Jan

18

2013

Kevin DeYoung|6:06 am CT

Five Reasons to Read the Heidelberg Catechism This Year

If you love the Heidelberg Catechism and have for a long time, read it again this year. If you learned the Heidelberg Catechism years ago and dismissed it as cruel and unusual punishment, give it another chance. If “Heidelberg” sounds like a disease to you and catechism sounds as thrilling as detasseling corn, try it anyway.

Here’s why:

1. This year marks the 450th anniversary of the Heidelberg Catechism. The first version of the Catechism had a preface dated January 19, 1563, which makes tomorrow the big anniversary date. Happy Birthday!

2. The Heidelberg Catechism is the most personal and most devotional of the Reformation era creeds and confessions. The theme is “comfort” and the emphasis is on how the person and work of Jesus Christ benefits the believer. The pattern of questions and answers make the catechism accessible, while the conspicuous use of “I,” “me,” “my,” and “mine” make the theology warm and practical.

3. The Catechism is more influential than you know. Not only have Reformed churches around subscribed to the Heidelberg for centuries, but believers all around the globe have found theological ballast and personal comfort in these 52 Lord’s Days. According to Joel Beeke and Sinclair Ferguson writing in 1999 The Heidelberg Catechism “has circulated more widely than any other book except the Bible, Thomas à Kempis’s The Imitation of Christ, and John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress.”

4. There are a growing number of fine resources to help you understand the history and theology of the Catechism. The most important work is the Commentary by Zacharius Ursinus (the principal author of the Catechism). Lyle Bierma from Calvin Seminary has edited a scholarly introduction on Heidelberg’s history, sources, and theology. Willem Van’t Spijker’s volume, The Church’s Book of Comfort, is also a fine place to start for those wanting to know the people and context behind the Catechism. I know of at least two excellent books coming out this year (one by P&R and one by RHB). For a general look at the importance of creeds, confessions, and catechisms, be sure to read Carl Trueman’s The Creedal Imperative. And for a popular level treatment of the Heidelberg I’m partial to The Good News We Almost Forgot.

5. The Heidelberg Catechism is full of gospel. It is nothing less than a deeply moving, theologically careful, biblically faithful exploration of God’s grace. You won’t find a better man-made paragraph in all the world than Question and Answer 1. My only true and lasting comfort is that I am not my own, but belong–body and soul, in life and in death–to our faithful Savior Jesus Christ.

For more information on the Catechism you can also search this blog. I’ve written short articles about the history of Heidelberg, my favorite Lord’s Day, good works, tears at the Lord’s Table, Christian Hedonism,  and a host of other topics related to the Catechism. We are also preaching through the Catechism during our evening services this years.

 

23 Comments

  1. I’m over 50 and have been an evangelical for half of those years. My first reading of the major historic confessions last year with the Heidelberg, followed by the Belgic Confession, unlocked for me the heart of the Reformation. In fact, all of the theology that I had read in the few prior years, essentially addressed the same topics as are covered in those confessions. Take up Wayne Grudem – same topics; browse Bruce Ware’s “Big Truths for Young Hearts” – same again. The doctrinal positions may differ on some matters, but the topical organization is very similar. If children are still learning and memorizing the catechisms in even a sliver of churches, it impresses upon me that they are not very difficult to grasp, and were written to edify the entirety of the Church. They teach us to think systematically and to grasp the unity of the Bible from a young age.

    I’ve not yet gotten to the Westminster Standards, but those are coming. Based on my reading of the Three Forms of Unity, in my own assessment the creeds, confessions, and catechisms of the Reformation are indispensible for rightly understanding the biblical truth and corporate application of the Christian faith. And as Trueman writes, among other benefits, they are required of our pastors and elders for our benefit, that we can critically separate truth from error and hold our leaders accountable to an external standard that summarizes the critical doctrines of the faith.

  2. As a Baptist pastor, I want to give the Heidelberg Catechism my hearty commendation. I use it with my kids in family discipleship and am teaching it to our church’s teens in Sunday school. It’s a fantastic blend of sound doctrine and piety. If any Baptists are looking for a version compatible with Baptist theology, I’d commend Tom Ascol’s The Heidelberg Catechism: A Baptist Version (revised only in the theology of the sacraments), found in volume 3 of the Truth and Grace Memory Books [http://www.founderspress.com/shop/store.php?crn=205&rn=416&action=show_detail]. This version really deserves to be better-known and more widely used by Baptists.

  3. Don’t forget the WSCAL annual conference starting tonight-The Whole Armor of God: The Belgic Confession and the Heidelberg Confession for Today. You watch the live stream here http://wscal.edu/news-and-events/annual-conference/. I just wish I didn’t live 3 times zones away.

  4. Thanks for the tip, Wayne – looks like audio downloads will be available later.

  5. I didn’t realize that it turned 450 this year. As a Christian who grew up in a church culture that never even thought about using a catechism, I think I missed out on a great way of being taught deep truths of the faith as I grew up, as well as using a tool that generations of Christians have used to glorify God and grow in faith. I’m glad that so many Christians are beginning to show more openness to reconnecting with some historic aspects of our faith rather than just recreating everything ever five years or so.

  6. Reverend Shalom MuwanguziNyenje

    Thank you so much,for the information about this article.It is my first time as a presiding Bishop of Shalom Evangelical and Prison Outreach Ministries-SEPRIMI.From the comments read,
    I believe it is good material both for the family and the church.Especially when we are facing challenges globally of the moral decadency.This is good to align our children in the ways of God. Genesis 18:17-19 ,God became a friend to Abraham, because he was committed to raising up his household in the ways of the LORD.We need to seek for the deep truth of God with our children.
    Thank you very much and remain blessed. Mathew 6:33,John 8:32,Deuteronomy 29:29, Isaiah 55:6
    Regards
    Rev. Shalom Muwanguzi Nyenje
    Chairman/Presiding Bishop/Founder
    Shalom Evangelical and Prison Outreach Ministries-SEPRIMI
    p.o.box 10055 Kampala-Uganda
    Tel;256 778 171235,754 530900,

  7. There’s also a brand new website with all sorts of resources pertaining to the Heidelberg Catechism:

    http://heidelberg-catechism.com/en/

    It is also available in Portuguese here:

    http://heidelberg-catechism.com/pt/

  8. I’ve been telling people for a while now to read Heidelberg and I usually tell them to read it by going through your book, The Good News We Almost Forgot, as a daily devotional. In fact, I usually have spare copies to give my students. Can’t recommend it enough. http://derekzrishmawy.com/2012/08/13/beefing-up-your-quiet-times-catechisms-and-confessions-as-devotional-literature/

  9. Tabletalk Magazine from Ligonier Ministries taught through the entire Catechism last year in its daily devotionals. The back issues are available at http://www.ligonier.org/tabletalk/

  10. [...] are 5 reasons to read the catechism this [...]

  11. [...] can read more about it here and Kevin DeYoung’s 5 Reasons to Read the Heidelberg Catechism here. Share this:Like this:LikeBe the first to like this. This entry was posted in Belgic Confession, [...]

  12. [...] up} 1/19January 19, 2013 by Danmashup0 Comment5 Reasons to Read the Heidelberg Catechism | Compelling reasons from Kevin DeYoung to read this great creed and confession on its 450th [...]

  13. I love the catechism but have struggled with the proof texts at times.Some things seem time specific but none the less biblical.

  14. [...] Kevin DeYoung, “Five Reasons to Read the Heidelberg Catechism This Year” The Gospel Coalition, http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2013/01/18/five-reasons-to-read-the-heidelberg-cate… (accessed January 19, [...]

  15. I appreciate the encouragement to be immersed in the Reformed confessions and catechisms–especially one as warm, accessible, and robust as Heidelberg. I introduced the weekly readings to my congregation a few years ago, and the response has been excellent! There are clearly a lot of great resources out there, and I’ve been adding some of my own brief reflections here:

    here http://apatternofsoundwords.wordpress.com/2013/01/18/the-bad-news-first/

    Praying for your ministry.

  16. Heidelberg does sound like a disease :-) However, I decided to take it up, and really enjoyed going through it. Thanks for providing some reasons for doing so. I hope many others do.

    I’m generally much more familiar (and at home?) with the Westminster Standards and their derivatives, but I’m very thankful for what I’ve gleaned from the Heidelberg Catechism and am glad I read it!

  17. [...] It is the 450th anniversary of the Heidelberg Catechism. I just went through it and found it a blessing. Kevin DeYoung gives 5 reasons you should. [...]

  18. Rev. DeYoung,

    What translation(s) do you recommend of the Heidelberg Catechism? I don’t know if you mention it in your book (which I _am_ planning to get soon!).

    Thanks, Tim

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  20. [...] Five Reasons to Read the Heidelberg Catechism This Year – Kevin DeYoung. [...]

  21. [...] along with Kevin DeYoung. He gives 5 good reasons to read the Catechism this year that you can find here. The reasons are also relisted [...]

  22. […] Five Reasons to Read the Heidelberg Catechism This Year Kevin DeYoung presents five good reasons to read the catechism this year […]

  23. […] Five Reasons to Read the Heidelberg Catechism This Year Kevin DeYoung presents five good reasons to read the catechism this year […]

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