The Heidelberg Catechism: Frederick III’s Conversion

heidelberg-catechism-in-its-newest-light -JGoodFor our Heidelberg Catechism post this week (as we have done every Thursday this year in commemoration of its 450th anniversary, 1563-2013) we return to the book by the German Reformed pastor and theologian, James I. Good. We have taken material previously from his work The Heidelberg Catechism in Its Newest Light (Philadelphia: Publication and Sunday School Board of the Reformed Church in the United States, 1914), and today we do so again.

The third part of Good’s book treats the authors of the catechism, beginning with Elector Frederick III, ruler of the Palatinate region of Germany, which included Heidelberg, the birthplace of the “HC”. In his chapter on Frederick, Good relates the “conversion” of the Elector, by which he means in particular his movement from a Lutheran position to a Reformed position. Writing about events in 1559, during a time when Frederick gave himself diligently to studying the Bible and prayer to come to the knowledge of the truth, Good has this to say about Frederick’s becoming Reformed in his theology and practice – words I find very interesting. I leave them with you today so that you may weigh them as well.

And here we must pause in the history to note an important fact. Frederick, in all his study of the Bible and prayer, took his first step toward becoming Reformed. He became not yet a conscious, but rather an unconscious Reformed. He was still a Lutheran and not conscious that he was becoming Reformed. But when he went to the Bible for his rule, he adopted the Reformed principle. ‘The Bible, the whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible.’ For, while the Lutherans and the Reformed both accept the Bible, yet the Lutherans, as compared with the Reformed, do so, negatively, the Reformed, positively. The Lutherans take what is not forbidden by the Bible, the Reformed only what is authorized by the Bible. And Frederick adopted this Reformed principle here.

This distinction was the more noticeable, for neither of the Augsburg Confessions, either of 1530 or 1540, clearly make the Bible the rule of faith. …Now, Frederick, in seeking light from the Bible above any confessions, and even above the Augsburg Confession, passed over unconsciously to the Reformed position. And his later acts are but the logical fulfilment of this great principle, that he laid hold of here, in the midst of great sighing and tears, like his Master in the garden (pp.146-47).

“John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology” – Free eBook

John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology—Free eBook by Nathan W. Bingham | Ligonier Ministries Blog.

JCalvinaHeartforDevotionAs you know by now, Ligonier Ministries and its publishing ministry Reformation Trust have been offering a free Ebook each month. This month to mark the commemoration of the Reformation, they are giving away the book John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology (2008). It is a collection of nineteen essays covering a wide spectrum of Calvin’s life and teachings. It is well worth having as part of your Calvin collection.  Below is the advertisement that comes with the offer; visit the Ligonier link above to download the free book.

During the month of October, Reformation Trust is giving away the eBook edition of John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology. In this book Burk Parsons, editor of Tabletalk magazine and co-pastor at Saint Andrew’s Chapel, has brought together an impressive group of pastors and scholars to reconsider Calvin’s life and legacy. Contributors include Jay Adams, Eric Alexander Thabiti Anyabwile, Joel Beeke, Jerry Bridges, Sinclair Ferguson, Robert Godfrey, D. G.Hart, Michael Horton, Phillip R. Johnson, Steven Lawson, John MacArthur, Keith Mathison, Richard Phillips, Harry Reeder, Philip Graham Ryken, Derek Thomas, Thomas Ascol, and others.

In twenty succinct chapters, these men examine Calvin the man; his work (as a Reformer, a churchman, a preacher, a counselor, and a writer); and his teachings (on subjects as diverse as the Holy Spirit and prayer). What emerges is a multifaceted portrait of a man whose contributions to Christian thought and Christian living were significant indeed, a man whose life, work, and teachings are worthy to be remembered and studied even in the twenty-first century.