Christian Art: In the Place and in the Form of Lutheran Worship
In The Days of Solomon
This Do Ye Often
The Lutheran Pastor as Teacher
P.E. Kretzmann was well known for his focus on the education and training of youth. Intimately tied to, and part of, Christian education, moral formation is crucial to the well-being of a Christian. In his September, 1933 essay, "Biblical Ethics Concerning Young People," Kretzmann begins with a lead in that could have been written yesterday, and is probably truer now...
"Every age has its iconoclasts, and youth is ever the age of iconoclastic tendencies. But when factors of history and the economic conditions of a country combine to make such tendencies unusually prominent, the combination may prove extremely dangerous, if not disastrous to traditional ethical concepts...There is no doubt that the barriers between the Church and the world, also between our Lutheran Zion and the mass of unbelievers and enemies of the Savior, have been weakened or, in many cases, entirely removed and that worldliness, in an increasing number of instances, is entering our congregations like a devastating flood. Whether the uncertainty in matters of doctrine, the indifferentism, the unionistic tendencies which are so evident in large parts of the Church, are to be considered as cause or as effect with regard to the general situation may be a debatable question, but the facts are incontrovertible."
Well, maybe it isn't very true now, for the remnants of breached barriers spoken of then are difficult to even see or locate now.
Kretzmann's essay is very practical and very particular. While he knows that you cannot reduce the Christian life to legalistic rules for every situation, he also knows that the Christian life ought to take a certain shape and that Christian freedom is not license. Some modern sensibilities may certainly be tweaked by Kretzmann, but then again, they probably should. Kretzmann writes as a Christian, without regard for the rotten fads and trinkets of this world, and eager to see the way in which the Lord would have us live as His sheep, joyous in how He made us and redeemed us to be.
He correctly identifies that the time of older youth/young adulthood is a particularly difficult time for the Christian. One struggle is navigating the honor due to parents, yet at the same time rightly desiring a household of one's own. Temptation is heightened during this time, as David begs, "Remember not the sins of my youth!" And while we joyfully rush to our forgiving Father and direct young people to His mercy and grace, we ought also to train them to face the transition into maturity and warn them of the dangers. Kretzmann specifically delves into issues concerning the 4th, 5th, and 6th Commandments.
This training and admonishment is sorely lacking...and has been woefully neglected in recent generations. Kretzmann's essay is not only a window into the mindset of the Lutheran Church before societal collapse was so far advanced in the West, but hopefully also a mirror for modern Lutherans as we face the challenge that the Church Militant always faces: broken sinners in a broken world, clinging to the pure Word of God and His promise of salvation in Christ Jesus.
I think that these 13 pages are something that pastors and laymen alike should read and give careful thought to...especially in how Christian formation should be intentionally brought to bear in catechesis. It's free online. It's important. It's worth a half an hour while you drink a cup of coffee and think about it.