The Heidelberg Catechism
The Reformed Churches throughout the world for over 400 years have accepted as a means of instruction in the Christian faith, the Heidelberg Catechism. This famous Catechism was written by two scholars in Germany (Olevianus and Ursinus) and first published in 1563. The Reformed Churches use this Catechism for the indoctrination of the children and for doctrinal instruction. It is not an "old fashioned, " outdated creed, as one might suspect, for the simple reason that it is based squarely on the Scriptures themselves which can never be "outdated, " being the Word of the eternal God.
The term "catechism" is a biblical word (katacheo). Used at least seven times in the New Testament, it refers to instruction in the faith. Although the question-and-answer form of a catechism is not found in the Bible, the general injunction to train converts and covenant children is given to the church (Matt. 28:19-20 ). The Church through the ages has taken this responsibility seriously. In preparing converts or children to make a public profession of faith, it has provided written questions on the Apostle's Creed, the Ten Commandments, and the Lord's Prayer. Frederick the III stated this as his reason for commissioning the writing of the Heidelberg Catechism:
And accordingly ... we have secured the preparation of a summary course of instruction or catechism of our Christian Religion, according to the word of God ... in order that the youth in churches and schools may be piously instructed in such Christian doctrine, and be thoroughly trained therein, but also that the Pastors and Schoolmasters themselves may be provided with a fixed form and model, by which to regulate the instruction of youth, and not, at their option, adopt daily changes, or introduce erroneous doctrine. (Preface to the Heidelberg Catechism, 1563)
Our commitment to the Heidelberg Catechism enables us to provide clear training for the youth and members of the Church. It provides a balanced and succinct treatment of what a Christian is to believe and how he is to live.