Three Forms of Unity

Last updated

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.

Contents

History

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.

Remonstrants

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.

Footnotes

Related Research Articles

Continental Reformed church reformed church originating in continental Europe

A Continental Reformed church is a Reformed church that has its origin in the European continent. Prominent subgroups are the Dutch Reformed, the Swiss Reformed, the French Reformed (Huguenots), the Hungarian Reformed, and the Waldensian Church in Italy.

Reformed Church in the United States

The Reformed Church in the United States (RCUS) is a Protestant Christian denomination in the United States. The present RCUS is a conservative, Calvinist denomination. It affirms the principles of the Reformation: Sola scriptura, Solo Christo, Sola gratia, Sola fide, and Soli Deo gloria. The RCUS is most heavily concentrated in California, Colorado, and South Dakota.

Reformed confessions of faith creed of various Reformed churches

Reformed confessions of faith are the confessions of faith of various Reformed churches. These documents express consensus on doctrine for the church adopting the confession. A few confessions are shared as subordinate standards by many denominations, which have made their choices from among the various creeds for primarily historical reasons. Some of the common Reformed confessions are :

The Free Reformed Churches in South Africa is a federation of Protestant Christian churches. It follows Reformed Calvinist theology and has adopted the Dutch "three forms of unity" as its doctrinal standards: Canons of Dordt, Belgic Confession and the Heidelberg Catechism and subscribes to the three Ecumenical Creeds: The Apostles' Creed, The Nicene Creed and The Athanasian Creed.

The Orthodox Christian Reformed Churches (OCRC) were a theologically conservative federation of churches in the Dutch Calvinist tradition. Although the federation has disbanded, most of its churches still exist. They are in the United States and Canada. They confess the Bible to be the Word of God and believe it is faithfully summarized by the Belgic Confession, Heidelberg Catechism, and Canons of Dort.

Christian Reformed Churches

The Christian Reformed Churches in the Netherlands is a Protestant church in the Netherlands.

Free Reformed Churches of North America

The Free Reformed Churches of North America (FRCNA) is a theologically conservative federation of churches in the Dutch Calvinist tradition with congregations in the United States and Canada. It officially adopted its current name in 1974.

The Belhar Confession is a Christian statement of belief written in Afrikaans in 1982. It was adopted as a confession of faith by the Dutch Reformed Mission Church (DRMC) in South Africa in 1986.

Communion of Reformed Evangelical Churches

The Communion of Reformed Evangelical Churches (CREC), formerly the Confederation of Reformed Evangelical Churches, was founded in 1998 as a body of churches that hold to Reformed (Calvinistic) theology. Member churches include those from Presbyterian, Reformed, and Reformed Baptist backgrounds. The CREC has over a hundred member churches in the United States, Canada, Japan, Russia, Hungary, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Belarus and Poland.

Reformed Churches in South Africa

The Reformed Churches in South Africa is a Christian denomination in South Africa that was formed in 1859 in Rustenburg. Members of the church are sometimes referred to as Doppers.

A subordinate standard is a Reformed confession of faith, catechism or other doctrinal or regulatory statement subscribed to by a Protestant church, setting out key elements of religious belief and church governance. It is subordinate to the Bible as the supreme standard, which is held as divinely inspired and without error.

Dutch Reformed Church in Namibia

The Dutch Reformed Church in Namibia is a Christian denomination in Namibia. It is one of ten synods of the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa (NGK), and the only one outside South Africa. It covers all of Namibia except for the Eastern Caprivi Strip.

The Reformed Churches (Restored), also known as the New Reformed Churches constitute a Christian denomination in the Netherlands. It separated from the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (Liberated) in 2003. Officially named the "Reformed Churches in the Netherlands", they are usually called the "Reformed Churches (Restored)" to avoid confusion with the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (Liberated) and the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (GKN).

The Synod Central Africa is a regional governing body in the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa in Zimbabwe. In 1895 3 congregations were established in what was then known as Rhodesia. The number of congregations increased rapidly, theses was part of the Cape Synod, later the Free State Synod and the Transvaal Synod. Finally the Dutch Reformed Church - Synod Central Africa become autonomous in 1957. It has 16 congregations, 41 house fellowships and 2,600 members. Official languages are English and Afrikaans. The Apostles Creed, Athanasian Creed, Canons of Dort, Heidelberg Catechism, Belgic Confession is generally accepted standards.

The Counter-Remonstrance of 1611 was the Dutch Reformed Churches' response to the controversial Remonstrants' Five Articles of Remonstrance, which challenged the Calvinist theology and the Reformed Confessions that the Remonstrants had sworn to uphold. The Counter Remonstrance was written primarily by Festus Hommius and defended the Belgic Confession against theological criticisms from the followers of the late Jacob Arminius, although Arminius himself claimed adherence to the Belgic Confession and Heidelberg Catechism till his death. Prior to the Canons of Dort, the Counter Remonstrance of 1611 was the earliest and clearest representation of what is in modern times commonly referred to as the "five points of Calvinism."