Children’s Catechism in the Wake of the Reformation

The Church's Book of Comfort This book, The Church’s Book of Comfort, gets more fascinating with each chapter.  I’ve read quite a few sources on the Heidelberg Catechism (HC) and surrounding circumstances, and for now I am putting this near the top of my “go to HC stuff” list.  Here’s another reason why.

Recently (before reading this book), I stumbled upon a kids version of the HC written around 1608 by H. Faukelius called “The Compendium of the Christian Religion for Those Who Seek Admission to the Lord’s Supper”  (the cool Dutch title is: Kort begrip der Christelijke Religie voor dei sich willen begeven tot des Heeren Heilig Avondmaal).  The Synod of Dort (1618-1619) advised that this compendium be used for the middle-age children.  The younger kids were to use the even shorter Hanenboekjes (Rooster Booklet) while the older kids were to use the HC itself (p. 134).

Actually, kids catechisms in the Lowlands, Germany, and elsewhere were quite popular in Reformed circles following the Reformation.  A few others were Micron’s Shorter Catechism and Brief Inquiry, Laski’s Larger Catechism, and St. Aldegonde’s Compendium (Kort Begrip), along with a few others (p. 140-144; 164-5, etc.).  Though classes and synods before the 1618-19 Synod of Dort didn’t always suggest the same kids’ catechism from the above list, many of them did in fact recommend each church use a kids’ catechism (cf. pages 163 ff).

Here’s a sample of one of the shorter and more polemical kids catechisms, namely, St. Aldegonde’s Compendium, which may rub us the wrong way in our age of “tolerance.”

Q: Where does this God dwell?
A: In heaven.

Q: Does he not dwell in the church of the papists?
A: No, he does not.

Q: Is the church of the papists then not God’s house?
A: No.

Q: Who then dwell in the church of the papists?
A: Idols.

Q: What are these idols?
A: Large dolls.

Q: What are they then?
A: Dumb blocks.

You’ve gotta hear the Dutch of the last two answers to really get the nearly comical tone: What are these idols? Groote Poppen. What are they then?  Stomme blocken. The Popish church is full of groote poppen and stomme blocken (say that out loud!). You wonder if a child chuckled when he answered!

shane lems

sunnyside wa