Monday, December 2, 2013

A Christian Pedagogy by Edward W.A. Koehler

Pedagogy is definitely a weak spot in modern Lutheranism. Modern theories of education, derived from anti-Christian enlightenment presuppositions, rule the day in most schools. In some places, catechesis is perfunctory at best. And perhaps most destructive, parents--especially fathers--do not lead and teach their children as they ought, and in many cases, not at all.

Obviously we cannot blame poor pedagogy alone for the horrific retention rate in modern Lutheranism. But it certainly is a deserving candidate for much of it. Lutheranism, and the Missouri Synod in particular, used to be held up as a shining example of the intentional training, thorough indoctrination, and shaping by the Word of God which parents and pastors are to give to their children.

Koehler's A Christian Pedagogy would be an incredibly useful work, for pastors especially, to read and drink deeply from. Merely thinking about Christian education, what it is and why we must engage in it, would alone bring forth fruit. Carefully examining one's own pedagogical assumptions and conscious/unconscious theological underpinnings (or lack thereof) is a necessary task for men who are in the teaching office. We are to be "apt to teach." The pastor should be a master pedagogue and an example to the others in the parish, especially fathers, of how to lead and train those under their care.
Edward W. A. Koehler was a long time professor at Concordia Teacher's College Addison/River Forest (1909–51). He is most famous for A Summary of Christian Doctrine and Luther's Small Catechism: Annotated. His writing in A Christian Pedagogy is comprehensive and clear. (Below are pictures of the entire Foreward and Table of Contents.) Especially worthy of note are two  sections concerning the Word of God (and its use) in education.

XII. The Word of God is Profitable for Education
XIII. The Use of The Word of God

His succinct overview of how Law and Gospel are to shape pedagogy is outstanding. Also impressive and insightful are the sections specifically devoted to Christian formation:

X. The Aim of Christian Education
XVII.&XVIII. How to Preserve the Child from Sin
XIX. How to Save the Child from Sin
XX. How to Train a Child in Christian Virtues
(Of course, these topics inform, shape, and are discussed throughout the entire work.)
Need To Get Read Level: 10/10

Tellingly, it is literally almost impossible to obtain one of these volumes. If you can get your hands on this book, do so, and read it. Interlibrary Loan, go read it at the closest Lutheran seminary or Concordia, check your church's library, or ask around among the more elderly pastors in your area. It is worth it, I guarantee. And, chances are, this is an area that you as a pastor or parent need to think more deeply and self-reflectively about.


  1. Thank God this volume is now available in print on demand at Concordia Publishing House,

    1. Yes, it is a wonderful thing indeed that one can have a physical copy of this treasure.