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 a pastors: “Eat these words!”

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

La Résurrection by James Tissot

This painting called La Résurrection by French artist, James Tissot, is done in watercolor. It is held at the Brooklyn Museum. La Résurrection actually depicts Christ rising from the place of the dead. I like this painting because it depicts Christ’s amongst the dead and supports the theology that Jesus actually visited the place of hell after his death on the cross in order to preach to the spirits who had already died a physical death but who have yet to experience a spiritual rebirth.

“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. In that state he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits…” (1 Peter 3:18-19, TNIV).

In the Apostles’ Creed, the newer version states: “He descended to the dead.” I think “The dead” may be a more accurate interpretation because it connotes a place where the dead rests. (In the Greek, this place of the dead is called sheol in Hebrew or hades in Greek). In our contemporary language, we currently refer to this place as hell; however, it might also be called the place of the dead because it is where people go after they die.

Do you think the place of “the dead” or “hell” would be a more accurate description of what hades really is?

The Resurrection (La Résurrection)
Series: The Life of Our Lord Jesus Christ (La Vie de Notre-Seigneur Jésus-Christ)
Artist: James Tissot, French, 1836-1902

He is Risen! Hallelujah!

Hopefully, you have been encouraged this Easter Sunday morning of Christ’s resurrection. For me personally, Christ’s resurrection is the most important event and theological issue for the church. Moreover, I would consider one’s belief in the resurrection to be the most important factor in determining the current status of a person’s life and faith in Christ in that moment in time. You may have another.

L: He is Risen! Hallelujah!
All: He is Risen Indeed! Hallelujah!

That is what we profess from our ancient church creeds; and that is what we proclaim to one another and to the world. In the Apostles’ Creed, we profess that:

“On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the living and the dead….I believe in…the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.”

There is a connection within our confession and profession of faith. It is because Christ has risen on the third day, has ascended into heaven and is now seated at the right of the Father, that we believe Christ will come again and we look forward to the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.

If Jesus did not rise from death, there would be no reason our whole celebration of Christ resurrection, and therefore, no reason for Easter season.

Would there be a reason for Christianity if there was no reason for Christ’s resurrection, and for our own resurrection in the future?

Undoubtedly, there are many non-believers, and even amongst some self-professed Christians, who doubt the resurrection of Christ. If we have no reason to believe in the resurrection of Christ, we have no basis to believe in the future of our own resurrection from death. We would just be temporary living blobs of life who will live and die and never again experience life; nor will we have any memory of having lived life on earth.

Yes, I am one of these hopeful Christians who believe that we will rise again from death and retain our living memories of our time on earth and live again to experience life forever with God in Christ Jesus. Whether we will be resurrected in body form or another form is a non-issue for me personally.

The most important issue for me is that we will be resurrected from death into life, as in accordance to scripture.

Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene at the tomb saying: “Mary…do not hold onto me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, “’I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” (John 20:16-17, NRSV).

The women Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome saw only an empty tomb and an angel dressed in white who asked: “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here” (Mark 16:6, NRSV).

Would you consider the resurrection to be the most important factor in determining the current status of a person’s life and faith in Christ in that moment in time?


HatTip: Eddie Arthur

Should we do away with "and the Son"?

Inspired my review of Alister McGrath’s book in my previous post regarding the theme of the Trinity, it prompted me to ask myself a question. If “and the Son” was removed from the Nicene Creed, would that bother me? For me personally? My answer from the gut would be: “No.” But then, many people thoughout the centuries have been accused of heresy for saying “No”.

You might be asking: “What in the world is the filioque?” The Nicene Creed, an ancient creed of the church, is accepted and recited universally by Christians around the world.

The Western Church (Protestants and Roman Catholics) recites the Nicene Creed with an addition of three words to one line (in our English translations). This is called the filioque clause; and it reads:

“We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son

The Eastern Church (Orthodox), however, recites the creed without “and the Son” (the filioque clause):

“We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father.”

It’s interesting to note that: “and the Son” was not originally in the Nicene Creed but was later added. Apparently, this filioque clause was added in the 6th century to prevent a doctrinal error called Arianism. But is it necessary today? Who is correct, the East or the West?

Furthermore, this addition seems to conflict with scripture (see John 15:26 below). Where does scripture say anything about the Son proceeding from the Father? Okay, we do know that the Son proceeds from the Father but is it necessary that it also be stated in the creed?

“But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.” (ESV)

“When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father–the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father–he will testify about me” (TNIV)

The Spirit should not be perceived as being born from the Son because all three has always been (sense of birth/generation). The Spirit can, however, be perceived as coming after the Son during Pentecost (sense of order/timing). I know all this can be confusing and I think I am still confused myself.

Do you think the Son proceeds from the Father, and the Spirit from the Son?

Or do you think the Son and Spirit have equal footing where both equally proceed from the Father?

What did you learn or recite in church? Or do you recite any creed in church?