Why learning the catechism and bible is important

These day, I don’t know if many people take the catechism very seriously.  Most Lutherans have heard of Luther’s Large and Small Catechism; some have even heard of the Book of Concord.  Reformed and Presbyterians know of the Geneva, Heidelberg, Larger, Smaller catechisms, including the Westminister Confession of Faith.  But many do not even know what is in them.  A while back, I started reading Luther’s Large Catechism and was blown away by it.  I love it and have come to really appreciate the richness of teaching in the words of Martin Luther.

The Large catechism was intentionally written for pastors and preachers, who he assumes are supposed to be hard working and studious with the scriptures. “It is highly profitable and fruitful to read it daily and make it a subject of meditation and conversation,” says Luther (381).  As I started reading his large catechism, I am always taken aback by his strong language he uses to exhort others to live piously.

Then there are also laypeople who think they can do without pastors. Concerning these people, he lays it on them heavy:

“among the nobility there are also some louts and skinflints (cheapskates) who declare that they can do without pastors and preachers now because we now have everything in books and can learn it all by ourselves.”

So for churches that don’t think they need pastors: “Eat these words!”

Luther likes to keep everyone on their toes, including pastors. To those who are educated beyond their own good, he pointedly exclaims:

“I beg such lazy bellies and presumptuous saints, for God’s sake to let themselves be convinced and believe that they are not really and truly such learned and exalted doctors as they think. I implore them not ever to imagine that they have learned these parts of the catechism perfectly, or that they know them sufficiently, even though they think they know them ever so well.”

So pastors, we have to keep learning the basics.

Luther takes this so seriously that he encourages us to take a hard stance on knowing the catechism. “Anyone who does not know it should not be numbered among Christians nor admitted to any sacrament” (383). This really hurts a lot of Lutherans.

And for young people, he has these tough words to say:

“Young people should be thoroughly taught the parts of the catechism (that is, instruction for children) and diligently drilled in their practice” (383)…. “The children should be taught the habit of reciting them daily, when they arise in the morning, when they go to their meals, and when they go to bed at night. Until they recite them they should be given nothing to eat or drink” (385).

According to this standard, I think more than half of our children would have to starve every night.  This is why I will not take it easy on my confirmation kids.  I am going to do my best to encourage them to learn the bible and the catechism, know it well, and not let them off the hook.

Kolb, Robert and Timothy J. Wengert. The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2000.

5 thoughts on “Why learning the catechism and bible is important

  1. Sorry, been traveling for 11 days so didn’t see this until now.

    For the memory work within worship, we would memorize Scripture at the beginning of the three Scripture readings. For the catechism, we would memorize at the same time as the creed; both fit within the context of worship itself.

    He uses the Robert Fischer translation of the Large Catechism. Questions develop as the participants read each section.


  2. Rich, I also tell them that they’re just getting started in their walk with the Lord and that this is not the end.

    In the congregations I served, we memorized Scripture and Catechism portions right during the worship service.

    Rich, I’m curious how did you managed that?

    50-60 is awesome. Does he teach it straight out of the Book of Concord or use other prepared materials?


  3. Catechesis is critical in forming the faith. Unfortunately most Lutherans (and Lutheran pastors) have made it into a two year program with a graduation, party, etc. And so drop out is the necessary result (“I graduated!”). I stress to our pastors that catechesis is a lifelong activity.

    In the congregations I served, we memorized Scripture and Catechism portions right during the worship service. Worked very well. We made it a little fun as well.

    One of our pastors has been teaching the Large Catechism on Wednesday night. He started with 20; now he is running 50-60 on that night. They have grown considerably through this study of Scripture. The pastor has the look up all Bible references as well as others.


  4. Brian, the drop out rate in Lutherans and other mainline churches is likely even higher. I don’t know the %tage but it’s has to be very high. I don’t see many younger kids in their teens or young adults in the church so we are in a very sad state.

    The faith in the older generation is more admirable. They use to memorize bible verses but our leaders don’t ask the kids to do that anymore. Big mistake. They need the word of God planted in their hearts. I think I’m going to make the youth memorize 20 verses plus more.


  5. while I am not Lutheran, I just might agree with Luther! We NEED to know the Bible and supplementary teachings – we just don’t push ouselves much do we? and we wonder why more then half of all evangelical kids stop following the Lord when they get to college…

    thanks for this Kevin


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