Great Stuff Found on the Web — In Defense of the Small Catechism

Found on Ad Crucem:


1408767_flying_books_2There is nothing new under the sun.  We (Christians) sometimes get caught up in the latest and greatest ways, methods, and means of being believers, being the church of Christ, that we often delude ourselves into effectively believing we are the first “real” Christians, or at least the first really spiritual ones (with maybe the exception of the ever sought after “early church”–that mythical time when the church had it all together and everything worked perfectly).

So we love when new books come out and we contemplate reorganizing ministry with each new polling phenomenon or trendy research book.  And inevitably, like management strategies at a company, a year later we realize something was lacking the first time around and we find a new book and reorganize our entire worldview.  “We need community! No, we need relevance! No, we need discipleship!  Programs! No Programs! Organic! Structured! Mission Statement!”

Little do we stop to ponder, has not the Church wrestled through the issues of what it means to be the church for 2000 years?  Why divorce ourselves from our brothers and fathers in the faith?

Take discipleship for example.  Lately, I have heard rumblings from various corners of the Christian world that we need more disciple-making.  No arguments here.  And so publishing houses and organizations start churning out books and guides and series.  I am left thinking…have we never done this before?  Is this concept so revolutionary that we need to start over from scratch to teach be the basics teachings of our faith?

The answer is no.  The church has always wrestled with this issue and already has produced material to teach its youngest members.  Today, I am going to put forth Luther’s Small Catechism.  It is simple, organized, and has some 500 years of practical testing behind it.

1377506_a_rusty_crossIs writing new material bad? No.  Are you spiritually deformed if you have not used Luther’s Small Catechism? No. Is Luther’s small catechism some late inspired word of God? No.  My point here is to say, we should not be so arrogant as to assume we are the first to wrestle with the issues of what the church is and how do we teach it to the next generation, and we should gladly connect ourselves to our heritage of those who have wrestled with the Scriptures before us. And we would do well to consult how the consult how the church has taught and discipled before us.

I will be taking two more articles with month to explore the ten commandments from Luther’s Small Catechism as we focus this month on Article II of the Augsburg Confession’s theme: Sin.

About Norm Fisher

Norm was raised in the UCC in Connecticut, and like many fell away from the church after high school. With this background he saw it primarily as a service organization. On the miracle of his first child he came back to the church. On moving to Texas a few years later he found a home in Lutheranism when he was invited to a confessional church a half-hour away by our new neighbors.

He is one of those people who found a like mind in computers while in Middle School and has been programming ever since. He's responsible for many websites, including the Book of Concord,, and several other sites.

He has served the church in various positions, including financial secretary, sunday school teacher, elder, PTF board member, and choir member.

More of his work can be found at


Great Stuff Found on the Web — In Defense of the Small Catechism — 4 Comments

  1. Well said. Catechism is an excellent way to program people to understand the basics of the Christian faith in a quick and easy manner. My children love the catechism time we take together. It’s also an excellent suppliment to regular Bible time as well.

  2. The Small Catechism has a lot going for it, especially after the addition of the “Short Explanation” in 1943. From time to time I find the Bible references under each topic quite helpful.

    To my way of thinking, however, the claim that it “has some 500 years of practical testing behind it” suggests a certain openness to change that has not been particularly evident. A religious organization that idolizes its gifted founder is not likely to evaluate his writings critically or seek to improve upon them, especially after they have been sanctioned as confessional.

    Because of the high social cost of change, it is easier to perpetually explain the explanations rather than revise them. Would the explanation to the first Article of the Apostle’s Creed be accepted if it were written by one of us for publication today? It paints a picture of health and prosperity that for most of us is not “most certainly true.”

    To illustrate what a careful rewording of that explanation might look like, here is an alternative that is, perhaps, rather more certainly true:

    I believe that God has made me and everything else that exists in the universe. It has pleased him to give me my body and soul and all my abilities.

    Because he has power over all that he has made, I can look to him to provide food and clothing, a place to call home, people who care about me, and anything else that I need to be healthy, happy and safe. As God lives in heaven, which is a place that I cannot see, he continually works for my own good in ways that I cannot see, because he loves me.

    Indeed, everything that God allows me to enjoy in this life he has provided out of his own divine mercy and goodness, and not because I somehow deserve them. Therefore, my very best response is to live with gratitude for all that I have — whether that amounts to a little or a lot — praising God, obeying him, and using his gifts to love and help other people.

    This is most certainly true.

  3. @Carl H #3
    Would the explanation to the first Article of the Apostle’s Creed be accepted if it were written by one of us for publication today? It paints a picture of health and prosperity that for most of us is not “most certainly true.”

    Compared to the people who lived in Luther’s day, most of us, if not all, are healthier and more prosperous. This is most certainly true.

    [We just think we “need” more “stuff”!]

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