Why Teach the Small Catechism in Your Home?

Joe Willmann Teaching the Faith at Home Leave a Comment

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You might assume that with a blog titled “Teaching the Faith at Home”, that there might be a fair amount of content on the blog that focused specifically on Luther’s Small Catechism. Well . . . here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Yeah, it’s fair to say the Small Catechism is important.

Asking the question “why” you should teach the Small Catechism in your house would seem like a no-brainer. Even so, let’s look at what Luther had to say on the subject of catechesis:

With all Christian faithfulness I therefore ask and admonish everyone, teachers as well as students, first, not to despise those who can expound the Scriptures and ably interpret and teach the difficult books. For St. Paul tells us (1 Thess. 5:19) not to despise prophesying or quench the spirit. But this expounding should be done at places and in the presence of persons where “it is good for edifying,” as Paul teaches the Colossians. One should not, however, regard those interpreters as great who devote all of their cleverness to allegories and, I fear, seek not great good but rather great glory. For one can very well be a Christian and be saved without this cleverness, because these interpreters either interpret nothing at all or very rarely anything that is sure. One ought, however, to regard those teachers as the best and the paragons of their profession who present the catechism well—that is, who teach properly the Our Father, the Ten Commandments, and the Creed. But such teachers are rare birds. For there is neither great glory nor outward show in their kind of teaching; but there is in it great good and also the best of sermons, because in this teaching there is comprehended, in brief, all Scripture. There is no Gospel, either, from which a man could not teach these things if he only were willing and took an interest in teaching the poor common man. One must, of course, constantly prompt the people in these brief things—that is, in the Our Father, the Ten Commandments, and the Creed—and then insist on them and urge them upon the people in all Gospels and sermons. Even then, unfortunately, the people will learn little enough of these things and, as St. Paul says (2 Tim. 4:4), “will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths.”

“One ought, however, to regard those teachers as the best and the paragons of their profession who present the catechism well—that is, who teach properly the Our Father, the Ten Commandments, and the Creed.” There are some important things to unpack in this statement. First, these lectures were given in 1527, a full two years before Luther published the Large and Small Catechisms. This means that when you read the word catechism here, it is Luther referring to what he states, the Ten Commandments, the Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer. Then we come to the unique word, paragon. No, not the video game. A paragon is a person or thing regarded as a perfect example of a particular quality.

A person or thing regarded as a perfect example of a particular quality.Paragon
As the primary educator of your household, it is your noble task to be this paragon. We see Luther later state, “because in this teaching there is comprehended, in brief, all Scripture.”

So, why teach the Small Catechism? Just as Luther states, in it, there is all Scripture. What the Bible teaches us is taught in the simplicity of the words that we confess in Luther’s Small Catechism. That’s why we teach it! In it, we find what Scripture teaches.

God’s blessings as you teach the faith once for all, delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3).

Luther quote from Luther’s Works, Volume 20, copyright © 1973 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.

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About the Author

Joe Willmann

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Joe Willmann is the Senior Instructional Designer for Concordia Publishing House in St. Louis, MO. A former teacher and administrator, Joe has a passion for education and learning theory. He earned his Bachelor's Degree from Ball State University and his Master's Degree from Concordia University - Ann Arbor. He lives with his wife, Nicole, his daughter Ava, and his son Carter. You can read his latest posts here.

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