The Heidelberg Catechism Rocks Her World

An HB Classic

Heidelberg Catechism Q/A 1A correspondent to the HB writes:

About 7 years ago during a study of Romans in BSF, God rocked my theological world! My thinking was turned upside down as I embraced the doctrines of grace and began to see God and myself in a more biblical way. Over the next few years I began to read and study the Reformation and sought out contemporary authors who were firmly planted in this tradition. The White Horse Inn, Modern Reformation, RC Sproul, JI Packer — all these helped me grow in the knowledge and grace of Christ. The Heidelberg Catechism came up often on the WHI and I downloaded the catechism from the internet. As I began to read it the first question/ answer brought me to my knees as I knew an assurance that had often been lacking. My family is now a part of a small RCUS mission work in Bentonville, AR and we know that God has richly blessed us with a faithful pastor. Not many in the “Bible Belt” have ever heard of the Reformed denonminations, but I for one am most thankful that God lead me to the reformed confessions and cathechisms! It would be a terrible thing for these denominationns to take lightly the great treasures handed down to them from men who were willing to die for their faith in the all-sufficient Savior.

In Christ,
Johnna Duncan

[This post first appeared on the HB in 2007]


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  1. I think it is important to point out that it was the book of Romans that rocked her world. I have heard so many stories of how people became Reformed simply by reading the Bible. My wife, for example, is one of them. She was Reformed before she even knew what the word meant. I simply told her about the Reformers and showed her how her theology (except on baptism) was in line with them. Now she accepts covenantal baptism and can articulate a Reformed understanding of the Church. All that stems from her unprejudiced reading of the Bible. There is an elder in my home Church who has a similar story.
    I always enjoy those “I was Reformed before I knew what that meant” stories.

  2. Speaking as one who was “Reformed before I knew what it meant,” (I have used “closet Calvinist”), and as one wholly persuaded like Spurgeon that “Calvinism” is simply short-hand for “biblical,” I would suggest more caution than that.

    I think it is very tempting to tout exceptions to rules and suggest that an unbiased reading of the Bible leads to Reformed understanding. But Reformed hermenuetics 101 teaches us that there is no such thing as an unbiased reading, and most of us don’t have that exceptional experience. Because we are born opposed to God, more people than not pick up the Bible and conclude things far different than Reformed theology, piety and practice. I’d like to say my Reformed conversion came naturally, too, but my Calvinism runs way too deep to employ un-Reformed tactics to champion the Reformed system. To boot, when it comes to wives exorcising their bred Evangelicalism for Reformed confessionalism, well, it seems my own trek will be more pilgrim-like than super-saintly.

  3. Hi Johnna, Steven, and Zrim!

    Like Zrim, my Calvinism runs deep. But perhaps like Johnna and Steven, I also have some general “Bible belt” experiences.

    First, Johnna, I am joyful to hear your joy and passion and sharing that God has led you to the reformed confessions and cathechisms!

    Second, Steven, I am also joyful to hear “I was Reformed before I knew what that meant” stories.

    Third, caution is a good thing, and Zrim may want to expound on his urge for caution. But, I think you, Johnna, are on the right track, and you acknowledge the reformed confessions and catechism, which I will describe as two rails to keep you on track. And Steven, as Spurgeon states, if “Calvinism is simply short-hand for “biblical”, then we can simply take joy in hearing your “I was Reformed before I knew what that meant” story.

    Fourth, my trek was neither pilgrim-like nor super-saintly. It was more like the story of the prodigal son. My great-grandfather, William Heyns, was a Professor at Calvin Theological Seminary and wrote The Manual for Reformed Doctrine. I attended the Christian Reformed Church’s Bethany CRC church and the CRC school in Muskegon, Michigan from kindergarten through high school. My grandfather, Richard Pousma, was a CRC medical missionary for one year in China and then spent more years at Rehoboth, New Mexico serving the Navajo Indians. And yet, despite all this Reformed heritage and education, I left the CRC to attend a wide-range of mainline Protestant denominations here in Florida. Now, I have returned to the Reformed faith and practice and currently attend Grace Presbyterian Church, a PCA church, here in St. Petersburg, Florida.

    My story is told at my web site, but I just want to make this point that our trust is in our sovereign, electing, redeeming, irresistable, and preserving God who can convert a Hindu, guide a Baptist to all truth whether or not it is a conversion (John 16: 13), and even bring a prodigal Reformed son home. We don’t have to reserve our joy until we reach heaven. We can be joyful right now. The verse at the end of today’s article in my blog fits well here too. “Be glad in the LORD and rejoice you righteous ones, And shout for joy all you who are upright in heart.” Psalm 32:11.

  4. Hmmm, Driscol recommends Hahn, Scott. A Father Who Keeps His Promises: God’s Covenant Love in Scripture. Ann Arbor, MI: Servant Publications, 1998.

  5. Hi Bill,

    Thanks for your encouraging post. You’re not alone.

    Hi Rich,

    Yes, I noticed that. I guess they’re a little naive as to who Scott is or what he’s about. Perhaps they assume that “covenant theology” is innocent of dogmatic or ecclesiological connections and content?

  6. Great re-post, back in 2008 was just beginning long “mobile” study of Romans following James Boice’s sermons. Also read “The Doctrines of Grace” (Boice/Ryken) which gave me a good 1-2 intro to Reformed.

    But I didn’t stop with the 5 Points – first read the Three Forms last year. That is on my mind again as I went to PCRT (in Michigan) and heard a fine bio sketch by Dr. Jon Payne. I noted – new to myself – that both he and Kevin DeYoung (“The Good News We Almost Forgot”) drew the parallels in construction between Romans and Heidelberg.

    Still on the learning curve, but despite some difficulties at church, this has been a very enriching experience the past five years and I feel as though I have just begun. But as poster Johnna points out, “comfort” and “assurance” are major themes in both the epistle and the catechism!

  7. p.s. Payne’s bio sketch to which I referred was on Ursinus. Very good intro background on HC.

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