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All Articles For The Triple Knowledge: Heidelberg Catechism

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The first question of the Heidelberg Catechism speaks of an “only comfort in life and death.” There are three elements in this question that at once draw our attention and that require explanation. The first is the fact that the Catechism here speaks of “comfort,” and the question arises; what is the implication of this concept? What is true comfort? The second element is expressed in the adjective “only.” By this qualification the Christian comfort is characterized as an exclusive and quite sufficient comfort. One who has this comfort needs no other. And the third element is expressed in the...

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Normal for man, who is made a rational, moral creature, is that he love God with all his heart and mind and soul and strength. Such is the living will of God for him. It is the great commandment. All other commandments are implied in this. Even the love of the neighbor is “like unto it.” For you may love the neighbor only for God’s sake, even as you may love yourself only as existing and living unto Him. Hence, love of the neighbor is impossible if you do not love God. The love of God is and remains the...

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It cannot be claimed that the distinction: “image of God in a wider and in a narrower sense,” is confessionally Reformed. Our Three Forms of Unity rather leave the impression that they favor the idea of limiting the image of God to man’s original integrity, true knowledge of God, righteousness and holiness. This is true of our Catechism in the Lord’s Day we are now discussing. In answer to the question: “Did God create man so wicked and perverse?” it states: “No; but God created man good, and after His own image, that is, in righteousness and true holiness.” It...

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Many and serious objections may be raised against this rather generally accepted doctrine of the “covenant of works.” That the relation between God and Adam in the state of righteousness was a covenant relation, we readily admit. But that this covenant should be an established agreement between Adam and his Creator, consisting of a condition, a promise and a penalty, and that it was essentially a means whereby Adam might work himself up to the higher state of eternal life and heavenly glory that is now attained by the believers through Christ, we deny. First of all, there is the...

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The last stage in the temptation and the fall of the woman naturally and inevitably followed upon the woman’s acceptance of the word of the serpent by which he had plainly and boldly contradicted the Word of God. The lie had been introduced. And it had been accepted and embraced. It is in the light, or rather, in the darkness of that lie, that is, with eyes that had been darkened by the lie, that the woman now looked at the tree and passed her own judgment upon it. She saw nothing anymore of the Word of God. On the...

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The last question and answer of this fourth Lord’s Day of the Catechism is concerned with the extent of the depravity of the human nature. Our corruption as a fact was stated in Question 5: “I am prone to hate God and my neighbour.” In the following two questions the problem of the origin of this corruption was discussed: it is not to be traced to creation, for God created us good and after His own image; but its cause must be found in the first sin of Adam and Eve in paradise. That sin was a fall. And by...

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No less explicit and clear are the Canons of Dordrecht on the truth of the depravity of the natural man. In III, IV, 1, 3 we read: “Man was originally formed after the image of God. His understanding was adorned with a true and saving knowledge of his Creator, and of spiritual things; his heart and will were upright; all his affections pure; and the whole man was holy: but revolting from God by the instigation of the devil, and abusing the freedom of his own will, he forfeited these excellent gifts; and on the contrary entailed on himself blindness...

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Thus far we discussed the fall of our first parents in Paradise, and we reached the conclusion that it was, indeed, a fall, and not merely an act of sin. By the first act of disobedience, consisting in eating of the forbidden tree, the nature of our first parents was corrupted. It was not merely weakened, but actually debased and ethically corrupted, so that henceforth they could no longer serve the Lord their God in love. They lost the image of God, their knowledge of God became darkness; their righteousness was subverted into rebellion; and their holiness was turned into...

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The question arises: what is the meaning of total depravity? The catechism answers: total depravity signifies “that we are wholly incapable of doing any good, and inclined to all evil?” But it may be expedient at this point to ask the further question: but what is good and what is evil? It seems a rather severe judgment that all men are wholly incapable of doing any good, and if we look about us in the world and judge of men as we come into contact with them, we are, perhaps, inclined to doubt the truth of this statement. That there...

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However, if the theory that there is some other kind of grace than that which regenerates a man, must be rejected, the question returns: what is the implication of the doctrine of total depravity? How can the answer of the Heidelberg Catechism to its eight question be squared with many phenomena in the actual experience and everyday life in the world of men that appear to contradict the severe judgment of our instructor : we are incapable of doing any good and inclined to all evil, unless we are regenerated by the Spirit of God? In order to give the...

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