Great New Book on the Heidelberg Catechism

Great New Book on the Heidelberg Catechism

In recent days, the Heidelberg Catechism (HC) has been enjoying some popularity outside of the bounds of Three Forms of Unity churches, thanks both to its accessibly personal tone and books like Kevin DeYoung's fine devotional commentary, The Good News We Almost Forgot, and the accessible essay collection edited by Jon Payne and Sebastian Heck.

To this growing body of thoughtful literature can now be added the excellent volume from Starr Meade, Comforting Hearts - Teaching Minds: Family Devotions Based on the Heidelberg Catechism, currently available on its own and as part of a two book deal from Westminster Books, along with her earlier volume on the Shorter Catechism.

The HC was divided into fifty-two sections, so it could be preached through in a year.  Starr Meade has followed this structure in broad terms but has divided a few Lord's Days on the grounds that they cover so much material. Each section takes the relevant Lord's Day part of the Catechism and then offers seven brief reflections, and relevant Bible passages, to be used day by day.  The overall goal is to take a family through the whole HC in about a year, though, as with all such schemes, there is no reason why the pace should not be slowed to take account of the particular rhythms of any given family's life and thus be spread over more than fifty-two weeks.

I have spent the last week dipping into the work and can highly recommend it.  My own children are now grown and there is not much in terms of regular family devotions as we once enjoyed; but my wife and I intend to use this book to guide and shape our own devotional times.   We may not follow the Bible readings, preferring our own established scheme, but the catechetical questions and devotional reflections can stand on their own.

Paul's ministry was not simply, or primarily, about making converts.  He wanted above all to see converts becoming disciples, being prepared here on earth for their life in heaven.  Nothing beats the regular disciplines of the mundane Christian life for achieving that.  As the long distance runner has to pound the pavements day after day in preparation for the big race, so Christians need the boring, repetitive routines of the ordinary Christian life in order to grow truly as disciples.  I confess I only discovered Starr Meade's work on the Shorter Catechism a few weeks ago.  I wish I had found it much earlier; and I am thrilled at this latest volume.

One pedantic historical theology comment: I notice Question 80, the famous criticism of the Roman Catholic Mass, is omitted.  I assume this is on the grounds that it might be unnecessarily polemical for children.  Ironically, of course, Questions 46-48 remain, which are in their own way just as polemical and presumably offensive to Lutheran children as 80 would be to Roman Catholics.  But to make that criticism is, as we English would say, to make a point worthy of a trainspotter.

If you are looking for a good, devotional commentary on the HC for family, church group or simply for your own edification, buy Starr Meade's wonderful book.