When Heidelberg Met Westminster

The Heidelberg Catechism and the Westminster Shorter Catechism are both beautiful statements of the Christian faith; both are staples of Reformed theology.  However, each of these catechisms approaches its task with a different emphasis.  The first question of each catechism can be used to demonstrate these two emphases.

The first question of the Heidelberg Catechism is as follows:

Question 1. What is thy 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.

The Heidelberg Catechism is very personally focused.  Its goal is to give comfort to the Christian catechumen through Christian doctrine.

On the other hand, the first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism is:

Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

The first thing the WSC does is to use philosophical language to define man’s end.  The WSC is more systematically oriented, defining doctrines for the Christian’s intellect.

Both of these emphases are useful, and both are important.  Historically, the Heidelberg Catechism, as one of the Three Forms of Unity, has been used in Dutch Reformed churches while the WSC has been used in Presbyterian churches.  Ideally, both should be included in a Christian’s education.

Quotes taken from CRTA.

  1. February 14th, 2011

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