Sunday, August 28, 2011

Reformed Theology

God made so many different kinds of people. Why would he allow only one way to serve him?
~Martin Buber

Recently I was reading a Survivalist blogsite with articles on "prepper" friendly churches; i.e. churches that encourage preparing food storage and supplies for coming "bad times". One person recommended the Confederation of Reformed Evangelical Churches (CREC) which I had never heard of before. The blogger described them as follows...
The various confessions to which CREC members hold are as follows:

•Westminster Confession of Faith
•The Savoy Declaration
•The London Baptist Confession
•American Westminster Confession of Faith
•The Reformed Evangelical Confession

•The Three Forms of Unity:
 Belgic Confession
 Heidelberg Catechism
 Canons of Dort
Huh? Several months back I listened to a lecture series on the history of Christian religion and vaguely remembered some of these terms. Here is what Wikipedia has to say. Apologies to Reformed Church members for any mistakes I make below. This is all new to me.

Westminster Confession of Faith was drawn up in 1646 in England and is used (with some modifications) by Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and Baptists. The modifications made by English Congregationalists in 1658 is called the Savoy Declaration. After the Revolutionary War in 1789, the American Congregationalists removed references to the Church of England in the American Westminster Confession of Faith.
The Baptist Church in England wrote their First Confession of beliefs in 1644, two years prior to Westminster. But the Westminster Confession contained more details and became the approved standard in England. In 1677 the Baptists created a new London Baptist Confession modeled after Westminster.

I'm not sure what the Reformed Evangelical Confession is. There's no link on Wikipedia and the CREC website says only (see Article XII).

The original Westminster Confession of Faith consists of 33 chapters describing beliefs and doctrine:
1 Of the Holy Scripture.
2 Of God, and of the Holy Trinity.
3 Of God's Eternal Decree.
4 Of Creation.
5 Of Providence.
6 Of the Fall of Man, of Sin, and of the Punishment thereof.
7 Of God's Covenant with Man.
8 Of Christ the Mediator.
9 Of Free Will.
10 Of Effectual Calling.
11 Of Justification.
12 Of Adoption.
13 Of Sanctification.
14 Of Saving Faith.
15 Of Repentance Unto Life.
16 Of Good Works.
17 Of The Perseverance of the Saints.
18 Of the Assurance of Grace and Salvation.
19 Of the Law of God.
20 Of Christian Liberty, and Liberty of Conscience.
21 Of Religious Worship and the Sabbath-day.
22 Of Lawful Oaths and Vows.
23 Of the Civil Magistrate.
24 Of Marriage and Divorce.
25 Of the Church.
26 Of the Communion of the Saints.
27 Of the Sacraments.
28 Of Baptism.
29 Of the Lord's Supper.
30 Of Church Censures.
31 Of Synods and Councils.
32 Of the State of Man After Death, and of the Resurrection of the Dead.
33 Of the Last Judgment.

•The Three Forms of Unity predate Westminster and is a collective name for the official statements of doctrine of Dutch Calvinists and many Reformed Churches. From 1618 to 1619 the Dutch government, on behalf of the Dutch Reformed Church, gathered Dutch delegates along with twenty-seven Reformed representatives from eight other countries to meet at a Synod of Dort, where they summarized their views in what was called the Canons of Dort. The Synod also approved two other documents used by the Dutch Reformed Church: the Heidelberg Catechism (1561, a question-and-answer format explaining biblical teaching to children and those new to the faith) and the Belgic Confession of Faith (1563). The Belgic Confession consists of 37 articles in memorizable paragraphs on the doctrines of God, Scripture, sin, salvation, and the end times. The original Belgic (Belgium) Confession in French cites scripture passages for each belief in the margins.

Bottom Line

As I wrote the above I became confused. The CREC does not list beliefs but rather multiple belief documents (called confessions). How can an organization say it "holds to" multiple confessions of faith which contain differences one from another? 

The CREC offers this explanation:
4. Why does the CREC allow so many different Confessions? Won’t this breed conflict?
It will certainly breed discussion, and the Bible tells us to strive for like-mindedness, which cannot be done without contact with one another. We have agreed on the basics of the gospel in such a way as to promote unity where we currently differ. We believe our unity is to be founded in confessional truth, and therefore we want our association with other faithful churches to facilitate the opportunity for striving for greater unity.
A wonderful statement.

During the Reformation hundreds of thousands died in Europe for the Confessions above. Catholics and Protestants fought each other and even Protestants killed Protestants over differences in beliefs (e.g. adult vs infant baptism). Several centuries before the Reformation, Catholics killed Catholics over "heretical" beliefs (e.g. is Jesus created by God and a lesser being or co-equal to God ["begotton not made"])?

It's great to see an organization of Churches that can agree to disagree on some details and work together peaceably.

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