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R. Scott Clark Personal Pages

Outline of the Belgic Confession

OUTLINE OF THE BELGIC CONFESSION

1. Art 1: There is Only One God

1.1. We all believe with the heart and confess with the mouth that there is only one simple and spiritual Being, which we call God; and that he is eternal, incomprehensible, invisible, immutable, infinite, almighty, perfectly wise, just, good, and the overflowing fountain of all good.

1.1.1. Believed with the heart

1.1.2. Confessed with the mouth

1.2. God is One

1.2.1. Deut 6:4

1.2.2. 1 Cor 8:4-6; James 2:19

1.3. Incommunicable Attributes

1.3.1. Simple (Ex 3:14)

1.3.2. Spiritual (Gal 3:20)

1.3.3. Eternal (Ps 90:2)

1.3.4. Incomprehensible (1 Kg 8:27)

1.3.5. Invisible (Rom 1:20)

1.3.6. Immutable (James 1:17)

1.3.7. Infinite (Dt 32:4)

1.3.8. Almighty (Gen 17:1)

1.4. Communicable Attributes

1.4.1. Perfectly wise (Job 12:13)

1.4.2. (Perfectly) just (Rom 1:17)

1.4.3. " Good (Ex 33:19)

1.5. Deus erga nos

1.6. Overflowing Fountain of all Good

1.6.1.0. Goodness of God and the created goodness of creation

1.6.1.1. Goodness of providence

 

2. ARTICLE 2: How God is Revealed to Us

 

2.1. We know him by two means: First, by the creation, preservation, and government of the universe; which is before our eyes as a most elegant book, wherein all creatures, great and small, are as so many characters leading us to see clearly the invisible things of God, even his everlasting power and divinity, as the Apostle Paul says (Romans 1:20). All which things are sufficient to convince men and leave them without excuse.

2.2. Second, he makes himself more clearly and fully known to us by his holy and divine Word, that is to say, as far as is necessary to us to know in this life, to his glory and our salvation.

2.3. General Revelation (Rom 1-2)

2.4. Special Revelation

2.4.1. Redemptive Acts

2.4.2. Redemptive Speech

2.5. Belgic v. Non-Christian Foundationalism

2.6. Belgic v. Anti-foundationalism

2.7. The Book of Nature

2.7.1. Creation

2.7.2. Preservation (a posterori)

2.7.3. Government

2.7.4. Its Perspicuity

2.7.5. Revealing Divine Existence

2.7.6. Invisible things of God

2.7.7. Eternal power

2.7.8. Divinity

2.7.9. Its Limitations

2.8. The Book of Scripture

2.8.1. Holy and Divine

2.9. Sufficient

2.10. For the Christian Life

2.11. For Salvation

2.12. Not a Textbook

 

3. Article 3 The Written Word of God

 

3.1. We confess that this Word of God was not sent nor delivered by the will of man, but that men spoke from God, being moved by the Holy Spirit, as the apostle Peter says, and that afterwards God, from a special care which He has for us and our salvation, commanded His servants, the prophets and apostles, to commit His revealed word to writing; and He himself wrote with his own finger the two tables of the law. Therefore we call such writings holy and divine Scriptures.

3.2. Moved By the Spirit: The Biblical Doctrine of the Divinity, Inspiration, Infallibility and Reliability of Scripture

3.2.1. "With his own finger..." (Deut 9:10)

3.2.2. "The Law of Yahweh is perfect...the testimony of Yahweh is sure" (Ps 19:7)

3.2.3. "All Scripture is theopneustos" (2 Tim 3:16)

3.2.4. "As they do the other Scriptures" (2 Pet 3:16)

3.2.5. "And Scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:35)

3.2.6. "Your word is truth" (Jn 17:17)

3.3. The Historic Doctrine of Scripture

3.3.1. Contra Progressive evangelicalism (limited or selective inerrancy)

3.3.2. Contra Barthianism

3.4. Scripture and Salvation

3.4.1. God's Saving Acts and Speech

3.4.2. Redemption and explanation

3.4.3. Redemption as revelation (Isa 56:1; 1 Peter 1:5)

3.4.4. Redemption through revelation (Rom 10:17)

3.4.5. "Word of truth...Gospel of salvation (Eph 1:13)

3.5. Scripture as Covenant Word (1 Chron 16:15)

3.6. Scripture as an act of God's Covenant Love (1 Kings 8:23)

3.7. The Humanity of Scripture and Instrumentality

3.7.1. His Servants the Prophets (Jer 7:25)

3.7.2. His Servants the Apostles (Luke 11:47-51)

3.8. The Authority of Scripture

3.8.1. Sola Scriptura v Scriptura Solo

3.8.2. Scripture and Reason

3.8.3. Credo ut intelligam

3.9. Scripture and Tradition

3.9.1. All heretics quote Scripture

3.9.2. Tradition in Scripture

3.9.3. Three Approaches to Tradition

3.9.3.0. T-1 Tradition equal to or over Scripture

3.9.3.1. T-2 Tradition under Scripture

3.9.3.2. T-0 No Tradition

 

4. Article 4: The Canonical Books of the Holy Scripture

 

4.1. We believe that the Holy Scriptures are contained in two books, namely, the Old and the New Testament, which are canonical, against which nothing can be alleged. These are thus named in the Church of God.

4.2. Article 5: From Where The Holy Scriptures Derive Their Dignity and Authority

4.3. We receive all these books, and these only, as holy and canonical, for the regulation, foundation, and confirmation of our faith; believing without any doubt all things contained in them, not so much because the Church receives and approves them as such, but more especially because the Holy Spirit witnesses in our hearts that they are from God, and also because they carry the evidence thereof in themselves. For the very blind are able to perceive that the things foretold in them are being fulfilled.

4.3.1. The Canon Received by the Church (define canon)

4.3.2. Believing Without Doubt

4.3.3. The Function of Canon

4.3.3.0. Regulation

4.3.3.1. Foundation

4.3.3.2. Confirmation

4.3.4. The Canon Forms the Church

4.3.5. The Canon Not Formed By the Church

4.3.6. The Self-Attestation of Scripture

 

5. Article 6: The Difference Between the Canonical And Apocryphal Books

 

5.1. We distinguish those sacred books from the apocryphal, vis: the third and fourth books of Esdras, the books of Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Jesus Sirach, Baruch, the Appendix to the Book of Esther, the Song of the Three Children in the Furnace, the History of Susannah, of Bell and the Dragon, the Prayer of Manasseh, and the two books of the Maccabees. All of which the Church may read and take instruction from, so far as they agree with the canonical books; but they are far from having such power and efficacy that we may from their testimony confirm any point of faith of the Christian religion; and much less may they be used to detract from the authority of the other, that is, the sacred books.

 

5.2. Article 7: Sufficiency of the holy scriptures to be the only rule of faith.

 

5.3. We believe that those Holy Scriptures fully contain the will of God, and whatsoever man ought to believe unto salvation is sufficiently taught therein. For since the whole manner of worship which God requires of us is written in them at large, it is unlawful for any one, though an apostle, to teach otherwise than we are now taught in the Holy Scriptures: nay, though it were an angel from heaven, as the apostle Paul says. For since it is forbidden to add unto or take away anything from the Word of God, it does thereby evidently appear that the doctrine thereof is most perfect and complete in all respects. Neither may we consider any writings of men, however holy these men may have been, of equal value with those divine Scriptures, nor ought we to consider custom, or the great multitude, or antiquity, or succession of times and persons, or councils or decrees or statutes, as of equal value with the truth of God, since the truth is above all; for all men or of themselves liars, and more van than vanity itself. Therefore we reject with all our hearts whatever does not agree with this infallible rule, as the apostles have taught us saying, Test the spirits, whether they are of God. Likewise: any one comes to you and brings not this teaching, receive him not into your house.

5.3.1. Fully Contain the Will of God

5.3.2. Sufficiently Taught

5.3.3. For the Whole Manner of Worship

5.3.4. Inviolable

5.3.4.0. The Inviolability of the Covenant Documents (Deut 4.2; 12.32; Rev 22.18-19)

5.3.4.1. Infallible

5.3.4.2. All other authorities (whether written or conciliar) are ministerial and derivative

5.3.5. The Ground of Biblical Authority

5.3.6. Norma non normata

 

6. Article 8: God is one in essence, yet distinguished in three persons

 

6.1. According to this truth and this Word of God, we believe in one only God, who is the one single essence, in which are three persons, really truly, and eternally distinct according to their incommunicable properties; namely, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Father is the cause, origin, and beginning of all things visible and invisible; the Son is the Word, wisdom and image of the Father; the Holy Spirit is the eternal power and might, proceeding from the Father and the Son. Nevertheless, God is not by this distinction divided into three, since the Holy Scriptures teach us that the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit each have his personality, distinguished by their properties; but in such wise that these three persons are but one only God. Hence, then, it is evident that the Father is not the Son, nor the Son the Father, and likewise the Holy Spirit is neither the Father nor the Son. Nevertheless, these persons thus distinguished are not divided, not intermixed; for the Father has not assumed the flesh, nor has the Holy Spirit, but the Son only. The Father has never been without his Son, or without His Holy Spirit. For they are all three co-eternal and co-essential. There is neither first nor last; for they are all three one, in truth, in power, in goodness, and in mercy.

6.1.1. From Scripture

6.1.2. Single Essence

6.1.3. Three Persons

6.1.3.0. Really, Truly Eternally Distinct

6.1.3.1. Incommunicable Properties

6.1.4. Father

6.1.4.0. Origin and

6.1.4.1. Cause of All Things

6.1.5. Son

6.1.5.0. Wisdom

6.1.5.1. Image

6.1.6. Holy Spirit

6.1.6.0. Eternal Power and Might

6.1.6.1. Filioque

6.1.7.  Undivided/Simple

6.1.8. No Social Trinity (Athanasian)

 

7. Article 9: Proof of the Foregoing Article of the Trinity of Persons in One God

 

7.1. All this we know as well from the testimonies of Holy Writ as from their operations, and chiefly by those we feel in ourselves. The testimonies of the Holy Scriptures that teach us to believe this Holy Trinity are written in many places of the Old Testament, which are not so necessary to enumerate as to choose them out with discretion and judgment. In Genesis 1:26,27, God says, Let us make man in our own image, after our likeness, etc. And God created man in his own image, male and female created he them. And Genesis 3:22, Behold, the man is become as one of us. From this saying, Let us make man in our image, it appears that there are more persons that one in the Godhead; and when he says, God created, he signifies the unity. It is true, he does not say how many persons there are, but that which appears to us somewhat obscure in the Old Testament is very plain in the New.

7.1.1. From Scripture: OT proofs (Gen 1:26, 27; 3:22)

7.1.2. From "their operations, chiefly by those we feel in ourselves"

7.2. For when our Lord was baptized in Jordan, the voice of the father was heard, saying, This is my beloved Son; the Son was seen in the water, and the Holy Spirit appeared in the shape of a dove. This form is also instituted by Christ in the baptism of all believers: Make disciples of all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. In the Gospel of Luke the angel Gabriel thus addressed Mary, the mother of our Lord: The Holy Spirit shall come upon you, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow you; wherefore also the holy one which is begotten in you shall be called the Son of God. Likewise: the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. And (in the King James Version 1611): There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word and the Holy Spirit: and these three are one. In all these places we are fully taught that there are three persons in one only divine essence. And although this doctrine surpasses all human understanding, nevertheless we now believe it by means of the Word of God, but expect hereafter to enjoy the perfect knowledge and benefit thereof in heaven.

7.2.1. NT Proofs (Jesus' baptism; Matt 28:18-20; Annunciation; 1 Cor 13)

7.2.2. ("Mother of our Lord")

7.2.3. "Three witnesses" (text criticism and the BC)

7.2.4. theologia viatorum et beatorum

7.3. Moreover, we must observe the particular offices and operations of these three persons towards us. The Father is called our Creator, by His power; the Son is our Savior and Redeemer, by his blood; the Holy Spirit is our Sanctifier, by his dwelling in our hearts.

7.3.1. Economic Trinity: Operations

7.3.2. Creator

7.3.3. Savior

7.3.4. Sanctifier

7.4. This doctrine of the Holy Trinity has always been affirmed and maintained by the true church since the time of the apostles to this very day against the Jews, Mohammedans, and some false Christians and heretics, as Marcion, Manes, Praxeas, Sebellius, Samosatenus, Arius and the like who have been justly condemned by the orthodox fathers. Therefore in this point, we do willingly receive the three creeds namely, that of the Apostles, of Nicea, and of Athanasius; likewise that which, conformable thereunto, is agreed upon by the ancient fathers.

7.4.1. Catholicity

7.4.2. Orthodoxy

 

8. Article 10: Jesus Christ is True and Eternal God

 

8.1. We believe that Jesus Christ according to his divine nature is the only begotten Son of God, begotten from eternity, not made, nor created (for then he would be a creature), but co- essential and co-eternal with the Father, the very image of his substance and the effulgence of his glory, equal to Him in all things. He is the Son of God, not only from the time that he assumed our nature but from all eternity, as these testimonies, when compared together, teach us. Moses says that God created the world; and St. John says that all things were made by that Word which he calls God. The apostle says that God made the world by his Son; likewise, that God created all things by Jesus Christ. Therefore it necessarily follows that he who is called God. The Word, the Son and Jesus Christ, did exist at that time when all things were created by him. Therefore the prophet Micah says: His goings forth are from of old, from everlasting. And the apostle: he has neither beginning of days nor end of life. He therefore is that true, eternal, and almighty God whom we invoke, worship and serve.

8.1.1. Only begotten from eternity

8.1.2. Co-essential

8.1.3. Co-eternal

8.1.4. [endif]>Uncreate

8.1.5. Image and effulgence

8.1.6. Equal in glory

8.1.7. Creator

8.1.7.0. John 1:1-3

8.1.7.1. Heb 1:2

8.1.7.2. Micah 5:2

8.1.7.3. Heb 7:3

 

 

9. Article 11: The Holy Spirit is True and Eternal God

 

9.1. We believe and confess also that the Holy Spirit from eternity proceeds from the Father and the Son; and therefore neither is made, created, nor begotten, but only proceeds from both; who in order is the third person of the Holy Trinity; of one and the same essence, majesty and glory with the Father and the Son; and therefore is true and eternal God, as the Holy Scriptures teach us.

9.1.1. Filioque

9.1.2. Uncreate

9.1.3. Proceeding (personalia)

9.1.4. Third Person

9.1.5. Co-essential

9.1.6. Co-majestic

9.1.7. Very God of very God

 

10. Article 12: The Creation of All Things, Especially the Angels

 

10.1. We believe that the Father by the Word, that is, by His Son, has created of nothing the heaven, the earth, and all creatures, when it seemed good unto Him; giving unto every creature its being, shape, form, and several offices to serve its Creator; that He also still upholds and governs them by his eternal providence and infinite power for the service of mankind, to the end that man may serve his God.

10.1.1. The Father by the Word/Son

10.1.2. Ex nihilo

10.1.3. Secundum beneplacitum

10.1.4. Providence

10.1.4.0. Preservation

10.1.4.1. Governance

10.1.4.2. To serve humanity

10.1.4.3. To serve God

10.2. He also created the angels good, to be His messengers and to serve his elect; some of whom are fallen from that excellency in which God created them into everlasting perdition, and the others have by the grace of God remained steadfast and continued in their first state. The devils and evil spirits are so depraved that they are enemies of God and every good thing; to the utmost of their power as murders watching to ruin the Church and every member thereof, and by their wicked stratagems to destroy all; and are, therefore, by their own wickedness adjudged to external damnation, daily expecting their horrible torments. Therefore we reject and abhor the error of the Sadducees, who deny the existence of spirits and angels; and also that of the Manichees, who assert that the devils have their origin of themselves, and that they are wicked of their own nature, without having been corrupted

10.2.1. The goodness of creation

10.2.2. To serve the elect (!)

10.2.3. Reprobation of the fallen angels

10.2.3.0. ordo decretorum

10.2.3.1. The ground of reprobation: sin

10.2.4. Contra Sadducees and Manichees (Cathars)

 

11. Article 13: The Providence of God and His Government of All Things

 

11.1. We believe that the same good God, after he had created all things, did not forsake them or give them up to fortune or chance, but that he rules and governs them according to his holy will, so that nothing happens in this world without his appointment; nevertheless, God is neither the author of nor can be charged with the sins which are committed. For his power and goodness are so great and incomprehensible that he orders and executes his work in the most excellent manner, even then when devils and wicked men act unjustly. And as to what he does surpassing human understanding, we will not curiously inquire into farther than our capacity will admit of; but with the greatest humility and reverence adore the righteous judgments of God, which are hid from us, contenting ourselves that we are pupils of Christ, to learn only those things which he has revealed to us in his Word without transgressing those limits. This doctrine affords us unspeakable consolation, since we are taught thereby that nothing can befall us by chance, but by the direction of our most gracious and heavenly Father; who watches over us with a paternal care, keeping all creatures so under his power that not a hair of our head (for they are all numbered), nor a sparrow can fall to the ground without the will of our Father, in whom we do entirely trust; being persuaded that he so restrains the devil and all our enemies that without his will and permission they cannot hurt us. And therefore we reject the damnable error of the Epicureans, who say that God regards nothing but leaves all things to chance.

11.1.1. The Goodness of providence

11.1.2. Providence and Sin

11.1.2.0. God is not the author of sin

11.1.2.1. God is not the executor of sin (the reality of second causes and agency)

11.1.2.2. The mystery of concursus: God operates in all but is exculpate.

11.1.2.3. The danger of cupidity –

11.1.2.3.1. we are "Epicureans""

11.1.2.3.2. Theologia viatorum

11.1.2.4. Unspeakable consolation

11.1.2.5. Active permission

11.1.2.6. ![endif]>Contra "Epicureans"

 

12. Article 14: The Creation and Fall of Man, And His Incapacity to Perform What is Truly Good

 

12.1. We believe that God created man out of the dust of the earth, and made and formed him after his own image and likeness, good, righteous, and holy, capable in all things to will agreeably to the will of God. But being in honor, he understood it not, neither knew his excellency, but willfully subjected himself to sin and consequently to death and the curse, giving ear to the words of the devil. For the commandment of life, which he had received, he transgressed; and by sin separated himself from God, who was his true life; having corrupted his whole nature; whereby he made himself liable to corporal and. spiritual death. And being thus become wicked, perverse, and corrupt in all his ways, he has lost all his gifts which he had received from God, and retained only small remains thereof, which, however, are sufficient to leave man without excuse; for all the light which is in us is changed unto darkness, as the Scriptures teach us, saying: The light shines in darkness, and the darkness did not apprehended it; where St. John calls men darkness.

12.1.1. Imago Dei

12.1.2. Good, Righteous, and Holy (contra donum super additum)

12.1.3. Capable "in all things" to will "agreeably to the will of God"

12.1.4. Possible problem "understood it not"

12.1.4.0. Ps 49:20

12.1.4.1. Reformed orthodoxy

12.1.4.2. See http://www.wscal.edu/clark/belgic14.php

12.1.5. Willfully sinned

12.1.6. Disobeyed "the commandment of life"

12.1.7. Having corrupted his whole nature

12.1.8. No excuse

12.2. Therefore we reject all that is taught repugnant to this concerning the free will of man, since man is but a slave to sin, and can receive nothing, except it have been given him from heaven. For who may presume to boast that he of himself can do any good, since Christ says: No man can come to me, except the Father that sent me draw him? Who will glory in his own will, who understands that the mind of the flesh is enmity against God? Who can speak of his knowledge, since the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God? In short, who dare suggest any thought, since he knows that we are not sufficient of ourselves to account anything as of ourselves, but that our sufficiency is of God? And therefore what the apostle says ought justly to be held sure and firm, that God works in us both to will to and to work, for his good pleasure. For there is no understanding nor will conformable to the divine understanding and will but what Christ wrought in man; which he teaches us, when he says: Apart from me you can do nothing.

12.2.1. Rejection of cathar denial of pre-lapsarian free will

12.2.2. No free will (relative to sin) Post-lapsum

12.2.3. The effect of the fall

12.2.4. Necessity of grace

13. Article 15: Original Sin:

13.1. We believe that through the disobedience of Adam original sin is extended to all mankind; which is a corruption of the whole nature and a hereditary disease, wherewith even infants in their mother's womb are infected, and which produces in man all sorts of sin, being in him as a root thereof, and therefore is so vile and abominable in the sight of God that it is sufficient to condemn all mankind. Nor is it altogether abolished or wholly eradicated even by baptism; since sin always issues forth from the woeful source, as water from a fountain; notwithstanding it is not imputed to the children of God unto condemnation, but by his grace a

 
Always Reformed (co-editor)
Baptism, Election and the Covenant of Grace
Caspar Olevian and the Substance of the Covenant
Caspar Olevianus, An Exposition of the Apostles’ Creed (editor)
Classic Reformed Theology (series editor)
Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry (editor)
Protestant Scholasticism: Essays in Reassessment (co-editor)
Recovering the Reformed Confession

He has written essays and articles in various publications, including:
A Companion to Paul in the Reformation (contributor)
Caspar Olevianus, An Exposition of the Apostles’ Creed (contributor)
Concordia Theological Quarterly
Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry (contributor)
Encyclopedia of the Bible and Its Reception (contributor)
Modern Reformation
Reforming or Conforming? (contributor)
Semper Reformanda
Sober, Strict, and Scriptural (contributor)
Tabletalk
The Compromised Church (contributor)
The Confessional Presbyterian
The Faith Once Delivered (contributor)
The New Dictionary of Christian Apologetics (contributor)
The New Dictionary of Theology (contributor)
The Pattern of Sound Doctrine (contributor)
The Westminster Confession into the 21st Century (contributor)
Theological Guide to Calvin's Institutes (contributor)
Westminster Theological Journal
 
 
CH527 Ecclesiastical Latin I
CH528 Ecclesiastical Latin II
CH601 The Ancient Church
CH602 The Medieval Church and the Reformation
HT566 History of Covenant Theology
HT602 Patristics Seminar
HT606 Medieval Theology Seminar
HT611 Reformed Scholasticism
HT615A Reformed Confessions
HT709 Thesis Proposal
HT710 Thesis
ST615A Reformed Confessions & Catechisms
Course descriptions are available in the WSC Catalogue.