Official Publication of the LMS-USA
Volume 11, Number 4
In this Issue:
A New Call for Catechesis
In 1528 Luther made a tour of a number of Lutheran Churches in Saxony. What he found disturbed him. Different forms of worship and church practice were everywhere. There was a lack of knowledge of the most basic Christian doctrine. Many could not pray the Lord's Prayer or recite the Ten Commandments from memory.
Luther set to work to remedy the situation. The result? Two catechisms. The Large Catechism was for pastors and adults and the Small Catechism especially for children. "Both were built about five points: the Ten Commandments as a mirror of sin, the Apostles' Creed as a proclamation of forgiveness, the Lord's Prayer as an acceptance of mercy, and the two sacraments of baptism and the Lord's Supper as channels of grace" (Roland Bainton, Here I Stand, Abingdon Press, p. 336).
"Luther's intention was that the catechism should be used in church as a basis for sermons, but more particularly in the home. The father should check up on the children at least once a week and also on the servants. If the children would not learn, they should not eat; if the servants declined, they should be dismissed" (Ibid., p. 337).
Much of the turmoil in the Lutheran church family today can be directly traced to a disuse of these simple but effective tools developed by Luther. It is hoped that the following articles will encourage a renewed effort to make Catechesis central to the education program of our churches as well as the Christian education in our homes.
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Christian Education; Sola Sola Scriptura Confirmation, Why?
by Rev. Ralph Spears
In a delightful book, A Search For Meaning, which deals primarily, with Christian Education, Margaret Isherwood quotes an offbeat but provocative thought from Aldous Huxley. He said, "The proof of the strength of the Christian message is that it has survived Christian education!" Isherwood, wife of eminent journalist, Christopher Isherwood, carried forward the thought that in Christian education one should allow the flow of The Bible to speak for itself unencumbered by contrivance. Sola Scriptura, indeed!
Perhaps many of us from our Sunday school days remember the overlay of devices that were fitted onto Scripture, which were much less interesting than the Biblical accounts themselves. The literature of Sunday school was always advancing whatever ideas were deemed worthy of promotion at that time by the Christian education people, such as the plight of certain missionaries or some dry version of the social gospel, rather than the Bible. Needless to say, knowledge of missionary work, even points of theology were important, but not at the expense of essential Biblical understanding.
Remember the flannel graph presentations with figures of animals and people, which, well before the days of Velcro - adhered to the flannel board, until they nearly always dropped off? The flannel graph was at its best, at least in my memory - when it portrayed the life of Jesus.
But it didn't end there. Throughout the forward-looking 20th Century, many systems were advanced for adult students also that were intended to 'improve' on our Sixty-six Books, as a new Gnosticism for Bible learning. The Bethany Series, which used a contrived system of pictures, is a good example. Anyone who has ever cleaned out an old Sunday school room has probably handled a number of these 'educational wonders' in booklet form. The sheer number of those attempts at a bigger and better Christian education, are the point of Huxley's comment, and Isherwood's concern.
Aldous Huxley in some of his lesser-known writings, seriously considered the highest value of Christian teaching among other world philosophies; unlike another Huxley, Thomas H. Huxley, who was the epitome of an Agnostic. In fact, in 1868, Thomas defined the line of reasoning, adopted by many intellectual types after him, which through convincing argument claimed that God could not be known - as in a not, Gnostic = known.
The age of reason over faith was moving to full bloom as this Huxley, a respected physician/thinker of his time and an enthusiastic advocate of the work of Charles Darwin and David Hume among others, advanced his thoughts and put the squeeze on a time honored Theism - in the late Eighteen hundreds.
Christian Education 101
Four hundred-eighty years ago, Martin Luther launched the first credible venture in Christian Education with his uncomplicated, but elegant, Small Catechism. And to this day, in that field, it remains the most basic and successful venture ever. There were two sizable problems to address in that year, 1525. First, Christian knowledge for the common man, was often little more than a thin veneer over medieval superstition. Second, few, if any, of Pastor Luther's people could read!
To address these problems, Luther crafted his Catechism in about the same year that he translated Scripture from the Latin Vulgate into German. The Small Catechism is a collection of the most essential Christian teachings with brief but succinctly helpful commentary. True to the principle of sola scriptura and Margaret Isherwood, Scripture speaks for itself - accompanied by the minimal aid of Luther, the teacher.
Few things have endured or remained as fresh and helpful as the day they were written, as The Small Catechism. Still in use today by twenty-first Century Lutherans, more copies of Luther's masterpiece are being printed than ever before. This does not count a few illustrated and augmented works in a variety of languages. Although the Roman Catholic Church has seen fit to update its Catechism several times since the Council of Trent in the mid-17th Century to accommodate varying nuances of change in doctrine (it was updated the last time in about 1999), Luther's Small Catechism remains unchanged. It is as well known and as enduring as Michelangelo's ceiling masterpieces in St. Peter's Cathedral in Rome painted in that same year - 1525. And - we might add, more useful.
The Apostle's Creed, centerpiece of the Catechism, has defined the Faith for Baptism since before the middle of the Third Century A.D. Individual tenets of the Creed, of course define the Christian faith and can be traced directly to the Apostles of Jesus, hence it is rightly titled, The Apostle's Creed. So in like manner, the Lutheran Catechism has been a kind of bar mitzvah code for countless believers as they confirm the Faith, begun in their Baptism.
So then, what is happening in the process and then - the Rite - of Confirmation? A huge statement from the tiny Epistle of Jude describes it quite well. For this "Jude, brother of James," and we might also add, "brother of Our Lord", by the tradition of the early Church - speaks of "contending for the Faith - which was once for all delivered to the saints!" Jude is quite concerned in his statement for defending - and of course - properly transmitting- this Faith from saints to saints in unbroken order and in spite of attacks upon it in any given age.
Among certain Christian traditions, there is concern for Apostolic succession whether by successive authority or by the laying on of hands as the means of transmitting this succession - 'in unbroken line from THE Apostles!' But what is more precious and important to transmit than the Scripture itself and all of its teachings? Therefore in Baptism and Confirmation the Faith once delivered "to the saints" is delivered on to yet a new generation of people who are thus sanctified - as saints by their profession of the same - faith. And so on!
With the symbolic laying on of hands then, the Faith is conferred and delivered on to succeeding generations with the words,
|The Father in heaven for Jesus sake,|
|Renew and increase in Thee the gift of the Holy Spirit,|
|To Thy strengthening in Faith, to Thy growth in Grace,|
|To Thy patience in suffering, and to the Blessed hope of everlasting life!"|
|- from the Rite of Confirmation -|
The three SOLAs Faith Alone, by Grace Alone through Scripture Alone are completed by confirmation in the fourth - Christ Alone!
The Alpha and Omega of Christian Education
As we are confirmed in our Faith - it is in, of and through Christ that the education comes. Christ as example, Christ as the one who shows the Way and also is - the Way to the Father. Christ as teacher, Christ as source, Christ as host, Christ as servant, and suffering servant. It is not only of Jesus the Christ that Scripture teaches, because all of the titles or images above are spoken of in the Old Testament.
When we speak of the - Christ in all ages, the picture is almost too large to be reduced to fit neatly into the usual frame! This has always provided unique problems for Christian Education, which usually settles on Jesus only, who comes across as just a super nice guy. In this way He might seem more understandable especially to kids, but the Sola is of Christ alone not (just) Jesus alone. Because the concept or image of Christ cannot be fully captured or contained, some see that as ambiguity rather than of His expanded nature, and the fullness of Christ in Jesus is sacrificed. In other words, Jesus is reduced to fit into the lesser frame of just a moral teacher in so many Sunday school materials. Like the book of several decades ago, which was also the statement, Your God Is Too Small, we might say rather-your Christ is too small! Or as St. Paul observed, "In Him (Christ Jesus) all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell!" Col. 2:9 [The ESV says, "For in Him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily!" - my italics]
Through Christ Alone, By Grace Alone through Faith Alone first experienced by The Apostles!
John the Apostle and Gospel writer understands Christ as the source and maker of all created things from the beginning both in the opening of his Gospel and briefly in the beginning of his First Epistle. And all of the Apostles including that thirteenth Apostle, Paul, see Him as final goal or ultimate destination for us all - hence the Alpha and the Omega - the beginning and end point!
Intriguing suggestions from the mouth of Jesus link Him with an important encounter with Abraham the father of the Faith, at the very time that Abraham was confirmed in it; and perhaps David as well. Paul identifies Christ as the companion of the Children of Israel in the wilderness and at the very end of his Gospel, John states that Jesus did "many other things" so numerous that "the world could not contain the books that could be written" about him. What they did witness was enough for Nathaniel to declare Him the "Son of God" and "King of Israel" at first meeting, and for Peter to volunteer that He was "The Christ and Son of the Living God" (the highest appellation that he could confer). This was further confirmed for Peter at the Transfiguration as Jesus was joined by Moses and Elijah. As Peter witnesses in his Second Letter 1: 16-19, this understanding is to him of utmost significance. "You would do well to pay attention to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your (own) hearts!" In other words, take my word as confirmation to you that Jesus is the Christ in every way until you receive it for yourself.
Through Christ alone, by Grace alone through Faith alone for us by Scripture alone!
This is the Christ that our Creeds outline and define along with the fact that he was born as a man, actually suffered, really died and buried, and was Resurrected on the third day. And this is what is Confirmed for us.
As confirmation upon confirmation builds and we understand Jesus the Christ, as our Lord, more and more, we grow in grace as did Jesus according to Luke, and all of the facets of His life as defined by the Creed of the Apostles, are confirmed in us. And so, the Rite of Confirmation is just the beginning of our experience of further confirmation and growth that we might identify with Christ completely in His baptism, death, burial and resurrection.... "For we are raised with Him, therefore - that we too, might walk in newness of life! For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a Resurrection like His." [Romans 6:3 through 11]
Or what better definition of Confirmation than this; "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come!"
When we have "Faith alone by Grace alone in Christ alone, through Scripture alone," we have it all.
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Confirmation is not a sacrament. We claim for it no direct divine command. Confirmation adds nothing to the sacrament of Baptism. That is complete in itself.
Confirmation is an ordinance of the church by which the baptized child is given the opportunity publicly to confirm the Baptismal covenant into which he entered as an infant. In Baptism God and the child entered into covenant relations. God made the child His own, an heir to all God's grace and gifts. Because the child was then too young consciously to speak for himself, parents and sponsors covenanted on his behalf. In confirmation the matured child speaks for himself and in his own name assumes the promises made on his behalf by parents and sponsors. In order that the child may assume these obligations, there must be preparation for confirmation.
Preparation For Confirmation
This preparation should begin as soon as the child is baptized. By prayer, by teaching and training, the child must be nurtured into conscious Christian life. Even in the very early years, the child may develop consciousness of being God's child. How the Holy Spirit operates in the heart of the little child to create faith we do not know. But we do know He does because Jesus spoke of "these little ones which believe on Me" (Matthew 18:6). As soon as the child is old enough to speak to his father and mother, he is old enough to speak to his Heavenly Father. Then follow the many years of teaching and training in home, in church, and in Sunday school.
When the child approaches the age of discretion, he is assumed to be mature enough for the intensive instruction (teaching) and preparation for confirmation. This is the most important period in the life of the young Christian. This is the period when the pastor has his greatest opportunity for shaping the future life of the young people of his church. The heart is still tender and the conscience still sensitive. With all earnestness, the pastor strives to impart clearer and fuller understanding of the Word of God in order to lead the young into ever closer and more conscious fellowship with the Savior. Where the Baptismal life has been neglected and stunted, the conscientious pastor strives tactfully and patiently to bring the truth of God's Word to bear on the heart and conscience so as to awaken a sense of sin and guilt, a longing for forgiveness, and for strength to overcome the power of sin. The ultimate objective of preparation for confirmation is a definite laying hold of Jesus as Savior and Friend. That there may be some who will go through this period of instruction and training and yet not be true believers we must with sorrow admit. They have more or less willfully resisted the operation of the Holy Spirit in their hearts. With such there can be no confirmation until there is a change of heart. But this fact does not lessen or do away with the importance of Christian instruction and training. Rather, it emphasizes the need for greater diligence and consecration on the part of parents, pastors, and teachers.
The Confirmation Act
The confirmand has been catechized in the presence of the congregation as to his fitness for the important step we call confirmation. He has been found to possess the essential knowledge of the fundamental teachings of Scripture, and the experience of his heart bears witness to their truth and power. He is declared to be ready to take his place among the communicant members of the church. On his own accord, he comes to God's Altar, not because he is old enough or knows enough, not because his pastor and parents want him to come. He must come of his own free will. And there in the presence of All seeing God and the assembled congregation, he confesses with his lips his faith in God-the faith into which he was baptized, the faith in which he has grown throughout his childhood-and he declares it to be his purpose to live the Christian life.
Why a Public Confession?
It lies in the very nature of things that the confirmand, his heart drawn close to his Savior through instruction and training, should want to publicly confess the faith that is in him. The nature of faith is such that it must find expression.
And since confirmation is an act involving the relation between the congregation and the confirmed, it also lies in the very nature of things that the congregation which undertook to teach and train the youth should require a public confession on the part of those now about to assume the privileges and obligations of communicant members of the church.
The Confirmation Vow
Coupled with the confession of faith is the solemn vow to strive, by God's help, to live up to this confession. Some well-meaning people say that we have no right to exact such a promise. They insist that no one can keep that promise anyway. We believe that this attitude is wrong and harmful, that it is due largely to lack of understanding of what confirmation really is, and especially what the confirmation vow involves. What is the promise, this vow? The confirmand does not promise never to commit a sin anymore. He does not promise to show forth a faith like unto that of tried and mature Christians. The confirmand does promise "by the grace of God, to remain steadfast in the covenant of his Baptism even unto the end." Can any Christian promise less?
The Abuse of Confirmation
Like so many other good things, confirmation may be abused. It may degenerate into a mere formality that must be gone through with. Not to be confirmed is still among us considered a social disgrace. To some confirmation may mean being grown up and so removed from parental guidance and restraint. Others may regard confirmation as graduation from Sunday school and all religious instruction. But all these abuses do not prove that confirmation is without worth. Let us correct the abuses and make confirmation the blessing that it can be.
Confirmation is More Than an Old Custom
Confirmation is more than an old custom, more than a ceremony. Much more. Confirmation is more than new clothes, new Bibles, and new hymn books. Much more. Confirmation touches the hearts into newness of life, newness of purpose. The voice of conscience is more clearly heard. There is more earnest prayer for forgiveness, a deeper desire for growth in grace. The many uplifting influences during the years of instruction, the serious thoughts during the preparation for confirmation, the deep sense of God's nearness during the act of confirmation and during the first communion-all these leave their lasting imprint on the soul. Why do we believe this to be true? Because we of older years can testify that such was the case with us.
Confirmation is a Festive Day
How uplifting and soul-stirring is the sight of a group of young people, serious-minded and reverent, encircling the altar of the church, as there on bended knees and with lifted hearts they confess their holy faith and speak the good resolve amid the prayers and benedictions of the assembled congregation! It is a day never to be forgotten. A deep solemnity marks the entire service. The very atmosphere is charged with loving solicitude for the young. It is indeed a festive day.
Confirmation is a Day of Decision
If the pastor comes from a meeting with God to a meeting with the young and with the congregation, he sows the seed of life that day as at no other time. Hearts are open and easily touched. It is a day of decision. It is confirmation day, not only for the members of the class but for all others who humbly and devoutly bow before the Word of God. Parents, sponsors, and all the members of the congregation are most earnestly charged with their sacred duty to help the newly confirmed to remain faithful and true.
Confirmation - A Bridge Back to God
What confirmation has meant to our church and people many among us fail to understand and appreciate. Perhaps the most obvious of the many blessings that flow to the church from this ordinance is the hold it maintains on the children during the impressionable years leading up to confirmation age. There is reason to believe that many children would fail to receive Christian training and instruction in home and in Sunday school were it not for the fact that they know, and their parents know, that if they want to be confirmed they must receive this course of instruction. This is the God-given opportunity of the church to lead the baptized children into conscious life with God. For countless souls, the many truths learned and impressions received during these early years. unconsciously stored away in secret places of the mind and heart, have become a bridge back to God when all other bridges seemed to fail. Memories of childhood and confirmation time, though covered up by the rubbish of thoughtlessness and carelessness and worldliness, sometimes entirely buried under the filth and slime of sin, have more often than we think been the means in God's mercy for rescuing the perishing.
In a hospital ward lay a middle-aged man, sick in body and sick in soul. By chance I came to know him. Often I sat at his bedside. In various ways, I sought to arouse his slumbering soul. I read the Word of God to him and prayed with him. Every approach seemed to be without any result. Then, happily, one day I found the key to his closed heart. I led the conversation to his childhood home across the seas, then to the little weather-beaten schoolhouse down the valley, and to the old stone church nestling among the birch and evergreen trees on the hillside. I tried to arouse grateful memories of the kind and ever-helpful minister. I spoke of the wonderful Sundays with church bells ringing and people coming from everywhere to the services. As I spoke of preparation for confirmation and confirmation day, a new light began to shine in his eyes. His voice more eager than usual, he said, "I well remember my confirmation, how our pastor with much feeling and warmth spoke to us about God's wonderful love." Looking up into my face, he continued, "I can never forget my confirmation day. I remember well the promise I made at the altar. And when the minister took my hand in his, my heart beat fast, and I meant to be faithful." A large warm tear found its way down his pale and drawn cheek. He folded his shriveled hands and, looking up into my face, he said, "Thank God for my confirmation."
|This material was first produced by the Book Mission of the Evangelical Lutheran Church and is reprinted by Ambasssador Publicaitons by permission of Augsburg Fortress.|
|The above may be purchased in booklet form (One dollar per copy) from Ambassador Publications, 3110 E. Medicine Lake Blvd., Minneapolis, MN 55441. Phone - (763) 545-5631|
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The Place of Teaching in the Kingdom of Heaven
by Jacob Tanner, A. M., S. T. D.
The Kingdom of Heaven is God's rule in the hearts of men through Jesus Christ. It is therefore a kingdom to be found in the hearts of men.
Scope and Aim. The scope and aim of the Kingdom are pregnant with the most far-reaching effects. To rule in the hearts of men means to rule over their motives and innermost feelings, thoughts, plans, dreams and visions, energy and acts, words and work. It will control not only the inner life of a man, but all the activities in which he becomes engaged.
There is a still wider aim. Through the control of the heart-life of the individual, God will control the individuals, the homes, the communities, and every part of the life of the country. All the activities that individuals jointly undertake, they will undertake as Christians ruled and guided by the Spirit of God. Christians can not participate in anything jointly which they could not do, if every one stood alone.
The Kingdom, however, reaches still further. Through control of the individuals, the Kingdom will control the nation and every activity of the nation. By controlling the nations, God would then control the international relations. Christ Jesus would be not only the most potent factor in the life of the individuals, but also in the life of the nations and in international relations.
This is a superhuman task. The obstacles caused by human selfishness and all other forms of sin are sufficient to discourage the most courageous. Different temperaments, heritage, tradition, education, even means of livelihood and climate add to the difficulties.
Nevertheless, Christ commanded to make all nations disciples, and He meant it. His vision was world-wide. His Kingdom was to be a kingdom embracing the whole earth.
Means. By what means can such an undertaking be brought to a successful completion? God's answer is surprisingly simple. It is given in God's word about Abraham when He says: "I have known him, to the end that he may command his children and his household after him, that they may keep the way of Jehovah, to do righteousness and justice; to the end that Jehovah may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him." (Gen. 18:19.) This is further developed in Deut. 6:4-9.
In the New Testament Christ lays down the general principle for the building of the Kingdom. He said: "Go ye therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you." (Matt. 28:19-20.)
It must, therefore, be clear that teaching is fundamental in the work to build the Kingdom of Heaven. In fact, it must be said that according to the Word of God, the coming of the Kingdom and the future of the Church depend upon teaching the children to believe in and to obey Jesus Christ. This is true educational evangelism, and it should be the first and main concern of the local congregation.
A Specific Knowledge. It is a specific knowledge that is needed in this building work. Not any kind of knowledge is suitable, not even any kind of religious knowledge. There are too many people who believe that if a little religious sentiment is mixed into the instruction, they are teaching the children what they need to know in order to occupy a place and be a building force in the Kingdom of Heaven.
It is Christ that has established the Kingdom. It is His Kingdom and He tells us what kind of knowledge is necessary. "Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you." It is knowledge of Christ, His person, life, work, and commandments, that is needed.
This is an important truth to be remembered. As true knowledge of Christ will build the Kingdom of Heaven in and through the children, so false knowledge will lead them astray and build up the kingdom of Satan.
Baptize and Instruct. When we study the pedagogical plan for the building of the Kingdom as set forth by Christ, we find that it consists of two steps. The first is to make the children members of the Kingdom through baptism, and the second to give them Christian instruction. Even in the Old Testament we find the same plan. Through circumcision they were made members of the covenant, and as members they were to be instructed.
Baptism has a fundamental place in the work of building the Kingdom. This is evident from Christ's own words when He instituted baptism. It is proper here to call attention to a well known fact. The translation of Matt. 28:19-20 in the the authorized version of the English Bible is wrong. It reads: "Go ye therefore and teach all nations baptizing them . . . . teaching them . . . ." The Greek text uses three words. The first is matheteuein, which means to make one a disciple. The second is 1) baptizein, which means to baptize. The third word is didaskein, which means to teach, to instruct. It is the word matheteuein that is used first in this command of Jesus and must be translated: to make disciples. It is thus translated in the revised version and in all modern translations. Christ first gives the general command to make all nations disciples, and then He tells how it is to be done - by baptizing and teaching them to keep what Christ has commanded.
When Christ places baptism before teaching the only possible explanation is that the ordinary procedure in making a nation disciples should be to bring the individuals into the Kingdom through baptism before they are old enough to be instructed.
The first converts in a nation are, of course, adults, as was the case in the apostolic Church. It was, therefore, inevitable that the first to be baptized were adults. However, as soon as the parents were converted and thus Christian homes established and Christian nurture made possible, the children were also baptized. As the Christian homes multiplied, infant baptism also multiplied and became the prevailing rule.
Christian Nurture. In our Church we instruct mainly baptized children. Our instruction must therefore have the character of Christian nurture. Christian nurture is to furnish the nourishment needed for the spiritual welfare and development of the child. This nurture must affect the whole life of the child. It must develop a Christian consciousness and conscience, a willing obedience, a spiritual outlook upon life, a purpose in harmony with God's plan for our life, in short, a Christian faith.
Through baptism a new spiritual life is created in the child. The Holy Spirit creates in the soul a faith that did not exist before. At first this faith is undeveloped. But it is implanted as a new life principle which through nourishment is to grow and unfold all that which lies even in the unconscious beginning of the Christian faith. The Christian instruction must furnish the nourishment needed for this development.
A healthy spiritual atmosphere is a part of Christian nurture. By this is meant that those who deal with the children must be Christ-like in their attitude and life. Such spiritual atmosphere is an important part of teaching the children to know, believe in, and love Jesus Christ.
To teach the children about Jesus Christ is therefore not only an intellectual work demanding intellectual qualifications, but a spiritual work as well, demanding spiritual qualifications and preparation.
Christian Instruction and Morals. Attention must also be called to another important side of the teaching of Christianity to children. There is the closest relation between Christianity and Christian morals. The importance of Christian morals should be self-evident. Without a sense of responsibility, obedience to law, honesty, purity, respect for life and property, there can be no civilized, let alone happy, society. It seems, however, not so self-evident to many that without Christian faith, there will in the long run be no Christian morals. He who does not love God above all things, can not love his neighbor as himself. A person without a working sense of responsibility to God, will not have a working responsibility to man.
It is at all times necessary to build up Christian morals in the coming generation. The future rests upon the success of this work. The ordinary strain upon the morals from the Devil, the world and the flesh, is severe enough. A complicated civilization adds to this strain. Modern conveniences of all kinds have produced new complications, new problems, and placed before our young people temptations in new forms. It is therefore doubly necessary to build up the morals of the growing generation.
In the religions of the ancient world, religion and morals were not united. The religion of Israel was the only exception. In all other religions a man might be very religious and at the same time break all recognized moral standards. In fact, the worship of the gods consisted often in acts of unbelievable immorality. Christ, building on the foundation laid in the Old Testament, united religion and morals inseparably. Love of God should manifest itself in love of man. And He always emphasized that the life spring of right morals was in Him. "Without me ye can do nothing."
Christian Motive. Christ also introduced an adequate motive for Christian conduct. This motive is Christ Himself. When the Apostle said that "it is no longer I that live, but Christ liveth in me" (Gal. 2:20), he stated the inner secret of a Christian life. Christ expressed the same truth when He said: "If ye love me, ye will keep my commandments." (John 14:16.) The love to Christ kindled in the heart of one who is saved by God's love in Christ Jesus becomes the source of his whole life. He lives in and for Christ. Out of this Christ-centered life Christian morals flow.
It is therefore necessary through the teaching of the Word of God to instill in the children a love of Christ that will become a motive power strong enough to make them live a Christian life. We know, of course, that it is the Holy Spirit who creates love of God in our hearts. But, according to the Word of God we also know that by teaching the children God's Word, we furnish the knowledge which the Holy Spirit uses to create and sustain this love.
Use Psychological Knowledge. If we shall succeed in teaching the children the Word of God in such a way that the result will be faith in Christ and living for Christ, we must understand and make use of the laws of the soul. The soul functions according to certain laws, called the psychological laws. These laws are created by God and as it is necessary for us to know the laws of nature in order to succeed in our work to produce food, heat, and other necessities, and as it is necessary to know the laws of health in order to maintain our efficiency, so it is also necessary to know the laws of the soul in order to succeed when teaching the way of salvation.
A Destructive Psychology. Modern psychology has greatly increased the general understanding of children. However, much of this psychology is purely speculative, based on a materialistic philosophy and built up according to the theory of materialistic evolution. The mental process according to this psychology may be stated as follows: A stimulus comes in over the sensory nerves to the sensory center. A path, created by heritage and the past experiences of the individual, leads over to the motor center. This bridge is called the "bond." From the motor center the stimuli go out over the motor nerves to produce the action. In other words, the stimuli follow through the whole course the line of least resistence and operate with mechanical necessity. This psychology eliminates choice, and it also eliminates moral responsibility. Not all psychologists of this type would state the process in such a crass materialistic way. However, the psychologists who accept the mechanistic principles as governing human conduct, have no place in their system either for free choice or moral responsibility.
This psychology is antagonistic to Christian faith on every point. The motive for man's action is found in what is pleasant or painful. The source of altruistic conduct is in our social relationship. There is no such thing as eternal truth. Truth is subject to an ever changing process of development. A man's religious experience is a self-deception. There is no place for God or grace. All Christian moral values are destroyed.
It is necessary to call attention to this type of psychology, because it has been gaining ground in education. At the present it is at work to mould the religious instruction of the Sunday schools of the country.
This psychology is contrary to the teachings of Christ. He saw in every man a spiritual "I," a conscious center or personality who is not governed solely by physical influence. To Him the motive for our acts should be that love of God and man which has its source in God's love of us. The source of right conduct is not in social relationship, but in God. Christ speaks of religious experiences as the highest reality, and so they appear in His own life. And truth, according to Christ, is eternal.
|The above is chapter one of Tanners book, Ten Studies In Religious Pedagogy. The book was originally published by Augsburg Publishing House, Mpls., MN|
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