Luther’s Catechism As A Map For Life’s Journey -- By: Charles P. Arand

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 10:2 (Spring 2001)
Article: Luther’s Catechism As A Map For Life’s Journey
Author: Charles P. Arand

Luther’s Catechism As A Map
For Life’s Journey

Charles P. Arand

At the dawn of the twenty-first century the church increasingly faces questions about what it means to be Christian within a culture that is characterized by a smorgasbord of non-Christian religious options. Half a century ago, Bible stories were a basic part of the wider American culture and could be found in movies, books, literature, and public conversation. That is no longer the case today. Children are not being formed at home in how to worship or to pray. Adults have little to no Christian memory even from childhood. As a result, those approaching the church or who are standing on the front porch of the church today are literally at square one in their knowledge and understanding of what it means to be a Christian. Instead, they live in a universe of religious options and are becoming eclectic and syncretistic in their spiritual lives. They will adopt a little of this and a little of that. They live in a world of thirty second soundbites, brief commercial slogans, catch-words, and bumper sticker theology.1

In this context the climate may be ripe for recovering and rediscovering the catechism’s value for the church. In the wider culture one hears the cry for schools to return to the basics (the three “Rs”). Why go back to “basics”? Basics are so foundational that they endure and last in a world where knowledge is ephemeral and fleeting. Basics provide some reference points or markers by which we can find our bearings. These reference points help us to sift what is important from what is not important when confronted

with a tidal wave of information. They help us deal with the world thoughtfully and critically. This is where the catechism enters and why the climate may in fact be ripe for recovering serious catechetical work with youth and adults. The catechism fastens our attention on what is most important so that we are not distracted by peripheral concerns.

From the beginning of the church’s life, catechesis provided the counterpart and complement to baptism for the making of disciples, so that both sides of the Great Commission, “baptize and teach,” might be carried out. At times catechetical instruction took place prior to baptism and at other times it took place afterwards. In either case, as baptism provided the point of entry into the church, catechesis disclosed to the catechumen the gifts of baptism. Like baptism then, catechesis functioned as the bridge across which people were led out of the world and incorporated into the life of the church. In brief, catechesis prepared people for the life that baptism inaugurated. In L...

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