What do we believe?

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. Jude 3

In the Reformed Church Tshwane, we aim to hold fast to Biblical Christianity, the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. The Bible alone is our supreme authority in all matters of doctrine. However, we do not read and interpret the Bible in a vacuum, nor are we the first people to read and study Scripture. Therefore, we take seriously the importance of knowing what the Christian Church has always believed from the beginning. We do not have the freedom to make up our own new ideas or interpretations of the Bible and then to call those ideas Christianity. To make sure we’re not doing that, we keep on testing everything we believe against the teaching of Scripture and the testimony of the church of all ages.

Like all true Christian churches we therefore confess the Ecumenical Creeds. The ecumenical creeds are statements of essential Christian beliefs written in the early centuries of the Christian church to state the Bible’s teaching over against false teaching about God. The primary focus of these creeds is on answering the question: Who is God?

The Apostles’ Creed – This creed contains a brief summary of the key teachings of the apostles. It originated as a baptismal confession in the second century and sets forth the doctrine of the apostles ‘in sublime simplicity, in unsurpassable brevity, in beautiful order, and with liturgical solemnity’.

The Nicene Creed – The Nicene Creed was written in response to the heresy of Arianism, a false teaching about Jesus Christ very similar to the doctrines taught by modern day Jehovah’s Witnesses. The creed was compiled at the Council of Nicaea (325 AD), with some later additions made by the Council of Constantinople (381 AD). It focuses on the divinity of each person in the Godhead and especially makes it clear that the Son is equal in status with the Father, since the Son is of the same substance as the Father.

The Athanasian Creed – The Athanasian Creed is named after Athanasius of Alexandria (293–373 AD), the champion of orthodoxy against Arian attacks on the doctrine of the Trinity. It was formulated in response to the post-Nicene controversies regarding the person of Jesus Christ, specifically concerning the incarnation and the relationship between Christ’s divine and human natures.

In addition to the ecumenical creeds, we also confess the Three Forms of Unity. These distinctly Reformed confessions were written at a time when there was much doctrinal confusion in the churches with regards to the way in which sinful people are justified in God’s sight. These confessions clearly explain what the gospel is and how the gospel should impact and affect the lives of Christian believers.

The Belgic Confession – Guido de Brès, the main author of this confession, died as a martyr in 1567. He wrote it in the face of fierce persecution by the Roman Catholic church and government, to prove that the Protestants were law-abiding citizens who held to the truth of Holy Scripture. The Synod of Dort (1618-1619) revised the text and adopted it as one of the doctrinal standards of continental reformed churches. Read this expanded introduction if you want to find out more about the background of this confession.

The Heidelberg Catechism – Elector Fredrick III, a pious Christian prince (1559 – 1576) commissioned Zacharius Ursinus (a young theology professor) and Caspar Olevianus (his court preacher) to write a catechism to help pastors and teachers instruct young people in the faith. It was later divided into fifty-two sections: one section for each Sunday of the year. The Synod of Dort (1618-1619) adopted it as a doctrinal standard to be regularly taught in churches. Read this expanded introduction if you want to find out more about the background of this catechism.

The Canons of Dort – The Synod of Dort drafted these articles (1618-1619) in response to the teachings of Jacobus Arminius, a theology professor from the University of Leiden , who departed from the Reformed faith on five essential doctrines. The Canons of Dort exposes these errors and expounds the Biblical teaching on each topic. Read this expanded introduction if you want to find out more about the Synod of Dort.