Great Stuff — “The sect can not wait.” A Catechism Commentary

Found over on Musings of a Country Pastor:


20161006_143222_resizedAt her recently concluded Pastoral Conference, the Wyoming District asked for more time. The LCMS Catechism Review Committee mailed the “Field Test” of the catechism this past July. Three years of hard work was shown to the church, and the church was asked to respond. The goal is to publish the catechism by the 500th anniversary of the 95 Theses, next October 31. This is a pretty tight deadline. It means we need to keep the process moving – very quickly. And, in discussions with other pastors, that’s a problem.

Barring our Lord’s return, the church will still be here on November 1, 2017. And on April 18, 2021 And on June 25, 2030. We are not going anywhere. Sure, it would be cool to release the new edition of the Small Catechism in conjunction with some big round number. CPH recently had a 10 minute 10 dollar sale to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the hymnal. It’s cute to have these sorts of things commemorated. But next year will only be the 489 anniversary of the catechism. It depends what you are measuring.

And the important thing to measure here is “How beneficial will the Catechism be to the church.” Right now, it’s hard to say. People have come out with various criticisms – and I will be producing my own extended multi-part review. But a catechism is not just a book you look through once and review. It is a book that is taught in a parish over the course of many months.

When the LCMS backed away from Lutheran Book of Worship, there was a rush to put out a new LCMS hymnal. Lutheran Worship was the result. “Well, it was rushed.” “It does have a lot of good things in it.” That was what the defenders were saying about it. It was a temporary emergency hymnal, and it is already forgotten. Congregations still use its predecessor, TLH. For LSB, the synod took ten years. Multiple years were spent field testing it. CPH spent years working on layout, and it shows. LSB is a fine hymnal, and it may very well be in use 60 years from now. It could be. No one ever envisioned LW having that sort of lifespan, and thankfully, it didn’t.

The Explanation of the Small Catechism is the way we teach our children. It must be good. It needs to be done properly. And pastors need time to actually use it in their parishes. This takes a year, at least. And that is what the Wyoming District has requested. A year to use it in the parish. It is, after all, not a “Review Copy” but a “Field Test.” Let pastors take it for a test drive in their classes. Get on-the-ground reactions to its use.

Perhaps there is a thought that people will be more interested in the catechism next year. 500 is a big round number. Well, if so, then make a special “gold leaf” edition of the one we have. Tell the marketing department to come up with some promotions to really get the catechism out among people.

But don’t sacrifice the teaching value of the catechism for a marketing gimmick. Let’s not rush this. We don’t have to meet some arbitrary deadline because of what Luther did on All Hallows Eve 500 years ago. We can actually wait and get it right. Our children, our parishes, our confession of faith all deserve the best. And that will take time.

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.

Norm has been involved behind the scenes in many of the "go-to" websites for Lutherans going back many years.


Great Stuff — “The sect can not wait.” A Catechism Commentary — 5 Comments

  1. Well said– rushing theology almost always ends poorly.

    And yet, I would offer another suggestion: if not for periodically lining the pockets of CPH, why keep re-hashing the “Explanation” at all? The pamphlet version of the Small Catechism is cheap, easy to carry in the jacket of a Bible or notebook, and easy to memorize. It is, after all, what Luther thought necessary for communicating the fundamentals of the Christian faith in the home (or as some have said over the centuries, “The Layman’s Bible”).

    Wouldn’t it save a lot of time, money, and angst if the contemporary “explanation” of the Small Catechism was a well formed parish pastor with Scriptures and Confessions in hand?

  2. I remember back in confirmation class, the “catechism” was so big, I found it daunting and discouraged my study of it. Yes, I understood the explanation that only the first bit was actually THE Catechism, but it still looked to me a “really big book”, and thus–as a completionist–too big to tackle. Whereas a little “pamphlet” would have certainly have seemed much more doable, and, therefore, inviting to study.

    Also, last night in our Confessions study class, we read and discussed Luther’s preface to the Small Catechism–which SHOULD be included in each Catechism–and I was struck yet again by Luther’s repeated instruction to pick a format and stick with it. In short, QUIT CHANGIN’ STUFF! Quite contrary to this, it has been my experience that in my lifetime, Missouri has been fixated on changing, updating (generally=dumbing-down), and otherwise “improving” the basic texts of the Church. A plea from someone who has been an “old Lutheran” since his youth–knock it off. Listen to Luther.

    soli Deo gloria,

  3. @Brad #2

    Wouldn’t it save a lot of time, money, and angst if the contemporary “explanation” of the Small Catechism was a well formed parish pastor with Scriptures and Confessions in hand?

    God keep the church supplied with “well formed” (trained and ordained) parish pastors!

    [And please, God, keep them from the entertainment trap (and, having done so, defend them from unjust “CRM” for preaching law and Gospel).]

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