Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Catechism and rearing another generation

Therefore, I advise and exhort as before that with warning and threatening, restraint and punishment, the children should be trained early to shun falsehood.  They should especially avoid the use of God's name to support falsehood.  For where children are allowed to do as they please, no good will result.  This is clear even now.  The world is worse than it has ever been, and there is no government, no obedience, no loyalty, no faith, but only daring, unbridled people.  No teaching or reproof helps them.  All this is God's wrath and punishment for our lewd contempt of this commandment...

Look, we could train our youth this way [Proverbs 22:6], in a childlike way and playfully in the fear and honor of God.  Then the First and Second Commandments might be well kept and in constant practice.  Then some good might take root, spring up, and bear fruit.  People would grow up whom an entire land might relish and enjoy.  In addition, this would be the true way to bring up children well as long as they could be trained with kindness and delight.  For children who must be forced with rods and blows will not develop into a good generation.  At best they will remain godly under such treatment only as long as the rod is upon their backs  [Proverbs 10:13]

But teaching the commandments in a childlike and playful way spreads its roots in the heart so that children fear God more than rods and clubs.  This I say with such simplicity for the sake of the young, that it may penetrate their minds.  For we are preaching to children, so we must also talk like them.  In this way we would prevent the abuse of the divine name and teach the right use.  This should happen not only in words, but also practice and life.  Then we may know God is well pleased with this and will as richly reward good use of His name as He will terribly punish the abuse.

Large Catechism on the first commandment.

It is really quite amazing.  For all the ideas proposed for improving the world, Luther hits upon the important parts.  In our days, the answer for every problem is the right kind or more "education".  And for solving the world's problems more "programming".  But here we get at the heart of the matter.  While "education" and "programming" are good, they are good in the law sense.  They can only give us so much and then we are up against hearts that are not changed, efforts that are wasted and unfruitful.

Here, Luther would raise and educate another generation, which truly fears the Lord, knows the commandments, shuns falsehood, etc. by inculcating the ten commandments.  (Where have we heard lately any public figure, or even pastors, advocate that we need to fix the world by fixing in the children 's minds the ten commandments?)  The first commandment is the most important:  the fear and love of God will motivate the good.  Without motivation all is dead. Without faith all is dead.

And these commandments need to inculcated in a loving way.  No one can be driven with blows to be good.  He might behave while under supervision.  But with loving teaching of the commandments to fear and love God and neighbor, an new generation might be instructed and improved.

The way Luther handles law and gospel, here, in the catechism explanations of the ten commandments is really phenomenal.  Also his hope of improving the world is unlike the world's "best" ideas. 

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