Teach All Nations: The Use Of The Heidelberg Catechism In North America And Throughout The Non-European World -- By: Joel R. Beeke

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 78:2 (Fall 2016)
Article: Teach All Nations: The Use Of The Heidelberg Catechism In North America And Throughout The Non-European World
Author: Joel R. Beeke


Teach All Nations:
The Use Of The Heidelberg Catechism
In North America And Throughout
The Non-European World

Joel R. Beeke

and

Eric D. Bristley

The Heidelberg Catechism has become widely used and greatly loved outside of its birthplace. Several factors have contributed to its appeal. The first is the catechism’s summary of biblical truth, which captures both the simplicity and profundity of Bible doctrine. The catechism crystallizes the Christian faith of the Reformers of the sixteenth century, especially John Calvin. It also maintains continuity with the early church in its threefold structure of the creed, the law, and the Lord’s Prayer.

A second reason for the catechism’s widespread influence is its design for training young people and adults in Reformed doctrine and practice. Though its lengthiness is sometimes faulted, the catechism offers a comprehensive treatment of Christian doctrine. Its formulations and question-and-answer format endeared the catechism to those who sought the articulation of a consistent biblical-theological worldview. Its division into fifty-two Lord’s Days also provided an orderly method of instruction.

Third, the Elector Frederick’s (1515–1576) wisdom in devising the catechism as a means of instruction enabled the Reformed movement to spread a unified theology. The catechism’s endorsement by consistories and synods in Germany, the Netherlands, Hungary, and Switzerland established it as a defining document of the Calvinistic Reformation. The approval of the Synod of Dordrecht (1618–1619) further confirmed the catechism’s function as a standard of faith and life for the Reformed movement throughout the world.

Fourth, congregations and schools diligently used the catechism as an essential part of Christian training. It is unlikely that the catechism would have had lasting significance had not pastors and schoolmasters implemented its use in the educational ministry of their churches and schools.

The transmission, reception, use, and influence of the catechism can be documented by the number of editions in print, ecclesiastical decisions, subscription to the catechism by church officers and seminary professors,

publications explaining its doctrine, and translations and redactions such as the Compendium (Kort Begrip). Still, it is far easier to trace the bibliographical history of the catechism’s text and supporting literature than to evaluate its personal impact on people’s lives.

I. The Catechism Planted In The New World

Henry Hudson, a British sea captain, was hired by the ...

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