What Is A "Catechism"?
A "catechism" is a book of questions and answers. Catechisms are a very
useful learning tool and have been used for centuries.
Many churches have catechisms. Like Luther's Small Catechism, they
are frequently used to teach individuals. The Baltimore Catechism,
used by the Roman Catholic Church, is used to prepare Catholics for
Luther's Small Catechism
Martin Luther wrote the Small Catechism in 1529. The invention of
Johannes Gutenberg's printing press in 1440, less than 100 years earlier,
enabled Luther's Small Catechism to be printed and distributed
throughout Germany...and beyond.
Unlike the Roman Catholic church which taught that the Bishop or priest
must confirm youth, Luther's intended that his Small Catechism be taught not
just by pastors, but by parents, too. That's why Luther's Small Catechism
has the following header: "As the head of the family should teach them in a
simple way to his household."
Who Needs The Small Catechism?
Virtually everyone! Luther originally wrote it because of the aweful
condition of faith in sixteenth century Germany. Read below what Luther
wrote in the Preface of his Small Catechism.
Martin Luther to All
Faithful and Godly Pastors and Preachers
Grace, Mercy, and Peace in Jesus Christ, our Lord.
deplorable, miserable condition which I discovered lately when I, too,
was a visitor, has forced and urged me to prepare [publish] this
Catechism, or Christian doctrine, in this small, plain, simple form.
Mercy! Good God! what manifold misery I beheld! The common people,
especially in the villages, have no knowledge whatever of Christian
doctrine, and, alas! many pastors are altogether incapable and
incompetent to teach [so much so, that one is ashamed to speak of it].
Nevertheless, all maintain that they are Christians, have been baptized
and receive the [common] holy Sacraments. Yet they [do not
understand and] cannot [even] recite either the Lord's Prayer,
or the Creed, or the Ten Commandments; they live like dumb brutes and
irrational hogs; and yet, now that the Gospel has come, they have nicely
learned to abuse all liberty like experts
The Small Catechism: For Us
Do we need the Small Catechism today? Of course we do! Just as in
Luther's time, Christians often do not understand even the basics of
What are the basics of the Christian Faith? Luther said their were six
key items we need to know about God. He divided his Small Catechism
into six sections ("Six Chief Parts") to teach these six areas of faith that
he believed all Christians should know. These include...
- Knowing God (The Creeds),
- Knowing how God wants us to live (The Ten Commandments),
- Knowing how to pray (The Lord's Prayer),
- Giving and receiving forgiveness (The Office Of The Keys &
- Understanding how we come to Faith (Holy Baptism), and
- Recognizing Jesus' Real Presence in the Lord's Supper (The
Sacrament at the Altar).
The Small Catechism And You
Would you like to know God better? Would you like to know how to live a
God-pleasing life? Would you like the confidence of knowing that God hears
your prayers? Do you understand just how wonderful God's promises in His
Sacraments really are?
That's what Luther's Small Catechism is for: to teach people like
you the basics of the remarkable message of the Bible: Jesus loves you.
Welcome to this journey of Christian Faith!