Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Church's Book of Comfort

Willem Van 'T Spijker and his team of scholars, and translator Gerrit Bilkes (who also recently helped to translate Concise Dogmatics by J. van Genderen and W. H. Velema), as well as Reformation Heritage Books, have done the church a great service by producing a tribute to the Heidelberg Catechism in The Church's Book of Comfort (Dutch original 2005, English translation 2009).

The history and background, theology and structure, impact and legacy of the "book of comfort" are covered in a manner that will interest the scholar, pastor and lay reader. It is a balanced presentation, covering the strengths and weaknesses (Jacobus Koelman's critiques are worth noting) of catechism preaching, for instance. The background information on those who contributed to the making of the Catechism is also worth noting because it goes beyond the two men primarily credited with authorship, Zacharius Ursinus and Caspar Olevianus, and examines the role of collaborators from the theological faculty of the Heidelberg University, superintendents and consistory. Commentaries, sermons and expositions of the Catechism are explored as well. It is a gold mine of information for those who appreciate the value and "eternal youth" of this Catechism.

Petrus de Witte is quoted (p. 221) in praise of the Catechism:

Blessed be this godly work, blessed be the hearts that first conceived it, the mouths that articulated it, the hands and pens that recorded it and brought it to such a desirable conclusion. Through God's blessing, the churches have reaped the desired benefits of this. It has meant the deathblow to the souls of those who sought modernism.

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