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HT/ST 615 Reformed Confessions (Three Forms Section)

Course Description

An introduction to the background, doctrine, and use of the Reformed Confessions. .

The Student Learning Outcome for the Historical Theology Program: The student demonstrates understanding of the main eras of church history, the significant issues and leaders/theologians of each.

Course Requirements:

(1) Attend all classes, complete all readings and participate in class discussion (30%).

(2) One double or single spaced, typed, confession of faith or catechism of no more than 1000 words which addresses and includes the following topics:

  • Prolegomena (Revelation, Scripture)
  • Theology Proper (God's being, attributes, the Trinity, creation and providence)
  • Anthropology (Creation, image of God and sin)
  • Christology (Jesus' person, natures and work)
  • Soteriology (Sin, atonement, ordo salutis)
  • Ecclesiology (Offices, nature, structure, authority)
  • Sanctification and the sacraments (Baptism, Lord's Supper; preaching and worship)
  • Eschatology (judgment, heaven and eternity)

This confession/catechism should be grounded in Scripture and informed by the catholic (universal) creeds of the Church and by the Reformed confession(s) to which you subscribe (e.g., The Three Forms or the The Westminster Standards). Your mark will be determined by whether and how well you address the topics listed. Given the word limit and the number of topics (which works out to about 100 words per topic) you must choose your words carefully. It would be wise to begin this assignment in the first week of classes.

NB: This exercise is intended to help you discover and appreciate the difficulty and art of writing a coherent, useful, confessional document. It is not intended to challenge or replace in your affections your present confessional allegiance.

Due the last day of the semester, 10:00 AM (35%)

(3) One double spaced, typed, essay of no more than 2500 words. A normal typescript page is approximately 300 words, therefore your essay should be about 8 pages. (35%)

Topics: You may write on any historical or theological topic addressed by one or more of the standards. Your essay must, however, interact substantially with a portion of at least one of the standards. Due the last day of the semester, 10:00 AM.


Those who wish may substitute catechism memory for the assigned paper.

Heidelberg Catechism questions must be memorized from the Schaff edition, the 1959 CRCNA edition, or the 1978 RCUS edition, or the edition published by the Ontario/Oceanside/Pasadena URCs (in the bookstore), or the edition on this website.

The Heidelberg questions are:

1-9, 15-17, 19, 21, 26-28, 31, 32, 37, 45, 53, 54, 60, 61, 64, 65, 69, 72, 75, 80, 81, 86, 88, 96-98, 103, 114-116.

Those who choose this option will be tested at the end of the semester during finals week.

You must submit your reading percentage to the instructor by the end of reading week.

Required Readings

R. Scott Clark, Recovering the Reformed Confession.

D. G. Hart, The Lost Soul of American Protestantism (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2002).

Samuel Miller, Doctrinal Integrity: On the Utility and Importance of Creeds and Confessions and Adherence to our Doctrinal Standards (Dallas: Presbyterian Heritage Press, [repr] 1989), 3–89.

R. Scott Clark, "Why We Memorize the Catechism," Presbyterian Banner (August, 2003)

R. Scott Clark, "Notes on Belgic Confession Article 15."

R. Scott Clark, "Notes on a Possible Difficulty in Belgic Confession Article 14"

R. Scott Clark, "On the Revision of Belgic Confession Article 36

WSC Faculty, Our Testimony on Justification

The Three Forms of Unity (Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession and the Canons of Dort). For a print version see Schaff's Creeds of Christendom. The 1976 CRC edition of the Heidelberg Catechism is not recommended.

P. Y. DeJong ed., Crisis in the Reformed Churches (Grand Rapids: Reformed Fellowship, 1968), 1,2,3,8.

Zacharias Ursinus, Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, [repr] 1985), 1-116.

Richard Muller, "Confessing the Reformed Faith: Our Identity in Unity and Diversity," New Horizons (1994).

Recommended Reading

Lyle D. Bierma, Charles D. Gunnoe Jr., and Karin Y. Maag, An Introduction to the Heidelberg Catechism: Sources, History, and Theology. Texts and Studies in Reformation and Post-Reformation Thought (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2005).

Nicholaas Gootjes, The Belgic Confession: Its History and Sources (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007).

A. A. Hodge, The Westminster Confession of Faith: A Commentary (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth).

David W. Hall, Practice of Confessional Subscription, ed. (Oak Ridge, TN: The Covenant Foundation, repr. 2001).

Joel R. Beeke and S. B. Ferguson, Reformed Confessions Harmonized (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999).

Ligon Duncan, ed. The Westminster Confession into the 21st Century: Essays in Remembrance of the 350th Anniversary of the Publication of the Westminster Confession of Faith, 3 vols (Ross-Shire, Scotland: Mentor, 2003) .

W. R. Godfrey, "Tensions in International Calvinism" (PhD. Diss. Stanford University, 1974), ch.1.

S. W. Carruthers, The Westminster Confession of Faith: Being an account of the preparation and printing of its seven leading editions to which is appended a critical text of the confession (Greenville, [repr] 1995).

Johannes G. Vos, The Westminster Larger Catechism: A Commentary (Philipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2002).

C. R. Trueman and R. Scott Clark, ed., Protestant Scholasticism: Essays in Reassessment (Carlisle: Paternoster, 1999), Introduction, 1.2; 2.1; 2.4, 5.

Caspar Olevianus, A Firm Foundation, trans. L. D. Bierma (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1995).

——An Exposition of the Apostles' Creed

R. Scott Clark, Caspar Olevian and the Substance of the Covenant of Grace: The Double Benefit of Christ (2005; Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Press, 2008).

Daniel R. Hyde, "The Holy Spirit in the Heidelberg Catechism," Mid-America Journal of Theology 17 (2006): 211-37.

Daniel Hyde, With Heart and Mind: An Exposition of the Belgic Confession

James T. Dennison, ed. Reformed Confessions of the 16h and 17th Centuries in English Translation (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2008).

Dorothy Sayers, "Lost Tools of Learning"

—— Creed or Chaos

Other Resources