Friday, July 23, 2010

The Heidelberg and Subjective Religion

One of the great things about the Reformed understanding of the Christian faith is its emphasis both on the objective (things as they are) and the subjective (what it means for me.) Sometimes, these poles cause friction against one another. Occasionally, people either operate out of reaction against one of the poles, or take one pole to an extreme. But, held together rightly, they are glorious, filled with both comfort and challenge.

Nothing short of Scripture holds the subjective and objective better than the old Heidelberg Catechism. Consider this:

Question 27. What do you understand by the providence of God?

The almighty and ever present power by which God upholds heaven and earth and all creatures, and so rules them that leaves and grass, rain and drought, fruitful and unfruitful years, food and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, and everything else, come to us not by chance but from God's sustaining hand.

Question 28. How does the knowledge of God's creation and providence help us?

Answer. We can be patient when things go against us, thankful when things go well, and for the future we can have good confidence in our faithful God and Father that nothing will separate us from God's love. All creatures are so completely in God's hand that without the divine will they can neither move nor be moved.

Positively Davidic. Not pollyannaish. Realistic. Life is hard. Things go wrong, even (and maybe even especially) for the children of God. We are not unmoved movers, but flesh-and-blood being, subject to the tumult of experience.

We act, we suffer, we are morally culpable, and somehow God is sovereign over it all. God is sovereign over suffering --a hard truth that is, but also comforting; how much worse would it be if certain things were out of God's control?

What Christ gives us is hope. Hope for the despairing melancholy. Hope for the person who has made shipwreck of his life. Hope for the one caught in the clutches of thorny rebellion. If we are his he has saved us from the just consequences of our lives, and will save us from all that currently plagues us. If we are not yet his, his hand is out to us to bring us this resilient hope: nothing can separate us from the love of God: peril, tribulation, nakedness, famine, or sword.

Good news.


  1. Ken - this is an awesome reminder and one I very much needed. Thank you!
    Colleen Siems

  2. I love Heidelberg!! It's a joy to read b/c it pastorally points the soul to the finished work of Christ on our behalf!

  3. Thank you for this, Ken, the true meaning of Hope. Knowing God's providence has been a great comfort to me through Katrina and its aftermath, and even helps me watch with wonder the little bird family just now flying away from the nest under my awning--I know that He cares even about the little birds and have hope He will protect them from the cat that is stalking around.