I’ve written before about how awkward it can feel to plug your own books. But I press on nonetheless, because you all are kind and I believe this book is important. My newest book, The Good News We Almost Forgot: Rediscovering the Gospel in a 16th Century Catechism will be available at the end of March. If the topic itself doesn’t thrill you, just look at the sweet picture of Ursinus. He’s part professor, part Santa Claus, part back-from-Davy-Jones’-Locker Pirate of the Caribbean.
Needless to say, I’m a huge fan of the Reformed confessional tradition in general and of the Heidelberg Catechism in particular. But even if you are not Reformed or have a “no creed but the Bible” aversion to catechisms and confessions I encourage you give the Heidelberg a try. It is better than you think.
And for those of you who grew up with the Catechism and would like to forget the experience, I assure you: the Heidelberg is better than you remember.
Here’s a few paragraphs from the opening couple pages.
The only thing more difficult than finding the truth is not losing it. What starts out as new and precious becomes plain and old. What begins a thrilling discovery becomes a rote exercise. What provokes one generation to sacrifice and passion becomes in the next generation a cause for rebellion and apathy. Why is it that denominations and church movements almost always drift from their theological moorings? Why is it that people who grow up in the church are often less articulate about their faith than the new Christian who converted at forty-five? Why is it that those who grow up with creeds and confessions are usually the ones who hate them most?
Perhaps it’s because truth is like the tip of your nose—it’s hardest to see when it’s right in front of you.
No doubt, the church in the West has many new things to learn. But for the most part, everything we need to learn is what we’ve already forgotten. The chief theological task now facing the Western church is not to reinvent or to be relevant, but to remember. We must remember the old, old story. We must remember the faith once delivered to the saints. We must remember the truths that spark reformation, revival, and regeneration.
And because we want to remember all this, we must also remember—if we are fortunate enough to have ever heard of them in the first place—our creeds, confessions, and catechisms.
Your reaction to that last sentence probably falls in one of three categories. Some people, especially the young, believe it or not, will think, “Cool. Ancient faith. I’m into creeds and confessions.” Others will think, “Wait a minute, don’t Catholics have catechisms? Why do we need some manmade document to tell us what to think? I have no creed but the Bible, thank you very much. I thought catechisms were for Catholics.” And yet others—the hardest soil of all—want nothing more than to be done with all this catechism business. “Been there, done that. Bor-ing. I’ve seen people who knew their creeds backward and forward and didn’t make them missional, passionate, or even very nice.”
To all three groups I simply say, “Come and see.” Come and see what vintage faith is really all about. Come and see if the cool breeze from centuries gone by can awaken your lumbering faith. Come and see if your church was lame because of its confessions and catechisms or if your lame church made the confessions and catechisms lame all on its own. Whether you’ve grown up with confessions and catechisms or they sound like something from another spiritual planet, I say, “Come and see.”Come and see Christ in the unlikeliest of places—in a manger, in Nazareth, or even in Heidelberg.