As the Reformation
movement spread tension between Lutherans
and Reformed Christians
arose over the question of the real, bodily presence of Christ
in the bread and wine
. Lutherans believed the Reformed Christians desecrating
the Lord's Supper
. Frederick the Elector
, ruler of the Palatinate
, appointed Zacharias Ursinus
, professor of theology
, and Kaspar Olevianus
, preacher to the city
, both residents of Heidelberg
--to prepare a catechism
acceptable to both sides. The catechism was completed in 1562 and contains 129 questions and answers.
Questions 3-11 deal with humanity's sin and guilt, questions 12-85 with the way in which God in Jesus Christ frees humankind, and questions 86-129 with the manner in which humanity express gratitude to God for redemption.
The questions in the catechism are addressed to "you", and they draw heavily on biblical language. The catechism's theology is both catholic, in the sense of having universal appeal, and evangelical in that it sets forth the gospel of Jesus Christ. The catechism provided a basis for a peaceful coexistance between the
Lutheran and Reformed Christians. According to the catechism the bread and wine does not actually become the very blood and body of Christ, but affirmed that "by this visible sign and pledge . . . we come to share in his true body and blood through the working of the Holy Spirit . . ." (paragraph 4.079).
The influence of the Heidelberg Catechism continues to be felt in the Reformed Church's of Germany, Austria, Holland, Hungary, parts of Eastern Europe, Scotland, Canada, and the United States.
Source: The Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Part I, Book of Confessions