Thursday, November 7, 2013

Living What You Know

Starr Meade, Comforting Hearts, Teaching Minds: Family Devotions Based on the Heidelberg Catechism. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2013. 255pp. Paperback.

Reviewed by Ryan M. McGraw

Sinclair Ferguson relates a story in which a woman told him that she listened to a particular sermon of his several times and that she was getting more out of it each time. Curious, he listened to the sermon himself. After listening to the sermon, he concluded that if this woman had been catechized, then she would likely have retained the entire sermon after the first or second listening.

Catechizing is one of the most important discipleship tools available both to family and church. Through a question and answer method, children and families learn how to think through the truths of Scripture and in an organized way. Yet catechizing is one of the most neglected areas of discipleship today. People who are raised on a steady diet of prayer, family worship, private Bible reading, public worship, and a Reformed catechism will better know what they believe, why they believe it, and how to walk with God in every area of life.

Yet catechizing can be difficult. To offset this difficulty, Starr Meade has prepared a year’s worth of studies to help families learn and discuss the Heidelberg Catechism. This volume is similar to her earlier acclaimed work on the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Each section of the book begins by citing the full text of the relevant catechism questions for that week. She provides a brief devotional segment for each day of the week. This gives families a useful starting point to discuss the doctrines that they are memorizing and meditating upon in the catechism. She concludes each devotional segment with family Scripture readings. For the most part, she has followed the original division of the catechism into 52 Lord’s Days but has divided a few of the longer sections into two parts in order to promote ease of use.

This is a wonderful resource to help families grow in their knowledge of the Bible, in their ability to digest the theology of Scripture, in their personal godliness, and in their love to Christ. Starr Meade’s introduction provides a fitting conclusion for this review:

A catechism cannot and should not replace Scripture. But it is an invaluable aid in summarizing and remembering the most important teaching of Scripture. Learning a catechism doesn’t guarantee a child’s conversion. Knowing truth well is not the same as responding to truth and living in the light of it. But our children cannot respond to truth they don’t know. They can’t live in the light of truth with which they are unfamiliar. Helping children to learn well the truth of Scripture is where we begin. Knowing a good catechism is one of the best beginnings we can provide for our children (9).

This review first appeared in New Horizons, Oct. 2013