A Catechism of the Heart and Head (Good)

Around one hundred years ago, James Good wrote the following about the Heidelberg Catechism and its practical value for the Christian life:

But there was a third significance in the Heidelberg at the time of its birth. It was an experimental catechism — a catechism of the heart as well as of the head. It was founded on the psycological experiences through which a Christian passes. It was not a mere cold theological treatise, but one of warm living faith. Most of the catechisms of its day were inclined to be mere theological statements. Occasionally we find a catechism which aimed to bring out the experimental side of religion as those of the Lasco type. But none of them ever began to approach the Heidelberg in the breadth and depth of personal experience. Thus take the prominence given by it to religion as a personal comfort, to faith as a hearty confidence, to assurance of faith, these and many more show its experimental character. Its questions are not merely in the third person singular or first person plural, as in other catechisms, but many in the second person singular, thus making them direct questions to the catechumen, and the answers are often in the first person, as expressions of personal faith by the catechumen. Thus, the first question and answer: “What is thy only comfort?” “That I, with body and soul am not my own, etc., also answers 5, 32, 39, 44, 52, 58, 59, 60, 61, 94, 103, 104, 105, 111, 112 and 129, 17 in all. All this has made the Heidelberg the greatest catechism of experience and that undoubtedly has been one of the causes of its wide-spread popularity.

 James I. Good, The Heidelberg Catechism in Its Newest Light (Philadelphia, PA: Publication and Sunday School Board of the Reformed Church in the United States, 1914), 295–296.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015