answer, of which memorization is a fundamental part. Asking questions about understanding is a good way of evaluating what has been learned and understood after an appropriate time of teaching the word-for-word content of the catechism. As with the learning of language, children must first hear the Word through which the Holy Spirit awakens and sustains faith in order to have the faith to understand and apply the Word. Perhaps, our households need to be reminded that God’s Word accomplishes what He Wills.

    Perhaps, there is room for improvement in the catechesis of all our households, as I’m sure we all can confess. God forgive us for our weakness in how we poorly prioritize our time and in how we fail to protect our households from evil influences to our thinking and believing.

    Mr. Arndt, your wife has well observed that “We tell [children] what to think and believe…”. I’m sure you agree it is good to teach our households what is right to think and believe. I encourage you to continue doing the same in your household. Your catechesis of your household is a fine Christian example. What better, more kind way can a household learn the will of God other than by hearing it spoken at home and in the congregation?

    From where else does faith come, if not from the word-for-word texts of God’s Word studied especially in catechesis?

  36. @Laura Langhoff Arndt #40

    Mr. Arndt, since your wife speaks as someone who is educated to educate, and also say, “we know a lot more about educating people today than [Luther] knew then” (as though our intelligence has somehow improved with each generation and not actually degenerated since The Fall) what new insights have been gained that are not aided by daily word-for-word hearing and recitation of the catechism as a foundation on which pastors and teachers can build in catechetical discussion as appropriate to the age and capability of the pupil. If a dad or mom cannot do the basic recitation with their children, how can parents possibly be expected to handle the various questions and applications of what the scriptures teach? The catechism was written for parents to recite with the members of their household. If we can read, we can recite what it says and establish a solid foundation on which pastors and other teachers can build. If we are unable to read them ourselves, we can now download the catechism and hear it recited for us. This can be played while we travel in the car to the grocery store or soccer practice or on the way to and from church and school.

  37. @Laura Langhoff Arndt #32

    Laura, I appreciate your convictions on the matter, but I must dispute your assertion that “we know a lot more about educating people today than he knew then.” Perhaps what you meant is that we have more ways to teach, or more methods, or more theories. This is true; one can visit a book store and find myriads of books on education. And, I suppose, you might even argue that we know more about the brain and its development and this has contributed to our educational efforts. I’m not sure, though, that’s actually what you meant. Forgive me if I’m reading into this, but it seems like you’re saying “we’re better at educating in 2017 than we were in the 1500s.” I come to that conclusion based on the fact that you don’t want to use methods from the 1500s in order to educate. Thus, the methods we have today are superior. Again, please correct me if my presumptions are incorrect.

    If that’s what you meant, you’re going to need to convince me of such a bold assertion. Contemporary education is a hot mess. I’ve been an educator for only 7 years and I’ve already seen the passing fads of project-based learning, 1-to-1 technology, flipped classrooms, differentiation, and (new this year!) safe spaces. None of them have had any real impact, and are discarded at the end of the year for the next big educational revolution. Tenured public school teachers are almost untouchable and superintendents make sweeping mandates to schools they rarely visit and to students they have never met. Million-dollar sports stadiums are built for student-athletes that can barely multiply. And Lutheran schools aren’t much better – we chase after every educational fad, express devotion to secular authors, and blindly believe all the research we’re told in educational magazines (without questioning whether the research methods were sound). All of these errors are built on the foundation laid by the father of the American public school system and outspoken anti-Christian John Dewey.

    I acknowledge that I’m speaking anecdotally, and that there are some great schools that do exist in the modern era with exemplary leaders, teachers, and students. My only assertion is that contemporary education is not better than 1500s education. We merely believe that it’s better, perhaps because that’s what we want to believe. I look forward to your response.

    In Christ,

  38. @mbw #31

    Just a reminder: there’s no such thing as a “laywoman” in the LCMS. Males who are not clergy are “laymen” & since females cannot be clergy, the term “women” suffices. That gem is one of the truths I learned from this site several years ago from wiser heads than mine.

  39. Joe,
    You are speaking of 2 different things. Education itself, meaning how we educate, has gotten much better since the 1500’s. First off, in 2017 education is not just for the rich and women are educated. The problems that you speak of in education are administrative and political. That’s the mess. As with everything in a sinful world, there is plenty to be thrown away. There is also, however, a great deal to embrace including technology, which can be a great tool if used appropriately. Just because those in leadership in education jump on every new fad, doesn’t make the fad wholly wrong. Also, what we know about the brain regarding education is also very useful information. If you looked at my book, The Art of Teaching Confirmation, and remembered your experience being educated by your pastor, who was not taught how to teach young teens, you would easily see the difference. The problem is that many people don’t know what they don’t know about teaching.

  40. @Laura Langhoff Arndt #48

    Teaching the Christian faith is different from teaching any other human discipline, such as math, science, or history. Since teaching the faith is by the work of the Holy Spirit, it is a different education. The Holy Spirit has His own school, and the Word of God is His means. Husbands/fathers learn to teach the catechism to their household in a simple way by having learned it themselves. Pastors first and foremost learn how to teach from learning and inwardly digesting the catechism themselves, and the Scriptures that go along with the catechism.

    Teaching young teens is not the problem. Perhaps you are attempting to uncover something you view to be a contemporary psychological issue, which is altogether different from teaching the faith once delivered to the saints.

  41. Respectfully, you are incorrect. Teaching the Christian faith is NOT different from teaching any other human discipline except that it includes help from the Holy Spirit. Teaching the doctrine and theology of the Lutheran Church is about getting people to think and talk about what they read and/or hear in God’s Word. You can either enhance that or hinder it. Of course, it is the Holy Spirit that brings faith. You can just do nothing and, in the most monotone, boring fashion, read the Bible or catechism to kids and hope and pray that the Holy Spirit will use that to grow faith. But why? Why not teach it in a way that helps students actually understand? Why not teach it to encourage adults to discuss it? Either way, it’s the job of the Holy Spirit to actually bring somebody to faith. It’s our job to plant seeds and provide opportunities to study. I am sorry to say this, but from what you’ve said here I should send you my book, The Art of Teaching Confirmation. You might learn something.

    And NO, I am NOT attempting to uncover something that’s a contemporary psychological issue. I’m encouraging and equipping pastors and other educators to teach better so that the 10% of adults who actually attend Bible study aren’t bored to death, but find the study interesting enough that they find themselves thinking about their faith and reading the Bible on their own. I’m encouraging and equipping pastors and confirmation educators to understand their students enough to teach them in a way that doesn’t bore them to death as well and instead creates interest in learning more.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.