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Q Why do the authors of the Heidelberg Catechism use the summary of the law in the first section and then use that same law in the last section?

A Most catechisms written during the Reformation used the Ten Commandments as teachers of sin. Instead, the Heidelberg Catechism uses the summary of the law for that purpose in its first section. It uses the law in the third section as a guide for grateful living. This arrangement, sometimes called “the Reformed use of the law,” is a wonderful teaching tool in itself. It reminds us that the first and shortest section of the catechism, which deals with our sin (see Part 1: Misery), is to be the shortest chapter of our lives and of our preaching and teaching. The majority of our time and effort is to be spent rejoicing in God’s gracious salvation (see Part 2: Deliverance) and responding to our Savior with faithful service (see Part 3: Gratitude).

Note: You can read the updated version of the catechism approved by Synod 2011 online at

—George Vander Weit is a retired pastor in the Christian Reformed Church.


Q Once when some tools went missing, the owner of the company I work for walked through the company lot and looked through car windows with a flashlight. He also says he wants to install a microphone in the employee break room to monitor conversations. Another time he searched his assistant’s locked drawer for a document. And sometimes when talking to a man in our sales department, he rests his hand on an arm of the man’s wheelchair. Aren’t these invasions of privacy?

A The first incident does not seem morally problematic, assuming he had no physical contact with anyone’s vehicle. At worst his actions seem a bit creepy. A microphone in the break room to monitor conversations? This strikes me as unnecessarily invasive.
Assessing the third incident depends on whether the assistant was told ahead of time that the owner had a key and might occasionally use it. If she wasn’t, he invaded her privacy. Its contents might have contained things he or she would have been embarrassed to have him see.

Finally, Dr. Thomas Hoeksema, professor emeritus of Calvin College coordinated Calvin’s special education program, informs me that one should not touch someone’s wheelchair unless certain that it will be positively received. It is tantamount to touching the person’s body.

—Gregory Mellema is a professor of philosophy at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich.


Q Our daughter, 19, lives at home. She wants to visit a former boyfriend at his college, but he was abusive with her when they dated before. Do we forbid her from going? If she goes anyway, what do we do when she comes back? Do we throw her out?

A It is often difficult for parents to let go of being in charge when their children become adults. It is especially difficult to let go when we see our children making poor relationship choices. However, now that your daughter is 19, it is imperative that you allow her to make her own decisions—not only with respect to her education or career choices but also to her choice of a boyfriend or other friendships. Difficult as this may be, especially when you want to protect her from an abusive relationship, you must accept that she has to resolve the relationship issue herself.

It is certainly not wrong to let her know of your worries, but you and your husband do her no favor when you insist that she behave in a certain way—or else. Although you have the right to evict her from your home, having her live in your home does not give you the right to tell her what to do.
At 19, maturation is all about becoming independent from parental control and learning to navigate one’s own life. You may, in fact, be accomplishing the exact opposite of what you desire (the break-up of the relationship) by making demands she will likely resist in her legitimate quest for independence.

This is a difficult period in your relationship with your daughter. As you learn to let go, she will learn to do what is best. Cheer her on when she makes a good decision—and learn to be silent when she does not—while continuing to love her and pray for her.

—Judy Cook is a family therapist and a member of Meadowlands Fellowship CRC in Ancaster, Ontario.

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