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Christian Theology in the Reformed Confessions - Calvin Seminary

Origin of the HC
The Peace of AUGSBURG divided Germany between CATHOLICS and LUTHERANS in 1555. The Palatinate, an influential Roman province, was officially Lutheran, but there was great fighting between LUTHERANS and CALVINISTS. Elector FREDERICK III, who came into power in 1559, thought CALVINISM was more biblical. In order to put an end to religious DISPUTS in his dominions, he determined to put forth a Catechism, and he looked to Reformed authors (not Lutherans) for the answers.
Authorship of the HC
No author is listed, but history tells us that Frederick III hired Zacharias URSINUS, a technically trained and skilled theologian, and Caspar OLEVIANUS, a 26-year-old pastor. Others from the University of Heidelberg may have helped. Each prepared sketches or DRAFTS, but the final preparation was a the work of both theologians, with the constant cooperation of Frederick III. Ursinus has always been regarded as the PRINCIPAL author, chief defender and interpreter of the Catechism; still, German style, the division into three parts, and the genial WARMTH and unction of the whole work, are chiefly due to Olevianus (head and heart).
Theme of the HC (Q/A 1)
We begin by addressing a PASTORAL need -- where are you HURTING? What is your only (ultimate) COMFORT in life in death? This is a PERSONAL, EXISTENTIAL, autobiographical setting that follows a person from misery to rescue to a life of grateful service. Christ is my SAVIOR, not just judge (major change from Catholic thinking).
This is Scriptural, Ecumenical, Christocentric, Devotional, Autobiographical and Address to the Whole Person.
That I am not my own, but belong body and soul, in life and in death to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. Christ has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from all the power of the devil. ... Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.
Structure and basic elements of the HC (Q/A 2)
The Catechism, in its present form, consists of 129 questions and answers, all about how we know this misery and escape it. It is divided into three parts:
1. Of the MISERY of man.
2. Of the REDEMPTION of man.
3. Of the GRATITUDE due from man (duties, etc.).
Sin, salvation and service. Death, deliverance. discipleship... Guilt, grace and gratitude
Misery (Part I)
Misery can be an evaluation of how we PERFORM. The HC its not talking about FEELING miserable but that we are in a miserable CONDITION. Urisnus selected a German word that means EXILE or FOREIGNERS to God. Misery stands for all the desperate CONSEQUENCES of original sin. It is the shortest of the three main sections.
Use of the law in Part I (Q/A 3-5)
The law is how we know our misery. The law of God is like a MIRROR that shows us our condition. The law of Christ is used (love God and neighbor) to, in the first place, to ALERT us to our situation (revealing sin) and, secondly, to AROUSE us to seek salvation from it. Clearly, we have a NATURAL TENDENCY to hate God and our neighbors.
Deliverance (Part II)
The main image of our misery and deliverance is that of DEBT and PAYMENT. Deliverance is setting free, rescue, liberation, payment of the debt we could not pay. How do we speak about deliverance? Through the APOSTLE'S CREED, which describes the work of Jesus. Deliverance is the biggest section of the Catechism, and the CHRISTOLOGY of the Apostle's Creed (three-fold office) is the heart of it.
This section also speaks about the BENEFITS of this payment through the Holy Spirit and the CONFIRMATION of these benefits through the sacraments and church discipline.
Threefold office of Christ/Christians (Q/A 31-32)
Jesus is seen as our chief PROPHET and Teacher, who has fully revealed to us the secret counsel and will of God concerning our redemption; and to be our only High PRIEST, who by the one sacrifice of his body, has redeemed us, and makes continual intercession with the Father for us; and also to be our eternal KING, who governs us by his Word and Spirit.
We are also anointed to CONFESS his name, PRESENT ourselves as living sacrifices and to REIGN with Christ for all eternity.
Descent of Christ into hell before his death (Q/A 44)
Christ's "descent to hell" ASSURES us in times of personal crisis and temptation that Christ my Lord, by SUFFERING unspeakable anguish, pain, and terror of soul, has DELIVERED us from the anguish and torment of hell. We will face as judge the very One who has Himself delivered us. The judgment is part of the Gospel to be craved.
Critique of the Roman Catholic Mass (Q/A 80)
The Lord's Supper testifies to us that we have COMPLETE forgiveness of all our sins through the ONE sacrifice of Jesus Christ which he himself has FINISHED on the cross once for all. ... But the Mass teaches that the living and the dead do not have forgiveness of sins through the sufferings of Christ unless Christ is again offered for them DAILY by the priest. Therfore the Mass is fundamentally a complete DENIAL of the once for all sacrifice and passion of Jesus Christ. Mass also teaches that Christ is bodily present and to be worshipped. But when the CRC spoke with Catholics, they said they did not believe these things.
Gratitude and the Christian life (Part III)
{gratitude, praise, assurance, win neighbors}
The third major part of the catechism (Questions 86-129) is on the life of gratitude that Christians will lead in RESPONSE to the redemption that Christ has brought to them. Christian living is not a voluntary, optional addition to faith, but an INEVITABLE response of true faith: Because just as Christ has redeemed us with his blood he also RENEWS us through his Holy Spirit according to his own image, so that with our WHOLE life we may show ourselves GRATEFUL to God for his goodness and that he may be GLORIFIED through us; and further, so that we ourselves may be ASSURED of our faith by its fruits and by our godly living may WIN our neighbors to Christ. (Dying of the old self and coming to life in the new self. Being sorry for sin and hating it. Wholehearted joy in God and delighting to do every kind of good work.)
Threefold approach to each commandment (e.g., Q/A 94, 105-7)
1. DEEPENING the meaning by going to the root - such as forbidding greediness and not just stealing.
2. BROADENING the meaning - extending honoring father and mother to all those in authority over me.
3. POSITIVIZING it for application - what it requires, not just forbids.
94-1st Commandment (acknowledging God only and trusting Him, not using magic, giving up everything for him.)
105-6th Commandment (hate is at the root, so don't belittle others, don't be a party to others doing it, love our neighbors as ourselves, be patient, peaceful, etc.).
Use of the law in Part III (Q/A 115)
There are two uses of the law the HC outlines. The The first is so that the longer we live the more we may come to KNOW our sinfulness and more eagerly LOOK to Christ for forgiveness of sins and righteousness. Second, so that, while praying we man never stop striving to be RENEWED more and more after God's image. Calvin and the Reformers added this use of the law (a GUIDE for the redeemed life), whereas Luther only believed in the civil and theological use of the law.
Prayer as the most important part of gratitude (Q/A 116)
Prayer to be from the heart (SINCERE). It is to be DIRECTED to the true God. It is to be OPEN, hiding nothing. It is to be HUMBLE, with reverence. And it is to be CONFIDENT that we are heard.
Those who keep ASKING the Father for help are the ones who best acknowledge that He is the "giver of every good and perfect gift." And "it is even more sure that God listens to my prayer, than that I really desire what I pray for." Our own feelings and desires are overwhelmed by the sheer reality and faithfulness of God. Prayer is a DUTY just like eating, and we should miss it like we miss dinner.
Origin of the BC
The Confessio Belgica (referring to the whole of the Netherlands -- now the Netherlands and Belgium) was written in 1561 in response to terrible PERSECUTION of Protestants in that area. The Spaniard PHILIP II controlled the Netherlands, and he was a CATHOLIC who really clamped down on Protestant churches, not only for his personal religious preference but also to maintain political CONTROL of a large empire. To protest against this cruel oppression, and to prove to the persecutors that the adherents of the Reformed faith were NOT REBELS, but law-abiding citizens who professed the TRUE CHRISTIAN doctrine according to the Holy Scriptures, Guido de Bres, a Reformed preacher, prepared this confession in the year 1561. In the following year a copy was sent to King Philip II, together with an address in which the petitioners declared that they were ready to OBEY the government in all lawful things, but that they would DIE rather than deny the truth expressed in this confession.
Audience was both the PERSECUTED and the PERSECUTORS. It drew all the secret underground churches together into a common cause and brought comfort. It educated fledgling Protestants.
To the persecutor, he is saying, "We are not like the anabaptists. We are peace loving. We are not Catholics, but we share a lot with their tradition -- the basic creeds. We are good Christian folks trying to be good followers of Jesus. Nothing to fear!"
Structure of the BC
The majority of the 37 articles offer a straight reproduction of Calvinist orthodoxy. The articles are traditionally shaped into rough TRINITARIAN pattern: God and how we know Him (1-9), Christ and how He justified us (10-23), the Holy Spirit and the sanctified life (24-37).
Or it could be viewed as organized by locus (topically organized). More specifically TAC-SEE:
1-11 - God (Theology Proper)
12-17 - Humanity (Anthropology)
18-21 - Christ (Christology)
22-26 - Salvation (Soteriology)
27-36 - Church (Ecclesiology)
37 - Last Things (Eschatology)
Incommunicable and communicable attributes of God (Art. 1)
Incommunicable attributes are attributes that God and God alone has and does not share. In Art. 1 there are 5 attributes of God that God alone has which are ETERNAL, INCOMPREHENSIBLE, INVISIBLE, UNCHANGEABLE, and INFINITE and have NEGATIVE prefixes to the word stem thus pointing to God not being restrained or contained by human limitations (via negativa). The other five are ALMIGHTY, WISE, JUST, GOOD the SOURCE OF GOOD are attributes that God possesses to the HIGHEST DEGREE (via eminentiae) but shares them with us who possess them at a much lower decree than him (the imago Dei). Reformers always BALANCED the otherness of God and the connectedness of God.
General and special revelation (Art. 2)
There are two ways in which God reveals himself to us, General and Special Revelation. GENERAL revelation is creation and all that is in it; mountains, stars, planets, all of which reveal the POWER and divinity of God and of all are aware of. The second way is SPECIAL revelation which is the Bible, in which he "reveals his glory and for the salvation of his own." We can have not only propositional or know-how knowledge, but PERSONAL knowledge of God.
Organic inspiration of Scripture (Art. 3)
"Holy men of God spoke, being moved by the Holy Spirit." It's NOT DICTATION; It's organic. It's NATURAL -- flowing out of people's experiences by the PROVIDENCE of God. You can still see Paul in his writing. He's not a machine that God types through. God breathed out Scripture through real humans who reflected the PLACES and TIMES in which they lived.God uses man and all his intellect, personality, and experiences, given from God to use in writing the Scriptures.
Internal testimony of the Holy Spirit (Art. 5)
How do we know that these canonical books are true and authoritative? The Holy Spirit's testimony is first and foremost. The Bible proves its own rational proofs, such as Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah that have come true. Still, you'll never RATIONALLY ARGUE people into the kingdom. It's only by the Holy Spirit's testimony. The same Spirit that inspired the words penetrates our hearts in order to convince us that they delivered faithfully the message which was divinely given.
Sola Scriptura (Art. 7)
We believe that the Holy Scripture contains the will of God completely and that everything one must believe to be saved is SUFFICIENTLY taught in it. We REJECT anything that removes or ADDS to the content and JUDGE all other authorities or writings by the Scripture, it having the ultimate authority from God. No matter how holy other authors may have been, we consider no other writings, traditions, truths, decrees, decisions, councils or authorities EQUAL or GREATER than Scripture.
Infallibility of Scripture (Art. 7)
It is non-FALSIFYING (not deliberately misleading)
It's non-ERRING (not inadvertently making mistakes)
It's non-FAILING (not failing to accomplish the purpose it has from God)
That is why we can judge all other sources of information by this infallible revelation and TEST the SPIRITS.
Definition of the Trinity (Art. 8)
The trinity is a term to define God as one, single all-powerful BEING (one in ESSENCE or SUBSTANCE), in whom are three PERSONS -- God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit -- all being really, truly and eternally distinct. Yet God is not divided, and the persons are not intermixed. Each person has an OFFICE or WORK peculiar to Him:
The FATHER is the cause, origin and source of all things visible and invisible. The SON is the Word, Wisdom, and image of the Father. The Holy SPIRIT is the eternal power and might, proceeding from the Father and the Son. Each has His own PERSONALITY and PROPERTIES. The Son is NOT the Father or the Spirit. The Father did not take upon flesh, only the Son.
Biblical testimony to the Trinity (Art. 9)
The Bible NEVER says the word "Trinity," but it is a technical term to describe what was spoken of by the authors of the Bible non-technically. However, the whole Bible testifies to the Trinity. In GENESIS God says, "come let US make man in OUR image" and the word Elohim is a plural noun. The BAPTISM of Jesus all 3 persons of God were in attendance for all to see. At the end of Matthew, the BAPTISMAL FORMULA is in the (ONE ) name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. TRINITARIAN BENEDICTIONS in epistles. ANGEL'S message to Mary. On top of all this is our PERSONAL EXPERIENCE: Personal Experience: The Father is our creator. The Son is our savior. The Spirit is our sanctifier.
Purpose of creation (Art. 12)
God created everything by His Word (His Son). The purpose of Creation is SERVICE. All created things were given their BEING and FORMS for the purpose of serving their CREATOR. He providentially upholds creation to SERVE HUMANITY, allowing humanity to serve God and so bring Him glory.
Fallen angels (Art. 12)
Fallen angels are angels that were CREATED GOOD to serve God as messengers and TO SERVE his elect that have FALLEN from excellence by their own wickedness. They are ENEMIES of God and of everything good. This refutes the Sadducees ad the Manicheans, in saying they are real but still just created beings. There is no redemption for the angels.
Divine providence (Art. 13)
Providence denies the TYRANNY of CHANCE or FORTUNE. EPICURUS said the gods have nothing to do with this world, and we are on our own. To the contrary, our God ACTIVELY RULES this world.
He created all things and did not ABANDON them to chance or fortune but leads and governs them according to his holy will, in such a way that NOTHING happens in this world without his ORDERLY arrangement. Yet God is NOT the author of, nor can he be charged with, the SIN that occurs. God works for the good in everything, even in evil acts. In life and DEATH (as de Bres would soon face), we know we are in the HANDS of Him who does all things well. There is UNSPEAKABLE COMFORT in knowing all things come to us by the arrangement of our gracious heavenly Father.
Creation of humanity in the image of God (Art. 14)
The image of God has a broad ONTOLOGICAL and a narrow ETHICAL senses). What continues after the fall? What changes after the fall? The Confession focuses on the narrow image (in an ETHICAL sense). The Confession teaches that man was MORALLY upright and ABLE to comply with God's moral will in his state of innocence. Man was GOOD, JUST and HOLY (which are also words used to speak of God and his communicable attributes). Man at this time was able to sin and able not to sin.
Bondage of the Will (Art. 14)
After the fall, there was a total REVERSAL of the INCLINATION of man's will -- no longer ABLE to conform to the will of God, in BONDAGE to sin. Man is now not able to not sin. We cannot make a choice outside the realm of sin, like being stuck on a TRAIN moving in one direction. We made this choice VOLUNTARILY, giving way to PRIDE. No one CAN COME to Jesus, unless the Father draws him.
Original sin (Art. 15)
ORIGINATED IN ADAM. By Adam's one act of disobedience (Rom. 15), sin has been spread through the whole human race.
THE ORIGIN OF ALL ACTUAL SIN. It's the root (like a contaminated spring) that leads to all the sins we commit. Our sins are a product of our nature. What happens is GUILT (legal, judicial consequence that affects our standing before God) and CORRUPTION (in our internal makeup).
Predestination: Election and Reprobation (Art. 16)
It was God's decision to save some of the fallen human race (ELECTION) and not others (REPROBATION). God does not and cannot act contrary to His NATURE. In predestination, we see both his JUSTICE and his MERCY. The CAUSE of election is God. The cause of reprobation is our sin. (God is not the author of sin, and God cannot be charged with injustice for leaving some in the state of sin.) Grace is unmerited favor, unearned benefit, undeserved kindness. Reprobation is passing by or leaving the others.
Relationship between the divinity and humanity of Christ (Arts. 18-19)
The incarnation was the person of the Son of God ASSUMING TRUE human nature (except for SIN). The HYPOSTATIC UNION teaches that Christ has two NATURES (DISTINCT set of properties) united in a single PERSON (second person of the Trinity). The NESTORIAN heresy says that Christ was two persons. EUTYCIANISM sees one nature, also incorrect.
He was inseparably united and joined together with human nature, in such a way that there are not two Sons of God, nor two persons.
Thus his divine nature has always remained uncreated, filling heaven and earth. His human nature has a beginning of days; it is of a finite nature.
Not even His DEATH separates the two natures. True God conquered death, and true man paid our penalty.
View of the atonement (Arts. 20-21)
Legal language... PENAL SUBSTITUTION -Taking the penalty for sin and paying for it in our place. VICARIOUS SATISFACTION - Christ stands in our place. He is charged with our sin, as God pours out his WRATH on His Son. We know not the CONSEQUENCES of our sin but the favor of God! This particular work of satisfaction is the OBJECT of our saving faith (Art. 22) and the GROUND on which we are justified (Art. 23). God forgave our sins and also transferred (IMPUTED) Christ's righteousness to us.
Union with Christ (Art. 22)
All we need for salvation is in Christ, and the Holy Spirit unites us with Christ by faith. We EMBRACE him, and his merits become our own. To say Christ is not enough is blasphemy. This is what the Bible talks about when it says we are IN CHRIST, and He is IN US. We follow in His footsteps, with personal PIETY, striving for the RENEWAL of all creation.
Salvation solo Christo (Art. 22)
The WORK of Christ and His merit is what saves us. Faith, itself, does not save. It is just the instrument by which we embrace Christ, our righteousness.
Justification sola fide (Art. 22)
How is the atonement's benefits get to us? The effect of atonement is our justification (being DECLARED righteous). It gets to us through faith. Faith is the INSTRUMENT or the channel that keeps us in communion with Christ and with all his benefits. It is THROUGH faith -- not that faith is a good work in and of itself that merits salvation. It is through faith ALONE -- not faith completed by obedience as the Council of Trent said in 1547. Calvin said faith ALONE is the hinge of the Reformation.
Justification sola gratia (Art. 23)
We are declared righteous by God, and it is a free GIFT. It is UNDESERVED. It is grace. He is the INITIATOR.
Sanctification (Art. 24)
While justification removes our guilt, our legal problem... sanctification deals with our POLLUTION, our MORAL problem. It's a lifelong process. Faith is a good root, and it NATURALLY, instinctively, INEVITABLY and organically FLOWERS into good works. We do PLAY A ROLE in this, as we are freed from slavery to sin.
Tota scriptura (Art. 25)
Not just any response will do. The standard for our sanctified life of good works is the LAW or will of God. This is what the Bible means when it says we are becoming a NEW CREATION. The TOTALITY of Scripture is useful to us. The Old Testament gives us lessons that guide us -- for example, the prophets and their concern for social justice.
Priestly work of Christ (Art. 26)
Christ's priestly work is INTERCESSION. He acts and PLEADS on our behalf. This was in response to the medieval Roman Church, where people felt TERROR and smallness in God's presence, so they prayed to SAINTS to intercede for them. However, Scripture is clear that Christ alone is our intercessor. He represents God to us, and us to God. He is our ACCESS, our WAY. He's a MEDIATOR, ARBITRATOR, and ADVOCATE. He understands our needs, our TEMPTATIONS.
Attributes of the church (Art. 27)
The Apostle's Creed tell us it has three attributes (one, holy, catholic). ONE single church has existed from the beginning of the world and will last until the end. (Bigger than my church, my denomination, Reformed denominations, Protestantism). We share in a oneness because we are one in Him. The emphasis is given because of the criticism of Luther dividing the church. We are HOLY because we've been set apart (ekklesia) and are being sanctified by the Holy Spirit. We are CATHOLIC (universal) in both time and in space. Even OT saints believed in the coming Messiah and were part of the church universal.
Visible and invisible Church (Art. 28)
The visible church is not the building, but the gathering of the saved -- the real, live human beings who come together and form CHURCH MEMBERSHIPS. And yet, not everyone in the gathering is really saved. There is chaff among the wheat, wolves among the sheep, and that is why there is apostasy. The INVISIBLE church refers to those persons who have actually been REGENERATED or quickened by the Holy Sprit, God's elect or true believers.
Marks of the true and false church (Art. 29)
The true church can be recognized if it has the following marks: The church engages in the pure PREACHING of the gospel; it makes use of the pure administration of the SACRAMENTS as Christ instituted them; it practices church DISCIPLINE for correcting faults. In short, it governs itself according to the PURE WORD of God, rejecting all things contrary to it and holding JESUS Christ as the only HEAD. These three come from Roman abuses, where they elevated TRADITION, added SACRAMENTS and did not disciple themselves of ERRORS. Every believer must be part of a true church. True believers? FAITH, FLEE, LOVE, CRUCIFY.
Definition of sacraments (Art. 33)
The sacraments are visible SIGNS (representations) and SEALS (guarantees) of God's PROMISES to us. As signs, it's like show-and-tell for our external senses: The water and bread point to washing and nourishing. As seals, they confirm and attest to our union with Christ. They were ORDAINED by God, and there are only the TWO Jesus instituted. And they are to NOURISH and SUSTAIN our faith. They are effective only by the power of the Holy Spirit (as opposed to Catholic thinking). They are MEANS of grace, not CONTAINERS of grace. Sacramentum (Latin - that which obliges or binds).
Meaning of baptism (Art. 34)
The BC emphasizes God's activity. Baptism is God's mark and sign on us that we are officially RECEIVED into visible church... set apart from other peoples and religions. It is God's COVENANT WITNESS to us that He will be our God forever since He is our gracious Father. And it is God's sign and seal of the PROMISE that, just as water WASHES away dirt from the body, so too, the blood of Christ does the same thing to the soul. Just as you can't be spiritually born more than once, you shouldn't be baptized more than ONCE (a statement against the anabaptist's practices). In baptism, we are connected to Christ's death and resurrection.
Rationale for infant baptism (Art. 34)
It is a sign more of God's grace than of human faith. God's covenant PROMISES are the same in the OT and NT. OT INFANTS received the OT sign of God's covenant promises (circumcision). Baptism has REPLACED circumcision as the covenant sign. Thus NT infants should receive the NT sign of God's covenant promises (baptism).
In the OT, WATER washes and BLOOD purifies. These symbols are seen in baptism, as we are SEPARATED from strange religions (Gentile nation) and brought into the COVENANT church (covenant nation). What circumcision was to OT believers, baptism is to NT believers -- the promises are the same (washing, renewal, comfort, etc.)
Meaning of the Lord's Supper (Art. 35)
The focus of the Lord's Supper?
* The PAST? A little - "a holy remembrance of the death of Christ our Savior"
* The PRESENT? A lot - "This banquet is a spiritual table at which Christ COMMUNICATES himself to us with all his BENEFITS. Greater union, participation, etc."
* The FUTURE? A little - "we are moved to fervent love of God and our neighbor"
Paul speaks of the Lord's Supper in 1 Cor. as a communion with not just the divine nature but also the human nature of Christ. It's bonding with Christ in this mystical spiritual union.
CRC changes to Art. 36
Replacement of church-state paragraph: Do civil authorities have the responsibility to PROMOTE the ministry of Jesus Christ? Well, nowadays, we look at them as having a different SPHERE of authority. They are not to ESTABLISH an official state religion. But they don't put OBSTACLES in the way either. Civil authorities are put in place by God and deserve to be HONORED and respected by us. The church uses the Word of God and EXCOMMUNICATION to punish, not the SWORD. Also, the attack on the Anabaptists and their "community of goods" was removed.
Relation of Christ's second coming to the end of history (Art. 37)
The day and hour are UNKNOWN. He will return BODILY and visibly, as he ascended, with great glory and majesty. He will return in the company of the hosts of heaven TRIUMPHANTLY.
Relation of this heaven and earth to the new heaven and earth (Art. 37)
He will burn this old world, in fire and flame, in order to CLEANSE it. There will be a resurrection of the BODY. Souls are reunited with the same body. Our bodies will be MADE GLORIOUS, like Christ's was made immortal.
Final judgment (Art. 37)
He will JUDGE the living and the dead. This apparently includes BELIEVERS. The judgment is on the basis of works, possibly to determine degrees of blessing or cursing. SECRET acts will be made public. Every knee will BOW -- some in joy, some in fear.
The evil ones will be immortal, only to be TORMENTED
in "the eternal fire." The faithful will be in God's PRESENCE forever. The BC says the persecuted will watch as those who tormented them are punished (VINDICATION) -- i.e., the Reformed and the Catholics who persecute them.
Origin of the CD
The CD comes from the Netherlands in 1618-19, just like the Belgic Confession. The Belgic Confession came from the French-speaking, but the CD come from the DUTCH-speaking NORTHERN NETHERLANDS. The Northern part had broken away from Spain and declared its independence (1581). A long war ensued, with the Spanish trying to win back the North (80 Years War - 1568-1648). Reformers had moved from a persecuted minority into the government's favored church. However, almost 100 years after Luther began the Reformation, ARMINIANS (who opposed Calvin's teachings) had drifted back to works-righteousness and synergism. They were persecuted, so FORTY Arminian ministers SOLICITED the favor and protection of the States General. In response, they called the Synod of Dort, comprised of Reformers from all over Europe, in order to settle the matter. The followers of Arminianism put forth a set of FIVE points in a Remonstrance about the extent of God's activity in salvation (not CAUSAL). The SYNOD of Dort REJECTED these views and set forth the Reformed teaching on these points. Those who refused this teaching had property confiscated and were exiled. One was even beheaded. THEME: SOVEREIGNTY of God in the salvation of the elect. PROBLEM:
Structure of the CD
TULIP - Order is actually ULTIP.
Structure is Trinitarian: U-Father L-Son T-Us I-Spirit P-Spirit
The Canons of Dort start by expanding on the Belgic Confession's Article 16.
Although in form there are only four points in the Canons of Dort, we speak properly of five CANONS, because the Canons were structured to correspond to the five articles of the 1610 REMONSTRANCE. Canons Three and Four were combined into one, always designated as Canons Three/Four. Each of the main points consists of a POSITIVE and a NEGATIVE part, the former being an exposition of the Reformed doctrine on the subject, the latter a repudiation of heretical Remonstrant teaching. A Conclusion attempts to ward off possible MISUNDERSTANDINGS.
Election as "unconditional" (I.9)
Did God elect us based on foreseeing our faith? NO, BEFORE the foundation of the world, by sheer grace, according to the free good pleasure of his WILL, God chose in Christ to salvation a definite number of PARTICULAR people out of the entire human race, which had fallen by its own fault from its original innocence into sin and ruin. Those chosen were neither better nor more DESERVING than the others, but lay with them in the common misery. They were elected TO FAITH, not because of faith. In this sense, God CAUSES faith and salvation. EPHESIANS 1:4 says He chose us (not because of, but) so that we would be holy and blameless before Him in love.
Atonement as "limited" (II.8)
We cannot escape PUNISHMENT unless there is a SUBSTITUTE to satisfy God's justice.
Christ's atoning sacrifice for our sins was not limited in power but in scope (NO BUILT-IN LIMIT -- more than sufficient to cover the sins of the entire WORLD.)
The limitation is within the WILL and INTENTION of God -- He elected only a limited number of people. Those who perish do so because of their own FAULT and not because Christ's death was insufficient.
Depravity as "total" (III/IV.1, 3)
Radical Corruption.
ADAM and EVE were made with FREE will but used it to rebel against God. As a result, sinfulness has been passed on to everyone since. It is TOTAL depravity:
* Depravity is "total" in BREADTH -- EVERY PART of our being is affected. Sin has gotten into EVERY department of our lives.
* Depravity as "total" in DEPTH -- We are unable to do ANY SAVING GOOD, neither willing or able to return to God or even DISPOSE themselves to such reform. We are POWERLESS to return to God.
We were CONCEIVED in sin and are born children of WRATH, INCLINED to evil, DEAD in their sins, and SLAVES to sin. Without the grace of the regenerating Holy Spirit they are NEITHER WILLING NOR ABLE to return to God, to reform their distorted nature, or even to dispose themselves to such reform.
Arminians agree the grace of God is necessary to turn from sin but believe that COMMON grace given to everyone is enough to get us back to the position Adam and Eve were in.
Grace as "irresistible" (III/IV.11-12)
God not only sees to it that the gospel is PROCLAIMED to them outwardly, and ENLIGHTENS their minds powerfully by the Holy Spirit so that they may rightly UNDERSTAND and discern the things of the Spirit of God. God also PENETRATES into the inmost being, OPENS the closed heart, SOFTENS the hard heart, and CIRCUMCISES the heart that is uncircumcised. God infuses new qualities into the will, making the dead will ALIVE, the evil one GOOD, the unwilling one WILLING, and the stubborn one COMPLIANT. God ACTIVATES and strengthens the will so that, like a good tree, it may be enabled to produce the fruits of good deeds. God is relentless, and no one can OUTLAST Him. "His compulsion is our liberation... The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of man."
Saints as "persevering" (V.3)
God's people still SIN daily as we deal with the remnants of sin in us and the TEMPTATIONS of Satan. But He enables us to go on growing in grace. His council cannot be CHANGED nor His promise FAIL. The BEDROCK of Christian security is God's FAITHFULNESS. It is both us receiving God's GIFT to us (in that He PRESERVES us), and it is also our RESPONSIBILITY to persevere. NOTHING can separate us from the love of Christ (Rom. 8), for He has not predestined us to the beginning of salvation but to the very END. He who began a good work in you will bring it to COMPLETION (Phil. 1:6). The whole TRINITY is at work promising, calling, preserving, interceding and sealing, and their work is IRREVOCABLE, unbreakable, irreversible and utterly FINAL.
Origin of the CT
It is a CRC KUYERIAN Calvinism. An outline of a biblical WORLD and life view. Based on a REDEMPTIVE-HISTORICAL reading of Scripture. Incorporating but MOVING BEYOND the creeds and confessions. Has particular application to North American and global situations in the 20TH CENTURY.
Theme and Structure of the CT
God's SOVEREIGNTY and KINGSHIP. His COVENANT. Creation, fall, redemption, consummation. Summary of confessional Reformed doctrines as foundational. Expanded to include STEWARDSHIP of nature and life, GENDER and sexuality, SINGLENESS and marriage, EDUCATION, VOCATION, SCIENCE and technology, CULTURE, ETHNICITY, COMMUNITY, SOCIAL JUSTICE, ECONOMICS, GOVERNMENT and politics, ART, RECREATION, etc. But it does not take a specific position on debatable social issues.
Definition of "worldview" (Wolters, ch. 1)
The comprehensive FRAMEWORK of one's basic BELIEFS about THINGS. Things being anything that refers to anything about which it is possible to have a belief. Beliefs are different from feelings or opinions because they make a "cognitive claim" -- a claim to some kind of knowledge, COMMITTED BELIEF. All these form a pattern -- they hang together in a certain way to form your basic perception on life and why things work they way they work, and to what purpose. IDEOLOGY, SYSTEM of VALUES, CONVICTIONS, GUIDE TO LIFE. COMPASS or ROADMAP.
Scope of creation (Wolters, ch. 2)
Creating something from NOTHING. Also, ordering creation (creatio segunda). It is difficult to make a distinction between "creation" and "PROVIDENCE" -- God's daily work of PRESERVING and GOVERNING the world. Creation includes STARS and their orbits, ANIMALS and their natural patterns, humans and their SOCIAL NORMS norms. LAWS (gravity) and norms (society's structure, the arts, business, commerce) are creation.
Scope of the fall (Wolters, ch. 3)
When Adam and Eve fell into sin, it was not an ISOLATED action of disobedience but a CATASTROPHIC even that SUBJECTED ALL in the scope of creation to frustration. The effects of sin touched all of creation; NO CREATED THING, human or nonhuman, is in principle untouched by the corrosive effects of the fall. At the bottom, it seems, all kinds of evil - whether SICKNESS or death or immorality or maladjustments - are related in the Scriptures to human guilt. All of creation is GROANING for redemption (Rom. 8). "Cursed is the GROUND because of you." (Gen. 3:17).
Structure and direction (Wolters, ch. 3)
STRUCTURE refers to the ORDER of creation, the constant creational constitution of any thing, what makes it the thing that it is (SUBSTANCE, ESSENCE, NATURE). DIRECTION is how the structure of God's creation is AIMED either FOR and towards God or against and AWAY from God, that is in obedience or disobedience to Gods law. PROSTITUTION is taking God's good creation of human sexuality in an evil direction. HATRED cannot even exist without the creational substratum of HUMAN EMOTION. Sin attaches itself like a PARASITE, but it Neither ABOLISHES nor becomes identified with creation. GNOSTICISM blames the structure for problems in the world (i.e., "marriage is bad").
Meaning of "world" in Scripture (Wolters, ch. 3)
Kosmos or aion designates the totality of UNREDEEMED life dominated by SIN outside of Christ. Wherever human sinfulness BENDS or TWISTS or distorts God's good creation, there we find the "world." World is the rottenness of the earth, the ANTITHESIS of creation's goodness. Note, that the NT does not setup two realms -- the sacred and the secular -- only good and evil.
Redemption/restoration (Wolters, ch. 4)
Redemption is cosmic in the sense that it RESTORES the ENTIRE CREATION. Virtually all the words for salvation in the Bible signify a RETURN to an originally good state. Redeem means to BUY FREE -- like ransom paid to a kidnapper. God does not scrap his creation -- he SALVAGES it.
Kingdom of God (Wolters, ch. 4)
The RESTORATION of creation in Christ and the coming of the kingdom (basileia - "kingship") of God are the same thing. Jesus' ministry shows us what it's like when the KINGSHIP of God comes to earth. (Almost all of Jesus' MIRACLES are of restoration to the good created order of things.) ALREADY and NOT YET -- Jesus still taught us to pray, "Your kingdom come." We are given the task of restoring creation (opposing sickness and demonization in creation) as his agents, in answer to our own prayer. The kingdom is NOT JUST personal piety, the institutional church, the eschatological future, etc. God and Satan both lay claims to the WHOLE of creation -- the contrast is not two realms but two REGIMES.
Reformation/renewal of society (Wolters, ch. 5)
In all cases, we must discern STRUCTURE and DIRECTION. Christians must oppose any DISTORTIONS of God's handiwork. We are to work for SANCTIFICATION (internal change, not consecreation). Our avenue is PROGRESSIVE RENEWAL rather than violent OVERTHROW. We should actively engage in efforts to make every societal institution assume its own RESPONSIBILITY. We must AFFIRM the goodness of creation (sex is good, its distortion is bad).
Six-act drama of Scripture (Wolters, Postscript)
1. God CREATES the world as His KINGDOM.
2. The ENTIRE world is contaminated by human REBELLION.
3. God ANNOUNCES resolution -- He will crush sin.
4. The promise is kept when JESUS is born.
5. Jesus sends His FOLLOWERS to continue the renewing activity.
6. Jesus RETURNS to complete the renewal and judgment.
We have to understand the unfolding story (metanarrative) -- sin, salvation, service is not enough.
Origin of the Belhar Confession
The Belhar Confession has its roots in the struggle against APARTHEID in South Africa. People wondered whether white missionaries and persons of color should be taking the Lord's Supper together, and so several DENOMINATIONS were formed along RACIAL lines. This was first drafted in 1982 by the DUTCH REFORMED MISSION CHURCH (DRMC) under the leadership of ALLAN BOESAK. The DRMC took the lead in declaring that apartheid conflicted with the truth of the gospel.
Structure and content of the Belhar Confession
Five articles (Trinity, unity, reconciliation, justice and calling). UNITY is both a gift and an obligation for the church. SEGREGATION hurts the image of the church and goes against our calling. JUSTICE - God is the God of the DESTITUTE, the poor, and the wronged, and for this reason the church should STAND by people in any form of SUFFERING. It claims that individual, racial and social segregation is sin, and that all forms of segregation always lead to enmity and hatred. We should be unified, even if the LAW forbids it!
Strengths and weaknesses of the Belhar
no strengths
all weaknesses
not comprehensive
limited in scope
Definition of "Reformed"
To be Reformed is to believe in the BIBLE alone as our authoritative teaching for faith and life. We believe what Jesus, Paul and the other writers taught. We hold to the God is SOVEREIGN in his reign over all things in creation. It is by GRACE alone we are saved. Through faith alone in Christ alone to the glory of God alone.
Definition of a confession
A statement of faith. What we BELIEVE in an objective and subjective sense. Based on SCRIPTURE. Addressed to a HISTORICAL SITUATION. Adopted by a body of believers.
Purposes/uses/roles of confessions
1. They UNIFY. They are "forms of unity" (con-fessions).
2. They EDUCATE. They are teaching tools (catechim).
3. They WARN. They are standards of orthodoxy (canon).
4. They IDENTIFY. They are "identification papers" (testimonies).
(1.) To mark, preserve and disseminate the attainments made in the knowledge of Christian truth by any branch of the church in any grand crisis of its development. (2.) To discriminate the truth from the glosses of false teachers, and accurately to define it in its integrity and due proportions. (3.) To act as the bond of ecclesiastical fellowship among those so nearly agreed as to be able to labor together in harmony. (4.) To be used as instruments in the great work of popular instruction.