3 Belgic Confession

Belgic Confession

   The Belgic Confession is the basic doctrinal statement of Reformed Protestants in the Netherlands and Dutch Reformed churches overseas.
   While Lutherans in different countries share a common set of doctrinal documents as compiled in the Book of Concord (1580), the various national Reformed and Presbyterian churches have tended to issue their own confessional documents.
   By the middle of the 16th century, both Lutherans and Anabaptists had emerged in the Netherlands, and both came under severe attack by the Roman Catholic authorities when Holy Roman Emperor Charles V introduced the Inquisition. Nevertheless, under Charles's successor, Philip II (1555-98), the Reformed faith spread rapidly among the Dutch.
   Around 1561, Guido De Bräs (Guy de Brès) (d. 1567), who had recently returned to the Netherlands after a period of training in Geneva, prepared a statement of the Reformed faith. A copy was sent to Philip in 1562, along with a letter in which de Bräs and his colleagues cited their desire to remain within the law if possible, and their willingness to be martyred if necessary. De Bräs was indeed eventually put to death.
   A synod of Reformed elders held at Antwerp in 1566 accepted a modified version of de Bräs's statement as their confession of faith. The 1566 text was reaffirmed by several additional national synods held over the next three decades. After minor changes were made, the Synod of Dort in 1618-19 proclaimed the confession one of the doctrinal standards that anyone holding office in the Reformed Church of the Netherlands had to affirm.
   De Bräs's confession drew on a 1559 statement published by John Calvin in Geneva just before de Bras's departure, but it is far more than a mere revision of Calvin's work. It includes a very strong statement concerning biblical authority, noting Peter's statement that God "himself wrote with his own finger the two tables of the law." After rejecting the Apocrypha, the confession adds, "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."
   Rejecting the role of the pope in conferring legitimacy, the Belgic Confession maintains that the true 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 . . . [and recognizes] Jesus Christ as the only Head. By these marks one can be assured of recognizing the true church."
   The document recognizes only two sacraments, baptism and the Lords's Supper, both of which are outward signs of God invisibly working in the believer. To distinguish the Reformed position from that of the Anabaptists, the confession affirms the public (inclusive) rather than sectarian (exclusive) nature of the church, infant baptism, and God's sanction of the civil government.
   The Belgic Confession remains the basic statement of faith of the several Reformed churches that now exist in the Netherlands and those around the world derived from them, most notably in South Africa and the United States (including the Reformed Church in America and the Christian Reformed Church of North America).
   Further reading:
   ■ Joel R. Beeke and Sinclair B. Ferguson, eds., Reformed Confessions Harmonized: With an Annotated Bibliography of Reformed Doctrinal Works (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1999)
   ■ P. J. S. De Klerk, Reformed Symbolics (Pretoria: Van Schaik, 1954)
   ■ J. Gordon Melton, The Encyclopedia of American Religions: Religious Creeds, 2 vols. (Detroit: Gale Research, 1988, 1994)
   ■ M. Eugene osterhaven, Our Confession of Faith (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1964).

Encyclopedia of Protestantism. . 2005.

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