The Good News We Almost Forgot is about a 16th century catechism. The Heidelberg Catechism was published in 1563 and was basically a commentary on three things: the Apostles’ Creed, the Ten Commandments, and the Lord’s Prayer.
The faith I was raised in did not use catechisms and I only learned of the Apostles’ Creed when I was in college. Nevertheless, being interested in history and specifically the history of my faith, I was curious to learn more about this book.
To begin with, what in the world is the Heidelberg Catechism? The Heidelberg Catechism was ordered by Elector Frederick III of the Palatinate, a princely state of the Holy Roman Empire (now a part of Germany) for his territory. A team of theological professors & ministers were brought together to write the catechism, though the prime author was Zacharias Ursinus. Ursinus, a professor at the University of Heidelberg University was a firm Protestant with Calvinist leanings. The catechism was designed to serve three purposes: a tool for teaching children, a guide for preachers, and as a form for confessional unity among the Protestant factions in the Palatinate. Translated into Latin, Dutch, French, & English, the catechism was widely circulated and became the most loved catechism of the Reformation.
So, what could that possibly mean for us today? DeYoung spent a year studying the catechism and writing weekly devotions from it for his church. He takes the straight forward questions and answers of the catechism and gives us some further understanding of the truths laid out in the catechism, making it a type of devotional within a devotional.
I’m not sure exactly how long I spent reading it, but probably close to a year as it was not something I just read straight through. I picked it up at different times and read it as a devotional. In spite of being very familiar with the topics, I was continually blessed and challenged by the reading. To quote DeYoung, “the Heidelberg Catechism has been good for me.”
How it was good is that it gave me a fresh look at the gospel, what I believe & why, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Ten Commandments. All these are elements of our faith which can never be studied enough, but must also never be taken in a casual light. Again, quoting DeYoung in his introduction, “My own personal assessment of my pastoral ministry is that over the past two or three years the gospel has become much more central. Not that I didn’t know the gospel or didn’t believe or preach the gospel before. But recently, I have taken more delight in the gospel, stayed more focused on the gospel, and made the gospel more explicit in my ministry. The Heidelberg Catechism is partly to thank for this renewed passion.”
Renewed passion for the gospel is the best endorsement I can give for any book.