Three Forms of Unity

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The Three Forms of Unity is a collective name for the Belgic Confession, the Canons of Dort, and the Heidelberg Catechism, which reflect the doctrinal concerns of continental Calvinism and are accepted as official statements of doctrine by many of the Reformed churches.

Belgic Confession doctrinal standard document of Reformed churches

The Confession of Faith, popularly known as the Belgic Confession, is a doctrinal standard document to which many of the Reformed churches subscribe. The Confession forms part of the Three Forms of Unity of the Reformed Church, which are still the official subordinate standards of the Dutch Reformed Church. The confession's chief author was Guido de Brès, a preacher of the Reformed churches of the Netherlands, who died a martyr to the faith in 1567, during the Dutch Reformation.

Canons of Dort judgment of the National Synod held in Dordrecht (Dort) in 1618–19 against Arminianism

The Canons of Dort, or Canons of Dordrecht, formally titled The Decision of the Synod of Dort on the Five Main Points of Doctrine in Dispute in the Netherlands, is the judgment of the National Synod held in the Dutch city of Dordrecht in 1618–19. At the time, Dordrecht was often referred to in English as Dort or Dordt.

Heidelberg Catechism

The Heidelberg Catechism (1563), one of the Three Forms of Unity, is a Protestant confessional document taking the form of a series of questions and answers, for use in teaching Reformed Christian doctrine. It was written in 1563 in Heidelberg, present-day Germany. Its original title translates to Catechism, or Christian Instruction, according to the Usages of the Churches and Schools of the Electoral Palatinate. Commissioned by the prince-elector of the Electoral Palatinate, it is sometimes referred to as the "Palatinate Catechism." It has been translated into many languages and is regarded as one of the most influential of the Reformed catechisms.



The Synod held at Dort Synodedordrecht.jpg
The Synod held at Dort

From 1618 to 1619 the Dutch government, on behalf of the Dutch Reformed Church, called and convened the Synod of Dort. Dutch delegates, along with twenty-seven Reformed representatives from eight other countries, met at this Synod of Dort, where they collectively summarized their views in what was called the "Canons of Dort". [1]

The Dutch Reformed Church was the largest Christian denomination in the Netherlands from the onset of the Protestant Reformation until 1930. It was the foremost Protestant denomination, and—since 1892—one of the two major Reformed denominations along with the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands.

Synod of Dort National Synod held in Dordrecht

The Synod of Dort was an international Synod held in Dordrecht in 1618–1619, by the Dutch Reformed Church, to settle a divisive controversy initiated by the rise of Arminianism. The first meeting was on 13 November 1618 and the final meeting, the 154th, was on 9 May 1619. Voting representatives from eight foreign Reformed churches were also invited. Dort was a contemporary English term for the town of Dordrecht.

This same Synod then added these Canons to two other documents, both of which were in common use by the Dutch Church at the time: the Heidelberg Catechism (1563) and the Belgic Confession (1561). [1]

In so doing, the Synod sought:

  1. to formalize their understanding of the biblical teachings on the Trinity, the incarnation, predestination, justification, and the church;
  2. to allow members to gather together in unity around fundamental, shared beliefs;
  3. to relegate certain non-essential ideas (political positions, educational platforms, etc.) to a lower status to prevent the churches from needlessly splitting the forms also provide a basis upon which ecumenical efforts can proceed based on whether a body accepts the essentials laid out in these forms

The different documents each serve different purposes.


The Remonstrants are a historic community of mostly Dutch Protestants who originally supported Jacobus Arminius, and after his death, continue to maintain his original views. In 1610, they presented to the States of Holland and Friesland a remonstrance in five articles formulating their points of disagreement with Calvinism as adopted by the Dutch Reformed Church.

Philip Schaff American Calvinist theologian

Philip Schaff was a Swiss-born, German-educated Protestant theologian and ecclesiastical historian who spent most of his adult life living and teaching in the United States.

The Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL) is a digital library that provides free electronic copies of Christian scripture and literature texts.


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