Contact the Catechism Revision Committee

1108-lutherscex-jpg-550x0I’m sure many of my readers have filled out the Catechism Revision survey online. But if you, like me, thought that perhaps there was more to say about it, you might want to contact the Catechism Review Committee directly. Unfortunately, the LCMS website doesn’t have a link for those who wish to offer more feedback. But the good news is, in this age of technological marvels, the entire committee is on the email. And those email addresses are available on the synod website.

But, to save you the trouble, here are the email addresses of the committee: (Dr. Joel Lehenbauer, Chairman) (Dr. Charles Arand) (Rev. Wally Arp) (Prof. Thomas Egger) (Dr. Jan Lohmeyer) (Prof. John Pless) (Rev. Larry Vogel)

And remember, hurry! The deadline for comments on the field test is October 31, unless they follow the advise of the Wyoming District and allow time for the field test to be … well… tested. I’ll be sending in my three part review, along with my personal plea for extending the deadline. Hopefully others will email them as well with their own comments.

Posted in Catechesis | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Reviewing the “Field Test”: Part 3, Fatal Flaws and a Prescription for Recovery

1108-lutherscex-jpg-550x0In Part 1, I reviewed some of the strengths of the Revised Catechism Field Test. In Part 2, I looked at some new things that didn’t quite work. In Part 3, I go over what I see as problems that are severe enough to force me to return to the 1943 edition in my parish.

Deficiencies of the old explanation remain, and in some cases, have been made worse.

The old explanation had only two questions about the resurrection. The proposed revision does not ask at all about the fact or the significance of the resurrection It is recorded in all four Gospels. Paul devotes an entire chapter of Corinthians to its significance. Without it, we are above all men to be most pitied.

If the revisions are accepted without fixing this, it would practically disqualify the new catechism for use in the Lutheran Church – or really in any Christian Church. It is an especially stunning omission, given the new catechism’s focus on apologetics. This is THE apologetic challenge for the church, and always has been.

One may argue that it is addressed in more than one answer to various questions. But there are 6 specific questions on the states of humiliation and exaltation – which makes its appearance in the Lutheran Symbols only in one article of the Formula. You would think that perhaps one question might be spared for the sine qua non of the Christian faith!

Left unimproved is the Lord’s Prayer’s Law-focus. The 1992 questions speak only of the need to pray in terms of Law, never Gospel. Luther talks of Prayer as a great gift. But the promise of God to hear our Prayer, and the benefit of prayer in our state of great need in this world are never covered. Instead we are presented with the Lord’s Prayer as a way to fulfill the commandments (“What is the connection between this petition and the second Commandment?”). True, the Lord’s prayer does this. But it is also the way that Christians express and live out their faith, while asking God to fulfill that which he has promised. Luther makes the connection repeatedly in the Large Catechism. The revisions do not mention it.

The section on Baptism still keeps the discussion of Infant Baptism in Part 1. In the Large Catechism, Luther discusses it after he discusses the benefits of Baptism. The problem with the approach taken in the explanation (as anyone who has an Arminian friend can attest) is that the argument invariably devolves into a discussion of what is meant by “all nations”. For Luther, the discussion of Infant Baptism is centered entirely on the benefits of Baptism, and how those are given to infants who can believe, but can not yet articulate the faith. The benefits of Baptism for infants are discussed in the explanation.  But that happens before the benefits of Baptism itself are presented. Left un-discussed entirely is Luther’s point that Baptism is God’s Work, and has God’s Promise. While faith receives the promise, faith must have an object. That object is where God has promised to be in His Word, connected to water. This discussion would be very helpful for apologetics, given America’s strong Arminian religious background. But once again, it is entirely missing.

In Part 4 of Baptism, Luther’s connection between “contrition and repentance” and “Confession and Absolution” is missing. It is not in the old explanation either. But it is a key point in the Large Catechism, and it should be restored.

Inexplicably, explanation for “Confession and Absolution” is placed after “The Office of the Keys.” That is not the order it is presented in the text of the catechism itself. Perhaps the committee hopes to reverse that order (as it was in the 1943 catechism) when the catechism is printed. They have been given no authority to even recommend changes to the text of the catechism itself. When the new hymnal was introduced, the synod in convention resolved not to change the text of the catechism itself. The committee has been given no authority to do so. Which means that the explanation will not present the catechism in the same order that it is presented in the text of the catechism. That is simply bad pedagogy.

The benefit of Confession and Absolution has been significantly weakened by the addition of sociological terminology. (“safe place to name his or her sins…”) It never says that the pastor forgives the sins of the penitent. That is the point of private absolution. It should be restored to the 1992 version. (“God himself through the pastor forgives each individual the sins that are confessed.”)

For all the boasting about added scriptural references, some important passages are missing. In the 1992 revision, the question about the seal of the confessional had three bible verses in support of the pastor “never revealing sins confessed to him”. In the new revision, that has been reduced to 1. If we are to restore the treasure of private Confession and Absolution to the life of the church, it is imperative that we speak of the seal of the confessional in the clearest terms. The 1992 revision is clearer than the new proposal, and so is to be preferred.

I do like the inclusion of hymn references at the end of each section. But for those who are being introduced to the faith, having those references without the hymn verses themselves limits the benefit. Those hymn verses should be printed, or not included.

I have not gone through each question with a fine-tooth comb. Each review I have seen makes note of one or two questions with answers that are doctrinally misleading at best, and false doctrine, at worst. I did notice that one question gives a factually incorrect answer. Question 93 states “Each of (the three creeds) clarifies specific areas of doctrinal controversy and confusion.” This is historically demonstrable regarding the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds, but not the Apostle’s. Its first use is as a Baptismal creed, not as a creed for clarifying specific areas of doctrinal controversy.

As noted in previous parts of my review, the committee is to be commended for their work. But, having missed receiving approval at this past summer’s convention, we now have until 2019 to finish the revisions. I have heard that there may be a desire to simply skip that step and begin printing the revisions without convention approval. That is a bad idea. There needs to be more conversation on this than simply an online survey. The changes suggested are significant, both regarding the content, and the method of instruction. No part of the survey even asked about the changes to the method of instruction, or the assumptions behind it. This catechism – if it used at all, will affect the instruction of our children and grandchildren. The catechism is the “laymen’s Bible.” It is the means by which pastors fulfill the command of our Lord to “Teach them to observe all things I have commanded.” It should not be taken lightly, and any changes to the content or method – and they are many on both counts – should be thoroughly discussed.

There is much good in the revisions. But there is also much that needs to be improved. There are also disqualifying errors in the format and content. I would neither be able to use it, nor recommend its use to others. In its current form, I would recommend that pastors hoard copies of the 1991 explanation for as long as possible. And when those run out, revert to the 1943 version. It is missing a great deal regarding changes in the surrounding culture in the past 75 years. But it avoids the confusion that the current proposal would bring to the church.

Once again, the committee has done excellent preliminary work. But the difference between a mediocre book and a great book is an editor. While the members of the committee are all professional theologians, none of them actually teach the catechism to children in the parish. The next step in editing needs to be choosing a group of pastors who will actually be using the catechism to instruct children and adults, and have the theological and catechetical acumen to properly evaluate the revisions. Yes, this would slow down the release – perhaps by a couple of years. It would not be ready in time for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. But this is too important a work to leave half-finished solely to meet an arbitrarily imposed marketing deadline. What we have is a fine first draft. But that draft needs significant work of a specialized kind that the scholars and theologians currently serving on the committee can not offer. Commend them. And then pass this on to the next group, who can hopefully complete the fine work they have started.

Posted in Catechesis | Tagged , , | Leave a comment


This morning in my sermon, I said something very badly. Just a misplaced word, but if true, we are Arians. A paragraph later I stopped my sermon and corrected it. For those who are interested, here is a transcript of my internal monologue during that paragraph…

<WAIT! WHAT! Did I just say that? Ok, keep talking. But look back at what you just said…. Yup. You said it alright. Oh my word, I just denied the Holy Trinity! That’s bad. In seminary they were very clear that our sermons should not deny the Trinity. Smooth move, oh thou preacher of heresy.>

<Well, this is the middle of the sermon. Maybe no one heard it. Look, they’re all a little bleary eyed. I mean, it was just a misplaced word. Most of them probably didn’t notice.  And if you go back and fix it, you’ll have to stop the sermon. You’re really making a big deal about something that’s not too big.>

<Wait? Are you saying heresy isn’t that big? That’s a terrible thought. You can’t just let this stay out there. You have to fix this. Bible Class, maybe? Yes, but that’s only a few people. There’s a pretty good crowd here today. You’d have a hard time getting in touch with all of them individually to fix this. If they even heard it. It was pretty quick.>

<Yes, but it was wrong. And not even a close call either. One badly placed word and you really go against all that you have spent 18 years trying to defend. People deserve to know that you made a mistake. We really do need to be clear in how you speak. There’s enough false doctrine out there. Look, there’s a nice break coming up at the end of this sentence. How about you stop there, fix what you said, and then move on.>

“Before we move on, I need to correct something…”

A lot of thoughts can occur to a pastor while preaching…

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Sunday Funny

I often wonder what would happen if famous church figures from the past were alive today. For example, how would Saint Paul do in today’s church? I was imagining a letter to Paul from the local District President about Paul’s… reputation for being confrontational. We joke a lot about “special snowflakes”. But what if a “special snowflake” and a career bureaucrat teemed up against Paul? Well, I thought it might go a little something like this…


President Herman Nuetic
Antioch District Office, LCMS
123 Main Street|

The Reverend Paul O. Tarsus
354 Via Dolorosa
Jerusalem, Israel

Pr. Tarsus.

If you recall our meeting last year, when you first attempted to bring charges against The Reverend Simon Peter, I advised you that not only was a face to face meeting required, but that you would not be able to discuss the details of the case.

While I appreciate the efforts you took in having a face to face meeting with Pr. Peter, I was dismayed to see you commenting publicly about that meeting. I refer specifically to your recent letter to the editor of the Galatians District newsletter, in which you publicly state that you “opposed him to his face”, and then go into specific details regarding the nature of the dispute.

While I appreciate your zeal for evangelism, I remind you of the warning I gave you when you first came to me. Regarding bylaw, I said “publicity shall not be given to the issues in the matter by any of the persons involved during any part of the procedures outlined in this bylaw…”

Your violation of this bylaw, specifically, your very public claim that you “opposed Peter to his face…” leaves me no alternative but to commence proceedings against you in accordance with bylaw, “Violations of the prohibition against publicity… are specifically included as violations subject to the same disciplinary measures set forth in this bylaw.”

In accordance with bylaw 2.14.5, I am referring your case to a panel of three circuit visitors. Because of the serious nature of the charges, I am placing you on restricted status effective immediately, according to bylaw 2.13.2. While on restricted status, you will be unable to accept a call to a new field of service. I know that you are not currently serving a parish, and that you were considering a call as Mission Developer for Asia Minor. However, because of your actions, and your current restricted status, I have had to inform the Board for Mission Services of your inability to consider the call.

While I am sorry that what once was a promising ministry seems to be ending so badly, I must say that there is no one to blame but yourself. Had you continued walking together in our covenant of love, my actions would have been unnecessary. Perhaps in the future, there will be a position of service for you. If you can show a desire to improve your social skills, it would go a long way toward demonstrating to me that you are ready to consider a call. (I would also recommend working on your personal grooming.)

My recommendation is that you stay in Jerusalem for the time being. If you can live peacefully there for a while, and demonstrate some humility by not stirring up trouble, perhaps in a couple of years something will open up.

I note on your SET form that you have also indicated a desire to serve in Rome. In the interest of total honesty, even if you were not on restricted status, I would oppose such a move. Good Shepherd in Rome is one of our synod’s flagship congregations. I just don’t think you have demonstrated the sort of churchmanship that we would expect to be the pastor of such a large parish.


The Reverend President Herman Nuetic, DD (Honoris Causa)

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Reviewing the “Field Test”: Part 2, Needs Improvement

In part 1, I examined the changes that I thought were good in the catechism revision. In part 2, I take a look at some of the more challenging parts of the revision…

First, the length of the revision is untenable. Of course, much will depend on the specific formatting, but if the new catechism is printed in a book with the same dimensions and typeface as the old book, it will be roughly 450-500 pages long. That is 50%-60% longer. The options are then for it to be absurdly think, to have thinner pages (which makes it less durable) or larger format size (which makes it less portable). No matter which option is chosen (Thicker, less durable, less portable) it becomes less useful for teaching children.

And the extended length is by no means necessary. Repeatedly we are told that more than 100 additional scripture references are included. But that is not the only thing lengthened. The answers in the introduction alone have ballooned from 35 words per answer to 76. The grade level of the answers for this section is now 10.4, according to the Flesch-Kincaid scale. Exactly who is this catechism for? Many parishes have moved catechesis to younger grade levels. Fourth through sixth grade is now ordinary, though not the majority. How are fifth-eighth grade students expected to read prose written for high school juniors or seniors?

The answers are often so detailed, and with such subtlety, that the basic meaning is lost. Yes, we must be clear when we speak and teach. And we want to avoid misunderstandings that can arise from unnecessary brevity. But the catechism has always been a simple instruction, not a complete one. As an example, Luther explains the creed according to the three persons of the Holy Trinity, in three articles as “Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier.” And yet, this does not mean that the Son and Holy Spirit were in no way involved in the creation, and so forth for the other articles. Luther uses a basic teaching tool to explain the contours of the creed, and the outline of the work of the three persons of the Trinity. We leave it to Pieper to explain to seminarians the difference between the opera ad extra and the opera ad intra. And yet, the committee has removed this time-honored and helpful teaching tool from their proposal. Admittedly, the committee has not recommended the Pieperian definition. But this does need to be a simple book, more than it needs to be a complete one.

Similarly, on page 170, the new explanation says,

Note: In preparing to come to the Sacrament, Christians may also take advantage of the opportunity for individual confession and absolution with the pastor. For personal reflection prior to coming to the Sacrament, you may use “Christian Questions with Their Answers.” (Emphasis added.)

The old catechism explanation on p. 243 states:

As a preparation for the Sacrament, use “Christian Questions with They Answers.”

The axiom applies: fewer adjectives.

Here are sample scans of the introduction to see how the wordiness can be reduced. My penmanship not withstanding, the committee needs to take a serious look at its choice of words.

I would actually recommend that their work be handed off at this point parish pastors who actually conduct the instruction of children themselves. A real field test is needed before the committee makes final decisions.

But the problem is not merely the length itself. The structure of the revisions have muddied the clear outline of previous catechisms. Each section of the revision is divided according to “The Central Thought”, “A Closer Reading of the Small Catechism” and “Connections and Applications.”.

The previous pattern was to ask questions according to the chronological order of the specific catechism selection. So, the first question for the First Article was about God as Father. But that question has been moved into “Connections and Applications” (section 3) in the revision. There is no reason that this question “connects and applies” instead of simply presenting “a closer reading”, or even is a summary of the central thought. But it insures that those who are attempting to use the catechism as a reference will be unable to easily find what they are looking for.

It also means that the questions are asked in a way that makes no sense logically. For the first commandment, we ask why God does not want us to have other gods two pages before we ask who the only true God is.

By diving each section into three parts, the flow is broken. Questions that follow one another logically and chronologically are separated, and no longer as easy to locate. Previously, they were organized according to where they naturally arose in a discussion of the text of the catechism. Yes, there may be slight differences of opinion regarding the best placement for this or that question. But the revision intentionally disorders the questions. This will be confusing not only for pastors, who must re-arrange their pattern of instruction, but also for catechumens, who will likely be asking questions, only to be told repeatedly, “We’ll get to that on the next page.” Much better to answer those questions when they arise from the text itself.

This out-of-order instruction does a great disservice to the explanation, which is supposed to help pastors by giving them a logical sequence for instruction. Instead it is likely to push them to alternative materials. (I have a suggestion along those lines…) Imposing this external structure to attempt relevance has made instruction confusing. This will actually increase the amount of time pastors spend trying to explain the relevance of the catechism.

And the first section, “Central Thought”, is presented not in question and answer format, but as a modern “bible study”: Ask a question. Have a student read a bible verse which gives the obvious answer, but do not print the answer in the text. This is not a sound catechetical method in the first place. If the answers are so obvious that the answer is omitted, then the question need not be asked in the first place. Many pastors eschew pre-written bible studies for this exact reason. It would be a mistake to impose this on the structure of the Catechism.

Worse, the central thoughts are often not central to the thought of the catechism itself. For example, the “Central Thought” of The Second Article part 2 (“who has redeemed me a lost and condemned creature…”) begins with “Human history has been constantly characterized by hatred and violence.” That is not the first thought we should teach regarding the redemption. It is not even a part of that teaching. It is the teaching of the Law. And its place is in the teaching of the Law. Worse, it is untrue. Has there never been a point in human history that has been characterized by love and compassion? What about the account of Oded in 2 Chronicles 28? In the One-Year series, this scripture is paired with the Good Samaritan. Liturgically then, it teaches that the children of Israel were loving and compassionate toward their defeated brethren. Certainly there have been great atrocities in human history. But there have also been moments of significant compassion on the part of God’s people toward the world.

And this sentence is not the actual central thought of the central thought section. There is a bold-print sentence that is really the “Central Thought.” And it comes much closer to the central thought of this section. “we confess that Jesus became our Lord by dying on the cross in order to rescue us from our captivity to sin, death, and the devil.” But the bold-print is placed between other thoughts. Study after study has shown that people remember the first or last thing they see. The middle is usually disregarded. And yet the “Central Thought” has ignored this basic pedagogical rule, placing the “Central Thought” in a context where it will be harder to discern and remember. The “Central Thought” section could be done away with entirely throughout the revision with no loss.

Not only can it be done away with, but the purpose of Luther’s Catechism is to summarize the teaching into a central thought. The church does not need to have two of those. Instead, students should just be directed to learn the catechism by heart, and tell them that is the central thought.

The review concludes in part 3with some specific content concerns. Stay tuned!

20161018_091045 20161018_091103 20161018_091108 20161018_09120420161018_091135 20161018_091214 20161018_091229 20161018_091236


Posted in Catechesis | Tagged | Leave a comment

Free Resource for Circuit Visitors

chemnitzA FB friend was appointed CV. He mentioned that he would be restoring the practice of visitation in his circuit, and was working on resources for that. The Council of Presidents was given the assignment almost four years ago to prepare those resources. Ever careful to produce only the best materials for the church, those are still in process. The various Visitation Articles of the reformers are helpful, but not always applicable to today – their practical concerns were different, and their theological struggles were often in different areas.

Of course there is always Chemnitz’s Enchiridion – if you plan for your visit to last six weeks.

In the Wyoming District we’ve been doing visitation for more than a generation. I was recently elected Circuit Visitor, and so inherited a whole lot of wisdom and experience from predecessors throughout our district. They had worked over the years on several versions of “Visitation Articles”. Lutheran, Practical, encouraging, and giving the pastor/CV a wide range of topics to discuss, it usually takes only an afternoon to go through them. It gives a fairly good picture of parish life. At the end, I do add a few specific theological questions for the pastor. So, you will want to add your own at that point.

But this is, I think, I pretty good outline of the sorts of discussions we should have when visit parishes in the modern LCMS. And their use in our district has been very beneficial to the church. These aren’t mine. They were written over the course of a generation. I tweaked them a little bit myself, but most of it is the work of others.

If you are a Circuit Visitor, and looking for some visitation materials that have 25 years worth of experience behind them, I recommend at least looking at what the Wyoming District uses.


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Reviewing the “Field Test”: Part 1, the Good

1108-lutherscex-jpg-550x0The Field Test of “An Explanation of Martin Luther’s Small Catechism” has been mailed to every pastor in synod for comment. An online survey has been set up for pastors to give feedback. But such a short-form response seemed inadequate for something as important as “How the church will be taught the faith for the next generation.” A long-form review seemed more appropriate.

First, I acknowledge that this is a tremendous effort on the part of the committee. Having written a catechesis program, and having received feedback on it, I have some idea how daunting the task is to put on paper “How to teach the faith to children”. You must help someone you have not met to teach the faith once delivered to children you do not know using the pattern of sound words in a way that addresses contemporary issues the church faces while trying to predict what heresies Satan will dredge up next. It’s not easy.

And, when looking at the overall form, what they have attempted is very impressive: Returning the instruction to more closely match the outline of the Large Catechism, while simultaneously addressing modern issues. The Large Catechism is the gold standard for instruction in the faith. How very sad that the pattern Luther uses is so often ignored. And how exciting that the new revision has attempted to return to that pattern in significant ways.

Luther’s evangelical focus comes through clearly in the pages of the Large Catechism. Melanchthon’s work, by way of contrast, takes a more scholarly approach. Perfect for disputing the theologians of Rome in the Augustana and her apology, Melanchthon’s approach is less salutary when addressing children. He lays out a fine academic pattern in his Loci. But it does not translate well into “teaching the faith to the young.”

One example should suffice to show the difference. In the Large Catechism, Luther spends 28 paragraphs explaining that a god is the thing in which we trust. That was never mentioned in the synod explanation – 1943 as well as 1992. Following Melanchthon’s lead, the previous catechisms used a more scholastic pattern of instruction. Melanchthon attempts to show, “without the aid of revalation, not only that God is powerful and just, but also that he is good and kind” (Pelikan, From Luther to Kirkegaard.) This finds expression in our modern catechisms as “The attributes of God.” They come from Thomas Aquinas via Melanchthon, not Luther.

Unfortunately, Conrad Dietrich used Melachthon’s pattern for his own explanation to the Small Catechism. In the 19th and 20th century, Loehe and Reu follow Luther’s pattern. Schwan and the LCMS follow Melanchthon. The last three catechisms in the LCMS have followed the more academic, rather than the more pastoral and evangelical (and, I would argue more pedagogically sound) pattern of Luther. When I saw the names of the committee members, I was excited. I thought that the new revisions might take a turn toward Luther’s method. Early indications were quite positive. And now, with the materials in hand, the influence of Luther, especially in the Large Catechism, is obvious.

When I first received the materials, I gave them a quick once over. I noticed that the broad outline followed Luther’s Large Catechism, and then put it down to work on other projects. But brother pastors were saying strange things. I was hearing of resistance to the new pattern of instruction. That seemed odd to me, because, what’s not to love about Luther’s Large Catechism?

The broad outline is much better. In my forthcoming book Catechetics, an entire chapter was written to address the unfortunate (and I would say harmful) scholastic influence of Melanchthon in our catechesis. After my initial look at the revisions, I joked that I could just change the chapter, Gilda Radner style, to “Never Mind!”

Luther’s focus on what it means to have a god is included. The attributes of God have been moved to an appendix. The supplement to the Ten Commandments defines sin in a way that more closely matches AC II.

The First article does a much better job of explaining humanity’s place in creation, especially against the false teachings of evolution. The focus on God as creator, who created us in love, and still preserves us, has been strengthened. The discussion of the “image of God” is much better, acknowledging that Lutheran Theologians have allowed that the image, though corrupted in the fall, has not been entirely lost.

The second article makes much clearer the human motherhood of Mary. In Catechetics, I comment on the second article of the old explanation, “Nothing is said about Jesus being born of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It seems especially egregious to ignore something that Luther specifically included, that is included in all three creeds, and that many today specifically deny, especially since one of the main theological issues in the recent Seminex controversy was the virgin birth… None of the evidence cited by the catechism would have been especially upsetting to a Gnostic. They would have conceded every point in the explanation, and still denied the true humanity of Jesus.” The new catechism corrects this, “Jesus was conceived in Mary’s womb by the will and act of God apart from a human father.” No wiggle room for Gnosticism or historical criticism exists in such an answer.

In the third article, the new explanation hints at something Luther makes explicit, but that is missing from the old explanation: The Holy Spirit is given through the Holy Christian Church, (that is) the Communion of Saints, by which we receive the forgiveness of sins. For Luther, the Third article lists the work of the Spirit, just as the First and Second list the work of the Father and Son. This was lost in previous explanations, and is almost – but not quite – restored in the proposed revision. Hopefully, a more complete restoration of this is possible. Much better is the omission of the distinction between the “visible” and “invisible” churches. This doctrine does not originate with Luther, but Calvin. It is picked up by Walther to answer a specific question that had to be addressed by the Perry County settlers after the unfaithfulness of Bishop Stephan. And it addressed that question. But its continued use has caused confusion, and in some textbooks (esp. Koehler) led to a view of the church that is more Platonic than Plato himself. That the catechism returns to a more scriptural and confessional definition of the church is welcome.

In the second petition, once again, theological novelty has been removed (the kingdom of God as consisting of power, grace, and glory) and Luther’s definition (The kingdom of God comes in time and hereafter in eternity) is again hinted at, but not explicitly stated. It is an improvement, but could easily be re-written to match the Large Catechism.

The first three petitions are tied together, which was missing in the 1992 edition. “(The Third) petition is closely related to the petitions that His name be hallowed and His kingdom come.” Unfortunately, it does not explain how the three are related. Luther notes in the Large Catechism that they are connected by the Word of God. The Small Catechism bears out this understanding. We pray that the word would be Taught (1st), that we would believe it (2nd) and that we be kept in it (3rd).

The sixth petition in the 1992 edition actually contradicted the text of the catechism. Conflating “Temptation” and “Testing”, it was not clear why we confess that God tempts no one. The new explanation fixes this by explaining the difference between testing (which “brings us closer to Himself and makes our faith more resilient”) and temptation (in which “our spiritual enemies (attempt to) lure us away from God.”) Although the definitions are not exact – testing does not automatically “bring us closer to Himself” – they have at least restored the distinction.

In the 1992 edition, before learning about Baptism, the catechumen was given a definition of “Sacraments.” But scripture knows of no “theology of the sacraments”. We have those things which the Lord has given (Baptism, The Lord’s Supper, Absolution) which bring forgiveness of sins, just as we have those things which God has given that are blessed estates in this world (Marriage, Family) and those that are given which are for our defense against Satan (Prayer). Our confessions specifically decline to number the sacraments. It is good to see that Baptism is presented before a formal definition of the abstract category “sacraments”. For those who prefer Chemnitz’s three-fold definition, it is still included after the Lord’s Supper. This is a much better place for that discussion: After the catechumen has been taught the things themselves.

But, despite much that is good in the overall outline of the catechism revisions, there is much that needs improvement if this book is to be of benefit to the church.

Stay tuned for Part 2…

Posted in Catechesis | Tagged , | Leave a comment