The main teachings of the Bible have been summarised in documents called creeds or confessions. Of the many creeds that have appeared throughout the history of the Christian church, we have chosen to adopt three creeds and three confessions as our own.
The creeds come to us from the early church, namely the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed and the Athanasian Creed. The confessions have come to us from the Reformation of the sixteenth century, namely, the Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism and the Canons of Dort.
We consider these creeds to be faithful summaries of the Word of God. As human documents, however, they possess human authority. Only the Word of God possesses divine authority. The contents of our creeds and confessions are always subject to and to be tested by the standard of the Word of God.
The Three Forms of Unity
Written in Heidelberg by two German theologians, Zacharius Ursinus and Caspar Olevianus, at the request of Elector Frederick III, it was adopted by the Synod of Heidelberg in 1563.
It consists of a number of questions and answers, and is organised into 52 Lord’s Days, allowing the minister to preach on one each Sunday of the year.
Adopted by the Synod of Dort in 1618-1619 by the Reformed Churches, the Belgic Confession was written in 1561 by a preacher of the Reformed Churches in the Southern Netherlands (now Belgium), Guide de Bres, who died a martyr in 1567.
It’s primary purpose at the time was to protest against the cruel oppression by the Roman Catholic government, and to prove to the persecuters that the adherents of the Reformed faith were not rebels, but law-abiding citizens.
Canons of Dort
Also known as the Five Articles against the Remonstrants, the Canons of Dort were adopted at the Synod of Dort in 1618-1619, and are statements of doctrine written to define the Reformed doctrine and reject that of Arminius and his followers.
The Apostles’ Creed
This creed is called the Apostles’ Creed, not because it was written by the apostles themselves, but because it contains a brief summary of their teachings. It sets forth their doctrine, as has been said, “in sublime simplicity, in unsurpassable brevity, in beautiful order, and with liturgical solemnity.”
The Nicene Creed
The Nicene Creed is a statement of the orthodox faith of the early Christian church, in opposition to certain heresies, especially Arianism. These heresies concerned the doctrine of the Trinity and of the person of Christ and were refuted at the Council of Nicea (325 A.D.).
The Athanasian Creed
This creed is named after Athanasius (293-373 A.D.), the champion of orthodoxy over against Arian attacks on the doctrine of the Trinity. The teachings of Augustine (354-430 A.D.) in particular form the background to the Christological section.