Where can I find your doctrinal statement? What is it that you believe on key biblical teachings? What unites you as a church and denomination?
We confess Jesus Christ as the only Savior and the Sovereign Lord over all of life, and are fully committed to the Bible in its entirety as the Word of God written, without error in all its parts, and to its teaching as set forth in the historic Reformed standards (the Three Forms of Unity) and in the Ecumenical Creeds.
The Three Forms of Unity summarize what we believe. They are firmly grounded on the teaching of Holy Scripture. These confessions are common to many Reformed churches that originated in Europe.
Click the links below to read through each of our Confessions
Click here for a short overview of how our church views its confessions
What is the history of your confessional documents?
1. The Belgic Confession
The oldest of the doctrinal standards of the Adoration United Reformed Church is the Confession of Faith, popularly known as the Belgic Confession, following the seventeenth-century Latin designation "Confessio Belgica." "Belgica" referred to the whole of the Netherlands, both north and south, which today is divided into the Netherlands and Belgium. The confession's chief author was Guido de Bräs (also spelled Guido de Brès, or Guy 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 this country 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 not 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 thousands 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 in France, written chiefly by John Calvin, published two years earlier.
The work of de Brès, however, is 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 it was adopted by national synods held during the last three decades of the sixteenth century. The text, not the contents, was revised again at the Synod of Dort in 1618-19 and adopted as one of the doctrinal standards to which all officebearers in the Reformed churches were required to subscribe. The confession stands as one of the best symbolical statements of Reformed doctrine. The translation presented here is based on the French text of 1619. (Source)
2. The Heidelberg Catechism
The Heidelberg Catechism was written in Heidelberg at the request of Elector Frederick III, ruler of the most influential German province, the Palatinate, from 1559 to 1576. This pious Christian prince commissioned Zacharius Ursinus, twenty-eight years of age and professor of theology at the Heidelberg University, and Caspar Olevianus, twenty-six years old and Frederick's court preacher, to prepare a catechism for instructing the youth and for guiding pastors and teachers. Frederick obtained the advice and cooperation of the entire theological faculty in the preparation of the Catechism. The Heidelberg Catechism was adopted by a Synod in Heidelberg and published in German with a preface by Frederick III, dated January 19, 1563. A second and third German edition, each with some small additions, as well as a Latin translation were published in Heidelberg in the same year.
The Catechism was soon divided into fifty-two sections, so that a section of the Catechism could be explained to the churches each Sunday of the year. In The Netherlands this Heidelberg Catechism became generally and favorably known almost as soon as it came from the press, mainly through the efforts of Petrus Dathenus, who translated it into the Dutch language and added this translation to his Dutch rendering of the Genevan Psalter, which was published in 1566. In the same year, Peter Gabriel set the example of explaining this catechism to his congregation at Amsterdam in his Sunday afternoon sermons.
The National Synods of the sixteenth century adopted it as one of the Three Forms of Unity, requiring office-bearers to subscribe to it and ministers to explain it to the churches. These requirements were strongly emphasized by the great Synod of Dort in 1618-19. The Heidelberg Catechism has been translated into many languages and is the most influential and the most generally accepted of the several catechisms of Reformation times. (Source)
3. The Canons of Dort
The convocation and proceedings of the Synod of Dordt (1618- 1619) may be considered "among the most interesting events of the seventeenth century. The Westminster Assembly was indeed more immediately interesting to British and American Presbyterians, yet the Synod of Dordt had a species of importance peculiar to itself and altogether pre-eminent. It was not merely a meeting of select divines of a single nation, but a convention of the Calvinistic world, to bear testimony against a rising and obtrusive error; to settle a question in which all the Reformed churches of Europe had an immediate and deep interest. The question was, whether the opinions of Arminius, which were then agitating so many minds, could be reconciled with the confession of the Belgic churches." ^1 The following is a brief introduction to the theological conflict which occurred in Holland during the early 1600's and some background comments regarding the Synod which will help provide an historical context for the reading of the Canons of Dordt.
In 1610, just one year after the death of Dutch seminary professor James Arminius, five articles of faith were drawn up by his followers. The Arminians, as they came to be called, presented these five doctrines to the State of Holland in the form of a "Remonstrance", i.e. a protest. The Arminian party saw their teaching as an improvement over the perceived harshness of some of the Calvinistic doctrines of the Churches of Holland. They insisted that the Belgic Confession of faith and the Heidelburg Catechism (the official doctrinal position of the Churches of Holland) be revised to reflect the doctrinal perspective of the Remonstrance.
J. I. Packer summarizes the Arminian doctrine as follows: "The theology contained in the Remonstrance stemmed from two philosophical principles: first, since the Bible regards faith as a free and responsible human act, it cannot be caused by God, but is exercised independently of Him; second, since the Bible regards faith as obligatory on the part of all who hear the gospel, the ability to believe must be universal. Hence they maintained, Scripture must be interpreted as teaching the following [five] positions: (1) Man is never so completely corrupted by sin that he cannot savingly believe the gospel when it is put before him, nor (2) is he ever so completely controlled by God that he cannot reject it. (3) God's election of those who shall be saved is prompted by His foreseeing that they will, of their own accord, believe. (4) Christ's death did not ensure the salvation of anyone, for it did not secure the gift of faith to anyone (there is no such gift); what it did was rather to create the possibility of salvation for everyone if they believe. (5) It rests with believers to keep themselves in a state of grace by keeping up their faith; those who fail here fall away and are lost. Thus, Arminianism made man's salvation depend ultimately on man himself, saving faith being viewed throughout as man's own work, not God's in him." ^2
The opinions set forth by the Arminians were not new, in fact substantially the same views had been taught long before Arminius appeared on the scene. The doctrine of Cassian in the fifth century, commonly called Semi-Pelagianism, was almost exactly the same system. It should be remembered that just as Augustine had Pelagianism condemned at the Council of Ephesus in the year 431, so Semi Pelagianism was condemned at the Synod of Orange in 529 A.D. Semi Pelagianism, however, never died. It continued in the church in latent forms, variations of which eventually became the common understanding in the Roman church. Now this revived Semi Pelagian doctrine, under the name Arminianism, was threatening the protestant churches of the Reformation.
A national Synod was called by the States-General of Holland to meet in the city of Dordrecht (or Dordt), for the purpose of examining the views of the Arminians in light of Scripture. It was originally intended that this Synod be formed of delegates from the Belgic churches only. But the controversy was also of great interest to the churches and secular commissioners in the surrounding countries as it had been the subject of growing concern for several years. At the pointed request of James I, King of England, it was determined to invite eminent men from foreign churches to sit and vote in the Synod.
This great synod convened on November 13, 1618 consisting of 39 pastors and 18 ruling Elders from the Belgic churches, 5 professors from the universities of Holland, 19 delegates from the Reformed churches in Germany and Switzerland, and 5 professors and bishops from Great Britain. France was also invited but did not attend. The Synod was thus constituted of 86 voting members in all. There were 154 formal sessions and many side conferences held during the six months that the Synod met to consider these matters. The last session of the Synod was held on May 9, 1619. Thomas Scott notes that it was some time before the delegates of the Remonstrants, or Arminian party, made their appearance. By his account, it was "the 22nd session of the Synod before Episcopius and his 12 colleagues, who had been summoned for this purpose, presented themselves to make their explanation and defense. In undertaking this task, they manifested the same disposition to delay, to elude inquiry, and to throw obstacles in the way of every plan of proceeding that was proposed. Episcopius was their chief speaker; and with great art and address did he manage their cause. He insisted on being permitted to begin with a refutation of the Calvinistic doctrines, especially that of reprobation, hoping that, by placing his objections to this doctrine in front of all the rest, he might excite such prejudice against the other articles of the system, as to secure the popular voice in his favor. The Synod, however, very properly, reminded him, that they had not convened for the purpose of trying the Confession of Faith of the Belgic Churches, which had been long established and well known; but that, as the Remonstrants were accused of departing from the Reformed faith, they were bound first to justify themselves, by giving Scriptural proof in support of their opinions." ^3
The Arminians would not submit to this plan of procedure because it destroyed their whole scheme of argument. However, the Synod firmly refused to make any concessions on this point of order. Day after day they were reasoned with and urged to come and scripturally defend their published doctrines. The Arminians would not submit to this course and were thus compelled to withdraw. Upon their departure, the Synod proceeded without them.
"The Synod gave a very close examination to the 'five points' which had been advanced by the Remonstrants, and compared the teaching in them with the testimony of Scripture. Failing to reconcile that teaching with the Word of God, . . . they unanimously rejected them. They felt however, that a mere rejection was not sufficient. It remained for them to set forth the true Calvinistic teaching in relationship to those matters which had been called into question. This they proceeded to do, embodying the Calvinistic position in five chapters which have ever since been known as "the five points of Calvinism." ^4
"It will undoubtedly seem strange to many that the Synod of Dordt rejected as heretical the five doctrines advanced by the Arminians, because these doctrines have gained wide acceptance in the modern church. In fact, they are seldom questioned today. But the vast majority of the Protestant theologians of that day took a much different view of the matter. They maintained that the Bible set forth a system of doctrine quite different from that advocated by the Arminian party. Salvation was viewed by the Synod as a work of grace from beginning to end. In no sense did they believe that the sinner saved himself or contributed to his salvation. Adam's fall had completely ruined the race. All men were by nature spiritually dead and their wills were in bondage to sin and Satan. The ability to believe the gospel was itself a gift from God, bestowed only upon those whom He had chosen to be the objects of His unmerited favor. It was not man, but God, who determined which sinners would be shown mercy and saved." ^5 This, in essence, is what the members of the Synod understood the Bible to teach, and that which the Canon's of Dordt articulate in a powerful way.
(Introduction by Jim Ellis : Source)
^1. Thomas Scott, The Articles of the Synod of Dordt, Sprinkle Publ., 1993 reprint, p.5.
^2. J. I. Packer, Introductory Essay to John Owen's Death of Death in the Death of Christ, p.4.
^3. Scott, op. cit., p.39.
^4. Steel and Thomas, The Five Points of Calvinism, P&R, 1963, p. 14, quoting Ben A. Warburton.
^5. Steel and Thomas, ibid., p. 15.