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The Good News We Almost Forgot
May 19, 2010
When I was a teenager, growing up within Canada’s Dutch Reformed tradition (despite not being Dutch—long story), Tuesday nights were Catechism nights. My parents would drive me to the church where the pastor, or occasionally one of the elders, would teach us the Heidelberg Catechism. Every class would begin the same way—with reciting the questions and answers we had been told to memorize the week before. I would always sit my friend Brian so we could whisper hints to one another when we got stuck. Actually, he and I continually found new and inventive ways of cheating, of making the pastor believe that we had done our work even when we hadn’t. Nevertheless, over the years I did press that catechism into my mind and at one point probably could have recited almost all of it. Many years have gone by and most of it has faded, though interestingly I can still recite the first and the last of the 129 questions; I still know what is my only comfort in life and death and what ‘amen’ means.
As much as I disliked Catechism nights and as much as I came to dread publicly reciting the answers, I have often since expressed my gratitude for them. Though I was sometimes quite committed to not learning, still I did learn and those classes, based on that old document, helped lay a theological foundation in my life. That Catechism teaches sound theology and does so in a time-honored way. As the church emphasized the importance of theology, taking time to deliberately lead their teenagers into a systematic faith, they taught us that the Christian faith could never be less than theology. They didn’t just tell us what to believe, but they taught us how important it is to believe what is true.
The Good News We Almost Forgot is Kevin DeYoung’s attempt to introduce the Heidelberg Catechism to a new generation. And it seems that at a time when so many people are describing themselves as “Reformed” it is worthwhile looking to the historic roots of the Reformed tradition. Though the catechism was published almost 450 years ago, it remains relevant. The gospel it professed at the time of the Reformation is the very gospel we treasure today.
The Catechism is structured around the church year with 52 chapters correlating to the 52 Lord’s Days. DeYoung follows this same structure in the book. For each chapter he simply provides a short explanation as to what is being taught and why it is important. Thus The Good News We Almost Forgot is really a kind of basic roadmap to the Catechism, a short commentary of sorts on a document that helped form the church.
Months ago Kevin asked if I’d write an endorsement for the book. I was glad to do so and here is what I wrote:
When I was a teenager, Tuesday nights were Catechism nights. I would go to church and, under the tutelage of the pastor, both study and memorize what I affectionately called “Ye Olde Heidelberger.” The deep truths of that document provided a firm foundation for my growing faith. Even as a teen I realized that at the very heart of the Heidelberg Catechism is the gospel of Jesus Christ. And yet I cannot deny that it has been many years since I last studied it. In The Good News We Almost Forget Kevin DeYoung dusts off that old Catechism and proves that it is as relevant today as it was 450 years ago. Its truths are timeless, its encouragement unchanged. I am grateful to Kevin for introducing this venerable document to a new generation of believers. May they find hope and joy in the One it celebrates.
If you are interested in theology, if you are interested in church history, if you are interested in seeing how the gospel has remain unchanged over the centuries, you will do well to read this book. Well-written and winsome (as are all of DeYoung’s books) I know you’ll benefit from it.
The Good News We Almost Forgot