I've been dipping into the works of the reformers and puritans, and as is often the case when I read these works, I find myself challenged on several levels. In the following excerpt from a sermon by Martin Luther, he outlines three basics to be learned by Christians who could not read.
Ironically, what he outlines here as basic and fundamental, by today's evangelicals standards, looks like the advanced course on Christianity!
Martin Luther: A BRIEF EXPLANATION OF THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, THE CREED, AND THE LORD’S PRAYER
THE ordinary Christian, who cannot read the Scriptures, is required to learn and know The 10 Commandments from God, the Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer; and this has not come to pass without God’s special ordering. For these three contain fully and completely everything that is in the Scriptures, everything that ever should be preached, and everything that a Christian needs to know, all put so briefly and so plainly that no one can make complaint or excuse, saying that what he needs for his salvation is too long or too hard to remember.
Three things a man needs to know in order to be saved. First, he must know what he ought to do and what he ought not to do. Second, when he finds that by his own strength he can neither do the things he ought, nor leave undone the things he ought not to do, he must know where to seek and find and get the strength he needs. Third, he must know how to seek and find and get this strength.
When a man is ill, he needs to know first what his illness is, — what he can do and what he cannot do. Then he needs to know where to find the remedy that will restore his health and help him to do and leave undone the things he ought. Third, he must ask for this remedy, and seek it, and get it or have it brought to him. In like manner, the Commandments teach a man to know his illness, so that he feels and sees what he can do and what he cannot do, what he can and what he cannot leave undone, and thus knows himself to be a sinner and a wicked man. After that the Creed shows him and teaches him where he may find the remedy, — the grace which helps him to become a good man and to keep the Commandments; it shows him God, and the mercy which He has revealed and offered in Christ. In the third place, the Lord’s Prayer teaches him how to ask for this grace, get it, and take it to himself, to wit, by habitual, humble, comforting prayer; then grace is given, and by the fulfillment of God’s commandments he is saved.
These are the three chief things in all the Scriptures. Therefore we begin at the beginning, with the Commandments, which are the first thing, and learn to recognize our sin and wickedness, that is, our spiritual illness, which prevents us from doing the things we ought to do and leaving undone the things we ought not to do.