When you hear catechism, what words come to your mind? Honestly? Seriously, if I had to do a word association with catechism, I think I’d hear, or maybe say (I confess) words like “rigid,” “heady,” “for pastors,” “for a different kind of Christian.” You may have had experiences with those who embrace different catechisms, and think, “Well those aren’t my kind of guys or gals.” Or you may think that a catechism is something you memorize as a kid, or have as a resource as adult, to make you smarter. Regardless, catechism and comfort don’t regularly find their way together in the same sentence. They should.
You will see comfort and catechism collide in William Boekestein’s The Quest for Comfort. This is the 2nd book of his I’ve had the opportunity to read and review: Faithfulness Under Fire was my first. Through vivid illustrations, and simple language, he uniquely connects the quest for true godly comfort with the devotional riches found in the Heidelberg catechism.
This book is a children’s book. It is designed for children, and illustrated for children, but it is just as devotional to parents. As a P.C.A minister, I’m fairly well versed in the history surrounding the Westminster Confession of Faith. However, I found myself woefully ignorant of the events which fortunately forged the Heidelberg Catechism.
Just as the events surrounding the hymn “It Is Well With Soul” make it that much more comforting-that God could provide comfort after such a tragedy-so do these events add to the rich experience of the Heidelberg Catechism. In fact, not long after finishing The Quest for Comfort, I “went out” and purchased the Heidelberg Catechism for my kindle.
Boekestein draws the reader into the timeless struggle of trying to understand and apply the scriptures amidst a culture and human heart which naturally rejects it. While the whole story makes for a fun and quick read, there are three reasons why I WANT to read the Heidelberg catechism, and this book again for that matter.
The Need for such a catechism. We hear of a deacon and preacher actually get in a fist fight over doctrinal questions. How crazy is that! Reminds me of Robert Duval’s character in The Apostle when Billy Bob Thornton’s character tries to stir up trouble and experiences quite a “beat-down.” Tension makes for a great story. But more than making for a great story, it reminds us how helpful a tool a catechism can be in understanding and applying the bible today. We have folks who can help us understand and apply it today, even though they lived a long time ago.
Comfort of a catechism. Like the title suggests, Boekestein frames this catechism not just historically, but existentially. While folks at the time had access to the Belgic Confession, Frederick III wanted, “something simpler, more personal, more peaceful. He wanted a book that showed the heart of the gospel to men, women, boys, and girls who needed the comfort that only God can give.” The goal was not to exhaustively cover every biblical topic but to provide some objective truth which comforts the heart and set the hands and feet in motion to service. We should seek comfort in the gospel and this is a great place to find and experience it.
Restore adventure to the Christian life. As adults we can sometimes lose that sense of adventure as we live in a place of religious freedom. But what a time to rekindle that passion. We don’t need to pretend we live in the same time period, or same “place” (many Christians do now though), or feel guilty we don’t. However, since we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1), we should take encouragement that God worked in them, and He’ll work in us. One can almost hear them encouraging us, “You guys have opportunities and challenges we didn’t face. Look to Jesus and He’ll take not only take care of you, but He’ll take you on an adventure.”
I commend this short book to you. It will do your soul, and the soul of your little one’s some good. And if you’re at all like me, you’ll go out and get your hands on the Heidelberg catechism.