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From reformation to counter-reformation to further reformation: A picture of the anti-Roman background of the Heidelberg Catechism

Author(s): Erik van Alten

Journal: In die Skriflig
ISSN 1018-6441

Volume: 47;
Issue: 2;
Start page: 1;
Date: 2013;
Original page

Keywords: Heidelberg Catechism | Frederick III | anti-Roman background | counter-reformation

The anti-Roman sentiment of the Heidelberg Catechism is well-documented. In its contents the Catechism often seeks to combat Roman doctrine. However, this anti-Roman sentiment did not have its origin from textbooks and it was not merely an academic exercise. It was first and foremost a reaction to the ecclesiastical context of that time. At the same time that Elector Frederick III commissioned the writing of the Heidelberg Catechism, the Council of Trent was meeting on the other side of the Alpine mountains. Remarkably, this meeting had only recently decided to write a catechism of its own. It is very likely that the decision-makers in Heidelberg were aware of what was happening in Trent, and reacted accordingly. Underlying the decision to commission and write the Heidelberg Catechism was the acknowledgment of the importance of catechetical teaching. In several documents, which are closely related to the Heidelberg Catechism, the importance of catechetical teaching is highlighted. Interestingly, however, these documents also contrast the reformed principal of catechetical teaching with the Roman sacrament of confirmation. Whereas catechetical teaching leads children on the way from their baptism to the Lord’s Supper, the sacrament of confirmation takes away the urgency for any form of catechetical teaching.
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