Thursday, March 6, 2008

Confessions & Catechisms

I was reared in a non-confessional church. It was not until I was in college that I came across Thomas Vincent's The Shorter Catechism Explained from Scripture (BOT reprint, 1980) [CVBBS | WTS]. This little book helped me tremendously. To a small degree it reminded me of the catechisms we learned in elementary Bible. But these are far more substantive than the ones we memorized. After reading a good bit of this, I remarked to my father that I wished I had found this earlier, or that a book like this would have been used in the junior high and high school grades.

Later, I was introduced to Morton H. Smith's Harmony of the Westminster Confession and Catechisms (Southern Presbyterian Press, na) and then to Joel Beeke & Sinclair Ferguson's Reformed Confessions Harmonized (Baker Book House, 1999) [CBD | WTS]. The latter of these is a fabulous theological resource. In it the following confessions and catechisms are harmonized and arranged according to the standard development of systematic theologies:
  1. Belgic Confession (1561)
  2. Heidelberg Catechism (1563)
  3. Second Helvetic Confession (1566)
  4. Canons of Dort (1619)
  5. Westminster Confession of Faith (1647)
  6. Westminster Shorter Catechism (1647)
  7. Westminster Larger Catechism (1648)
One final feature not to be overlooked is Joel Beekes' Annotated Bibliography of Reformed Doctrinal Works. This bibliography has been printed separately as A Reader's Guide to Reformed Literature [RHB | Amazon | CVBBS]. In this bibilography Beeke follows the same outline as that of Reformed Confessions Harmonized. His recommendations display a concern for the historical development of each doctrine highlighting the best works from each era. This is an excellent guide for pastors and theological students.

Similar to the works listed above is this months free download at I downloaded this and began listening to it this morning. David Cochran Heath, the narrator, reads clearly and with interest. Once again, I'm deeply impressed with the quality of this production by HovelAudio. I expect to listen to this through many times!

Free Audiobook of the Month - Confessions of the Reformed Church
The Augsburg, The Westminister, and the Heidelberg Confessions. Quite simply, these are three of the most important and well-known confessions of the Reformed faith. Concise, yet with excellent detail, there is no better way to get an introduction and background of historic Reformed faith.

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Before I close, I must recommend a couple of resources for those interested in particularly Baptist confessions and catechisms. Here are two that I have found to be helpful.
  1. Baptist Confessions of Faith compiled and edited by William Lumpkin (Judson Press, 1969) [Amazon | CBD].
  2. The Baptist Confession of Faith 1689 with updated English notes by Peter Masters (Wakeman Trust; Rev Ed edition, 1989) [Amazon | CBD].
There are others but these are the ones with which I am most familiar. Permit me to conclude with the magnificent gospel statement with which The Heidelberg Catechism begins.

1 Q. What is your only comfort in life and death?
That I am not my own,
but belong—
body and soul,
in life and in death—
to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.

He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood,
and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.
He also watches over me in such a way
that not a hair can fall from my head
without the will of my Father in heaven:
in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.

Because I belong to him,
Christ, by his Holy Spirit,
assures me of eternal life
and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready
from now on to live for him.