Thursday, January 29, 2009


This coming Sunday is the Transfiguration of our Lord in the historic one year lectionary. In the Transfiguration God shows that Jesus is his true and only Son and points to his great redemptive work - the exodus to come at the cross. God speaks directly to the disciples "Listen to him." The church is born and lives through all eternity by hearing the voice of her shepherd. The Transfiguration shows that all Scripture testifies to the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, "I will tell of the decree of the Lord: He said to me, "You are my son; today I have begotten you" (ps. 2:7). And our Lord himself who declares, "You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf. Yet you refuse to come to me to have life" (Jn. 5:39-40). The life of Christian is being continually brought to Jesus by the Holy Spirit to receive his gifts. I have written much more about the Transfiguration here.

Doctrine, Ministry, Law and Gospel

The Reformers did not conceive of Scripture as containing doctrine or articles in the plural. They understood doctrine as making up a body – a singular confession regarding Christ’s office and work. The articles do not attempt to explain every bit of Scripture but rather to hand the doctrine of Christ over. It is not dead doctrine but a living confession that creates and sustains the church, consoling Christ’s people. The articles proceed as a single confession for pastoral care and consolation. James Schaaf, in “Smaldcald Articles and Their Significance,” interprets the chief article of Christ and his work as enveloping and clarifies all the following articles. Any mass, work, vow, saint, or bishop that takes away an iota of Christ’s work sets himself against the Gospel, and therefore the chief article. We can therefore see Luther’s work with Smalcald as his last testament – a final confession rooted in an unshakable belief that the first article is simply the true and wholly catholic and evangelical confession. The Smalcald articles are a return to the ecumenical Creeds and small catechism.

The Smalcald Articles present the Lord’s Supper simply in terms of a simple and summary confession, We maintain that the bread and the wine in the Supper are the true body and blood of Christ.” He considers the notion of transubstantiation to be an exercise in “sophistry.” Luther’s Confession Concerning Christ’s Supper holds a more comprehensive explication of Christ’s Institution. He proceeds with a confession of the Supper, beginning with the Trinity and work of the Son. He condemns pelagians, Anabaptists, and discusses many of the problems with the papacy that detract from the Holy Supper. A confession of the Nicene Creed runs throughout his explanation of the gifts and benefits of the supper.

The “chief article” in the Smalcald Articles is Christ and Christ alone (SA II, I). He comes to justify the ungodly, paying the full penalty for the sin of the world. Luther uses Romans 4:25 that our Lord was “handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification.” He is returning to the historic creeds of the church and the catechism which begin and end in Christ’s Person and work. This is believed not by reason or an acute intellect but only by faith – which alone can justify. Luther, citing Saint Paul writes, “For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law;’ and also, ‘that God alone is righteous and justifies the one who has faith in Jesus.”[1] This faith is given – handed over - as Christ gives himself to the church. The chief article comes as gift – for Luther, it is the only gift that matters, “On this article stands all that we teach and practice against the pope, the devil, and the world.”

The Office of the law exposes inherited sin and the complete corruption of the human condition. The law comes not by natural knowledge which can discern it, but only through God’s revelation – thereby revealing the horrifying darkness of the bondage to Satan along with our complete despondence. Luther in the Smalcald Articles references Romans 1[:18]: “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all.” The law therefore does not deliver or comfort by comes by way of crushing imposition exposing sin, death, and hell. The lost, condemned, and despairing long to hear the voice of their Shepherd and the Lord looks down from heaven and his pity wakens. The proper office of the Holy Gospel is to speak the words of Jesus - the forgiveness of sins. In this Gospel, “God is extravagantly rich in his grace,” coming to save through the marks of the church – the waters of Holy Baptism, Lord’s Supper, office of the keys, and through the mutual conversation and consolation by way of Pastors. Only then can the law take on a positivistic role in the life of the redeemed saint, “O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day” (ps. 119:97).

The priesthood is given to Christ’s church that she may hear her Lord’s words, receiving forgiveness, and His heavenly supper. The church by divine right may ordain Pastors when Bishops are heretical and unjustly withhold Christ office. The royal priesthood (basileiov iepateuma) is often referenced in light of the so called "priesthood of all believers" which is often taken to dispense with the heavenly gifts which proceed through Christ’s servants in the Holy Ministry. However, iepateuma serves as an adjective to describe the unity of communion that all have in Christ, who in turn hold immeasurable riches and righteousness in Jesus. Iepateuma is not to be applied with a rigid individualism to each believer but rather describes the corporate nature of the church, as the bride of Christ. The apostolic Ministry must feed the flock as our Lord demands, in spite of the Pope and heretical bishops. They must be apt to teach, called and ordained.

[1] Romans 3[:28, 26].

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Church will cease to be the Church if She does not confess Her Creeds

American Evangelicalism, non-denominationalism, and “emerging church” movements have nearly left behind the catholic, historic, and ecumenical creeds of the church: namely the Apostles, Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds. They are not a regular part of Sunday worship, nor do they hold a central place in family prayer life. American evangelicalism is therefore acreedal. It is held that these timeless creeds are divisive rather than unifying – dull antiquated forms of worship that lack true spiritual and emotional zest. A common rally call is “deeds not creeds.” Human action is therefore pitted against a common confession. Christ’s pure doctrine is not what saves but rather living for an abstract, disconnected, aloof, sovereign, and lofty God of majestic heights.

Today’s spirituality is marked by a rigid two-way personal relationship with Jesus. It is less about the larger community – the whole body of Christ – standing outside of space and time. What is interesting is that most evangelicals will give assent to the historic creeds but do not like to be “bound to them.” It is understood that the church is flawed and that creeds ought to be up for debate and re-working to be more “inclusive” to invite “other points of view.” There is very much an unwillingness to engage the historic church - more appealing is the desire to topple the church and in our vain imaginations to manufacture something new into existence. For a confessional Christian to say “Christians since the Holy Apostles have always believed this – and we believe this until Christ’s return” is simply not sufficient for an enthusiast. It is held by the emerging church movement that Creeds simply do not animate the human heart toward God – and feel insipid and uninspired.

Another source of discomfort with the historic Creeds of the church is that American social-political culture simply has a problem with authority. It is a difficult and unnatural thing for an American to bind oneself to a creed. The authority of a historic creed undermines one’s sense of personal spiritual entitlement or the more imaginative personal and creative link between “Jesus and me.” The Creeds define God as revealed through the Holy Scriptures and also define every aspect of our very lives and relationship to God – whether it be wrath or sweet deliverance at the foot of the cross.

In place of the historic Creeds, a new creed has been appraised by evangelicals as sufficient. It is this: “I believe in the Bible.” Yet, believing in the bible is not enough - for the human imagination can make it say or support anything to ones liking. For example, Jehova's Witnesses "believe in the Bible," Buddhists "believe in the Bible," even Muslims "believe in the Bible." The Church is served through Pastors and the Holy Spirit who carry-out and give God’s teaching. Christians must open themselves to the consistent witness to the Holy Scriptures, the basic teachings of the church – and this begins with the Creeds. Knowledge of the Trinity, the work and mission of Christ, the work of the Holy Spirit and the marks of the church is not initiated by “knowing,” “doing,” or “thinking” but rather “confessing,” and “receiving.” We must simply confess. Confession is the rock by which Christ carries out his ministry with the Holy Spirit. The ears and mouth are the organs of faith whereby Christ enters in - and in faithful response the human lips confess and build one another up through spiritual hymns and Psalms. If the church does not confess Her Creeds she will be lost in a web of lies and doctrinal chaos. We must confess the unchanging truth of Christ crucified.
"I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth."
The starting place for Luther is God as creator, who creates ex nihilo who provides for creation. He daily and richly provides all things to support this body and life and delivers us from danger out of sheer generosity (“without any worthiness in me”). The explanation to the Creed is that God does not wander at the peripheral regions of heaven but invades our low estate with his gifts. God incarnates himself into creation and graciously governs, sustains, redeems, and sanctifies. He preserves our bodies with drink and food and all that is needed to sustain daily life. God does this because of his very nature – that of divine goodness and mercy. In this way, God works actively through that which is created – through creaturely means to carry out his good and gracious will. This is a vitally important understanding in light of the advent of Christ and the second article. For all creation is made new through creaturely means – through water, body, blood, and the preached gospel.
"And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell. The third day He rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead."
 This Gospel flows forth from the second article – that in the pits of sin and death Christ comes and snatches us from the depths of hell. Luther’s introduces this article in terms of the fallen sinner and his bondage to death and sin, “So we fell under God’s wrath and displeasure and were doomed to eternal damnation, just as we had deserved.” Prior to Christ there was no “counsel, help or comfort.” The sinner’s needs are addressed as a “lost and condemned creature.” Luther’s completes his explanation to this article by noting that all preaching, salvation and “happiness” are drawn from it, “It is so rich and complete that we can never learn it.” It is the article of the incarnation of God in the virgin’s womb – Jesus’ suffering, crucifixion, death, and resurrection. The church boldly confesses here that she is taken captive by Jesus Christ in this article – she finds protection and shelter in the forgiveness of sins.
"I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen." 
In the third article the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit is that “He leads us first into his holy congregation and places us in the bosom of the Church. Through the Church he preaches to us and brings us to Christ” (para 37). We can likewise say that the Third Article establishes the decisive way that Christ enters into our lives and takes possession of us – so that we may confess “I believe!” The Holy Spirit therefore, carries the Word proceeding from the mouth of God into the world to do its work – namely the giving of gifts and creating faith. The Holy Spirit calls, gathers, and enlightens through Christ’s Gospel. The Holy Spirit bring us to Christ to receive his gifts: namely the forgiveness of sins which is delivered through the holy sacraments and Absolution. The Holy Christian Church is not simply the bricks and mortar that shelter a particular gathering of Christians but is rather the universal, catholic church – existing outside of space and time – resting eternally in God’s peace. In the Large Catechism Luther describes the meaning of this gathering of the faithful, “For we are in the Christian Church, where there is nothing but continuous, uninterrupted forgiveness of sin. This is because God forgives us and because we forgive, bear with, and help one another” (Gal. 6:1-2). This movement from redemption to faith active in love toward others is central to the Creed. It shows that redemption is not about me for Jesus but rather Jesus for me and therefore me in him and for everyone. For Christ does not create, redeem, and sanctify as set forth in the Creed in an isolated relationship between him and the lost sinner. He forgives and grants eternal life to “all believers in Christ.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Game Night at Adriane's

The Power and Primacy of the Pope and the Office of the Holy Ministry

The Roman Catholic claim on Papal authority is argued from Matthew 16:8 - “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” This is held by the Rome to be the unassailable proof-text for Papal infallibility. Even today, though the Vatican employs a slightly more evangelical tone asserts, “The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful – who confirms his brethren in the faith – he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals.” When the Pope speaks ex cathedra, he speaks with equal authority as the Holy Scriptures and Christ Himself. Furthermore, Rome asserts it is necessary for salvation to believe these things about papal authority.

In the Treatise, Lutherans vehemently reject that the Roman pontiff is supreme above all bishops and pastors by divine right. The “rock” on which the church is built is not the person of Peter and his papal lineage, but rather the confession that Peter makes – proclaiming Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of God. The Treatise cites many church fathers who also stand by this historical and correct hearing of the words of Jesus, “The Father revealed this to Peter so that he might declare: ‘You are the Son of the living God.’ Upon this rock of confession, therefore, the church is built. Christ addresses Peter as a minister – as apostle – as representative of the missiological imperative of the ministry. “On this rock,” precisely is the ministry of which Peter and the apostles are to carry out to all nations – spoken in Jesus’ Great Commission. Christ’s Holy Office given to Peter and the apostles is for the sake of baptizing, teaching, administration of the sacraments, and forgiveness of sins.

Lutherans understand that the Pope has set himself over and against Christ’s Gospel, for he tyrannizes the church by denying that Christians are saved apart from his personal authority. The sacrifice of the mass, purgatory, masses for the dead, monastic life, and indulgences attempt to rob Christ of his glory and work and set human institutions and lies over and against Christ’s institution – the forgiveness of sins as categorical “free gift.” The Lutheran reformer, Melanchthon writes, “When the regular bishops become enemies of the gospel or are unwilling to ordain, the churches retain their right to do so. For wherever the church exists, there also is the right to administer the gospel. Therefore, it is necessary for the church to retain the right to call, choose, and ordain ministers.” The words of Christ proclaim that his office is given to the church, not particular persons or human institutions like the Pope and his cardinals. The church has the right to ordain ministers so that they might preach the Holy Gospel and serve the church and build up the body of Christ.

Christ clearly rejects the hoarding of power among the apostles, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, but it is not so with you. Rather whoever wants to be great among you will be your servant” (Lk. 22:25). Apostles are sent as equals who share in the same ministry of Jesus’ word and sacrament. Through pastors people hear the same Christ who speaks as the true Shepherd to his sheep. The final interpreter therefore, is not the Pope, prefects, councils, or scholars but only the risen Christ who uses men to breathe God’s forgiveness into a broken world.

Friday, January 16, 2009

In God we boast all the day long: and praise thy name forever

Rob and Allison Kieselowsky welcomed Ella Olya (6lb. 15oz.) into the world on January 14th, 2008

Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord:

and the fruit of the womb is his reward.

As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man;

so are children of the youth

Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them:

they shall not be ashamed,

but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate

Ps. 127

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Ordination of my dear friend Pastor Schultz

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Market Laws and Religious Culture

I have been watching a lot of the 24 news stations lately. They bring in every specialist in economics to speak on various theories and suppositions about the recession – its causes, cures, and projections. The idea seems to be if we find the underlying secret riddle of the market then all will be well. With Bernard Madoff pulling of one of the biggest Ponzi schemes in American history ($50 Billion)in the wake of the Fannie Mae, Tyco, Citigroup, and Enron scandal it seems a new crisis is presenting itself.

As good Americans we are happy with the separation of church and state and see the economy as a purely worldly matter – a system dictated by rules of the market – product and demand – entrepreneurship – laissez-fare capitalism and so forth. In the tradition of Adam Smith and his “Wealth of Nations” we have understood that the market is incompatible with ethics because voluntary “moral” actions contradict market rules and drive the moralizing entrepreneur out of the game. Simply put the Christian who governs his business primarily as an ethicist rather than a rigid capitalist will eventually be pushed completely out of the market. It is commonly held that market laws, by their very nature will effectively accomplish progress and lead to distributive justice, peace, and prosperity.

We attribute a quasi-religious creed to the “market laws” as being inherently good and eternally progressive in nature. What we have done is presupposed the effectiveness of a free market apart from the ethical, ontological, and philosophical underpinnings of the human assembly driving the market. Given that questions regarding ethics and ontology are only articulated by a religious system, maybe church and economic power-brokers ought to more carefully consider how to relate to each other.

Is the economy governed by market laws – supply and demand? Or is its governance dictated by a more subjective influence of moral consensus and healthful inter-relationships among the human community? Where my Grandfather’s generation saw their identity as extremely relational to their work organization, most workers today have little or no sense of identity as being in and of their particular work of civic organization. Where the last generation remained loyal to a firm for years, now workers enter and leave organizations as rapidly as possible if an opportunity presents itself. Feeling “bored” or “tired” of working a certain job is probably the most popular reason for attrition and turnover in the workplace. Motivations related to “transcendence,” and “Self-actualization” have replaced more time honored virtues such as “honor,” “loyalty,” and “dependability.”

My intention here is not to be the old codger who laments the golden days of times past. Rather it is to consider the religious and philosophical foundation that more actively controls markets than static economic principles or theories. For examples, economically what does it mean that people more seldom associate themselves with their job and organization. What does it mean for a market if a worker’s desire for “self fulfillment” trumps his/her association with the vocation in which they have been placed? Morally speaking, if the philosophical-religious axiom of “Love thy Neighbor’ is not stated in parochial and public schools what are the consequences for a certain body politic? While free market economies were articulated by religious men of religious sentiments in deeply religious societies what does it means for the unbelieving, individualist, who’s only aim is self fulfillment, self-consumption, and self gratification. As rigid individualism expresses itself in a post-Christian culture, what type of market will ultimately present itself?

The housing crisis is indicative of the irresponsible stewardship of money and the premature grappling for that which is unaffordable. A frightening segment of the population is living way beyond their means with highly leveraged home and car loans, and useless consumer or luxury type goods. Millions of Americans who bought McMansion homes were banking on the future and long term success of the markets. Yet, we live in a world where economic speculations beyond two or three years is becoming a farcical task given the volatility of world markets, and increasing political pressures involving rogue regimes and terrorism.

We ought not see the market and present economy as operative apart from western society (particularly American culture). The market does not operate autonomously by nameless plastic workers who pour into factories and office cubicles. Markets form from the most elementary principles of birth, life, death, and the content of the human mind and heart. Market laws of maximum profit, that form apart from an ethos of love of neighbor, will taken by themselves destroy any economic system from inside-out. Self-restraint and love of neighbor combined with entrepreneurship and devoted workers are the marks of a successful long term economy.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Toward a Culture of Catechesis

"Christ Blessing the Children"
painting by Lucas Cranach the Younger (1540)

The catechisms of the blessed Dr. Martin Luther provide a brief but eternally rich confession of the true catholic and evangelical faith. It is a confession which “every Christian must needs know, so that he who does not know this could not be numbered with the Christians nor be admitted to any Sacrament” (preface). Luther’s admonition is not a legalistic admonition of rote learning but an invitation to be taken up and into Christ through a spoken confession. The catechism is a prayer book, never to be exhausted on this side of the grave. Besides ingratiating pastors and all Christians in the most rudimentary tenets of the faith, Luther also intended that is be used as a “manual of pastoral care” that could be read out loud. In this way the catechism not only teaches but preaches. Preaching the Creed, Prayers, Holy Baptism, Holy Absolution, and Lord’s Supper ‘actually do something.’ These treasures are given that Christ might build His church. The six chief parts in the catechism create, sustain, and enliven Christians, and finally ushers them into the glory of Heaven to see the face of God.

The fundamental theological truth Luther sets out in the catechism is the sinful human and the God who justifies. Already, from the get-go a sinful world would dismiss this premise as too simple or narrow as the central object of theology. Yet the brilliance and simplicity of the catechism can meet the self-justifying sinner with the word of God which does not return to him empty. Catechesis is not a mere impartation of knowledge to be digested as others facts. It rather involves a ‘handing over’ of Christ and his doctrine of salvation. The catechism speaks God’s law and Gospel and orients one into a living theology of the cross. It does crucify and resurrect. It does comfort and ‘give’ Christ.

Prior to Luther’s little handbook, catechisms had traditionally set forth the commandments after the Lord’s Prayer and Creed. Luther’s placement of the Ten Commandments highlights the absolute necessity of a confrontation with the Law prior to the advent of the Gospel in Christ. Yet the law-gospel paradigm for Luther in the catechism is not as simplistically set forth as to bop the catechumen over the head with the law and then pitch the gospel at them. For even the commands of God proceed via the Gospel in which the baptized Christian receives the law gladly, being wholly redeemed in Christ. In this way faith and reception of the Gospel fulfill the commandments. This fulfillment of the law and Holy Ten Commands does not eviscerate them from the Christian life but rather praises them as a treasure from God, “Thy statutes are my delight; they are my counselors” (ps. 119:24). For Luther, the new life found in Christ did not push the Decalogue aside, as the antinomians would have it. The Ten Commandments would remain central as a mirror of sin, and guide for Christian living. The Small Catechism urges a confession to proceed by considering one’s place in life according to the Ten Commandments and asking for forgiveness for those sins which we know and feel in our hearts.

The Ten Commandments can take on a positivistic role in the life of the Christian only through objective justification in baptism and the forgiveness of sins. Christ’s fulfillment of the law and vicarious atonement for sin grants righteousness and purity to the church forever. The missiological imperative to baptize, making disciples of all nations does not hold a peripheral role in Luther’s Small and Large Catechisms but runs throughout and holds every element together. We confess that St. Paul writes in Romans, chapter six: “We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” (Romans 6:4). The historic teaching of the church and Luther is that baptism is not symbolic of an event – not a metaphor for some disciplined commitment on behalf of the baptized. Baptism is rather solely God’s act in which Christ stands in the living waters and invites a child of God into the forgiveness of sins and washing of rebirth in the Holy Spirit. The baptismal rite therefore brings about a completely new state of affairs through an apocalyptic death and birth into Christ’s body. Linguistically speaking, catechesis into baptism opens one up to God’s word as being a performative speech act – that God’s word accomplishes what it says. Only in this way can objective justification be understand – that a new man or woman arises to live before God in righteousness and purity forever. Oswald Bayer articulates the church’s confession on baptism which provides the very foundation for catechesis. Bayer writes, “A Christian believer never develops beyond baptism, as long as he or she lives, no matter how much ones has grown, no matter how much one has learned, and no matter what changes on has experienced. For in baptism one already has everything that comes with the name of God. This ship is unsinkable…God made his promise once for all in baptism – no matter at what age it is carried out for the individual. God does not lie.”[1] For this reason, catechesis grows out of the baptismal identity in Christ. A life of catechesis – living in the catechetical culture of the church both begins and ends in Holy Baptism. The leading of the church catechetically into baptism is the source and summit of repentance, faith, and holy living.

Charles P. Arand notes in his research that confessional manuals for priests in the late Middle Ages did not provide comprehensive expositions of the nature and benefits of the sacraments – with baptism receiving the very least attention.[2] Luther’s Small Catechism reverses this trend and reclaims the church’s true teaching that baptism does what Christ says – working the forgiveness of sins, rescues from the devil – giving eternal salvation to all who believe this (baptism), as the words and promises of God declare.

Luther’s small catechism is not simply a book to be learned, as if it were one book among others. It contains the eternal confession of the church and the mysteries of Christ. It is absorbed through the eyes and ears and plants itself into the Christian heart. Catechesis in Christ’s forgiveness therefore gives new life and puts one into a new rhythm of the baptismal rite. The catechism as ‘prayerbook’ with its rubrics, making the sign of the cross, teachings, and prayers drives the church’s liturgy into the home of the family. In this way the catechism provides a liturgy of the Christian life which finds its locus in the Divine Service and private confession and absolution. Living in the catechism means simply to live in the gifts of the church – in Christ’s forgiveness of sins. This reordering of life in the gospel therefore wakes one with the eyes of faith in the morning, in daily prayer, and gives Christians the words of thanksgiving at meals. Before rest, the Christian thanks one for life granted that day, asks God for the forgiveness of sins and deliverance from the evil one. The catechism in this way should be spoken of as creating a “culture” in the family home and life of the church. It is culture in the highest sense of the word coming from the Latin ‘cultura,’ meaning to till soil. As Adam had the perfect liturgy in the garden tilling the soil and giving thanks to God, the catechism reestablishes a liturgy in Christ’s cross that we might fear, love, and trust in God above all things.

This daily liturgy for the family rooted in Sunday’s Divine Service is what Luther’s Small and Large Catechisms ultimately points toward. The catechism is a ‘companion’ for the Christian - for a lifetime of meditation and consolation. Unfortunately, the popular understanding often times is that the Small Catechism is a one-time study so that one might be confirmed and piddled along to become an “adult” or “mature” member of the church. The point of the catechism however, is not to partition off the young from the older members of a congregation. Nor is the catechism for a particular age group – to be feverishly memorized for confirmation. The catechism, being rooted in God’s Word – the forgiveness of sins, and resurrection of the body is to unite both babes and the infirm into one heart and one voice in Christ Jesus. It ought to be understood that the Small Catechism contains the most high and holy mysteries of Christ’s church. We ought to take our cue from Luther himself who writes:“Yet I do as a child who being taught the Catechism. Every morning, and whenever else I have time, I read and recite word for word the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandment, the Creed, the Psalms, etc. I must still read and study the Catechism daily, yet I cannot master it as I wish, but remain a child and pupil of the Catechism, and I must do it gladly.” (LC Long Preface, 7-8).

Worship in the church proceeds by speaking back to God what he speaks to us. The catechism is set forth precisely in this way so that the apologetic task is one of confession that looks only to God’s work and His redemptive act in Christ. Catechesis therefore is a ‘giving’ of God’s word which in turn creates faith by and through Christ. This faith is born in holy baptism and sustained through a lifetime of Absolution. This new life does not turn inward for self-preservation but looks outward in fervent love and charity toward one’s neighbor and the rest of creation.

In the explanation to the first commandment and first article of the Creed Luther expands the liturgical meaning of creator and creation. Some of Luther’s most profound writing deals with articulating the Christians “creatureliness” and God’s exclusive governance in the creation, preservation, and act of redemption. That God does this out of fatherly and divine love “without any worthiness in me” confesses him always as the subject – the actor of all verbs. Luther grasps God as creator of “all things” in the life of the church. Justification by faith is seen through God’s act of creation in Genesis through word and sacrament. That God creates ex nihilo guides the catechism as how the church might understand her life -for ultimately it points to objective justification as a creational and declarative act of God. Upon reflection Martin Luther’s theology Oswald Bayer writes:

“The creative Word of God that justifies, which causes one to reflect not only on its existential depth but also on its cosmological and ontological breadth, contradicts in the sharpest way possible the universal human desire for creating oneself, for self-realization, which has comes into particular prominence in the present age. Fichte, Marx, and Sartre all maintain that a human being demonstrates what he is, in a much more radical sense that was the case for the human being of the Middle Ages with whom Luther had to deal, from first to last by being a doer and producer – according to Marx: in a ‘procreation of self’ through work.”[3]

Besides these modern philosophers, we should also consider a much more radical ontological interpretation of ‘reality’ common to post-modernism which considers ‘self hood’ to be an imaginative exercise. The “self” can be created, managed, and projected through the will. The power of positive thinking promises a new state of affairs through merely through thinking. I can construct my own reality. In this way one’s personal mental neurosis is the grand architect of life and creation itself. Therefore in the modern age where human will through work created and justified usually through and by a certain politic, has now been replaced by a single individual’s imagination. The subjectivity of truth is therefore no longer negotiated by a consensus of a human work or will but rather the mere preference of an individual.

While approaches to hermeneutics are always changing to deal with fleeting and bizarre philosophical trends, the catechism ought to remain the church’s answer to every erring human heart. This is not because the catechism attests to itself – but only because it points to God’s word which remains forever - though heavens and earth shall pass away. God’s final word is Christ and Christ only, which the catechism so simply teaches. Ontological curiosities can be eloquently met throughout the six chief parts and their explanations – and true wisdom will proceed from them. This wisdom is not in the spirit of long-winded apologetic discourse but is focused solely in the wisdom of confession.

[1] Bayer,Oswald. Martin Luther's Theology: A Contemporary Interpretation. 3rd ed. Thomas H. Trapp. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008, 268-269.
[2] Arand,Charles P. That I May Be His Own. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2000, 40.
[3] Bayer, 97.