Catechisms have been used for centuries to help teach young people the beliefs of their faith. A Catechism can be defined as a book, in question and answer form, summarizing the basic principles of Christianity; A set of questions designed to determine knowledge. There have been several catechisms written over time. one of the most famous one is the Westminster Shorter Catechism – a condensed version of the longer one – containing 107 of the original 196 questions! Most people are familiar with the first question of this catechism – What is the chief end of man? Answer – The chief end of man is to to glorify God and enjoy Him forever!
But there is another catechism that is making a reappearance these days – the Heidelberg Catechism.
The Heidelberg Catechism was written at the request of Frederic III, ruler of Palatinate, a large and influential German province from 1559-1576. Up to that point, there had been much conflict between Protestants and Lutheran – especially under Otto Heinrich, Frederic’s predecessor. Frederic wanted to put to rest all religious disputes in areas under his control, so he was determined to put forth a catechism or confession of faith. He put several people to work on this and was in constant contact with them. Tradition tells us that there were 2 men involved in the writing of the catechism, however there could have been more. We do know that the Heidelberg Catechism was formally adopted in January 1563.
The Heidelberg Catechism had only 3 parts instead of the normal 5 and seemed to be much “warmer” in its presentation than some of the others that proceeded it. This Catechism is reformed in its theology. It is arranged not solely by logical order, but also to be practical in nature. It is devotional in nature and assumes that all who are reading/using it are Christians. This Catechism, in its present form, consists of 129 questions and answers and is divided into three parts:* Of the misery of man. *Of the redemption of man. *Of the gratitude due from man (duties, etc.).
Here is an example of the Heidelberg Catechism:
Question 1: What is the only comfort in life and death?
Answer: That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ; who, with his precious blood, has fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by his Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto him.
Question 2: How many things are necessary for thee to know, that thou, enjoying this comfort, mayest live and die happily?
Answer: Three; the first, how great my sins and miseries are; the second, how I may be delivered from all my sins and miseries; the third, how I shall express my gratitude to God for such deliverance.
Question 60 – How are you right with God?
Answer: . Only by true faith in Jesus Christ.
Even though my conscience accuses me of having grievously sinned against all God’s commandments
and of never having kept any of them, and even though I am still inclined toward all evil, nevertheless, without my deserving it at all, out of sheer grace, God grants and credits to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ, as if I had never sinned nor been a sinner, as if I had been as perfectly obedient as Christ was obedient for me.
All I need to do is to accept this gift of God with a believing heart.
Catechisms have worked well over the centuries that they have been used. Children were taught the questions and answers and recited them by memory. But is it still the best way to reach the youth of today? Check out the following video and then decide! Curtis “The Voice” Allen is the artist in the video –
Sit back and enjoy the Heidelberg Catechism – rap style!