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Willem van Vlastuin


This article deals with the theology of personal renewal in the Heidelberg Catechism and the Westminster Confession. In the first part the theological structures of the Heidelberg Catechism are examined. Characteristic for the Heidelberg Catechism is the Christ-centered structure, the function of the law, and the pessimistic tone about personal renewal in relation to a remaining humiliation. In the second part the differences with the Westminster Confession are made clear. The Westminster is less pessimistic about personal renewal and the covenant structure of this confession gives the framework for a substantializing of the human person. The third and last part of this article pleads for an integration of the Heidelberg Catechism and the Westminster Confession. The Christ-centered structure of the Heidelberg is a strong element in the reformed tradition, while the covenant framework gives an opportunity to do justice to the human person.

The Joy of the Law

A Revisitation of the usus normativus in the Heidelberg Catechism

Willem van Vlastuin

In this essay, the author studies the so-called third use of the law in the Heidelberg Catechism, as a representative creed in the Calvinistic confession. In the introduction several current problems surrounding the normative use of the law are investigated, which leads to the research question: How can this use in the Heidelberg Catechism contribute to current theology of renewal? The structures of this catechism and the interpretative framework for the treatment of the law are first described, this is followed by an assessment of how the third use of the law in this catechism functions according to its own theological structures. It becomes clear that the treatment of the Ten Commandments differs from the theological framework. While the structures of the Heidelberg Catechism guarantee spiritual liberty for the treatment of the Ten Commandments, in the practical functioning of the law this liberty is weakened. This is confirmed by the treatment of the law in the theological framework of the balanced relationship of mortification and quickening. The third use of the law for a current theology of renewal is then revisited and it is suggested that the discovery of the eschatological aspect of Christology can be applied to soteriology, which opens up the possibility of speaking about the fulfillment of the law by the Spirit in the hearts and lives of believers as an earnest of the future glory. In this way the joy of the law can function in a theological framework.

Catholic Reformed Ethics

Bavinck’s Concept of Catholicity and Its Implications for Ethics


Willem van Vlastuin