Blogging the Belgic Confession of Faith

To better retain the things I read I’m getting back into the blogging habit.  On Mondays I aim to blog through the three forms of unity starting with the Belgic Confession of Faith.

The Three Forms of Unity refers to a collection of three documents released during the reformation – The Belgic Confession of Faith, The Heidelberg Catechism, and the Canons of Dort.  You can find all three documents online in various places or you could buy a small paperback version.  A “confession” is a document that contains “articles” or chapters that systematically present a position.  The Westminster Confession of Faith is a good example.  A “catechism” is a document that follows a question and answer format that is designed to teach Christians what they believe.  The Canons of Dort are really unlike the other two documents – they represent the rulings from a local synod and are narrow and polemical.  The Canons of Dort contain the Reformed response to the Arminian positions and contain what would be known as the “five points of Calvinism”.

I don’t know a whole lot about these documents beyond what is included in the introductions of the book linked above and having read them once over.  The Belgic Confession was written in 1561 as an “apology” or explanation of the beliefs of Reformed Christians in the Netherlands who came under persecution of the Roman Catholic King Phillip II of Spain.  It follows the “loci” or topics of systematic theology – God, man, Christ, salvation, the Church, and the last things.

Feel free to post below in the comments any questions or thoughts as I think aloud through the articles of the Belgic Confession of Faith.

Article 1 – There is Only One God

We all believe with the heart and confess with the mouth1 that there is only one God,2who is a simple and spiritual Being;3 He is eternal,4 incomprehensible,5 invisible,6immutable,7 infinite,8 almighty,9 perfectly wise,10 just,11 good,12 and the overflowing fountain of all good.13

1 Rom 10:10 2 Dt 6:4; 1 Cor 8:4, 61 Tim 2:5 3 Jn 4:24 4 Ps 90:2 5 Rom 11:33 6 Col 1:15;1 Tim 6:16 7 Jas 1:17 8 1 Kgs 8:27; Jer 23:24 9 Gen 17:1; Mt 19:26; Rev 1:8 10 Rom 16:27 11 Rom 3:25-26Rom 9:14Rev 16:5, 7 12 Mt 19:17 13 Jas 1:17

The confession starts with the first topic and an important word.  The first topic is God Himself – theology proper.  The confession does not start by discussing people’s felt or even real needs.  The chief principle of God-centered theology is that we must start with God and His self-revelation.  We cannot start with mankind and work by degrees up to God.  Such man-centered theology puts too much faith in the autonomous use of our mental faculties – especially reason.  God and His self-revelation provide the only mirror by which we can see ourselves truly.  The use of “pure reason” would never lead us to the conclusion that we are “dead in our trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1).  Without the “ruler” of the Law we would never know that we are crooked deep down.

The important word is, “we”.  The confession captures not just an individual’s opinion, some solitary Christian outside of a church.  The confession seeks to accurately, clearly, and boldly describe the beliefs of an entire community.  And this is not just any community, like some rotary club full of nice people doing nice things, but a community that is defined by a common belief and confession.

You’ll notice that there is a footnote, a proof-text, attached to that first clause.  The proof-text was not meant in the common contemporary pejorative sense as, “citing a verse out of context to end a discussion” but rather were hints for further reading and reflection. Romans 10:9-10 says, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”  The wording of the confession is directly drawing from this passage and so we should read the confession in light of the passage.  There are not two separate actions but rather the whole person is in view. What is being described is an external action that is the direct result of an internal belief. The “confession” is a simple admission of what the Christian believes and knows to be true – Jesus is Lord and God raised Him from the dead. Thus the “we” who confess are those who believe God is who He said He is.

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