So I just got done reading all three forms of unity of the CRC – the Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, and the Canons of Dort – in their entireties for a class on reformed confessions and worldview. In actuality, it’s a class that I’m trying to test out of, because I thought I knew it all. It’s an exercise I’ve never done before.
I am surprised by how much I didn’t know about these three confessions that I should have known after spending all of my life as a member of the CRC, attending CSI grade and high schools, and graduating from a reformed institution of higher learning. In all honesty, I felt bad.
Guido de Bres, the author of the Belgic Confession in 1561, told Philip II that he would rather die than renounce the teachings of that confession, and he died a martyr for that cause in 1563. Leaning largely on the writings of John Calvin before him he sought to defend the Protestant movement against the false of attacks of the Roman Catholic church in Europe, and we still use it today as a way to show how we differ not only from Roman Catholics, but also from many other protestant denominations since the hanging of the 95 theses on the church door at Wittenberg.
The Heidelberg Catechism was written in 1563 (yep, the same year de Bres was martyred) at the request of German Elector, Frederick III by two men. This Q & A document was to be used as a teaching device and training tool for the protestant clergy and church members that further defined and explained the reasons for and the biblical rationale behind what would come to be known as the reformed faith. It is, even today, widely regarded as one the greatest reformational documents of all time.
The Canons of Dort, by contrast, were used to combat a specific movement with the the early 17th century church headed by Jacob Arminius. This document has provided the CRC with the oft-maligned TULIP acronym which is used in reaction to the false teachings that Arminianism purported.
Enough with the history lesson, the point is these documents are the result of much sacrifice and struggle on the part of many people who lived nearly 500 years before us. I think that the CRC in general in recent years has tended to shy away from – or at least take for granted -- these documents, considering them antiquated and irrelevant, rather than embracing them as the great works of faith they really are.
I learned alot about myself, my faith, and the denomination that I love by reading them. I am ashamed that I don’t know them better and I dare wager that there are many more like myself that lament their demise and feel at least a twinge of guilt at their lack of knowledge about them.
Someday, when I’m serving a church somewhere, I hope I’ll be able to effectively communicate the teachings of these confessions of the faith in a contemporary and relevant way. In the meantime, I’m grateful for the opportunity to study them further and learn more about what it means, from a historical perspective and in a contemporary context, to be reformed.
We really do, in 2010, stand on the shoulders of giants. Part of my job will be to make sure we don’t forget about them.
Now you know where I stand, what do you think? Have these documents gotten ‘lost’? Is that OK? Is it time to move on or do they still have relevance for us today? I’d love to hear your thoughts.