Dr. Ephraim Radner
24 November 2011
Paper 2: Conscious vs. Immersion Catechism
Roughly the first two thirds of the Heidelberg Catechism can be seen as elements representing the turn to “conscious training”. These questions cover the topics of sin, salvation, the Trinity, and the Sacraments, and are presented in a logical way that stands in stark contrast with the “narrative” form of the catechism of the past. Only the last third of the catechism – the questions dealing with the Ten Commandments and the Lord’s Prayer – might be considered as questions that can be taught by “osmosis”, and for a good reason: except for introductory questions (such as Question 92, which actually lists out the Ten Commandments), these questions largely consider Christian conduct and prayer, which can be seen and imitated by catechumens.
The very format that Heidelberg Catechism is written in, questions followed by answers, lends itself to being communicated primarily through class, memorization, or cognitive means. Reading the catechism, one might imagine catechumens grilling a catechist with these questions. Certainly, the catechism seems to follow a certain logic in which a question draws on preceding questions and their answers. This systematic approach highlights the shift to conscious training as it seeks much more to engage the hearers in reasoned discussions about the doctrines of the faith.