Here is another guest article on the proposed revisions to the Catechism:
THE THIRD ARTICLE (PART 1)
Article and Explanation Text (top p. 89)
- Perhaps just a typo, but “Christ” is missing after “Jesus” in the first paragraph of the explanation. However, this exclusion is maintained in parts 2 and 3 of the Third Article.
- The formatting choice to include all three paragraphs of Luther’s explanation and setting in bold the section to be discussed seems like an unwise use of space. The top of the section already indicates that what follows will only cover a portion of the Third Article by indicating that this is “(Part 1)”. Much simpler would be to only include the text of Luther’s explanation that is to be discussed.
- Also missing is the subheading “Sanctification” from this section. This is helpful in teaching and is a repeated suggestion of Luther’s in the Large Catechism.
The Central Thought
- I like the idea of this section in the Explanation as it provides the reader a very brief overview of the content to come. I don’t, however, think that the rhetorical question at the beginning is helpful in print like this. Perhaps during a class the Pastor might bring this up with explanation immediately to follow, but I could easily see a youth reading this and wondering which one is harder. It seems unnecessary though it’s a good question to ask and harkens to Jesus’ question in Mark’s Gospel. Perhaps more helpful would be to include such questions as “official” numbered questions in the following section, which provides the opportunity to supply a correct answer from Scripture.
- The bold, italicized comment in this section, which includes the quote from the LC, is a helpful summary of the Third Article, and a good, simple reminder for the catechist and catechumen of the existence of Luther’s Large Catechism from the Book of Concord. The 1991 Explanation has zero references to the Book of Concord in the section on the Third Article. A great addition to the proposed revision would be to locate simple sentences from Luther’s Large Catechism that serve the function of these short summaries.
- The final comment in “The Central Thought” inviting the reader to pray “a brief prayer of thanks to the Holy Spirit for the gift of faith” seems unnecessary here since there is a fine prayer provided at the conclusion of this section (p. 94). The addition in this Field Test Edition of prayers and recommendations for corresponding faithful Lutheran hymns is welcome and truly helpful in the classroom setting as these prayers could easily be prayed at the beginning of the class in which these topics are discussed. For simplicities’ sake, the prayer could be moved to the end of “The Central Thought” section and the hymn could be moved to the end of each “Part” of the explanation.
- Perhaps the most helpful organization of “The Central Thought” section would be as follows:
- Sentence or two (at most) from the Large Catechism, which serves as the heart of “The Central Thought” section.
- Prayer (moved from end of section) relating to content of section.
A Closer Reading
Here, the Field Test Small Catechism provides an incredibly helpful addition to the explanatory sections in not only commenting on the text of the catechism, but also commenting on the text of the “Small Catechism.” Following are thought on specific questions.
166: A good example of addressing the language of Luther’s explanation in addition to addressing the basic text of Luther’s explanation of the Third Article of the Creed. This question seems to be a replacement for question 156 from the ‘91 edition, which was “What is the special work of the Holy Spirit?” Perhaps this change was meant to avoid a confusion of the unified external works of the Holy Trinity, but lost in this change is the distinction between a broad (or wide) and narrow sense of sanctification. This distinction is described in the ‘91 edition under question 156 and is helpful in teaching sanctification in a clear way.
167-168: These questions are a good example of a simple change in wording that helps the instructor and student more readily use the language of the explanation to the Creed. The corresponding questions in the ‘91 edition have similar wording, but it’s relegated to answer to the questions.
Connections and Applications
It’s strange that a section that’s meant to “providing wider application and addressing additional relevant matters, together with further biblical and confessional support” contains basic teaching on the Person of the Holy Spirit. As such, the questions in this section would make more sense in the “Closer Reading” section, which is intended to give “specific attention to the pattern and wording in Luther’s text with key supporting Bible passages or sedes doctrina”.
174: The wording of the question in the Field Test Edition, “Why do we speak of the Holy Spirit as God?” is much weaker than the ‘91 Edition, which simply states: “How do you know that they Holy Spirit is God?” The weakness of this questions is furthered by the bizarre omission of the straightforward follow-up questions divine names, divine attributes (omniscience, omnipresence, eternity, etc.), the performance of divine works, and the reception of divine honor and glory. The Holy Spirit is, perhaps, the most misunderstood Person of the Holy Trinity and His work among men twisted to the whims of those seeking their own glory. This section is sorely lacking without a very clear, concise explanation of Scripture’s teaching that the Holy Spirit is God, not simply why we talk as if He’s God.
179: The answer to the question states in part that, “the scriptural teaching about predestination is a mystery that defies human logic and understanding.” However, a confession about the most basic, comforting realities of predestination are knowable to human understanding. Otherwise, it doesn’t make sense to even address this beautiful doctrine. It seems that the issue being addressed is the crux theologorum – why some are predestined while others not. This truly is far beyond human logic and understanding. Perhaps question 179 could be answered without this final sentence from the answer, or by reverting to the ‘91 edition, which clearly states: “Many reject the Word and resist the Holy Spirit; therefore they remain in unbelief and under God’s judgment by their own fault.” However, this sentence has been used in answering question 177, so a better option might be to eliminate question 179 altogether.
180: This question seems to be an attempt to address the modern claim of some that they are “spiritual, but not religious.” It’s a worthwhile and makes sense here in the section dealing with the Holy Spirit and the church. However, there is a great disservice done in inadvertently validating such nonsense by not beginning the answer with a simple, “No” as in several prior questions. It could be stated that “some people think ‘spirituality’ [a term not found in Holy Scripture] has different meanings, but apart from the holy Law and Gospel of the one, true God, this is a delusion and false worship and, therefore, very dangerous.”
THE THIRD ARTICLE (PART 2)
The Central Thought
The question regarding the kind of community the church is seen to be by those outside of the church is unnecessary. It seems simpler to provide the quote from the Large Catechism and ask the question pertaining to Acts 2:42-47.
Connections and Applications
187-188: This section relegates the entire discussion of the “invisible” and “visible” church found in the ‘91 explanation to these questions. Whether or not “invisible” and “visible” are the most helpful terms, the Apology teaches this helpful distinction in its discussion of the church.
191: The question itself is helpful in teaching that Christians do have, as several of the answers address, various callings related to Christians in heterodox denominations. We should, for example, pray for them, lament false doctrine, and not pretend doctrinal divisions are a small thing. However, many of the points brought up by the answers are at best weak. Where, for example, do the Holy Scriptures direct Christians to prevent and heal worldly divisions of economic status and political opinions? And, to put it bluntly, what on earth do these terms even mean? Who determines the definitions? I suppose one could be thankful that none are provided, yet there is no good reason at all that these vague, secular terms ought be included. Finally, there is no discussion of the fact that there is, in fact, unity within the Body by means of the gift of the Spirit and faith. Visible outward unity comes perfectly for the church only on the Last Day when all is revealed.
THE THIRD ARTICLE (PART 3)
The Central Thought
The first statement, bizarrely, answers the question following. This is unnecessary. The beautifully comforting quote from the Large Catechism and the following question are sufficient to summarize this third part.
A Closer Reading
195: The eliminated question regarding reincarnation form the ‘91 explanation appears to have been replaced by this question, which introduces the language of “new creation,” which, in 2 Corinthians and Galatians, is used to refer to the New Man. If it’s desirable to maintain this language in the forthcoming revision, perhaps Question 201 should be moved forward. However, the simplicity of the ‘91 explanation is lost in this section by bringing into question a topic that is admittedly “mysteriously unfamiliar” (Question 201).
Rev. Weslie Odom
Pastor, Grace Lutheran Church