THIS WE BELIEVE, THUS
The Doctrinal Standards of the DUTCH REFORMED CHURCH
THIS WE BELIEVE, THUS
The Doctrinal Standards of the
DUTCH REFORMED CHURCH
consisting of the Three Creeds of Unity, namely: The Belgic Confession, The Heidelberg Catechism and
The Canons of Dordt;
to which is appended the Ecumenical Creeds, namely:
The Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed and the
Published by: Andrew Murray Ward of the Dutch Reformed Congregation Windhoek
FOREWORD AT THIS EDITION
At long last some will say!
After many starts and stoppages, and a load of problems along the way, some of these electronically induced, we gratefully present this edition of This we believe, thus we confess.
Because of the nature of the contents, there is hardly anything new to this edition! However, as far as the contents is concerned, we strove to do two things, namely to keep the language as simple as possible, but at the same time to stay as close as possible to the traditional translation.
Because this is not a translation in the true sense of the word - we did not consult the original Latin texts, we do not present it as a “new translation”. However, we consulted two recent other translations and acknowledge our indebtedness to them hereby; the first is the translation of the Christian Reformed Church in North America as published in the Psalter Hymnal of 1987, and the second that of the Reformed Churches of South Africa, published in 1997.
Our approach was to take our previous translation as published in This we believe, thus we confess of 1986, and then consult both
translations mentioned, as well as the official Afrikaans text of the DRC, to arrive at a simple rendition. We also quoted the text of the NIV, rather than that of the King James still quoted in our 1986 edition. We also consulted other renditions where the meaning was sometimes obscured in the three English versions we had at hand. To note an example: in the Athanasian Creed, the first two sentences is nonsensical to the modern ear, therefore it was amended to read: Whoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic [apostolic/universal] faith, everyone who does not keep
this faith whole and undefiled, without doubt will perish eternally; which is easier to follow than the: Whoever wills to be in a state of
salvation, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith, which except everyone shall have kept whole and undefiled without doubt he will perish eternally.
As we thought the previous edition taxing on the eye, we enlarged the font type and relaxed the outlay a little. We trust it will encourage the reading of these texts!
Last, but not least, a word of appreciation for Herman van Wyk of Gamsberg MacMillan Namibia who graciously helped us with the
publication and its funding.
The Creeds of Unity The Belgic Confession p 2 The Heidelberg Catechism p 27 The Canons of Dordt p 62
The Ecumenical Creeds
The Ecumenical Creeds Introduction p 98 The Apostles’ Creed p 98
Nicene Creed p 99
Athanasian Creed p 100
THE BELGIC CONFESSION
The first of the doctrinal standards of the Dutch Reformed Church is
the Belgic Confession, so called because it originated in the Southern Netherlands, now known as Belgium. Its chief author was Guido de
Brès a preacher of the Reformed Churches of the Netherlands, who died a martyr to the faith in the year 1567.
During the sixteenth century the churches in the Netherlands were exposed to the most terrible persecution by the Roman Catholic government. To protest against this cruel oppression, and to prove to the persecutors that the adherents of the Reformed faith were no rebels, as was laid to their charge, but law-abiding citizens who professed the true Christian doctrine according to the Holy Scriptures, De Brès 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 "offer their backs to stripes, their
tongues to knives, their mouths to gags, and their whole bodies to the fire," rather than deny the truth expressed in this confession. Although the immediate purpose of securing freedom from
persecution was not attained, and de Brès himself fell as one of the many who sealed their faith with their lives, his work has endured and will continue to endure. In its composition the author availed himself to some extent of a confession of the Reformed Churches of France,
written chiefly by John Calvin, published two years earlier. The work
of de Brès, however, in not a mere revision of Calvin's work, but an independent composition.
In 1566 the text of this confession was revised at a synod held at Antwerp. In the Netherlands it was at once gladly received by the churches, and adopted by the national synods held during the last three decades of the sixteenth century.
The text, not the contents, was revised again at the great Synod of Dordt in 1618 - 19 and adopted as one of the doctrinal standards of the Reformed churches, to which all office-bearers of the churches were required to subscribe. It stands as one of the best symbolical statements of Reformed doctrine.
The Belgic Confession
Article 1 The only God
We all believe in our hearts and confess with our mouths that there is a single and simple spiritual Being, whom we call God. He is eternal, incomprehensible, invisible, unchangeable, infinite, almighty; completely wise, just, and good, and the overflowing source of all good.
Article 2 The means by which we know God
We know Him by two means:
First, by the creation, preservation, and government of the universe, since that universe is before our eyes like a beautiful book in which all creatures, great and small are as letters to make us ponder the invisible things of God: his eternal power and his divinity, as the apostle Paul says in Romans 1:20. All these things are enough to convice men and to leave them without excuse.
Second, He makes Himself more clearly and fully known to us by His holy and divine Word, as much as we need in this life, for his glory and for the salvation of those who belong to Him.
Article 3 The Written Word of God
We confess that this Word of God was not sent nor delivered by the will of men, but that holy men of God spoke, being moved by the Holy Spirit, as the apostle Peter says (2 Peter 1:21). Afterwards our God - because of the special care He has for us and our salvation - commanded His servants, the prophets and apostles, to commit this revealed Word to writing. He himself wrote with his own finger the two tables of the law. Therefore we call such writings holy and divine Scriptures.
Article 4 The Canonical Books of Holy Scripture
We include in the Holy Scripture the two volumes of the Old and New Testaments. They are canonical books with which there can be no quarrel at all.
In the church of God the list is as follows: In the Old Testament, the five books of Moses - Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; the books of Joshua, Judges, and Ruth; the two books of Samuel, and two of Kings; the two books of Chronicles, called Paralipomenon; the first
book of Ezra; Nehemiah, Esther, Job; the Psalms of David; the three books of Solomon - Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs; the four major prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel; and then the other twelve minor prophets - Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi.
In the New Testament, the four gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John; the Acts of the Apostles; the fourteen epistles of the Apostle Paul - to the Romans, the two to the Corinthians; to the Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians; the two to the Thessalonians; the two to Timothy; to Titus, Philemon, and to the Hebrews; the seven epistles of the other apostles - one of James; two of Peter; three of John; one of Jude; and the Revelation of the apostle John.
Article 5 The Authority of Scripture
We receive all these and only these books as holy and canonical, for the regulating, founding, and establishing of our faith. And we believe without doubt all things contained in them - not so much because the church receives and approves them as such, but above all because the Holy Spirit testifies in our hearts that they are from God, and also because they prove themselves to be from God.
For even the blind themselves are able to see that the things predicted in them do happen.
Article 6 The difference between Canonical and Apocryphal Books We distinguish between these holy books and the apocryphal ones, which are the third and fourth books of Esdras; the books of Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Jesus Sirach, Baruch; what was added to the story of Esther; the Song of the Three Children in the Furnace; the Story of Susannah; the Story of the Bell and the Dragon; the Prayer of Manasseh; and the two books of Maccabees.
The church may certainly read these books and learn from them as far as they agree with the canonical books. But they do not have such power and virtue that one could confirm from their testimony any point of faith or of the Christian religion. Much less can they detract from the authority of the other holy books.
Article 7 The Sufficiency of Scripture
We believe that this Holy Scripture contains the will of God completely and that everything one must believe to be saved is sufficiently taught in it. For since the entire manner of service which God requires of us is described in it at great length, no one - even an apostle or an angel from heaven, as Paul says (Galatians 1:8) - ought to teach other than what the Holy Scriptures have already taught us. For since is was forbidden to add or subtract from the Word of God (Deuteronomy 12:32), this plainly demonstrates that the teaching is perfect and complete in all respects.
Therefore we must not consider human writings - no matter how holy their authors may have been - equal to the divine writings; nor may we put custom, nor the majority, nor age, nor the passage of time or persons, nor councils, decrees, or official decisions, above the truth of God, for truth is above everything else.
For all human beings are liars by nature and more vain than vanity itself. (Psalm 62:10)
Therefore we reject with all our hearts everything that does not agree with this infallible rule, as we are taught to do by the apostles when they say, "Test the spirits to see if they are of God," (1 John 4:1). And also: "If anyone comes to you and do not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house." (2 John 10).
Article 8 The Trinity
In keeping with this truth and Word of God we believe in one God, who is one single Essence, in which are three Persons, really, truly, and eternally distinct according to their incommunicable properties - namely Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The Father is the cause, origin, and source of all things, visible as well as invisible.
The Son is the Word, the Wisdom, and the image of the Father. The Holy Spirit is the eternal power and might, proceeding from the Father and the Son.
Nevertheless, this distinction does not divide God into three, since Scripture teaches us that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit each has his own subsistence distinguished by characteristics - yet these three persons are only one God. It is evident then that the Father is not the Son and that the Son is
not the Father, and that likewise the Holy Spirit is neither the Father nor the Son.
Nevertheless, these persons, thus distinct, are neither divided nor fused or mixed together.
For the Father did not take on flesh, nor did the Holy Spirit, but only the Son. The Father was never without his Son, nor without his Holy Spirit, since all these are equal from eternity, in one and the same Essence. There is neither a first nor a last, for all three are one in truth and power, in goodness and mercy.
Article 9 The Scriptural Witness on the Trinity
All these things we know from the testimonies of Holy Scripture as well as from the effects of the persons, especially from those we feel within ourselves.
The testimonies of the Holy Scriptures, which teach us to believe in this Holy Trinity, are written in many places of the Old Testament, which need not be enumerated but only chosen with discretion: In Genesis 1:26,27 God says, "Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness..." so "God created man in his own image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them." Genesis 3:22: "Behold, man has become like one of us."
It appears from this that there is a plurality of persons within the Deity, when he says, "Let us make man in our image" - and afterwards he indicates the unity when he says, "God created." It is true that he does not say here how many persons there are - but what is somewhat obscure to us in the Old Testament is very clear in the New. For when our Lord was baptised in the Jordan, the voice of the Father was heard saying, "This is my dear Son", (Matthew 3:17); the Son was seen in the water and the Holy Spirit appeared as in the form of a dove.
So, in the baptism of all believers this form was prescribed by Christ: "Baptise all people in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." (Matthew 28:19).
In the Gospel according to Luke the angel Gabriel says to Mary, the mother of our Lord: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and therefore that holy one to be born of you shall be called the Son of God." (Luke 1:35).
And in another place it says: "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all." (2 Corinthians 13:14).
"There are three who bear witness in heaven - the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit - and these three are one." (1 John 5:7 - King James Version).
In all these passages we are fully taught that there are three persons in the one and only divine essence.
And although this doctrine surpasses human understanding we nevertheless believe it now, through the Word, waiting to know and enjoy it fully in heaven.
Furthermore, we must note the particular works and activities of these three persons in relation to us:
The Father is called our Creator, by reason of his power; The Son is our Saviour and Redeemer, by his blood;
The Holy Spirit is our Sanctifier, by his living in our hearts. This doctrine of the Holy Trinity has always been maintained in the true church, from the time of the apostles until the present, against Jews, Muslims, and certain false Christian heretics, such as Marcion, Mani, Praxeas, Sabellius, Paul of Samosata, Arius, and others like them, who were rightly condemned by the holy fathers.
And so, in this matter we willingly accept the three ecumenical creeds - the Apostles', Nicene, and Athanasian - as well as what the ancient fathers decided in agreement with them.
Article 10 The Deity of Christ Jesus
We believe that Jesus Christ, according to his divine nature, is the only Son of God - eternally begotten, not made nor created, for then he would be a creature.
He is one in essence with the Father; co-eternal; the exact image of the person of the Father and in the "reflection of his glory" (Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3), being in all things like him (Philippians 2:6).
He is the Son of God not only from the time he assumed our nature but from all eternity, as the following testimonies teach us when they are taken together:
Moses says that God "created the world" (Genesis 1:1); and John says that "all things were created by the Word" (John 1:3) which he calls God. The apostle says that "God made the world by his Son" (Hebrews 1:2). He also says that "God created all