What’s the point of The Virgin Birth? (Heidelberg 14)

Now that I’ve finished the How to Live as a Christian course, I’ve gone back to uploading the Heidelberg Catechism series. This week, it’s part 14 – on the virgin birth. This is a topic where there’s a lot of misunderstanding.

Sometimes people misunderstand the virgin birth with the “immaculate conception” – this is a Roman Catholic doctrine which says that Mary was sinless when she gave birth to Christ. Most protestant churches do not believe in the immaculate conception – but it’s a common misunderstanding.

I think it’s more common to simply not understand why Mary needed to be a virgin to give birth to Christ. I mean, why couldn’t Jesus have been born in the normal way? Wasn’t he a human being?

The truth is that the virgin birth touches on a lot of important issues about who Jesus is.

In this session we look at two things:

  • What does it mean that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin?
  • How does it benefit you?

I hope you enjoy.

If you enjoy this, you can do the whole series right here on the website, or on the app (see links on the right hand side of the page). Alternatively, I am uploading them regularly to YouTube and Facebook. All sessions on YouTube are available on this playlist.

Heidelberg Catechism: #11 Jesus the only Saviour

Over the last few weeks I’ve started uploading the Heidelberg Catechism videos to YouTube and Facebook – one each Monday. Today I just uploaded #11 – Jesus the only Saviour.

If you’d like to do the whole course, you can sign up (free) for the Teaching Programme. If you’d prefer just to watch individual videos, they are all available on this YouTube Playlist.

Heidelberg vs New City Catechism

I have just uploaded the final part of the Heidelberg Catechism series. That means that all three parts – one, two and three – are now available! 52 sessions all done and dusted. (OK, you got me, there are actually 51 because I skipped one session about oaths which I thought was less relevant to the 21st century, but still). Over the last few months, as I’ve been recording this, I’ve found it a real joy to go through the catechism. I thought, seeing as I’ve already worked my way through the New City Catechism (you can see the course here), it might be worth doing a head to head comparison – the Heidelberg vs New City Catechism.

In summary, over the past few months I’ve enjoyed doing the Heidelberg videos more than I did the New City Catechism ones. Here are a few points where I prefer the Heidelberg to the New City Catechism.

It’s warmer

The Heidelberg is not simply an intellectual exercise – it’s designed to be deeply pastoral. That is, the catechism doesn’t just want you to know things, it wants you to believe things and act on them as well. That’s really important: if the gospel and the Bible doesn’t make a difference in our lives, then we haven’t really grasped its significance.

This really hit me the other day when I was preaching on Titus 1:1-4, these words jumped out at me: “Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness” – the truth that leads to godliness. That’s what the Heidelberg is concerned with, not simply ‘the truth’ as information but the truth as life-changing.

Now, of course the NCC is concerned with our lives as well as our doctrine. But I feel that the wording of the questions in the NCC is a bit more ‘academic’ – if you want the warmer, pastoral stuff you have to read the explanatory notes and the prayer (something which I do appreciate being in the NCC). But if you are just comparing the Q&As, I think the Heidelberg has a more pastoral and warmer tone. It tends to avoid theological jargon words and explain things within the Q&A more.

It’s more connected to the Bible

One of the things I really like about the Heidelberg compared with the New City Catechism is that the Heidelberg footnotes each part of the catechism with verses from the Bible. This is really helpful – if you want to learn where they are drawing the catechism from, you can look up the Bible verses and it helps you to put the pieces together. In fact, very often the language of a question or answer is taken directly from the Bible.

I think the Heidelberg does a great job at connecting the catechism with the pages of the Bible (which is why I think it goes so well with the mission of this site – to Understand the Bible better).

The NCC, by contrast, just has one Bible verse per Q&A. As a teacher, I’ve actually found it much easier to teach the Heidelberg because it gives you the Bible passages to go on.

It’s more detailed

One of the things which I appreciated about the Heidelberg when compared to the New City Catechism was the way it expanded on things. The New City Catechism Q&As are very dense – they use a few words to talk about a lot of complicated concepts. In order to get the best out of the New City Catechism you really need to read the explanatory notes written by various different authors. The problem with that is, different authors will take different aspects of the catechism to focus on – I found it could be a little uneven.

With the Heidelberg, there are no explanatory notes – everything is contained within the questions and answers – and it often goes into more detail about things that you want to know, case in point: talking about what the word ‘amen’ means at the very end of the catechism (finishing the Lord’s Prayer).


All in all, both the New City and the Heidelberg catechisms are good and will teach you the Christian faith. The New City definitely has some advantages – I like the app (although I found it didn’t remember where I was up to, which was a pain). It’s in modern language, and it includes a prayer. But, as a teacher, my preference is the Heidelberg – it’s just so much easier to teach. It’s not dense, you don’t have to unpack lots of theological words like ‘sanctification’. And the way it connects directly with Bible verses means you can easily link the two together.

You can watch or listen to all the Heidelberg and New City Catechism sessions in the teaching programme.

Heidelberg Catechism – Part two now available

I’ve just released Part 2 of the Heidelberg Catechism. The Heidelberg is divided into three parts, which you could summarise “Guilt”, “Grace”, and “Gratitude”.

This second part is focussed on the grace of God and our salvation.

I’ve really enjoyed working my way through the videos on the Heidelberg – it’s particularly good at linking the Bible with the catechism, each Q&A has Bible verses which you can look up.

If you’ve not done it before – why not give it a try?

New Course: Heidelberg Catechism pt 1 (Guilt)

Yesterday I created a new course with the videos I’ve been doing on the Heidelberg Catechism. If you’d like to have a ‘sneak peek’ at the sessions you can do so on the course page. It will take me a bit longer to work on parts two and three of the catechism (“grace” and “gratitude”), but my aim is to get them done as soon as I can.

I’ve really been enjoying the Heidelberg – it’s a great catechism and has been well-loved by generations for a reason. I hope that you enjoy studying it here with UTB.

Heidelberg Catechism: Introduction

I’ve decided to work my way through the Heidelberg Catechism. These videos will eventually find their way onto a course here, but in the meantime I will be uploading them to YouTube – I recorded the introduction here today. Do have a watch.

The book is: “The Good News we Almost Forgot” by Kevin DeYoung

You can find the text of the catechism in many places, e.g. this website: http://www.heidelberg-catechism.com/en/

What is Christianity? – 3: Old Testament + Israel

Part three of a six-part series on the question “What is Christianity?” To answer the question we’ll look at a very brief overview of the whole Bible.

In this session we think about the rest of the Old Testament, in particular how God promised to undo the curse of the fall and yet how sin kept on getting in the way. At the end of the Old Testament we are left with a big question – how is God going to deal with the problem of sin?

You may also listen to the audio-only version if you prefer.