Proposed Catechism Explanation Revision — Commandments 1-3

Here is another guest article on the proposed revisions to the Catechism:


20161006_143222_resizedI have been asked to offer a critique of the Revision of our Explanation to Luther’s Small Catechism.  Below are criticisms.  There is much to commend in the Revision.  It attempts to make the questions and answers less disjointed and join everything in a common theme.  Where this succeeds, there is greater clarity, but this often comes at the expense of ignoring or omitting crucial aspects of our doctrine.  I commend my critiques to the criticism and critique of my brother pastors and Lutherans.

Rev. Mark A. Preus, Pastor, St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church and Campus Center

Critique of Introduction

Question 11 (p. 15) What are the Ten Commandments. The revision is an improvement on the ’91 Explanation, since it mentions the will of God, but it omits Dr. Schwan’s simple and necessary words that in the Law “God tells us how we are to be and what we are to do or not do.” (Schwan, p. 40)

The Introduction fails to mention the term Two Tables of the Law, though it answers that God’s will is for us to love God and our neighbor.  These terms are helpful and ought not be abandoned after our use of them for so long.  The same goes for the terms “moral, ceremonial, and civil (political) Law.”  This particular distinction is especially necessary with the mass ignorance of our culture of these distinctions and how they guide our interpretation of Old Testament Law.

The ’91 catechism has “people,” the Revision has “human creatures.”  We should return to “man,” in order to follow the way in which God speaks of the order of creation (See Genesis 1:26-27, “Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all[b] the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”


Critique of The First Commandment

What is most glaring is that the question, “What does God forbid” is absent here and in all explanations of the commandments.  This is a radical change not only from Dr. Schwan’s Explanation, but from all of our catechisms.  This is unacceptable.  Precisely in this narcissistic and covetous world we live in, the sinner must hear that God forbids him from doing something.  That is God’s holy will.  He forbids sin because it mocks him and destroys us and all love for God and neighbor.  Sin is doing what God has forbidden.

In the section “Non-Christian Religions” (pp. 18-19), under the last bullet point, if “Lodges and other secret organizations” were added, this would be helpful and beneficial towards the unity of the Spirit.

Question 23 of the ’91 Catechism, “Who is able to keep this and other commandments” is missing.  It is a good thing to speak of Christ as the fulfiller of the Law already when teaching the 1st Commandment, since Jesus fulfills the entire Law, the greatest commandment of which is to love God above all things.


Critique of The Second Commandment

They have removed the question “What is God’s Name?”, which has been answered in all our catechism explanations.  This is an important question and forms that basis for what taking God’s name in vain or misusing it means.

They remove, as mentioned above, “What does God forbid in this commandment.”  This is simply unacceptable.

2nd bullet point under question 30 (p. 21), better grammar would have “try to manipulate,” not “try and manipulate.”

While the Revision says that we are obligated to “speak and teach truthfully about God in accordance with His Word,” it does not say that God forbids false doctrine in this commandment, which Luther says in his Large Catechism is the worst abuse of the commandment.  This again is the first time this has been omitted from our catechism explanations.  This is very troubling.

Matthew 5:33-37 is omitted, though it explains very well what Jesus says about swearing.  This verse has been in all our catechisms.

The issue of prayer with people of other religions (syncretism) or sectarians (unionism) is not addressed at all.  While this has not been in previous catechisms, considering the syncretism of Dr. David Benke, of which he has not repented, and which has not been officially condemned by the Synod, this cannot be omitted.  We must confess this and teach it especially when Christ’s members in our Synod are woefully ignorant of the danger of this.


Critique of The Third Commandment

That we should support the preaching and teaching of God’s Word, as the Table of Duties enjoins on us, is not mentioned at all in this commandment.  A lot of time is spent explaining what the Sabbath was for Israel, and talking of physical rest being important.  Perhaps this was added because Americans worship their work.

In the Connections and Applications, the issue of sabbatarianism is not directly addressed.  Again, the distinction between the political and ceremonial laws and the moral law needs to be emphasized in this day and age.

While the Sabbath was a shadow of the rest Christ gives us in the forgiveness of sins, there is no mention of Jesus being Lord of the Sabbath, which connects our rejection of sabbatarianism with the fulfillment of the Law in Christ.

Rev. Mark A. Preus
Pastor, St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church and Campus Center
Laramie, Wyoming

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