22 June 2003

The Heidelberg Catechism

Easily the jewel of the 16th-century Reformation confessions is the Heidelberg Catechism of 1563. It was composed by Zacharias Ursinus (Baer) and Caspar Olevianus (Olewig) under the sponsorship of Elector Frederick III, "the Pious," of the Palatinate. Unlike many of the confessions and catechisms which have a somewhat dry and scholastic tone, the Heidelberg is warm and personal, beginning with the famous first question and answer:

Q. What is your only comfort in life and in death?

A. That I am not my own, but belong — body and soul, in life and in death — to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven: in fact, all things must work together for my salvation. Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.

One would be hard pressed to come up with a better summary of the church's faith.

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