From The Pastor's Study


A common complaint often lodged against Reformed Theology is that it is dry as dust, just too difficult and too doctrinaire to be the same Gospel that once turned the world upside down. The criticism that those who hold to consistent Calvinism appeal too much to the intellect and forget the emotions, are expert in addressing the mind and neglecting the heart may in some quarters be just. I can well understand distancing oneself from a creed that may be feared to be a one way ticket to icy coldness of the heart, a veritable Siberia of the soul.

But that such is not the necessary result from a believing embrace of the Reformed Faith is evident from the fires of revival that have historically come from its' proclamation, as well as the missionary passion evidenced by those who have been molded by it's perspectives and the rich devotional literature written by those whose practical application of the Reformed creed still has power to both humble and heal the heart and motivate and challenge the lives of countless thousands.

Perhaps one avenue of appreciation of the reviving power of experiential Calvinism would be to dust off the cobwebs and end the neglect of the old Heidelberg Catechism. Once the most popular of statements of Reformed Theology, the Heidelberg Catechism has sadly fallen into disuse even in Churches which formally subscribe to it as a standard of Church doctrine.

Among Reformed Baptists it is clearly not well known. Our catechisms (like our confession of faith) generally follow the precise doctrinal formulations of the Westminster Assembly's Shorter Catechism. Just ask the average Reformed Baptist, "What is the chief end of man?" and you will get the quick reply, "Man's chief end is to glorify God". Maybe you will even get the second part of the answer, "and to enjoy Him forever". But ask the same budding theologian, "What is your only comfort in life and death?" and I will be surprised if you get more than blank looks and stone cold silence.

Wouldn't it show something of the richness of the devotional nature of our Reformed Heritage if we could without missing a beat reply to the first question of the Heidelberg Catechism by speaking from our hearts and saying, "That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ, who with His Precious Blood has 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, wherefore by His Holy Spirit He also assures me of eternal life and makes me heartily willing and ready henceforth to live unto Him".

It is with just this introduction that the Heidelberg Catechism begins its' instruction in a manner that is theologically sound, while being practical and devotional in its' emphasis all the way through. The use of the first person singular makes the Reformed Faith to be my personal confession of my sin and misery, my deliverance through Christ, and my thankfulness to God for such a deliverance.

To study and learn the Heidelberg Catechism while hurtful to none may well be helpful to many in possessing a stronger faith, steeped in the form of sound words, and stable in a balanced walk with God that encompasses theological precision as well as devotional passion.

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