Book Review – Martin Luther’s Catechism

Book Review

Review of Martin Luther’s Catechism

By Mark Sooy

My Christian upbringing was one that was full of church activities and events.  My parents sang in the choir, and included me as early as Junior High age.  There were various meetings during the week and work parties on the weekends (particularly the copying and folding of the bulletin for Sunday).  And, of course, there were Bible studies and youth meetings along with Sunday Services and Sunday School classes.

I recall during my young teenage years spending time during a series of Saturday mornings attending a membership class.  We studied basic Christian doctrines and the history of the church and denomination of which we were a part.  At the end of it all, though my memory is somewhat cloudy, we answered some questions about what we believed and about our relationship with Christ.  Once complete, I was a member of the church.

Missing in this short story of my life was the use of a Catechism.  That is, a concise and direct synopsis of the most important of Christian beliefs.  Something I could hold onto and take with me.  Something I could refer to later, and reflect upon day by day.  Somehow I think there are many modern Christians who have missed the benefits of a Catechism, and I would like to heartily recommend the one penned by Martin Luther.

Luther actually wrote two Catechisms commonly referred to as the “Shorter Catechism” and the “Larger Catechism.”  Although varying in length, they both cover the same material.  The shorter of the two was written with the intent of simplicity and memorization, for teaching children and new believers.  The longer one was written more broadly for Fathers to use in teaching their families and for Pastors in teaching their congregations.  It had more commentary than the shorter.  (These are readily available in many versions.)

Luther’s intent can best be summarized in his own words, from his own preface in the Larger Catechism.  Note his intentions for both knowledge (faith) and daily life (faithfulness):  “Being a faithful, earnest exhortation addressed by Luther to all Christians, but especially to all Pastors and Preachers, to diligently exercise themselves daily in the knowledge of the Catechism, which is a short summary and extract of the whole Bible, and to continually put it into Practice.”

The structure of the Catechisms is basic.  Luther desires to cover the “three most important parts of Christian instruction.”  These three parts are (in order):  The Ten Commandments, The Apostles’ Creed, and The Lord’s Prayer.  Once complete, he also spends time covering the two sacraments that he recognized:  Baptism and The Lord’s Supper.

Luther makes the point that these teachings of the Bible are so important that even he, a Doctor of Theology, must study them daily by meditating and praying through the various portions of the Catechism.  This was Luther’s heart – to hear the word of God!

Although I would never want to call into question the methods of my teachers and parents, for they did lead me to Christ and teach me His ways, I have still found this to be a welcome addition to my own devotional life and often find myself yearning to sit with my Catechism and drink of the richness found within.  Maybe you will too.

Posted on May 26, 2014, in Christian Worldview, Conversation, Leadership, Martin Luther, theology, Worship Leader and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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