The Quest for Comfort: The Story of the Heidelberg Catechism
Since my son is now only a year or two from entering elementary school, I look forward to sharing with him the historical treasures of the Reformed faith. In a culture that pants after the new and that wearies of the old, the church ought to be one place that prizes her own history. We prize history not because we are arcane antiquarians but because we are called to run our race “surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses.” God has something to teach both our children and us from the halls of history.
If your children are not quite ready for Merle D’Aubigne’s multivolume histories of the Reformation-era church (and mine are not), then undoubtedly you are looking for resources to acquaint your family with some of the leading figures and events of our Reformed heritage. The Quest for Comfort is just such a work. Simply written by William Boekestein and attractively illustrated by Evan Hughes, this little book tells the story of how the Heidelberg Catechism came to be written. I won’t retell that story here: Boekestein does a wonderful job of it. I do want to note a few highlights from Boekestein’s narrative that are worth passing on to your family.
First, we are introduced to some compelling examples of godly young people. We see Caspar Olevianus taking a bold stand for the truth of the Scripture – and suffering dearly for it. We see Zacharias Ursinus, in the midst of pastoring a froward congregation, bearing the burden of the death of a dear Christian friend. We see how God blessed the home of Frederick III, Elector of the Palatinate, through his brave and godly young wife, Maria. Ours is an age when many young men forgo marriage, children, and other adult responsibilities for a protracted adolescence, and in which young people are tempted and pressured to defer godly living until they are much older. How encouraging it is, then, to have these examples to set before our children.
Second, we learn something about the providence of God. Boekestein traces the ways in which God had prepared over many years Olevianus, Ursinus, and Frederick before bringing them together to produce this magnificent catechism. What a wonderful instance of the all-wise, sovereign God ordering his people’s steps in ways that we cannot presently fathom. We also see how these men – both before and after the drafting of this catechism – were called to suffer for the faith that they professed. Their lives remind us and our children that God often calls his disciples to suffer in this age, and that, out of this suffering, lasting spiritual fruit can be borne to the glory of God and the strengthening of the church.
Third, Boekestein offers an appetizer to the Heidelberg Catechism. He introduces young readers to the alliterative outline, “Sin, Salvation, Service” as a way for them to grasp the catechism’s basic structure. He also points out that this outline is most importantly an outline of the Scripture’s teaching about salvation. Sharing this little book with your children is therefore a way to help them grasp the gospel.
If you are looking for an engaging read with your children before bedtime or on a Lord’s Day afternoon, get hold of this book. After you read it, you just may find their appetite, and yours, whetted to learn more about this stirring chapter in the church’s history.
Dr. Guy Prentiss Waters is associate professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi. He is author of The Federal Vision and Covenant Theology: A Comparative Analysis.