Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 4 image

Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 4

[If you're only going to spend three Lord's Days on "misery", before moving on to "deliverance" and "gratitude", then you've got to make it count - and I can't imagine a more brutal depiction of the state of unredeemed humanity than this. We are responsible for our "willful disobedience", and God is "terribly angry", not just with the sin we are born with, but also with the sins we personally commit (which, of course, bear out God's justice in judging us for Adam's sin in the first place); the result is punishment, both now and in eternity, which is then clarified as "the supreme penalty - eternal punishment of body and soul." Ouch.

Sections like this are a good example of why 450 year old confessional documents are useful. Many of us would love to avoid, water down or even deny the doctrines of original sin and eternal punishment; at the very least, we might fight shy of including them in binding theological statements. But Heidelberg's unapologetic tone, for all that the authors clearly recognised the problem (is God unjust?), is a powerful bulwark against fluffiness ancient and modern: it reminds us that the presuppositions of our generation are just as contingent, and just as needful of sceptical interrogation, than those of any other. In a church, let alone a world, where such ideas are greeted with (at best) an apologetic cough, the robust announcement of divine justice is a breath of fresh air.]

Q9. But doesn’t God do us an injustice
by requiring in his law
what we are unable to do?

A9. No, God created human beings with the ability to keep the law.
They, however, provoked by the devil,
in willful disobedience,
robbed themselves and all their descendants of these gifts.

Q10. Does God permit
such disobedience and rebellion
to go unpunished?

A10. Certainly not.
God is terribly angry
with the sin we are born with
as well as the sins we personally commit.
As a just judge,
God will punish them both now and in eternity,
having declared:
“Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey
all the things written in the book of the law.”

Q11. But isn’t God also merciful?

A11. God is certainly merciful,
but also just.
God’s justice demands
that sin, committed against his supreme majesty,
be punished with the supreme penalty—
eternal punishment of body and soul.

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