Presbyterians and the Heidelberg Catechism

Why should Presbyterians—more particularly, Orthodox Presbyterians—care about the Heidelberg Catechism? We have two catechisms of our own that seem quite sufficient—if not to say, in the case of the Westminster Larger Catechism, challenging, even daunting at times. Why should we give a moment’s thought to the Heidelberg Catechism, particularly when we consider theologian B. B. Warfield’s assessment that, when compared to the Westminster Shorter Catechism, the Heidelberg Catechism is “too subjective”? The Heidelberg Catechism certainly does have a personal element that strikes a different tone from that of the Westminster Catechisms. The first question reflects that different approach: “What is your only comfort in life and death?” It addresses the catechumen directly, seeking to elicit a statement of trust from the one being questioned. The answer affirms the application of the gospel to the catechumen: “That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life ... Read more

The Heidelberg Catechism in the OPC

In the early years of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, a few Dutch-Americans with backgrounds in the Christian Reformed Church strongly (even excessively, some would say) shaped the Reformed identity of the young church. Among them were Westminster Seminary professors Ned Stonehouse, R. B. Kuiper, and Cornelius Van Til. But as influential as those men may have been, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church seems to have paid little attention to the Heidelberg Catechism during its early decades. Reasons for this relative neglect are not hard to imagine. The OPC’s Committee on Christian Education was particularly eager to commend the Shorter Catechism to the young church, and a series on it by John Skilton ran in the Presbyterian Guardian. Furthermore, it did not help that one voice of admiration for the Heidelberg Catechism was that of Karl Barth. When the 400th anniversary of the catechism was observed in 1963, Barth and other commentators lauded it especially for what it did not contain. Unlike ... Read more

Observations after Eleven Years

Eleven years ago, in August 2002, my wife and I, along with our two small children, arrived in Charlottesville, Virginia. The purpose of our arrival was simple. I had been called by the Orthodox Presbyterian church in Staunton, Virginia, just across the Blue Ridge Mountains, to take up the labor of shepherding a church plant, Providence Orthodox Presbyterian Church, through its earliest years. Although Providence OPC had been meeting for worship for a year, our family was at that time family number six in a small group of believers. It’s hard to believe, looking back at it, but the addition of my wife and two children swelled the church rolls to a total of twenty-two communicant and noncommunicant members. On January 5, 2007, we were recognized by the Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic as a particular congregation, with a total membership of forty-nine. Now, eleven years after our arrival, we have a total of eighty-eight members. Certainly this is no megachurch, even by OPC standards, but it is a healthy ... Read more


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