The Reformed tradition traces its routes back to the reformation movement of the 16th century, when several church members separated from the Catholic Church over differing views on the Bible, salvation, and the Christian life. Along the way, groups of believers who were a part of this new tradition found it necessary to articulate, and in some cases defend, particular theological points that reformed Christians found to be true in their examination of Scripture. These documents are known as confessions, because they accurately summarize what reformed Christians believe, and serve to unite reformed believers not just with one another, but with those who have come before and will come after us. For that reason, we often refer to these confessions as the “Three Reformed Standards” or “Three Forms of Unity”.
A catechism is a document that was written to help new and existing Christians understand what it was that they professed to believe. Catechisms are typically written in question and answer style, making them easy to memorize. The Heidelberg Catechism, written in 1563, is differentiated from other catechisms that have been accepted by the church worldwide in that it is far more personal than most of the other texts. Beginning with the question of what it is that brings us comfort, it expands forward, helping us to understand how we can fully live into what God always intended us to be. The Heidelberg Catechism is divided into 52 days and has long been used as a teaching tool, a preaching calendar, and for personal devotion.