Divine Services
9:00 a.m. Sunday
10:30 a.m. Sunday School &
Adult Bible Class

Luther on Education

Dear Friends in Christ,

As we prepare to occupy and compete the construction of our new Education Wing, I think it proper that we hear a bit from the blessed Dr. Martin Luther on Christian education. I’m going to simply lay out some short cuttings of his writings below. Please read, enjoy, and give some thought to what Luther is saying. Though some of his own particular societal context guides his words, generally his thoughts apply even to our context today. I especially want to point out that it would do us all quite a bit of good to understand better the fundamental need to have explicitly Christian teaching and the Holy Scriptures be at the center of our children’s education; and frankly, at the center of our lives in general. Enough of me. Here’s Dr. Luther:

The number of books on theology must be reduced and only the best ones published. It is not many books that make men learned, nor even reading. But it is a good book frequently read, no matter how small it is, that makes a man learned in the Scriptures and godly. Indeed, the writings of all the holy fathers should be read only for a time so that through them we may be led into the Scriptures. As it is, however, we only read them these days to avoid going any further and getting into the Bible. We are like men who read the sign posts and never travel the road they indicate. Our dear fathers wanted to lead us to the Scriptures by their writings, but we use their works to get away from the Scriptures. Nevertheless, the Scripture alone is our vineyard in which we must all labor and toil. (AE 44, p. 205) to nobility

Above all, the foremost reading for everybody, both in the universities and in the schools, should be Holy Scripture–and for the younger boys, the Gospels. And would to God that every town had a girls’ school as well, where the girls would be taught the gospel for an hour every day either in German or in Latin. Schools indeed! Monasteries and nunneries began long ago with that end in view, and it was a praiseworthy and Christian purpose…. Is it not right that every Christian man know the entire holy gospel by the age of nine or ten? Does he not derive his name and his life from the gospel? (AE 44, pp. 205-206)

Oh, we handle these poor young people who are committed to us for training and instruction in the wrong way! We shall have to render a solemn account of our neglect to set the word of God before them. Their lot is as described by Jeremiah in Lamentations 2 [:11-12], “My eyes are grown weary with weeping, my bowels are terrified, my heart is poured out upon the ground because of the destruction of the daughter of my people, for the youth and the children perish in all the streets of the entire city. They said to their mothers, ‘Where is bread and wine?’ as they fainted like wounded men in the streets of the city and gave up the ghost on their mothers’ bosom.” We do not see this pitiful evil, how today the young people of Christendom languish and perish miserably in our midst for want of the gospel, in which we ought to be giving them constant instruction and training. (AE 44, p. 206)

I would advise no one to send his child where the Holy Scriptures are not supreme. Every institution that does not unceasingly pursue the study of God’s word becomes corrupt…. I greatly fear that the universities, unless they teach the Holy Scriptures diligently and impress them on the young students, are wide gates to hell. (Ae 44, p. 207)

For you should know that God’s word and grace is like a passing shower of rain which does not return where it has once been. It has been with the Jews, but when it’s gone it’s gone, and now they have nothing. Paul brought it to the Greeks; but again when it’s gone it’s gone, and now they have the Turk. Rome and the Latins also had it; but when it’s gone, it’s gone, and now they have the pope. And you Germans need not think that you will have it forever, for ingratitude and contempt will not make it stay. (AE 45, pp. 352-3)

The third consideration is by far the most important of all, namely the command of God, who through Moses urges and enjoins parents so often to instruct their children that Psalm 78 says: How earnestly he commanded our fathers to teach their children and to instruct their children’s children [Ps. 78:5-6]. This is also evident in God’s fourth commandment, in which the injunction that children shall obey their parents is so stern that he would even have rebellious children sentenced to death [Deut. 21:18-21]. Indeed, for what purpose do we older folks exist, other than to care for, instruct, and bring up the young? It is utterly impossible for these foolish young people to instruct and protect themselves. This is why God has entrusted them to us who are older and know from experience what is best for them. And God will hold us strictly accountable for them. (AE 45, p. 353)

I love reading Luther. I hope you do, or will learn to, too. If you’re interested in giving some slither a read, let me know and I’ll get you started on some of his more accessible works. We have a large selection of Luther’s Works in the congregation’s library. 

Love in Christ,
Pastor Schuermann