I began underlining on the first page (Yes, I know - it’s a beautifully bound, hardback edition and I’m writing in it. I write in all my books. That’s what margins are for!).
Three notable things struck me after reading just the preface, introduction, overview, how to use this book and the timeline (these guys were thorough):
1. This book and the confessions within were never intended to replace the Bible but to summarize what we believe about the Bible;
2. It was intended for the use of laymen as well as church workers; and
3. makes clear the reality of absolute truth and the importance of confessing that truth and thereby rejecting error.
When I was a new Lutheran, my impression of rather liturgically minded people was that they held the confessions higher than the Bible. It seemed like the Catechism was used in place of the Bible for confirmation classes and confirmands could recite what they memorized from the catechism, but had trouble actually finding it in the Bible. Gradually I began to see from a less immature Lutheran viewpoint that the Small Catechism was intended to be teaching tool, not a biblical replacement. Apparently I’m not the only one who has had an inaccurate impression - I was delighted to see this issue addressed upfront in the new publication.
These documents never take the place of the Bible. They distinguish between what the Bible teaches and the false teachings of others, which undermine the use of God’s word. (p. 12)
A quote by C.F.W. Walther added to this point:
The Book of Concord should be in every Lutheran home. For that reason [our church] should provide a good, inexpensive copy, and pastors should see to it that every home has one…The Lord doesn’t want us to remain children, who are blown to and fro by every wind of doctrine; instead of that, He wants us to grow in knowledge so that we can teach others. (p. 11)
Also stated was:
Reaching out boldly with the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the goal of the Lutheran Confessions. They are not to be treated like museum pieces, kept under glass as interesting curiosities. Neither are they holiday decorations taken out once a year and admired, soon to be put away and forgotten. Nor are the Lutheran Confessions clubs used to bash people or shields to prevent contact with others or trophies set on a shelf. The Lutheran confessions are resources for extending and defending vigorously the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They are powerful tools for everyone to use, in all circumstances, for preaching, teaching, and proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ and all the truths of God’s Word in the church, school, home, workplace, community, and throughout the world.
Smashing! Especially when realities like this are taken into account.
The several introductions give a brief but helpful historical and political context to the confessions that will undoubtedly help the more obscure references make sense. I’m excited to read more.