Wednesday, 27 October 2010

A 'Catechism of the Lutheran Faith'?

One of the most well-thumbed books in my library is the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1994). It came out in during the period I was "seeking" a church home and so I picked one up on the day it was available in the city where I worked. It was a very large, cheaply made, bound-with-glue paperback which has since fallen apart and been been replaced by a smaller, better quality vinyl-bound version which I have filled with copious notes, as I did my first copy. The chief virtue of this catechism - and let me say there is much in it one can agree with, along, of course, much which one bound by scripture alone must reject - is its lucid text, and the fact that it contains footnotes which refer one back to the official church documents if further reading is desired.

It occured to me recently, as I was hunting around for suitable adult education materials, that there is no real present-day Lutheran equivalent. Of course, we have Luther's Small and Large Catechisms, and I have no desire to see them replaced, but I do wonder whether there is a need for a contemporary 'Catechism of the Lutheran Faith'? Several attempts at such have been made in the past, but they are now obsolete and to my knowledge nothing has replaced them. The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland has a surprisingly good Catechism of Christian Doctrine which is designed for personal study and meditation, but it is perhaps a little too brief. I have in mind something that is discussional, but also conducive to meditation (i.e. Scripture based), and somewhere between the Small Catechism and a basic doctrinal handbook for adults, or the Large Catechism. It would be more official than, say, Veith's Spirituality or Preus's Why I Am A Lutheran (both excellent in themselves), and would follow the usual catechetical outline.

Luther's Small Catechism could even feature as the primary text, as it does with the Finnish catechism, being printed on one page with the expanded commentary on the other. As in older catechisms, Bible references could be included in footnotes or elsewhere, along with Confessional references and recommendations for further reading in some of the excellent Lutheran literature that is now available in English. Theologians and/or pastors of churches associated with the International Lutheran Council could author the catechism with an appropriate editor. The final text could then be approved by the synods and/or church councils of the relevant church bodies. It could be given to confirmands as a Confirmation gift, representing the next step in their internalisation of Christian doctrine. Of course, it must also be affordable and available for wide and easy distribution electronically, perhaps by licence to congregations/pastors.

The Lord knows, we need something like this desperately. Such a text could serve as a powerful statement of the orthodox Lutheran understanding of the Christian faith at a time of much confusion in world Lutheranism generally, and thus cultivate both unity and uniformity of teaching, both of which are sound, confessional objectives.

[Pic: The Catechism Lesson, by Jules-Alexis Meunier]


Mark said...

All you need to do now is pitch that proposal to a publisher and get writing.

I'll be your first customer in the US.

Pr Mark Henderson said...

Ah, if only I had the time.
I might if I gave up blogging!

Thanks for your comment, Mark.

Pr Mark Henderson said...

Actually Mark, I know Paul McCain of CPH reads this blog occasionally, so I hope he'll see the post and give it some consideration. But I'm not putting my hand up to write it! There are others more gifted than I am who could do that.