In the medieval era, the Church had several catechisms for the average church-goer. These were simple Q/A catechisms translated from Latin into the common tongue. One of these (among others) is quite helpful for evaluating the dark spiritual climate of the later middle ages. The Mirror of a Christian Man by Dietrich Kolde (1470; 19 editions following) clearly displays the dismal attitude of the Christian faith at the time. It closes with these words:
“There are three things I know to be true that frequently make my heart heavy. The first troubles my spirit, because I will have to die. The second troubles my heart more, because I do not know when. The third troubles me above all. I do not know where I will go.”
In a most interesting way, the Heidelberg Catechism opens with a completely different theme: assurance of salvation and the knowledge of three things we must know to live and die in the joy and comfort of the gospel. First, we need to know how terrible our sin and misery are; second, we need to know how we are delivered from sin and misery, and finally, we need to know how to thank God for this deliverance.
I’m wondering if the Heidelberg authors (Ursinus, Olevian, etc.) knew this medieval catechism by Kolde. Did they structure the HC in part to completely refute this medieval Roman catechism? Read Kolde’s “three things” first, then compare and contrast them to the HC. Kolde goes from distress to major distress; the HC goes from major distress to major comfort and joy. Certainly the HC is refuting Roman Catholic teaching indirectly and also reflecting the major outline of Romans, but perhaps someone can help me here: is the HC directly refuting Kolde’s catechism as well? Also, if anyone found/finds Kolde’s catechism in print (online?), please let me know!
The above quote from Kolde’s catechism can be found in Carter Lindberg, The European Reformations (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1996), 63-4.