The Myth Of The Papacy

You know by now that Benedict XVI has abdicated the papacy and the college of Cardinals have been preparing to elect a new pope. on Tuesday they are set to begin the process of actually electing a new pope. Over the next few days, news coverage will be intense and, until a pope is elected and if coverage follows the usual pattern, we will likely witness reporters standing outside the Vatican breathlessly saying or implying that this is the way things have been since the 1st century. Of course, nothing could be farther from the truth. As a matter of history, the papacy is a collection of myths.

Our word “myth” is derived from the Greek word muthos (μυθος). According to the Oxford English Dictionary, in English usage, “myth” denotes a

traditional story, typically involving supernatural beings or forces, which embodies and provides an explanation, aetiology, or justification for something such as the early history of a society, a religious belief or ritual, or a natural phenomenon.

This sense of the word “myth” partly captures what I mean by it here. The papacy is largely the result of a long series of practical and political developments that have been cloaked in the fabric of piety and supernaturalism. In that sense the current papacy invokes a myth involving supernatural explanations of the papacy when there are perfectly natural, historical explanations.

The OED adds a layer of explanation as it begins to list a series of definitions:

a. A widespread but untrue or erroneous story or belief; a widely held misconception; a misrepresentation of the truth. Also: something existing only in myth; a fictitious or imaginary person or thing.

This captures exactly what I mean by myth in this context. There is a widespread but untrue story about the papacy. It is partly the result of assumptions but it is partly the result of a grossly anachronistic story told by Romanist apologists.

The historical truth is that the papacy as we know it today did not begin to exist until Leo I, who was Bishop of Rome from 440–61.  In fact, the pope has not always been “the Pope.” There is absolutely no evidence in the Book of Acts that Peter had primacy among the apostles. Indeed, if we consider that Paul rebuked Peter at Antioch for denying the gospel (apparently “Peter” never learns), then the very notion of an unbroken succession of Petrine popes speaking infallibly from from a divinely instituted throne seems most unlikely indeed.

Though it is indeed possible and, depending upon how one reconstructs the patristic histories, even probable that Peter was in Rome, when the apostle Paul wrote to the congregation in Rome he made no mention of Peter, who, on this reconstruction, was in Rome under Claudius 14 years before. Were Peter regarded as primus inter pares (first among equals) then we would expect some recognition of that status but there is none nor do we find any such recognition in the rest of the NT. It’s at least possible that other NT documents were written to the congregation at Rome and yet there is no recognition of Peter’s alleged primacy. He certainly did not assert any such primacy in the two epistles under his name. In the gospel of Mark, likely written as a follow-on to his visit to Rome and closely associated with his ministry, gives not a hint of Petrine primacy.

The case for the papacy in the 2nd century (from 100 AD) is just as weak. There is no evidence in the so-called Apostolic Fathers (a somewhat arbitrary, if illuminating and important collection of texts from the early to mid-2nd century) that they regarded Peter as the first pope. Terrence Smith says, “There is an astonishing lack of of reference to Peter among ecclesiastical authors of the first half of the second century.”1

Robert Eno says,

The evidence (Clement, Hermas, Ignatius) points us in the direction of assuming that in the first century and into the second, that there was not bishop of Rome in the usual sense given to that title. The office of the single mon-episcopos was slowly emerging in the local Christian communities around the Mediterranean world.2

This is what one finds in the Apostolic Fathers. Because Patristic texts have sometimes been translated under what we might call an “Episcopal assumption,” i.e., under the assumption that when a text says “Episcopos” (επισκοπος) it signals a single, centralized regional manager of the church, we are sometimes left with a misimpression. If, however, we read the Apostolic Fathers in context it quickly appears that we cannot read into “episcopos” the later monepiscopal office and authority.

There was a variety of church governments in the second century. There is good evidence for a variety of ecclesiastical structures in the second century. Three offices are mentioned consistently, episcopos, presbyter, and deacon. These are often used in a non-hierachical sense and the plurality of presbyters is not uncommon.

Gradually, however, in the face of the pressure of persecution, through the third century the churches began to gather around pastors in leading cities (Rome, Antioch, Alexandria, Jerusalem) and those pastors began to exert more authority in the organization of the church. The rise of a bishop-centered polity, where a regional pastor exercised authority over local pastors and elders, was a pragmatic, development that modeled itself not on the New Testament pattern but on the prevailing pattern of (Roman) civil government. This, by the way, is yet another reason why Christians need to think carefully, historically, and intelligently about the problem of Christ and culture. When imitate the surrounding culture, when we fail to criticize the influence of the culture in the church, and when we baptize the prevailing culture—under whatever pretense—it has typically not gone well for the church.

The papacy as we know it today is a medieval creature. It did not exist in the first century, the second, the third, the fourth, the fifth, or even the sixth. It was Damasus I, who served 366–84, who first asserted the title “Pope” (Papa) and there was nothing like the papacy as we know it until Gregory I, who was in office from 590–604. As we will see in the series the power and influence of the papacy grew, gradually, by steps until the early 14th century, when, in 1302, in the papal decree (Unam Sanctam) the papacy asserted its primacy against Philip of France. That was likely the highpoint of genuine papal authority and the beginning of a long, ugly decline.

It seems likely that, if the college of cardinals (a medieval development), elects a pope, it will likely be the cardinal protodeacon who announces “Habemus papam” (“We have a pope”). That announcement is symbolic of the myth of the papacy. Reporters intone about the ancient rituals, about St Peter’s Basilica, as if things have always been this way. It just isn’t so, however. During this week of March-Papal-Madness, I’ll try to add some historical perspective.

Above I began to sketch a way of looking at the papacy that peers through the popular and Romanist myth of the papacy to the historical reality.

The point of this essay is to be suggestive, to alert the reader to the reality that the papacy is a very human, not a divine institution, that developed in response to external and internal stimuli. It wasn’t established by Christ. It doesn’t exist in the Acts of the Apostles. It did not exist in the 2nd or even 3rd centuries. Even when the Bishop (pastor) of Rome begins to be called “pope” that does not mean that he either actually was “pope” or that he was regarded as the universal vicar (representative) of Christ on the earth with authority to speak infallibly for Christ from an episcopal throne. Those are much later notions that cannot be read back into the late Patristic and early medieval periods.

One of the aspects of the development of the papacy that fascinates me is the existence of anti-popes. According to Romanist scholars there have been no fewer than 46 anti-popes in the history of the papacy. Of course that count includes figures that pre-date the actual existence of a “papacy.” One Romanist writer defines an anti-pope thus:

Any person who took the name of pope and exercised or claimed to exercise his functions without canonical foundation.

The definition is as problematic as it is interesting. It is problematic because it fails to recognize that the method of electing popes developed. Gregory I, probably the first Roman Bishop with anything like genuine papal power, was not elected by a college of cardinals. That institution did not develop for centuries. Gregory (Regula Pastoralis), by his own account, thrust into office by popular and priestly acclaim.

A cardinal Bishop is a papal elector. “Cardinal” was originally used adjectivally of any priest permanently attached to a church. Then it became restricted to priests, deacons, and bishops in and around Rome. Cardinal is derived from cardo (hinge, axis). By the 11th century “cardinal” became a noun. In 1059 Nicholas II (contra Henry IV of England), in In Nomine Domine, gave Cardinal Bishops the sole right to elect popes. Cardinal priests and deacons were to give assent. Thus, the process we are witnessing this week is an 11th century process, not an apostolic, patristic, or even early medieval process. It is a high medieval process. Study the history of the Western church and it soon becomes quite clear that the features that distinguish the Roman communion, that make Rome what it is, her claims to primacy, authority, her sacerdotal sacramental ministry, the papacy, and her doctrines—they are largely medieval creatures. The Roman sacramental system was not consolidated until the 4th Lateran Council in 1215. Thus, when the Reformation rejected those innovations they were no farther away chronologically than say Jonathan Edwards is from us. Even after the 4th Lateran, it is Trent, a 16th-century reaction to the Reformation that, as much as anything makes the Roman communion, including the papacy, what it is. In short: the antiquity of Romanism is a myth. It is a medieval and Tridentine creature.

Though we associate the papacy with Rome, it has not always resided in there. From 1305–78, the papacy relocated to Avignon, on the election of Clement V. He needed to stay near France but outside of Rome for fear of violence in Rome. He settled the Papacy in Avignon because it was an imperial city and he was trying to gain the support of France and England to resume the crusades.

As is the case today, the Italians, who regarded the papacy as theirs, were not happy about this move but the papacy remained in Avignon until 1377. The Italians did not take this lying down. They installed Nicholas V from 1328–30 so that briefly, there were two popes, both elected by papal electors. Gregory XI attempted to return the papacy to Rome, if only to reassert papal and Roman control of the peninsula. On Gregory’s death, in 1378, the problem of anti-popes intensified with the election of Urban VI, in Rome. He was so unpopular with the people that the cardinals lied about whom they had elected. He was also unpopular with some of the cardinals because he was said to have a temper and most outrageously, because he accused the cardinals of living ostentatiously. In retaliation, some electors accused him of being insane.

In reaction to his election, some of the papal electors decamped to Avignon, where the papacy had been from 1305–77 and elected Robert of Geneva as Clement VII. Here’s the rub. Clement VII gets the asterisk as the antipope. Why? Romanist historians can’t say. There’s no objective ground for disqualifying him other than that he was not in Rome, but the papacy had been in Avignon for decades and that is not regarded as illegitimate and the one competitor elected in Rome in 1328 gets an asterisk as an antipope so location isn’t definitive. Apparently a pope is antipope if Rome later says he was even if Rome cannot say how or why. Fiat!

There followed a succession of popes and “antipopes” in Rome and Avignon between 1378 and 1409, when things took an even stranger twist. It was then that the Council of Pisa, at which 22 cardinal Bishops were in attendance, elected Alexander V (June 1409–May 1410). Benedict XIII, who had been in Avignon fled Spain. Alexander V was succeeded by John XXIII,

By this time, there had already been multiple successions in both Rome and the Avignon. There had been mutual excommunications and depositions of competing popes by the Council of Pisa. At the Council of Constance (1414–18) John XXIII was arrested, brought back to Constance, and imprisoned until 1419 (but he was later made a Cardinal, so, as they say, “it’s all good”). Benedict XIII (in Spain) were deposed and Gregory XII abdicated. The council then elected Odo Colonna as Martin V on 11 November, 1417, ending the schism. Rome has never pronounced on the canonicity of Urban VI’s election or the legitimacy of Pisa.

One of my students showed me a news story yesterday which described the “ancient” rituals being enacted in the Vatican this week. Competition among competing popes, elected by competing gatherings of cardinal Bishops, is another ancient ritual but not one that will get much coverage this week. Those, however, who are interested in the history of the papacy should know that there was a severe crisis in the papacy in the 14th and 15th centuries that provoked grave doubts among honest, fair-minded Christians in the late medieval period. Indeed, without the gross corruption of the church “in head and members”(Fifth Lateran Council) the Reformation might have been less plausible.

The existence of simultaneous popes in Rome, Avignon, and Pisa also illustrates the grave problem of the very notion of an unbroken Petrine succession. There is no unbroken succession, first because the papacy has not always existed. Second, because there is no biblical or early evidence of Petrine primacy, and third, because the post-Avignon papacy is an orphan who has no idea who his father was in the 14th and 15th century.

UPDATE 13 March 2013

In researching an answer to another question I ran across some interesting stuff. First, on the “Catholic Answers” Forum. There it is asserted that Martin V was not a true pope because he was deposed. Gregory XII is said to have been a true pope because he resigned. So, deposition by a council nullifies a papacy but then they claim that no council can depose a pope. Never mind the fact that Constance decreed that all, including popes, must submit to councils. It’s okay if you find that confusing. It is.

Second, Eamon Duffy’s account of the Avignon crisis attempts to vindicate the Roman popes by trashing the Avignon popes as if the latter were less fit for office than the former. That’s a strange argument to make and not one that will favor the Renaissance papacy at all.

1. Terrence V. Smith, Petrine Controversies in Early Christianity: Attitudes Towards Peter in Christian Writings of the First Two Centuries (Tübingen: Mohr, 1985), 174 cited in Robert Eno, The Rise of the Papcy (Eugene: W & S, 1990), 15.

2. Eno, Ibid, 29.

This essay was originally published in two parts 11-13 March, 2013 at

Are The Remonstrants Heretics?

This question comes over the transom regularly. I think most confessional Reformed pastors would probably say that, though they disagree strongly with Arminianism, it is not heresy. Somewhere I read (or heard) that William Ames (1576–1633),   who served as an advisor at the Synod of Dort, regarded Arminianism as an error tending to heresy but not heresy itself. Whether Ames actually said that—he wrote treatises against the Remonstrants, which have not been translated—it all comes down to the definition of heresy.

Defining Heresy
The New Testament noun αἵρεσις (haeresis signals “faction” or “sect.” In Acts 5:17 the Sadducees are described as a “faction” or “sect.” In Acts 15:5 the Pharisees are a αἵρεσις. In Acts 24:5 Tertullus describes the Christians as a αἵρεσις. In 1 Cor 11:19 a αἵρεσις is divisive group in the Corinthian congregation. In Galatians 5:20 it refers to “divisions” that must be avoided in the church.

Already in the apostolic period the line between divisive behavior and divisive doctrine began to blur. The Corinthian congregation was riven by self-described “Super Apostles,” who denigrated Paul’s office and his doctrine. The Galatian Judaizers, who were teaching that God accepts (justifies) us partly on the basis of grace and partly on the basis of our law keeping (obedience) were guilty of schismatic doctrine, which produced divisions in the congregation. The Apostle Peter’s lapse was doctrinal and moral (Gal 2:11–14). Peter and Barnabas accepted false doctrine (i.e., that Gentiles must become Jews to become Christians) for which the Apostle Paul rightly denounced their doctrine and life as out of “step with the truth of the gospel.”

In the early post-Apostolic church this pattern, of recognizing the connection between doctrinal and moral error, continued. The ecumenical church, meeting in council (e.g., at Nicea in 325, at Constantinople in 381, at Ephesus in 431) recognized and denounced moral errors and great doctrinal errors. Today, however, we speak less frequently of moral heresy and more typically of doctrinal heresy.

There is another distinction to consider and that is between heresy used in the broad sense, to refer to error and heresy used in the narrow sense, to refer to a doctrinal error that contradicts the holy ecumenical faith and puts one in jeopardy of damnation. We know that there are such things. There is a sin against the Holy Spirit (Matt 12:31), namely attributing the work of the Spirit to the devil. The Athanasian Creed (mid-4th to mid-5th centuries AD) declares:

Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic [ecumenical] faith; Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.

It is not possible to reject the doctrine of the ecumenical doctrine of the Trinity and be saved nor is it possible to reject the ecumenical doctrine of the two natures of Christ and be saved. The ecumenical faith is summarized by the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed (325, 381), the Definition of Chalcedon (451), and the Athanasian.

An Ecumenical Consensus On Salvation
What, however, should we say about the doctrine of salvation (soteriology)? Is there an ecumenical orthodoxy on salvation? Yes. The Council of Ephesus (431) condemned the errors of Coelestius [aka, Caelestius], who was an associate of Pelagius, the British monk who opposed Augustine’s doctrine that humans are fallen in Adam and utterly corrupted by sin and that salvation, including unconditional election, is by grace alone. Pelagius and Coelestius denied that in Adam’s fall sinned we all, as the colonial catechism had it. They denied the doctrine of total depravity (as it has come to be known). They taught that humans are all born like Adam, able to sin or not to sin, that we are able, at birth, if we will, to live sinless lives. They taught the doctrine of sinless perfection and that grace is to make salvation easier. Those doctrines were condemned not only at Ephesus but all through the medieval church and by the Reformation churches. The Second Council of Orange (529 AD), and even the Council of Trent (17 June 1546) condemned it. Pelagianism is condemned by name in the Augsburg Confession (1530), French Confession (1559), the Belgic Confession (1561), the Second Helvetic Confession (1566), the Anglican Articles (1571), and by the Synod of Dort (1619). As I wrote some years ago, “to say that Pelagianism is heresy, is to stand in the broadest stream of the Western Church. It is not a narrow, bigoted position, at least not as seen from the perspective of the historic Western Christian tradition.”

Arguably, to deny the Augustinian doctrine of provenient grace (i.e., unconditional election, that grace comes first, that grace regenerates) and to deny the Augustinian doctrine of sin is to contradict the ecumenical understanding of holy Scripture. This is a significant claim. It is not clear to me how to reconcile the soteriology of post-7th century [Greek/Russian etc] Orthodox traditions, whose soteriology more closely resembles that of Origen and Pelagius than Augustine’s, with the ecumenical doctrine. Nor is it easy to see how the Wesleyan and Nazarene traditions are squared with the broad Augustinianism of Ephesus et al.

It is important to note that, to this point, I have only appealed to Scripture (the magisterial authority for the Christian faith and the Christian life; sola Scriptura) and to the Council of Ephesus, the Second Council of Orange, to the Lutheran Augsburg Confession, to the Council of Trent (!), and to the Reformed church insofar as they all agree contra Pelagius. It is important to recognize that this is not a narrow band of ecclesiastical authorities nor a bigoted opinion.

This bring us to the question of the way the international Synod of Dort (1618–19) addressed the Remonstrants [Arminians]. What category did they use to analyze and reject the Remonstrants?

Above we considered the definition of heresy. We saw that there is a distinction to be made between heresy defined narrowly and broadly. The question remains, what should we think of the Remonstrants? In 1610 they made their Remonstrance against the confession of the Reformed churches. They proposed that the Reformed churches should confess

  1. that election is conditioned upon foreseen faith (and perseverance). They proposed;
  2. that Christ died and has obtained forgiveness for all;
  3. that grace is resistible;
  4. that it is possible that believers can turn away from Christ

In 1611, the contra-Remonstrance replied to the Remonstrants in a series of 5 articles that would form the core of the Canons considered by the various committees and finally adopted by the Synod. The international Synod of Dort (1618–19) convened to respond to this challenge. Did they regard these proposed revisions as heresy and if so, in what sense? The Canons did not use the word heresy or heretic very often but they did use it in the preface to the Canons:

The truth of this kind promise is evident in the Church of all ages. She has been attacked from the beginning, not only by the public force of enemies and the ungodly violence of heretics, but also by the masked subtleties of seducers.

The promise to which Synod referred was “I will be with you always” in Matthew 28:20.

Synod was explicit in its support for the judgment of the Council of Ephesus that Pelagianism is heresy:

But that others who are called by the gospel obey the call and are converted is not to be ascribed to the proper exercise of free will, whereby one distinguishes himself above others equally furnished with grace sufficient for faith and conversion (as the proud heresy of Pelagius maintains); but it must be wholly ascribed to God…. (3/4.10)

Finally, they invoked the category of heresy in the 5th head of doctrine, article 15:

The carnal mind is unable to comprehend this doctrine of the perseverance of the saints and the certainty thereof, which God has most abundantly revealed in His Word, for the glory of His Name and the consolation of pious souls, and which He impresses upon the hearts of the believers. Satan abhors it, the world ridicules it, the ignorant and hypocritical abuse it, and the heretics oppose [spiritusque erronei oppugnant] it. But the bride of Christ has always most tenderly loved and constantly defended it as an inestimable treasure; and God, against whom neither counsel nor strength can prevail, will dispose her so to continue to the end. Now to this one God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be honor and glory forever. Amen.

So far it seems likely that Synod was confessing that the Remonstrants were teaching heresy but it is not certain. Even though the phrase “spiritusque erronei oppugnant” (“the spirits of the wanderers”) is widely translated as “heretics,” since the word heretic is not explicitly used in 5.15 some ambiguity remains. If, however, we consider the rhetorical function of their invocation of Pelagius, the picture becomes clearer.

Synod declared that the Remonstrant doctrine of conditional election “savors of the teaching of Pelagius” (Rejection of Errors, 1.10. Hereafter, RE). In the RE 2.3 Synod denounced the teaching that, “by his satisfaction” Christ neither merited salvation itself for anyone nor faith but he only merited the right to create a sort legal new deal, a new set of conditions to be met by the Christian the exercise of free will. Here the Remonstrants were guilty of judging “too contemptuously the death of Christ, in no way acknowledge that most important fruit or benefit thereby gained” and guilty of “bring[ing] again out of hell the Pelagian error.”

In RE 2.6 Synod complained bitterly that the Remonstrants, by using the distinction between “meriting” and “appropriating” such that our salvation depends upon our exercise of our free cooperation with grace, sought to “instill into the people the destructive poison of Pelagianism.”

In 3/4 head of doctrine, article 2, Synod contrasted the Augustinian teaching of the Reformed churches on the corruption and conversion of man with that of the Pelagians who held that sin was not inherited but communicated “by imitation, as the Pelagians of old asserted…”.

The Remonstrant doctrine that “the grace whereby we are converted to God is only a gentle persuasion” or an “advising,” is “altogether Pelagian and contrary to the whole Scripture…” ( RE 3/4.7). The Remonstrant proposal to return to the old medieval system of grace and cooperation with grace was, according to Synod, a proposed return to “this doctrine of the Pelagians” that had “long ago ago condemned…” (RE 3/4.9). In the 3/4 head of doctrine, article 10, on the corruption and conversion of man, Synod rejected the Remonstrant doctrine that the ability to obey the gospel call lies in the human free will, by which “one distinguishes himself above others equally furnished with grace sufficient for faith and conversion (as the proud heresy of Pelagius maintains)…”. In RE 4.7, Synod condemned as “altogether Pelagian” the Remonstrant doctrine that saving grace is but “gentle persuasion” or “advice” and the Remonstrant doctrine that grace and free will are both partial causes of our salvation as the “doctrine of the Pelagians” condemned “long ago” (RE 4.9). The Remonstrant idea that our perseverance depends partly on our free will is nothing but “outspoken Pelagianism” (RE 5.2).

Finally, in her sentence pronounced upon the Remonstrants, Synod explicitly characterized the Remonstrant errors as “heresies.”

Did Synod condemn the Remonstrants as heretics? If we consider the various points at which Synod flatly characterized the errors of the Remonstrants as heresy, the ways in which Synod repeatedly associated the Remonstrants themselves with the Pelagians, and characterized their errors as Pelagian it seems hard to avoid the conclusion that, for the Synod of Dort, the revisions proposed by the Remonstrants were errors of such a magnitude that they not mere errors and not merely heresy in the broad sense, but heresy in the narrow, technical sense described in the first part of this essay: an error transgressing the ecumenical teaching of the church as agreed at Ephesus in 431, in the condemnation of Coelestius (and through him, Pelagius).

In the modern period, and particularly under the influence of neo-Evangelicalism, the rhetorical tendency has been to downplay the differences between the Reformed and the Remonstrants. To be sure, much water has passed under the bridge since 1619 but the Reformed churches still confess the Canons (rules) of the Synod of Dort. These are not mere historical curiosities. They are the living voice of the Reformed Churches, they are our understanding of the Word of God as touching the revisions of Reformed doctrine proposed by Arminius and his followers.

Perhaps the most important use that can be made of a recovery of the judgment of Synod upon the original Arminian doctrine is to recognize how passionate the church was for the Reformation. This year is the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. The 400th anniversary of the Synod of Dort will be observed in 2018–19 and it is well that we should remember that what Synod feared most was that the Remonstrants were leading us away from the biblical gospel of salvation by grace alone back to the medieval doctrine of salvation by grace and cooperation with grace. That threat is ever with us. It exists now in the form of the self-described Federal Vision theology. It exists in other proposals too. We ought to be as passionate for the Reformation and biblical doctrines of grace as the Synod was.

We ought also to recognize again how great the difference is between the Reformed confession of the Word of God and the Arminian-inspired versions that have dominated evangelical theology and piety since the early 19th century. Synod did not invoke the category of heresy lightly or unintelligently. They knew what they were doing and they used that language advisedly. It was meant to be bracing to the churches and to her ministers and so it should once again have that same affect in us.

This essay first appeared in May-June, 2017 on the Heidelblog. ©2017 R. Scott Clark. All rights reserved.

Gregory I (c.540–604 AD) Epistles 5.18 To The Bishop Of Constantinople

Gregory to John, Bishop of Constantinople.

At the time when your Fraternity was advanced to Sacerdotal dignity, you remember what peace and concord of the churches you found. But, with what daring or with what swelling of pride I know not, you have attempted to seize upon a new name, whereby the hearts of all your brethren might have come to take offence. I wonder exceedingly at this, since I remember how thou wouldest fain have fled from the episcopal office rather than attain it. And yet, now that thou hast got it, thou desirest so to exercise it as if thou hadst run to it with ambitious intent. For, having confessed thyself unworthy to be called a bishop, thou hast at length been brought to such a pass as, despising thy brethren, to covet to be named the only bishop. And indeed with regard to this matter, weighty letters were addressed to your Holiness by my predecessor Pelagius of holy memory; in which he annulled the acts of the synod, which had been assembled among you in the case of our once brother and fellow-bishop Gregory, because of that execrable title of pride, and forbade the archdeacon, whom he had sent according to custom to the threshold of our lord, to celebrate the solemnities of mass with you. But after his death, when I, unworthy, succeeded to the government of the Church, both through my other representatives and also through our common son the deacon Sabinianus, I have taken care to address your Fraternity, not indeed in writing, but by word of mouth, desiring you to restrain yourself from such presumption. And, in case of your refusing to amend, I forbade his celebrating the solemnities of mass with you; that so I might first appeal to your Holiness through a certain sense of shame, to the end that, if the execrable and profane assumption could not be corrected through shame, strict canonical measures might be then resorted to. And, since sores that are to be cut away should first be stroked with a gentle hand, I beg you, I beseech you, and with all the sweetness in my power demand of you, that your Fraternity gainsay all who flatter you and offer you this name of error, nor foolishly consent to be called by the proud title. For truly I say it weeping, and out of inmost sorrow of heart attribute it to my sins, that this my brother, who has been constituted in the grade of episcopacy for the very end of bringing back the souls of others to humility, has up to the present time been incapable of being brought back to humility; that he who teaches truth to others has not consented to teach himself, even when I implore him.

Consider, I pray thee, that in this rash presumption the peace of the whole Church is disturbed, and that it is in contradiction to the grace that is poured out on all in common; in which grace doubtless thou thyself wilt have power to grow so far as thou determinest with thyself to do so. And thou wilt become by so much the greater as thou restrainest thyself from the usurpation of a proud and foolish title: and thou wilt make advance in proportion as thou art not bent on arrogation by derogation of thy brethren. Wherefore, dearest brother, with all thy heart love humility, through which the concord of all the brethren and the unity of the holy universal Church may be preserved. Certainly the apostle Paul, when he heard some say, I am of Paul, I of Apollos, but I of Christ (1 Cor. 1:13), regarded with the utmost horror such dilaceration of the Lord’s body, whereby they were joining themselves, as it were, to other heads, and exclaimed, saying, Was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul (ib.)? If then he shunned the subjecting of the members of Christ partially to certain heads, as if beside Christ, though this were to the apostles themselves, what wilt thou say to Christ, who is the Head of the universal Church, in the scrutiny of the last judgment, having attempted to put all his members under thyself by the appellation of Universal? Who, I ask, is proposed for imitation in this wrongful title but he who, despising the legions of angels constituted socially with himself, attempted to start up to an eminence of singularity, that he might seem to be under none and to be alone above all? Who even said, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of heaven: I will sit upon the mount of the testament, in the sides of the North: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High (Isai. 14:13).

For what are all thy brethren, the bishops of the universal Church, but stars of heaven, whose life and discourse shine together amid the sins and errors of men, as if amid the shades of night? And when thou desirest to put thyself above them by this proud title, and to tread down their name in comparison with thine, what else dost thou say but I will ascend into heaven; I will exalt my throne above the stars of heaven? Are not all the bishops together clouds, who both rain in the words of preaching, and glitter in the light of good works? And when your Fraternity despises them, and you would fain press them down under yourself, what else say you but what is said by the ancient foe, I will ascend above the heights of the clouds? All these things when I behold with tears, and tremble at the hidden judgments of God, my fears are increased, and my heart cannot contain its groans, for that this most holy man the lord John, of so great abstinence and humility, has, through the seduction of familiar tongues, broken out into such a pitch of pride as to attempt, in his coveting of that wrongful name, to be like him who, while proudly wishing to be like God, lost even the grace of the likeness granted him, and because he sought false glory, thereby forfeited true blessedness. Certainly Peter, the first of the apostles, himself a member of the holy and universal Church, Paul, Andrew, John,—what were they but heads of particular communities? And yet all were members under one Head. And (to bind all together in a short girth of speech) the saints before the law, the saints under the law, the saints under grace, all these making up the Lord’s Body, were constituted as members of the Church, and not one of them has wished himself to be called universal. Now let your Holiness acknowledge to what extent you swell within yourself in desiring to be called by that name by which no one presumed to be called who was truly holy.

Was it not the case, as your Fraternity knows, that the prelates of this Apostolic See, which by the providence of God I serve, had the honour offered them of being called universal by the venerable Council of Chalcedon. But yet not one of them has ever wished to be called by such a title, or seized upon this ill-advised name, lest if, in virtue of the rank of the pontificate, he took to himself the glory of singularity, he might seem to have denied it to all his brethren.

But I know that all arises from those who serve your Holiness on terms of deceitful familiarity; against whom I beseech your Fraternity to be prudently on your guard, and not to lay yourself open to be deceived by their words. For they are to be accounted the greater enemies the more they flatter you with praises. Forsake such; and, if they must needs deceive, let them at any rate deceive the hearts of worldly men, and not of priests. Let the dead bury their dead (Luke 9:60). But say ye with the prophet, Let them be turned back and put to shame that say unto me, Aha, Aha (Ps. 69:4). And again, But let not the oil of the sinner lard my head (Ps. 140:5).

Whence also the wise man admonishes well, Be in peace with many: but have but one counsellor of a thousand (Ecclus. 6:6). For Evil communications corrupt good manners (1 Cor. 15:33). For the ancient foe, when unable to break into strong hearts, looks out for weak persons who are associated with them, and, as it were, scales lofty walls by ladders set against them. So he deceived Adam through the woman who was associated with him. So, when he slew the sons of the blessed Job, he left the weak woman, that, being unable of himself to penetrate his heart, he might at any rate be able to do so through the woman’s words. Whatever weak and secular persons, then, arc near you, let them be shattered in their own persuasive words and flattery, since they procure to themselves the eternal enmity of God from their very frowardness in being seeming lovers.

Of a truth it was proclaimed of old through the Apostle John, Little children, it is the last hour (1 John 2:18), according as the Truth foretold. And now pestilence and sword rage through the world, nations rise against nations, the globe of the earth is shaken, the gaping earth with its inhabitants is dissolved. For all that was foretold is come to pass. The king of pride is near, and (awful to be said!) there is an army of priests in course of preparation for him, inasmuch as they who bad been appointed to be leaders in humility enlist themselves under the neck of pride. But in this matter, even though our tongue protested not at all, the power of Him who in His own person peculiarly opposes the vice of pride is lifted up for vengeance against elation. For hence it is written, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble (Jam. 4:6). Hence, again, it is said, Whoso exalteth his heart is unclean before God (Prov. 16:5). Hence, against the man that is proud it is written, Why is earth and ashes proud (Ecclus. 10:9)? Hence the Truth in person says, Whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased (Luke 14:11). And, that he might bring us back to the way of life through humility, He deigned to exhibit in Himself what He teaches us, saying, Learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart (Matth. 11:29). For to this end the only begotten Son of God took upon Himself the form of our weakness; to this end the Invisible appeared not only as visible but even as despised; to this end He endured the mocks of contumely, the reproaches of derision, the torments of suffering; that God in His humility might teach man not to be proud. How great, then, is the virtue of humility for the sake of teaching which alone He who is great beyond compare became little even unto the suffering of death! For, since the pride of the devil was the origin of our perdition, the humility of God has been found the means of our redemption. That is to say, our enemy, having been created among all things, desired to appear exalted above all things; but our Redeemer remaining great above all things, deigned to become little among all things.

What, then, can we bishops say for ourselves, who have received a place of honour from the humility of our Redeemer, and yet imitate the pride of the enemy himself? Lo, we know our Creator to have descended from the summit of His loftiness that He might give glory to the human race, and we, created of the lowest, glory in the lessening of our brethren. God humbled Himself even to our dust; and human dust sets his face as high as heaven, and with his tongue passes above the earth, and blushes not, neither is afraid to be lifted up: even man who is rottenness, and the son of man that is a worm.

Let us recall to mind, most dear brother, this which is said by the most wise Solomon, Before thunder shall go lightning, and before ruin shall the heart be exalted (Ecclus. 32:10); where, on the other hand it is subjoined, Before glory it shall be humbled. Let us then be humbled in mind, if we are striving to attain to real loftiness. By no means let the eyes of our heart be darkened by the smoke of elation, which the more it rises the more rapidly vanishes away. Let us consider how we are admonished by the precepts of our Redeemer, who says, Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matth. 5:3). Hence, also, he says by the prophet, On whom shall my Spirit rest, but on him that is humble, and quiet, and that trembleth at my words (Isai. 66:2)? Of a truth, when the Lord would bring back the hearts of His disciples, still beset with infirmity, to the way of humility, He said, Whosoever will be chief among you shall be least of all (Matth. 20:27). Whereby it is plainly seen how he is truly exalted on high who in his thoughts is humbled. Let us, therefore, fear to be numbered among those who seek the first seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the market, and to be called of men Rabbi. For, contrariwise, the Lord says to His disciples, But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your master; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your Father upon the earth, for one is your Father (Matth. 23:7, 8).

What then, dearest brother, wilt thou say in that terrible scrutiny of the coming judgment, if thou covetest to be called in the world not only father, but even general father? Let, then, the bad suggestion of evil men be guarded against; let all instigation to offence be fled from. It must needs be (indeed) that offences come; nevertheless, woe to that man by whom the offence cometh (Matth. 18:7). Lo, by reason of this execrable title of pride the Church is rent asunder, the hearts of all the brethren, are provoked to offence. What! Has it escaped your memory how the Truth says, Whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a mill stone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea (Ib. v. 6)? But it is written, Charity seeketh not her own (1 Cor. 13:4). Lo, your Fraternity arrogates to itself even what is not its own. Again it is written, In honour preferring one another (Rom. 12:10). And thou attemptest to take the honour away from all which thou desirest unlawfully to usurp to thyself singularly. Where, dearest brother, is that which is written, Have peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord (Heb. 12:14)? Where is that which is written, Blessed are the peacemakers; for they shall be called the children of God (Matth. 5:9)?

It becomes you to consider, lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled. But still, though we neglect to consider, supernal judgment will be on the watch against the swelling of so great elation. And we indeed, against whom such and so great a fault is committed by this nefarious attempt,—we, I say, are observing what the Truth enjoins when it says, If thy brother shall sin against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone. If he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of one or two witnesses every word may be established. But if he will not hear them, tell it unto the Church. But if he will not hear the Church, let him be to thee as an heathen man and a publican (Matth. 18:15). I therefore have once and again through my representatives taken care to reprove in humble words this sin against the whole Church; and now I write myself. Whatever it was my duty to do in the way of humility I have not omitted. But, if I am despised in my reproof, it remains that I must have recourse to the Church.

Wherefore may Almighty God show your Fraternity how great love for you constrains me when I thus speak, and how much I grieve in this case, not against you, but for you. But the case is such that in it I must prefer the precepts of the Gospel, the ordinances of the Canons, and the welfare of the brethren to the person even of him whom I greatly love.

I have received the most sweet and pleasant letter of your Holiness with respect to the case of the presbyters John and Athanasius, about which, the Lord helping me, I will reply to you in another letter; for, being surrounded by the swords of barbarians, I am now oppressed by such great tribulations that it is not allowed me. I will not say to treat of many things, but hardly even to breathe. Given in the Kalends of January; Indiction 13.

Gregory the Great, “Register of the Epistles of Saint Gregory the Great,” in Leo the Great, Gregory the Great, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, trans. James Barmby, vol. 12b, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1895), 166–69.

Molly Worthen on Mark Driscoll (and Calvin)

You should probably read Molly Worthen’s essay on Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill (HT: Justin Taylor). I don’t know if she gets Driscoll right. If (that’s a big condition. It means if the condition isn’t met then what follows is irrelevant) what she says about how they practice discipline is true, however, I suggest they look into a Reformed church order. Reformed Churches do not practice discipline that way. It usually takes us a couple years before someone is actually excommunicated and shunning is an Anabaptist practice. We have local, regional, and national assemblies to hear appeals and to give advice on matters of discipline. In our polity, our consistory cannot proceed to the final steps of discipline without consulting the regional assembly of ministers and elders!

More to the point, she resurrects the worst caricatures of Calvin. I suppose her resuscitation of them a good reminder that we have to keep repeating the history. I admit, I don’t remember hearing or reading any story about Calvin making “a man who casually criticized him at a dinner party march through the streets of Geneva, kneeling at every intersection to beg forgiveness.”  As far as I know the polity in Geneva, he didn’t have that sort of authority. Typically the Consistory fined people. I’ve never seen any instances of this sort of discipline. If everyone who criticized Calvin in Geneva was made to do this there would have been no place to walk!


As a follow-up, I admit that I don’t know much about Mark Driscoll. As a historian I’m generally much more interested in dead people than the living. I do think, however, that the R&R folks need to dig a little more deeply into the Reformed confession. We have a theology, a piety, and a practice. I’m glad that folk are enthused about aspects of the Reformation but welding those aspects to American revivalism and pietism and evangelicalism will probably create a monster. If these emerging/R&R guys want to be “Reformed” why don’t they identify themselves with the Reformed Churches? I have my guesses as to why not but it says something about folk who like Calvin’s soteriology but who reject his church.

Ms Worthen was kind enough to respond to a query about her about this passage:

The Reformed tradition’s resistance to compromise and emphasis on the purity of the worshipping community has always contained the seeds of authoritarianism: John Calvin had heretics burned at the stake and made a man who casually criticized him at a dinner party march through the streets of Geneva, kneeling at every intersection to beg forgiveness. [Benedict cites the Calvini Opera 21:21, 367, 370-77 and several secondary texts as evidence for this episode].

In fairness, Worthen has a word count and an editor so things get compressed. Nevertheless, this compressed account of Calvin’s authority in Geneva reinforces the old and false stereotypes about Calvin, Calvinism, and the Reformed Churches as inherently authoritarian and tyrannical.

Here’s the text of my reply:

Hi Molly,

I won’t detain you long.

Thanks for the quick reply and the lead. I appreciate the difficulties and compromises required by editors! You can imagine, however, that my concern is that the sort of shorthand you used feeds what P. E. Hughes called “the popular fantasy” of Calvin as tyrant of Geneva. Calvin was more refugee than tyrant. At any rate, church-state relations in Geneva were fluid and complex.

I have Benedict (Christ’s Churches Purely Reformed) in front of me (very good memory you have!) and on p. 103 he says,

“When Ameaux’s words found their way to Calvin, he demanded action from the council. It decided to have Ameaux apologize on bended knees to Calvin before the assembly of the Two Hundred, but this was not a public penance enough to suit the minister. He refused to present himself for the ceremony and was not satisfied until the council condemned Ameaux to process through the city, kneeling at every major square or intersection to proclaim his regret at having dishonored the Word of God, the magistrates, and the ministers.”

Yes, it happened because Calvin insisted, but technically it was the city council who effected the sentence and, more importantly, it was part of a metaphorically bloody political fight, dating to the mid-40s, over the direction of the city and the church. This was less about Calvin’s person than it was about the authority of the church to make ecclesiastical policy. Ameaux was a member of a party contesting the Consistory’s authority and especially Calvin’s. Benedict’s account, in this respect, is a little overdrawn. In a survey a certain amount of nuance goes by the boards.*

As to authoritarianism and Calvinism generally, there’s a serious argument, that Bruce Gordon, I, and others have advanced that Calvinism in the period was a religion of refugees not tyrants. After all no other group suffered more martyrs in that period than the Reformed.

As to Driscoll and Mars Hill, he would not be admitted as a member of most [confessional] Reformed Churches much less as a minister. He’s a typical evangelical religious entrepreneur, part of a long line of such going back to the 18th century, but he’s hardly Reformed. The Calvin-Driscoll link, in that respect, is quite tenuous.

Thanks for your time,



ps. I see Gordon has a biography of Calvin appearing in May. I expect it will be terrific.

*I should add that this followed a legal and an ecclesiastical case (Register of the Company of Pastors, 1.309-10) concerning Ameaux’s wife, so there was some history there. Further, Ameaux wasn’t just “some guy.” He was a member of the city council (i.e., a member of either the Petit Conseil or the Two Hundred, it’s not clear) and a leading member of the “Libertine” party seeking to discredit Calvin and the Reformation in Geneva. Pierre Ameaux was a businessman who manufactured playing cards. According to Bernard Cottret, Calvin, 187, “he was sentenced to make a circuit of the city, his head bare, a lighted torch in his hand.” This is a translation CO 21.377, Registres du Conseil 41, fol. 68.

Here is the text of the French:

Ameaulx. Ayans vheu le contenuz de ces responces par lesquelle nous appert que il a meschamment parle contre Dieu le magestral et M. Calvin ministre etc. comment amplement est conpensez voz que ce pays soyt vostre? il est a moy tenus en ces responces: Ordonne qui soyt conet a mes compagnyons et serez gouvernés par nous dampne a debvoyer fere le tour a la ville en chemise teste nue une torche allumee en sa maien et dempuys devant le tribunal venyr crie mercy a Dieu et a la justice les genoulx a terre confessant avoyer mal parle le condampnant aussy a tous despens et que la sentence soyt profere publiquement.

Surely it strikes us as severe today—It wasn’t for nothing that Calvin was called “The Accusative Case” by his fellow students—but remember the times and the context. See Parker, John Calvin: A Biography, 99. According to Parker, what was at stake was the authority of the Word. Was it a confusion of the two kingdoms for Calvin to demand civil penalties for being identified with the sufferings of Christ? Absolutely! From the perspective of the 2 kingdoms, Calvin might have had a case before the Consistory but not before the Two Hundred.

This post first appeared in two parts, in 2009, on the Heidelblog.

More Than the Institutes And More Than Calvin

In case you’ve missed it, the Calvinpalooza [a term coined  on the Heidelblog on 29 January 2008]  that began last year is in full swing now with Calvin conferences popping up all over the globe. WSC is having its very own Calvin Conference: Calvin’s Legacy, on the 16th and 17th of this month. Calvin is a monumentally important figure in the history of Western Civilizations  and he is quite worth studying and celebrating. He is one of the fathers of the Reformed Churches, so those of us who live ecclesiastically and theologically in his tradition have a second reason for remembering him. As we do, however, we should bear in mind that he was one of our fathers and that he wrote more than his famous Institutes.There are a few programs for reading through the Institutes this year and that’s terrific. I sometimes fear that the Institutes are more talked about than read. At the same time those who are new to the Reformed tradition and those who’ve been influenced by the notion that Calvin is the sum of the Reformed tradition should know that, prior to the 20th century, Calvin was not generally regarded as the be all and end all of the Reformed faith.

vitringa_institutesPictured is a small handbook of Reformed theology by Campegius Vitringa (1659-1722), a Cocceian biblical scholar, theologian, and church historian and a student of Herman Venema. It’s just a text I happened to have on my desk (thanks to Wes White). I don’t know that the reader will want to drop his copy of Calvin’s Institutes to pick up Vitringa, but the latter is symbolic of the fact that there were literally dozens of important theological texts in the Reformed tradition after the Institutes. Some of Richard Muller’s journal articles have been collected in After Calvin and his work on the Reformed tradition (including Calvin) extending to the early 18th century is summarized in Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics (4 vols). If you want a serviceable introduction to this period in Reformed theology see Protestant Scholasticism: Essays in Reassessment. Many of the primary works from this period are overlooked because they have yet to be translated but this problem is being addressed by the Classic Reformed Theology project and by the work of the Dutch Reformed Translation Society, which is responsible for publishing Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics and is now working on other projects.

Already in the early days of the Calvinpalooza one sees all the competing Calvins emerging. There is the tolerant, “mainline” Calvin who sounds remarkably like Karl Barth. There is the “Five Point” Calvin who sounds like the Restless and Reforming fellows but, as Muller has reminded us in The Unaccommodated Calvin, as we spend 2009 re-reading and re-assessing Calvin we should do so with the consciousness that he was at the headwaters of a stream and that he should be read in the light of that stream.

Calvin wasn’t a Barthian or even a proto-Barthian. He wasn’t a proto-Schleiermachian. He wasn’t a proto-evangelical. He wasn’t restless but he was Reformed. He was at the headwaters of  and part of a churchly, orthodox, confessional tradition of reading the Scriptures. In the modern world that tradition has largely been swamped by other movements, but there continues to exist a remnant of orthodox Calvinists who still believe what Calvin taught and practices the faith as Calvin practiced it. That little band receives him as a honored father but also as primus inter pares.

Part Of A Broader Movement
By the time Calvin published the first edition of his Institutes in 1536 Luther and Melanchthon had been establishing the foundation for Protestant thought for more than 15 years. The first edition of Melanchthon’s Common Places appeared in 1521. Luther’s Bondage of the Will was published in 1525. The Augsburg Confession, which Calvin would later sign, was published in 1530.  As early as 1523 there had begun to develop a distinct Reformed confession. Heinrich Bullinger published the first treatise on covenant theology in 1534. The point is that, though he is often treated by modern writers as the singular Reformed voice, Calvin was heir to a broader Protestant consensus.During his life, Calvin was part of a broader movement. He wrote, taught, and preached, and was conscious of doing so, alongside a good lot of other Reformed writers, preachers, and teachers. Martin Bucer was becoming a Protestant, a follower of Luther, in the late teens. He began writing Protestant and Reformed theology in the 1520s and 30s. When he got to Geneva Guillaume (William) Farel had already been there for several years, laying the foundation of the Reformed Church. Peter Martyr Vermigili and Girolamo Zanchi became Reformed in the 1540s. Martyr helped to lead the Reformed reformation in Zurich, alongside Heinrich Bullinger, and Zanchi taught in Strasbourg, and later in Heidelberg.  Pierre Viret was a key figure in the Reformation of Lausanne and Geneva in the 1540s and 50s and traveled widely as a preacher after leaving Geneva. Theodore Beza began teaching in 1549 and became Calvin’s colleague in Geneva and his representative to the French Churches and his Stand-in during the 1550s and his successor from 1564 to 1605.

We know relatively less about these other figures because, in the 20th century, for reasons that had more to do with systematic theology rather than history or historical theology, Calvin became virtually sole face of Reformed theology, as if the entire Reformed faith teetered on one man’s head.

Calvin had a great lot of students who studied at his feet, read his Institutes, heard him lecture on Scripture, observed his work in Geneva, and who learned his theology, piety, and practice. They took that instruction with them to plant churches in France, in Germany, and across Europe. Among these students understood Calvin’s theology, piety, and practice and translated it, adapted it, and modified it to suit their needs in different circumstances. We should note that, unlike many scholars since the early 20th century, they did not treat the Institutes as if dropped from heaven like the Quran. They treated Calvin with great, deserved, respect. They treated him as a revered teacher, leader, and in some respects, a pioneer. They did not treat him or his Institutes as the end of Reformed theology. They treated Calvin as a father and the Institutes as a starting place for Reformed theology. As circumstances changed, as seminal Reformed ideas (e.g. covenant theology) needed to be expanded, as his practice (e.g. worship)  needed to be refined, they did so and they did it without guilt or without hesitation because they understood that they were operating with shared assumptions, shared principles, and a shared hermeneutic. They could elaborate and adapt Calvin’s theology, piety, and practice to new circumstances because that is what Calvin taught them to do, because that is what Calvin did with the theology, piety, and practice he inherited from Luther, Melanchthon, and Bucer.

The Relative Absence Of Calvin In Reformed Orthodoxy
So far I have tried to put Calvin into a broader historical and theological context. This being the 500th anniversary of his birth there is bound to be a certain amount of parochial pride and hyperbole but contrarian that I am, I hope that the gentle reader will remember that, as important as Calvin was and remains, the peculiar position he occupies today is largely a modern invention.By saying this I am not diminishing Calvin nor am I diminishing his astonishing accomplishments, about which I will say more below. I am, however, doing what historians do, and that is attempting to spoil the party a little. That’s what contextualization is: spoiling the party. Modern folk like to think that they are the brightest and best that have ever been. Narcissists that we are, we think that if we are the brightest and best that have ever been and if we think Calvin was the be all and end all of Reformed theology, then that must be so.

One of the more surprising and even shocking things I found when I began advanced studies in Reformation and post-Reformation history and theology is how infrequently, relative to modern writing, Calvin was cited by his orthodox followers. In many discussions I’ve had since c. 1980, apart from God’s Word and the Reformed confessions, one way to end a discussion was to quote Calvin. If it is so for us, why wasn’t it so for them?  This was truly troubling. Calvin was a profound influence on me. One of the history profs at my undergraduate university allowed me to do a lot of directed study so that I did a sort of great books course on my own. One semester I read the Institutes from cover to cover. That was the first comprehensive account of the faith I ever read. I hadn’t read Berkhof (in any version). I hadn’t read Sproul. I think I had read Packer’s Knowing God and I had probably read Van Til’s The Case for Calvinism.

As I began my doctoral work I expected to see Calvin’s name appear as routinely in those  texts as he does in modern texts. I didn’t expect footnotes (which are a relatively recent invention) but I did expect to see acknowledgment of Calvin’s importance. When I did not I began to theorize as to why not. I theorized that he was too controversial and that it wouldn’t have served the rhetorical purpose of the author to associate himself too closely with such a controversial figure. That was probably true in some cases. There were probably other reasons for not openly citing him but I had a nagging, almost guilty, feeling that there was another reason he wasn’t being cited as often as I expected: he wasn’t as important to them as he has become to us.

The relative absence of Calvin in the writings of Reformed orthodoxy doesn’t mean that he wasn’t important. In fact the practice of citation varied widely. Some authors cite almost no one or they cite primarily patristic writers or some other group of writers determined by rhetorical needs and circumstances. On the other hand, the great Dutch Reformed theologian Gijsbertus Voetius cited authors casually and extensively almost  like a modern writer. Still, Calvin does not appear as often as one might expect.

One reason for this disappointment is the disproportionate influence Calvin has come to have over the Reformed identity in the 20th century in the wake of Karl Barth. As I write I’m not even certain any longer how much Barth actually cited Calvin, but I think it’s fair to say that Barth saw himself as recovering Calvin’s theology and certainly Barth’s followers have attempted to position him as the genuine, modern heir of Calvin’s theology over against the decretal, federal theology of Calvin’s orthodox successors. Because of Barth’s massive importance and influence in the 20th century there has arisen a sort of Calvin Studies industry. Of course this is part of the trend toward academic specialization in the same period.

The body of literature on Calvin, however, is truly amazing especially when one considers the relative lack of literature on other Reformed figures in the same period beginning with the 400th anniversary of Calvin’s birth in 1909. How many English language biographies of Calvin have been published since 1909? How many of them make a genuine contribution (i.e. add something new to our understanding of Calvin)?  How many summaries of the Institutes are there? How many surveys of Calvin’s theology? I call this “dogpiling” and I urge my students not to do it. Dogpiling occurs in when a writer either does not know the secondary literature or doesn’t care and jumps on the pile any way. Why would someone willingly pile on? Because the compulsion to contribute something on Calvin is too strong. It’s almost sacrilege for a self-identifying Calvinist not to write on Calvin. Why is the compulsion so strong? In part it is the intrinsic attraction of and to Calvin. In part, however, it is the social importance Calvin has attained in the period. In other words, it’s about creating identity markers, not about actual Calvin scholarship. Here’s an interesting bit of evidence for my thesis. Did you know that there is yet an untranslated (into English) Latin treatise on the Trinity? In the same time when multiple biographies have been written, a new edition of an English translation of Calvin’s NT commentaries (an attempted revision of the OT commentaries did not come to fruition) appeared, no one has bothered to translate this work into English. There’s a Korean translation but not an English translation. Further, not all of his correspondence is translated. Few things are as important for understanding a figure than his own diaries or his own correspondence. If we really want to understand Calvin more fully why hasn’t that work been done? How can that be? If Calvin and Calvin studies are so important, why, when there is so much labor being expended in the study of and writing about Calvin, has not this basic  work been done? The partial answer is that the interest has too often been less in what Calvin actually said and wrote, where, when, how, and why, but in the use to which a version of the Calvin story can be put for various modern agendas.

Reading Calvin Well
The phenomenon that stimulated this series is the appearance of several plans to read through the Institutes. This is fine and salutary, especially for those who have not read the Institutes or for those who’ve not read them for a long time. To see folk, especially those outside the Reformed tradition and outside the confessional Reformed orbit, reading Calvin is a wonderful thing. Nevertheless, there is much more to Calvin than the Institutes.

Curmudgeon that I am, I fear that, in the enthusiasm of the anniversary, will read the Institutes stop there. This has been one of the great sins of the modern Calvin studies movement. There is an inordinate number of essays in which Calvin’s view of x or y is described with great finality solely on the basis of the Institutes and then often from a few lines.

Take his view on the Christian Sabbath. Most accounts of Calvin’s view of the Sabbath would have it that he was a lawn-bowling, Sabbath-denying antinomian. If all one reads of Calvin are a few lines from the Institutes in splendid isolation from his historical context (against which “sabbatarians” was he arguing and why?). If, however, one reads Calvin’s sermons on Deuteronomy (and other sermons), one gains a rather more complete picture of his theology, piety, and practice of the Sabbath. Calvin’s rhetoric on the Sabbath was virtually indistinguishable from that of the later Puritans.

In fact, if we’re to read Calvin correctly, we must read him the way he intended to be read. The Institutes were the harvest of his biblical exegesis. He revised the Institutes almost constantly on the basis of his biblical study. His biblical study also came to expression, however, in his preaching. The three endeavors are organically linked. To read Calvin rightly one needs to take account of not only what Calvin said in the Institutes, when he said it, why he said it and to whom and in what circumstance, but what else he said in his biblical commentaries and his sermons.

For the truly thorough Calvin student it shouldn’t stop at this troika. Calvin wrote other treatises on many other topics and thus one should consult the relevant treatises. One should also consult, where possible, his correspondence. His intentions and context are much illuminated by his personal, often private, account given to his friends of his work. Thankfully, much of this work is in English.

There is one other body of literature that the Calvin student will want to consult. It’s the body of literature to which almost no one but a few hearty scholars pay attention but that doesn’t mean it isn’t important. I refer to the records of Calvin’s ecclesiastical life. Some of this is found in the correspondence and in the sermons and in a few treatises, but most of it is found in the minutes of the Register of the Company of Pastors.

These minutes are a wonderful insight into Calvin the pastor, the shepherd of needy and broken sheep. In Reformed Churches before Calvin and since there have always been a series of related ecclesiastical assemblies. One is the congregation itself, with which most are familiar. Another, however, is the consistory, which, in Dutch Reformed practice is the monthly (or so) meeting of pastors and elders to consider pastoral issues in the congregation. Another assembly, in Dutch Reformed terms, is the Council (which includes the deacons) and that assembly is to address the practical needs of the congregation. Beyond that  are regional and national assemblies.

To my shame I am not expert in the church polity in Geneva. I shall have to work on it this year. I believe, however, that there were local consistories in the congregations in Geneva, there was at least one body of deacons to address the temporal (financial and physical) needs of the congregations and certainly there was a broader assembly of ministers, the Compangie des Pasteurs (Company of Pastors) which included pastors from Geneva and the surrounding rural areas. I don’t believe there was a formal Swiss Synod, in which Geneva participated (though the Genevan churches often consulted with Bern, Zürich, and other cantons), but there were French Synods to which Calvin corresponded and in which Beza was active.

In the Register of the Company of Pastors one finds a record of a living, breathing, ordinary congregation. The company of pastors seems to have functioned in the way a local consistory would today. They dealt with venal and venial sins as well as gross sins. They heard confessions of sin, they counseled, sought reconciliation between sinners, they disciplined, they prayed, and they planned. Because of the nature of church-state relations in the 16th century the Company had the power to level financial penalties. Forgive me for thinking that might be an especially effective tool in some congregations today!

As a pastor I’ve always found it encouraging to know that my forebears faced the very same problems then that I do now. They held the same sorts of long, difficult meetings. They disciplined recalcitrant, stubborn, and impenitent sinners. They heard confessions by repentant sinners, whom they embraced with affection. They had to sort out thorny ethical problems, including the divorce of Calvin’s own brother Antoine!

There are a couple of ways of accessing these minutes. Philip Edgecumbe Hughes made a translation of the minutes that covers the periods when Calvin was in Geneva. There is a broader academic project that is preparing a critical French text (it’s very difficult work!) and from that a critical English translation. I doubt that the Hughes edition is still in print but I think the more recent critical edition is available. A quick search on suggests that both versions are still available.

Calvin wasn’t just a writer and theologian. He reckoned himself a pastor. He had a theology, yes. He had a piety, yes, but he also had a churchly practice and that churchly practice was vitally important to him and inseparable from his theology and piety. I hope that the enthusiasm for Calvin that so many are demonstrating in 2009 will translate into an appreciation of not only his doctrine of salvation but also the rest of his theology and in the way that it worked itself out in the life of the church.

This post first appeared as a series, in 2009, on the Heidelblog and appears here slightly revised.

Kingdom Through Covenant: A Review

Below is a review by Harrison Perkins (MDiv) of Peter J. Gentry and Stephen J. Wellum, Kingdom Through Covenant (Wheaton: Crossway, 2012). He grew up in the south and attended college in Alabama. He began to get more involved in the church in college and there grew in his love for the church and desire to help others understand the riches of the Word of God and the gospel of God’s free grace. He is married and lives in the San Diego area. He is a graduate Westminster Seminary California and a PhD student at Queens University, Belfast.


It is difficult to know what the best way to review such a large book is (778 pages plus bibliography) in way that is useful to readers. There is much ground to cover and it is nearly impossible to do justice to all that the authors argue. The book is much too long to treat point by point. Rather, it seems better to treat this work topically and give a basic overview and response regarding the major issues.

First, there is much to appreciate in this volume for those of us holding to classic Covenant Theology (hereafter CT). This work might well be valuable to have simply as a one-volume commentary on many of the major passages related to CT. Although Reformed CT would not always agree with the exegesis, it can be a useful guide to what many of the issues are in particular texts.

Second, the authors do argue against a separate eschatology for Israel and the church. A wonderful argument is made that the land promises are made to Abraham and his seed, but his true seed are those of his faith (Gal. 3:7). This means that believers, not an ethnic group inherit the land promises. They also argue that there was the promise of expansion beyond the borders of Palestine from the beginning. The land promised to Israel is promised in light of the covenant made at creation. Adam was to tend Eden and fill the earth. The same is true of later land promises: it was meant to fill the earth. These arguments serve well to dispel the Dispensational disjunction between the church and Israel. There is only one people of God.

But what do the authors say about the covenants? Where do they stand in relation to Reformed CT? It is helpful to look at what they say about each major covenant heading. Regarding the covenant of redemption, they do not affirm it by name, but say that it is on the right track (pg. 654–656). They affirm the eternal plan of redemption among the Godhead and also affirm that God in Himself is covenantal, which gives warrant for us to think about all things covenantally.

Regarding the covenant of works, they do not agree with all that CT holds as the covenant of works, but that it is on the right track (pg.610). They do affirm and argue at length for a covenant with Adam (pg. 177–221). What they seem to neglect, however, is that it that covenant was a covenant of works. They affirm, however, the obligations for Adam and that his fulfillment of this covenant arrangement would bring about a further eschatological reality. This shows that there is much that the authors do like about CT’s position on the covenant of works. What they do not seem to like is that it is the covenant of works, i.e. they deny that the other covenants are not also a type of works covenants, as we will see under the covenant of grace section. Thankfully, they do emphasize that Christ did what Adam failed to do and that Christ earned for us redemption. This is an important feature related to CT’s exposition of the covenant of works and covenant of redemption that the authors have affirmed (though I got the impression that they did not fully grasp the issues behind the works covenant between the Father and Son and how that relates to the covenant of works).

Regarding the covenant of grace, they deny that it is legitimate to speak of one covenant. They affirm one “plan of salvation,” but say that we should only speak of the plurality of covenants because the Scripture has a plurality of covenants. There are several reasons why they make this move. First, I am not sure that they understand that in some ways, “one covenant of grace” means one plan of salvation. That is the point of the doctrine. They certainly, however, miss that WCF 7.5-6 speaks of the one covenant administered in diverse ways. CT also speaks of the plurality of covenants, but these covenants are administrations of the one covenant of grace made after the fall (Gn. 3:15). Second, the main reason for dividing the covenant of grace into many pieces is to argue for credobaptism. In many ways, this book is simply a drawn out argument for credobaptism. It becomes clear that the primary reason for posing their hermeneutics under a covenantal scheme is to try and make credobaptism at all plausible for those of us who hold CT. They want to show that there are non-Dispensationalists that hold credobaptism (a claim to be examined below). By not posing one covenant of grace, they leave open the holes they need to make a radical discontinuity between the new covenant and all the others.

Two of the major issues in the concept of the “one plan of salvation” posed in this book are the nature of the covenants and soteriology in regards to the ordo salutis. As far as the nature of the covenants is concerned, the authors deny the distinction that CT traditionally makes between conditional and unconditional (promise) covenants. They say that all the covenants are in some ways conditional and in other ways unconditional. This is the reason they give for the tension between God’s promises and man’s unfaithfulness. God has promised, but He requires a faithful covenant servant. This is the reason they say that the Incarnation was necessary: God had to provide His own faithful covenant servant. However, it seems to me that by denying the distinction between conditional and unconditional covenants, they have made them all conditional. If the unconditional aspects (promises) of a covenant are conditional, then they are not really unconditional. The whole covenant is simply conditional.

This scheme makes all the covenants function the same way. Granted, Wellum and Gentry do a better job of doing justice to redemptive-history in its progress through covenants; they do see the covenants as fulfilling God’s one plan and do acknowledge that later covenants fulfill earlier ones. However, by making all the covenants function the same way (conditionally), they end up posing each covenant as a real potential at fulfilling God’s one plan. If a particular covenant can provide a faithful covenant servant, then it will fulfill God’s promises. It just so happens that this does not happen until the new covenant. This strikes me as Dispensationalism is a covenant suit and tie. The authors have done more to use covenants as the Scripture does, but ultimately they have made each covenant function individually and undermined any attempt at unifying the covenants, which is a major point of Reformed CT.

The other issue is related to soteriology in regards to the ordo salutis. The authors do not seem to pose that OT saints were saved in the same way that NT saints are saved. They state that a flaw of CT is that it poses OT saints as indwelt by the Spirit and united to Christ (pg. 113n74). They do not go as far as classic Dispensationalism and argue that Israelites were saved by keeping the law. However, they do argue for differences in soteriology between the new covenant and the old (this obviously seems to confuse old covenant with OT, but this is a separate issue). They state that OT saints were saved by faith in God’s promises (pg. 684, n.70). They argue that now in the NT the promises of God for salvation are Christologically focused (pg. 685). “In the Old Testament, particularly under the old covenant, the forgiveness of sins is normally granted through the sacrificial system,” (pg.650). This is not the soteriology of Reformed CT, nor is it the biblical soteriology. Christ said no one comes to the Father except through Him (Jn. 14:6) and I do not think that meant only after the NT era began. It was an eternal reality for sinners. When Christ laid down His life for the elect, it was not only the NT elect (Jn. 10). It was the elect from all times. What the authors have posed is a diluted Dispensational soteriology.

More specifically within the covenant of grace, the authors rightly recognize the importance of the Abrahamic covenant, but are mistaken in most of their conclusions about it. They have made it a conditional covenant, just like all the others. This allows them to put it in contrast, rather than continuity, with the new covenant, which is fulfilled by the work of Christ. By setting even the Abrahamic covenant in contrast with the new, they are able to argue that the “genealogical principle” of the Abrahamic covenant is a type of a new covenant reality: the lineage of faith. This forms their argument for the shift in covenantal structure from including infants of believers to not including them. They support this argument by appealing largely to Jeremiah 31:26–40. They put heavy emphasis on the contrast of the new covenant to the old, which they are right to do, but they seem to think that the contrast is mainly about children in the covenant. This places the new covenant in contrast with the whole OT scheme of covenants (which is a Dispensational scheme) but this is not what Jeremiah’s contrast is. He contrasts the new covenant with that made at Sinai (31:32), which is a specific OT administration. Therefore, the authors are mistaken because they miss that the contrast must be between the new covenant and something specific to the Mosaic covenant. The very thing, to which Jeremiah points, is the breakable nature of the covenant at Sinai. The old covenant (Mosaic) was breakable, primarily because it was conditional and rested on the covenant servant to be faithful but the new will be unbreakable (unconditional). It will be fulfilled by God. This not only undermines the authors’ contrast of new covenant with all the OT, but also their denial of the distinction between conditional and unconditional covenants.

More so, the authors have made many of these moves arguing backwards. They know that infants cannot be baptized so they read the OT covenants in a way to support this view rather than listening to the text. They also miss much of the argument of Galatians regarding the AC. Galatians 3:7 poses that the seed of Abraham is those of faith. Paul does not say that this is only true in the NT era. It was always the truth. The same thing is expressed when he argues that the true Jew is the one inwardly (Rom. 2:29). The seed of Abraham was always a spiritual reality. Additionally, Paul calls the Abrahamic covenant the gospel (Gal. 3:8). As hard as the authors work to distance the new covenant and the AC, this runs contrary to Paul’s statements cited here.

Further, the authors argue that the genealogical principle is typological of the principle of faith in the new covenant. They state that the invariable inclusion of all of the physical lineage prefigures the invariable inclusion of all those who have faith. However, this misses much of what happens in the Abrahamic covenant itself regarding the genealogical principle. It should be obvious that not all the physical descendants are true believers (e.g. Esau). This shows that there is certainly a spiritual dimension to the AC, which is the dimension that the NT emphasized most. Some of the physical descendants, however, are also cut off from the covenant (e.g. Ishmael). This shows that whether discussed spiritually or physically, the Abrahamic covenant includes a mixed community in the covenant. Wither way the typology will point forward to a mixed covenant in the church. This runs against the majority of the authors’ arguments for credobaptism in the covenant context.

A few other comments are in order. The major content issues have been addressed, but there are also a few methodological features that should be discussed. First and foremost, the authors do a great job of interacting with Dispensational material. They cite relevant and credible sources and deal fairly with the Dispensational arguments, sometimes at length. The same cannot be said, however, regarding the authors’ interaction with CT. Many times, they do not cite sources for what they claim CT holds. Much of what they claim CT believes, I do not recognize as actual CT. When they do cite sources regarding CT, they are typically shallow or disreputable. Although they cite Michael Horton’s Introducing Covenant Theology (also published as God of Promise) regularly, most of the sources the use for CT are either web searches or Federal Vision writers. The first category is simply not acceptable for academic work. Web pages are helpful for many things, but they are not fit for academic engagement. They authors failed to really wrestle with full-bodied CT, particularly, they did not engage with the primary CT sources at all, even those translated into English. There is no excuse for not including at least one from Witsius, Turretin, Owen, or Hodge in this discussion. They rely on shoddy second hand material, which undermines their attempt at doing any credible academic work on the topic. Regarding the second category, all confessional Reformed CT would have a severe aversion to Federal Vision. To cite Federal Vision authors as representative of orthodox Reformed CT is not only to set up a straw man argument, but is an extreme misrepresentation of the opposing side. If this is an example of being unaware of the controversy, that is totally inexcusable.

Another methodological concern is with Gentry’s exegesis. I should say, it is not with the way he does exegesis per se, but he never makes explicit his exegetical conclusions or the relevance of particular exegesis to the overall topic. The individual chapters on the various covenants hardly ever express a thesis regarding the particular covenant under examination. This makes it difficult to follow the overall argument and frustrating to try and see why he is making the points he is making, Much of the almost 500 pages of exegesis as if it was published simply for the sake of exegesis. A great number of pages does not prove an argument. Conclusions are not only helpful for the reader but necessary for tracing arguments.

In the end, this book is interesting, but it does not really advance the discussion. It is too big and not clear enough for a general audience. On the other hand, academic audiences will see that it has not moved much past a progressive Dispensational position. It rejects a separate future for Israel but still holds a Dispensational-style soteriology and makes the same mistakes regarding what the nature of discontinuity is between the new and old covenants (the major contrast is not about including infants). I enjoyed this book and found much of it helpful. I find, however, claims that this book is “groundbreaking” quite misleading and over stated, unless they refer to the literal effect dropping a book of this size would have on the ground.

Why the Mission Needs the Marks

Doubtless the one of the most significant movements within evangelicalism at the moment is the “emergent” or “emerging churches” movement. The adjectives “emerging” and “emergent” designate different wings of the movement. Generally, the “emergent” wing is more radical and the “emerging” wing a little less radical. Just as frequently, however, in the contemporary rhetoric from both wings of the movement no distinction is made and this essay will speak of the “emerging movement” (hereafter, EM). Like their older evangelical brothers and sisters, the EM also rejects (at least elements of) fundamentalism and revivalism. In their place, they are constructing a cross-traditional, eclectic synthesis. Christianity Today writer Andy Crouch describes the approach to worship and theology of Mars Hill Bible Church (Grand Rapids) as simultaneously “echoing and subverting a fashion-driven culture of cool.”1 This hip veneer covers an intentional theological synthesis. As pastor Rob Bell puts it,

We’re re-discovering Christianity as an Eastern religion, as a way of life. Legal metaphors for faith don’t deliver a way of life. We grew up in churches where people knew the nine verses why we don’t speak in tongues, but had never experienced the overwhelming presence of God.2

An eclectic approach to Christianity, with somewhat different results, also marks Brian McLaren’s A Generous Orthodoxy, in which he describes himself simultaneously as a “missional, evangelical, Post/protestant, liberal/conservative, mystical/poetic, biblical, charismatic/contemplative, fundamentalist/Calvinist, Anabaptist/Anglican, Methodist, catholic, green, incarnational, depressed-yet-hopeful, emergent, unfinished Christian.”3 Eddie Gibbs and Ryan Bolger characterize the EM thus:

Emerging churches are communities that practice the way of Jesus within postmodern cultures. This definition encompasses nine practices. Emerging (1) churches identify with the life of Jesus, (2) transform the secular realm, and (3) live highly communal lives. Because of these activities, they (4) welcome the stranger, (5) serve with generosity, (6) participate as producers, (7) create as created beings, (8) lead as a body, and (9) take part in spiritual activities.4

Scot McKnight gives his own list of 5 characteristics. The emerging churches (which he distinguishes from “emergent” churches) are “prophetic (or at least provocative). They are “postmodern,” “praxis-oriented,” “post-evangelical,” and “political.”5

The Problem of Defining “Missional”
If the EM is hard to define, it is even more difficult to understand what they mean by the word “missional.”  Perhaps no single word in the EM is used more than the word “missional.” No single word is more central to their identity and purpose and yet it is not easy to find them defining the word “missional.”  They often use it as a crucial qualifier for their understanding of Scripture or the Christian faith. For example, on his blog, Scot McKnight has been publishing a series of studies called “Missional Jesus” wherein Jesus life and ministry are analyzed in “missional terms,” with the result that Jesus appears quite similar to the EM movement. Judging by the accounts by the EM and judging by their characterizations of the adjective “missional,” the two seem to be used as synonyms. In other words, if one will be genuinely “missional” one must agree with the EM theology. Further, if we compare the basic attributes of the EM’s self-description with the accounts given by scholars of pietism they are virtually identical.6 Thus, in other words, to be identified with the EM is to be missional and viewed historically, the EM/Missional movements, are simply contemporary ways of re-stating Pietism. For all the new rhetoric, what we have is, at bottom, an argument between those who value religious experience as the highest good and those who, while valuing religious experience—I call to the stand the Heidelberg Catechism, William Perkins, and John Owen—value an objective theology, piety, and practice above subjective religious experience.

What are confessional Reformed Christians to do with these movements and particularly with this adjective “missional”? This essay argues that we must do two things: First, if we are to apply it to ourselves, we must challenge the prevailing EM definition of “missional.” Second, we must recognize that the Reformed theology, piety, and practice presents a clear alternative to the EM definition of “missional” because, unlike the EM, Reformed theology has a doctrine of the church, which confesses that it is in and through the church that the Triune God is accomplishing his mission. For us to say “the mission needs the marks,” is to say that without the visible, institutional church, there is no mission. In order to have a proper definition of what it is to be “missional” we must have a proper definition of what the church is.

First, the definition of the adjective “missional.” There is a some controversy in the EM over whether the word “missional” is being “co-opted” by folk such as we who are not entitled to use it. Anthony Bradley asks whether the term “missional” was being “hijacked” by traditionalists of various sorts. He raises the question whether “missional” types need another adjective to describe themselves.7 He complains about the fact that “Church Growth” guys are now using the term. He cites a document by Tim Keller—who actually provides something of a definition of “Missional”8 and says the term is being co-opted by “the traditional/seeker/program oriented ‘ministries’ driven church”).9 The problem, he says, is that none of these folks are genuinely “missional.”  He asks, “Can you really be missional if your personal relationships are confined to the Christian shire? If your church has no non-Christians attending? If adult baptisms of the unchurched aren’t a regular occurrence, if the church is not serving the needs of the local community, etc?”  The folks at “Reformergent” define missional as:

Social action, community involvement, and sacrificial hospitality is primary in lifestyle living. There is once again an interest in being light and salt in a broken world. This involves primarily politics and culture. Although the emerging church sometimes lacks an emphasis on evangelism as part of missional living, there is still value in their approach to how we can be ‘in this world, and not of it.’10

They give three marks of what it means to be “emergent” and “missional.” Those marks are a concern for “social justice,” “authenticity,” and an “unstructured ecclesiology.”11

It should be clear by now that the definition of “missional” raises serious questions. What is at stake here is the very nature of Christianity. This is not simply my assessment; this is the assessment of leaders of the EM. For example, in response to Driscoll’s criticisms, Doug Pagitt says, “I think that we’re basically talking about two different versions of Christianity” and Tony Jones agrees.12 Spencer Burke, says that his goal is to radically re-shape the visible, institutional church. He says,

I challenge the institutional church, where are you spending your R&D [research and development] money now? … If it’s trying to figure out the next big church, I think you should not spend your money that way. … I actually believe that you will see major organizations in the next few years investing in R&D because of the missional question … because of the things they are discovering now…13

Confessional Reformed churches should share this concern. It is a fair question whether building mega-churches is the mission of the church. As he continues, the picture becomes clearer:

I really believe the institutional church will die to itself … even though it will destroy our Sunday morning event … even though it will mean no longer investing in training biblical teachers for the one-hour event … for the greater good, the greater cause, the missional opportunity….14

Let me be clear, if Reformed folk are to apply the adjective “missional” to themselves, it must be defined clearly and that definition must be quite distinct from that used by the EM. Indeed, if we are to use it to describe ourselves we must, to use Bradley’s terms, hijack it or co-opt it.

Let’s us begin doing so. The Oxford English Dictionary defines it in this use as an adjective relating to missions or missionary work, but this is not what the EM means by it. According to the EM, Sunday mornings are no longer considered the Christian Sabbath or the Lord’s Day morning, the day of public worship, the divinely appointed time and place for the preaching of the Word and the administration of the sacraments. Sunday morning is just an event and not even a “missional” event at that! Tripp Fuller says,

There is much to learn and keep from the Reformation, a movement that was thoroughly modern, but there is reason to give pause to returning to it with a clenched fist. Right now I think the last thing the Church needs are white dudes with clinched fists, especially when what they are clenching is ‘God’s Truth.’ Throughout modernity white Dudes have had God’s truth in their hands too much, and behind them are ditches filled with God’s and/or their enemies. (This confusion is easy when you have truth tightly gripped in a fist.) … I am confident that, as the Church finds its bearing in a new world, we don’t need any more clinched fists, for it is God’s world and God’s truth after all.15

We see a similar anti-ecclesiastical approach to mission in The Missional Church edited by Darrell L. Guder and co-written by five different authors.16  They agree with many of the EM writers who reject the “Western mission” as a “European-church-centered enterprise.”17 In its place they seek a “theocentric reconceptualization of Christian mission.”18 In the EM/Missional movements there is a turning away from the church as organization and toward the church as organism. They regard the institutional church as a remnant of “Christendom,” the medieval church-state complex.19 Many of the EM/Missional theorists seem to accept, to greater and lesser degrees, the nineteenth-century theory that the apostolic church was purely kerygmatic and charismatic and that organization was a later, post-apostolic corruption of authentic Christianity.20 On that premise they seek to recover some version of primitive Christianity. In the chapter on the church drafted by George Hunsberger, Missional Church contrasts the a missional approach to the doctrine of the church with the “heritage of a functional Christendom and forms of church life shaped by modern notions of voluntary association and rational organization.”21 This is at least partly true and helpful, but they continue by calling into question the very notion of the “marks of the church.” They write that, though the Reformers did not intend it, the result of speaking of “the marks of the true church” has been that Protestants have come to think of church as “a place where certain things happen.”22 The argument throughout the chapter is that we must move beyond a conception of the church as a “place where things happen” to a dynamic community caught up in the mission of God in the world. They are more helpful, however, when they note that the verbs most often used by the New Testament in association with the “kingdom of God” and the “kingdom of heaven” are “to receive” and “to enter.”23 That the kingdom is not something we can usher in through evangelism or cultural action is a truly important point.

Finally, in contrast to a good bit of the contemporary literature coming from the EM/missional movements, Christopher J. H. Wright provides one of the most helpful approaches to the question of a missional theology.24  He argues that we should use a “missional” hermeneutic on analogy with our Christocentric hermeneutic.25 Just as we read the Bible to see how it progressively reveals the person of God the Son in Christ through the history of redemption,26 so too we ought to recognize that the mission of God is also progressively revealed in redemptive history.27 Thus, e.g. he distinguishes between the missional character of Israel’s relation to the nations, inasmuch as they existed to fulfill the divine intention, and the Christian mission to preach the gospel to all the nations.28 In that respect, he argues that though it is true to say that the Bible teaches a mission, it is also true that the Bible itself is the product of God’s mission.29 The whole history of redemption is the history of the outworking of the divine plan moving from creation, to fall, to redemption, and finally to glory.30

What the EM/Missional Movement Gets Right
There are a number of fundamental disagreements between the EM/Missional movements and the Reformed confession. Nevertheless, there are at least five points about the EM/Missional movements that confessional Reformed churches should appreciate.

  1. Christendom was a mistake and more importantly we live after Christendom. Christians ought to engage the whole world with all of God’s revelation. The attempt to recapture or reconstitute Christendom is a great diversion from our true vocation and the mission of God at this stage in redemptive history. The gospel may not be safely identified with any particular political program (left, center, or right) and it may not be identified any particular cultural program.
  2. Christianity has always been and will always be a global phenomenon. As we think about our relations to the “mission of God” in the world, we need to reckon with the fact that we are part of a much larger enterprise. We, in North America, are not necessarily the center of world Christianity. For example, we can learn much from our one million brothers and sisters in the Church of Christ Among the Tiv (NKST) in Nigeria about what it means to be truly submissive to the mission of God as they live their faith before a largely hostile and often dangerous culture.
  3. The “mission of God” has very little to do with the contemporary evangelical obsession with programs. The “program-driven” church is probably much more about satisfying the social needs of middle class suburbanites than it is about the mission of the church.
  4. The modern church is too closely associated with particular cultural forms. We are not nearly as critical of our own debt to our own time and place as we need to be.
  5. The modern evangelical church is too easily reckoned as just another voluntary organization. This is why evangelicals shop churches. They do not think of the institutional church as a divine institution to which they have a sacred moral and spiritual obligation and connection. The local congregation has become just another service provider.

What the EM/Missional Movement Gets Wrong
As many things as there are to appreciate about the EM/Missional movements, there are at least nine points of serious disagreement between the Reformed faith and the EM/Missional movements.

  1. The EM/Missional movements are unhelpfully vague about exactly what the “mission” of God is and as a consequence they are unhelpfully vague about what the “mission” of the church is.
  2. When the EM/Missional movements do speak clearly about the mission of the church that mission has precious little to do with the mission of God and the history of redemption and revelation as Reformed churches have understood it. Almost invariably the mission is re-cast in activist, social-gospel, and even Anabaptist terms. This is not my judgment, it is the judgment of EM/Missional advocate Scot McKnight, who says of Brian McLaren’s new book, Everything Must Change: “Truth be told, Brian is an Anabaptist [sic] as I am reading him….”31
  3. The EM and Missional accounts of church history seem unaware of a century of criticism of the old and outdated “Kerygma to dogma” model of church history in which the EM and “Missional” groups attempt to re-capture or re-create the “authentic” “kerygmatic” and socially conscious apostolic communities in our time to get past the ossified “dogma” with which Christianity has been encrusted. I understand why they are attracted to it, since it is just a slightly more sophisticated version of the sort of evangelical and fundamentalist primitivism that they are offering now. The great problem with this model is that it just is not true. The whole Kerygma to dogma model assumed, a priori, that the apostolic church could have no institutions, offices, or organization. Any evidence of such organization only meant that portion of the NT could not be taken to be authentic.The repeated claim that the Reformation was a modern phenomenon has no basis in actual history. The Reformation occurred a century and a half before modernity began to dominate the West. The Reformation and post-Reformation Reformed churches were pre-modern people and they were hotly critical of modernity when it appeared. The leading critics of Rene Descartes were not Pietists, at least not in the conventional sense of the word. The leading critics of modernity, as it began to appear, were the orthodox Reformed. It was the Pietists, the forebears of the EM/Missional movements who conceded Christianity to modernity. The nineteenth-century German liberals who laid waste to the faith, who laid siege against the Scriptures were all the children and grand children of Pietists. The EM/Missional movements seem to be counseling us to drink more deeply from the very wells that brought about the destruction they lament.The great irony of the EM/Missional complaint about orthodoxy as “modernist,” is that the Modern creed had four great points, to which most segments of the EM/Missional movement give assent.
    1.  The Modernist creed confesses the universal Fatherhood of God. In the modernist religion, the utterly transcendent (or immanent) deity is everyone’s God/god in precisely the same way. It is not confessional Calvinism, but the EM/Missional movement that includes universalists in its midst.
    2. The Modernist creed confesses the universal brotherhood of humanity. In the modern religion, all human beings are all one great human family without distinction before the deity in any way. Of course, confessing as we do double predestination and limited atonement, it is unlikely that confessional Calvinism will be confused with modernity, but how distinct from the modern creed is the EM/Missional movement?
    3. The Modernist creed confesses human and social perfectibility. If you are of a certain age, you may remember the slogan, “we’re getting better every way and every day.” As dark Calvinists with our doctrine of the depravity of every human faculty we are not good candidates for alignment with the Modernist creed, but the same cannot be said for many elements of the EM/Missional movement.
    4. The most basic Modernist confession is that of human autonomy, the ability to will the contrary to all other wills, even God, is what makes one human. As confessors of human depravity and divine sovereignty, confessional Reformed theology utterly rejects this foundational Modernist doctrine, which is a significant reason we are seen as unreasonable and even anti-human by Modernists. It is far from clear that the EM/Missional movements find themselves with the same antithesis to Modernity on this basic point.
  4. The EM and “Missional” complaint about the close association of the church with cultural forms could be taken as a form of Gnosticism. Our Lord took on a true human nature. As a true man, born of a virgin, he entered human history, spoke a natural language, and was, as a man, completely embedded in a particular culture and time. He commissioned his apostles, also embedded in a particular culture and time, to preach the gospel that transcends all cultures and times, to every language, tongue, and tribe. The paradox of the mission is that the transcendent, triune God entered history to accomplish the great mission, to redeem his people in the fullness of time, and he committed the proclamation of the reality of that fulfillment to the visible church, which shall always remained embedded in time and history until there is no more time and history.Let us also remember that it was the Anabaptists, with whom the EM/Missional movements seem to be so enamored, who overtly and repeatedly denied the true humanity of Christ and who adopted the Docetic doctrine of the so-called “celestial flesh” of Christ. The Definition of Chalcedon better serves the biblical and holy catholic faith than the Christology of the Anabaptists does.
  5. Though the EM and “missional” movements often write as if they were distinctively post-modern, there is little evidence that they really are genuinely post-modern. In many ways it is not a modern movement, beginning with late modern assumptions. The first “modern” people were the Anabaptists and then the Pietists. It is they who made the faith wholly private and personal and who divorced it from history and made it chiefly about the Quest for the Illegitimate Religious Experience.By “modern” I mean they accept the premise that the subject of the verb is “I.”  This is the great difference between Christian antiquity, where the overwhelming consensus was exactly opposite that of modernity, and modernity. The pre-modern church assumed universally that God had spoken, that his revelation is objective and normative for all people, in all times and places. The great question of Christian antiquity was not whether God has spoken but what has God said.The great modern question is has God really said? Of course that question has ancient and diabolical roots, but never until the Modern period did it become the dominant question, the dominant assumption. It was in reaction to the ascendancy of the modern question and the accompanying assumption of personal autonomy that Christians began to regard the faith not about objective, verifiable historical truths such as creation, redemption, resurrection and return, but about the personal experience of the divine. Calvin and Luther are one thing, and Friedrich Schleiermacher is another. The EM and “Missional” movements have much deeper roots in the liberal Pietism of Schleiermacher than they do in the confessional, churchly Protestantism of Calvin and Luther.
  6. The EM/Missional movements are much to be faulted for their lack of clarity about what the gospel is. The Scriptures are unequivocal that the gospel is the announcement of deliverance from judgment and damnation on the basis of the righteousness of Christ and received through faith alone in Christ and his finished work. This is not the clarion call of the EM/Missional movement.
  7. The EM/Missional movements fail consistently to distinguish between the two kingdoms. According to God’s Word there are two kingdoms in this world, one from heaven and the other of this age. Christians live in both kingdoms simultaneously. The visible, institutional church, the “true church,” represents the spiritual kingdom, the kingdom of God as we confess in the Belgic Confession Art. 29. Here, we should credit the chapter in Missional Church that gets this aspect of the question right.32 Only the baptized live in this kingdom outwardly and only believers inhabit this kingdom spiritually. All humans, however, live in another kingdom, the civil or earthly kingdom and much of that to which the EM/Missional movements are calling the church actually belongs to the civil kingdom. Christians may and should work to alleviate suffering, but the visible, institutional church, as such, is called to only three tasks: To preach the gospel, to administer the sacraments, and to administer discipline. We confess these as the marks of the true church. We confess:

    The true church can be recognized if it has the following marks: The church engages in the pure preaching of the gospel; it makes use of the pure administration of the sacraments as Christ instituted them; it practices church discipline for correcting faults. In short, it governs itself according to the pure Word of God, rejecting all things contrary to it and holding Jesus Christ as the only Head. By these marks one can be assured of recognizing the true church—and no one ought to be separated from it (Belgic Confession [1561], art. 29).

    When we adopted the three marks of true church, we were in a situation very much like ours today. It was difficult for Christians to know where they should worship and to which institution they should give their allegiance. They needed clear, objective indicators of where the true church could be found. That need has never been greater than it is now. That is why we chose three objective marks that can be tested by empirical evidence. Listen to the sermons, is the gospel preached? That is not a trick question. Either the gospel justification through faith alone in Christ’s life, death, resurrection, and ascension is present or it is not. Are the two sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper administered? By our lights, if as often happens in our hyper-spiritual age, they are absent or fundamentally corrupted in favor of “new measures,” then the church is also absent. Finally, it will become clear soon enough if a congregation is disciplined. If the minister is unaccountable or if there are no elders or gross sin and error are winked at, then there is no discipline.

    It is often said that we should add a fourth mark, If we add to these marks then we gain nothing and risk losing them all. To be sure, there are subsidiary obligations in the church. For example, we must love one another, but there are good reasons why “love” or charity is not a mark of the true church. At first glance, the evidence for making “love” a mark of the church seems overwhelming, after all Paul is very clear in 1 Cor 13 that, whatever else is true of us, if we have not love, we are of little use to the kingdom. The chief problem with adding love or any other virtue to the list of marks is that the list becomes useless. If we make “charity” a mark of the visible church so that one can look at a congregation and determine whether it is a true church on the basis of whether it has love, then who gets to say “how much”? Who gets to define what counts as love and what does not? If we may add “love” as a mark of the church, then why should we not add holiness and if holiness then why not other virtues? On what basis do we stop adding virtues to the list of marks?  We know the answer to that question as soon as we answer another. Which congregation on the face of the earth has all the necessary virtues or even one of them in sufficient quantity to qualify as a true church?

    As it happens, the Reformed churches already considered this question. We assign the virtues to the marks of the Christian. Those marks are also in Belgic Confession Art. 29. “As for those who can belong to the church, we can recognize them by the distinguishing marks of Christians: namely by faith, and by their fleeing from sin and pursuing righteousness, once they have received the one and only Savior, Jesus Christ.”

  8. They love the true God and their neighbors, they love the true God and their neighbors, without turning to the right or left, and they crucify the flesh and its works. In our theology, piety, and practice, there is no question whether faith, hope, and love are necessary. We are not Donatists. The lack of perfection in the saints or even in the ministers does not disqualify the church. What matters most about the church—between Reformed confessionalism and evangelical pietism there is, on this question, fixed an unbridgeable gulf—is what the church confesses, what it preaches, whether and how it administers the holy sacraments, and whether it administers discipline. In our view, however, the visible church, i.e. the congregation of the saints in stated worship services where the Word is preached and the sacraments and discipline are administered are exactly “places where things happens,” and those assemblies are ordinarily the only such places where such things happen.
  9. To say that the mission needs the marks is to say that the mission needs the true church. One of the greatest faults of the EM/Missional movements is that they seem bent on destroying or circumventing the visible church. Perhaps this is because of their context? Perhaps they see the visible church as disposable or worse, as an obstacle, because they are in mainline churches where dead heterodoxy seems to flourish or they are in mega-churches where the main “mission” seems to be to fill the seats?The Reformed understanding of the Scriptures is that mission is impossible without Christ’s visible church just as the accomplishment of redemption was impossible without Christ’s human nature. In Matthew 16 our Lord gave the keys of the kingdom to his designated representatives, to the visible institutional church. He did not give the keys to any other entity. In that sense, then, the visible church is unique among all human institutions in that it alone represents the authoritative, official proclamation of the Gospel of the kingdom. To the visible, institutional church alone Christ gave the power to remit and to bind. In Matthew 18 we see the same pattern. When our Lord instructed his disciples to “tell it to the church” he did not have in mind the “invisible church” of all times and places. He had in mind the visible, local, congregation with officers. Indeed, the Apostles were deeply concerned with the local church as the center of the administration of the kingdom of God on the earth. The Apostle Paul devoted about half or at least a generous portion of most of his epistles to addressing the practical administration and life of visible, true congregations churches. He spent a considerable amount of energy seeing to the preaching of the gospel, the administration of the sacraments, and discipline. Those who denied the humanity of Christ, in the churches of Asia Minor, “went out” from actual congregations because they were never really, spiritually “of” those congregations.
  10. As the intellectual and spiritual children of Pietists and Anabaptists the EM/Missional movements seem to lack altogether a doctrine of what our forefathers called “the means of grace.” The EM/Missional movement seems entirely taken with the modern, pietist, autonomous, and individualistic approach to spirituality and piety. The candles and labyrinths of the EM/Missional piety are just medieval trappings over pietist individualism. The piety and spirituality of the EM/Missional movement is still Bonaventure’s journey of the mind into God or the piety of the ascent of the soul to the divine.Reformed piety is covenantal. It recognizes that God the Son administers his grace through visible means, that we are baptized into a community, that we are redeemed into communities, and that we are brought to faith by the public proclamation of the gospel (Rom 10:17) and that faith is strengthened and confirmed through our baptism and the regular use of the Lord’s Supper. Confessional Protestants confess that every day we repent and die to self and live to Christ and, in that way, we daily renew our baptism. Lord permitting, each week, after we hear the gospel in our ears, we receive it again with our mouths confessing that, as certainly as I receive the elements from the hand of the minister, so surely are the promises of God true for those who believe.

If the mission of God in history is to announce, accomplish, and apply salvation to all of his people in all times and places, in that case the marks of the church are absolutely essential to the mission. Throughout the whole history of redemption, the divine mission was always executed through his covenant people beginning in the garden, after the fall, through Noah, Abraham, national Israel, and finally in the New Covenant church. In every epoch there was always a visible representation of the kingdom and covenant. Nothing has changed. Our Lord Jesus cut a covenant with his people in his blood and he administers his salvation, which is the essence of the mission, through that people. The marks of Christ’s church have always been evident: Gospel, sacraments, and discipline.

Therefore, so long as we continue to accept the Reformed reading of redemptive history, we cannot accept the EM/Missional movement’s definition of “missional.” By these lights, in order to be “missional” we have to reject what we understand to be the gospel and we should have to reject what we understand to be the mission and finally, to embrace the EM account of “mission,” we should have to adopt an Anabaptist doctrine of the church.

Fortunately, none of this is necessary. We should take the EM/Missional movement as a challenge to reinvigorate our vocation to take seriously our doctrine of the church as the covenant community, as the visible representation of the kingdom of God, and the external administration of the covenant of grace. Let us agree with the EM/Missional movement where they remind us that the mission of the church is grounded in the mission of God and the mission of God is expressed in the voluntary submission of God the Son to his Father, whose “food” was “to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work” (John 4:34). Our work is, first of all, to “believe in him whom he has sent” (John 6:29) and out of those missions, the institutional church must manifest the marks and so doing to go as we have been sent (John 20:21) by the him who was sent for us.

* This essay first appeared online in 2008.

1. Andy Crouch, “The Emergent Mystique,” Christianity Today, November 2004, 38.
2. Ibid.
3. From the cover of Brian McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004). For a critique of McLaren’s attempted synthesis see R. Scott Clark, “Whosoever Will Be Saved: Emerging Church? Meet Christian Dogma,” in Reforming or Conforming, ed. Gary Johnson and Ronald Gleason (Wheaton: Crossway, 2008).
4. This is condensed from Eddie Gibbs and Ryan Bolger, Emerging Churches: Creating a Christian Community in Postmodern Cultures (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005), 43–44.
5. Scot McKnight, “Five Streams of the Emerging Church,” Christianity Today, February 2007, 36–39.
6. For a more extensive treatment of this phenomenon and a confessional invitation to the citizens of the “Emergent Village” to visit Geneva and Heidelberg see R. Scott Clark, Recovering the Reformed Confession (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2007).
7. (accessed 5 October 4, 2007).
8. “adapting and reformulating absolutely everything it did in worship, discipleship, community,
and service—so as to be engaged with the non-Christian society around it” (accessed 5 October 4, 2007).
10. (accessed 10 October 10, 2007)
11. (accessed 10 October 2007).
12. (accessed 5 October 4, 2007).
13. (accessed 5 October 4, 2007).
14. Ibid.
15. (accessed 5 October 4, 2007).
16. Darrell L. Guder, ed., Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998).
17. Ibid., 4.
18. Ibid.
19. See e.g., ibid., 5–6.
20. The writers of Missional Church recognize that a missional church must be “historical” (p.11) but it is not entirely clear what this means.
21. Missional Church, 77. Remarkably, the chapter calls us to do exactly that which William Willimon has charged us not to do, i.e. to continue doing theology in “translation mode.” On this see William H.  Willimon, Peculiar Speech: Preaching to the Baptized (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992), 9.
22. Missional Church, 79.
23. Ibid., 93–97.
24. Christopher J. H. Wright, The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 2006).
25. Bearing in mind Richard Muller’s recent caveat about the difficulty of using this adjective. See Richard A. Muller, “A Note on ‘Christocentrism’ and the Imprudent Use of Such Terminology,” Westminster Theological Journal 68 (2006): 253–60.
26. See R. Scott Clark, “What is the Bible All About,” Modern Reformation 16 (March/April, 2007): 20–24.
27. See, e.g., 26, 30–32.
28. Ibid., 24–25.
29. Ibid
30. Ibid., 62–63.
31. (accessed 12 October, 2007).
32. Missional Church, 102–09.

Three Things Dispensational Apologists Should Stop Saying

There are varieties of Dispensationalism, e.g., classic (Darby, Scofield), modified (Chafer, Ryrie), and progressive (Bock, Blaising). To be sure there are varieties of covenant theology, e.g., classic e.g., that taught in the classical period that taught the covenant of redemption (pactum salutis), the covenant of works (foedus operum), and the covenant of grace (foedus gratiae) and revised (which omits the covenant of works and/or the covenant of redemption). Nevertheless, despite the significant differences between revised and classic covenant theology, they are united in their conviction that the history of redemption is united by a single, typological, covenant of grace progressively revealed in the Old Testament, beginning in Genesis 3:15 and ratified by Christ’s obedience and death.

For a century, beginning in the 1870s, American evangelicalism was heavily influenced by Dispensationalism. Advanced through Dispensationalist prophecy conferences, Bible Colleges, seminaries and perhaps most of all, through the Scofield Bible (1909), it became the dominant paradigm for the interpretation of redemptive history among those influenced by revivalism and fundamentalism, which is to say most evangelicals in the period. Dispensationalism appeared to be at the peak of its influence in the 1970s with the publication of Hal Lindsey’s, The Late, Great Planet Earth (1970),  John Walvoord’s Armageddon, Oil, and the Middle East Crisis (1976; rev. 1990), and the Ryrie Study Bible (1976) seemed to signal that the influence of Dispensationalism, especially the modified Dispensationalism was only continuing to grow.

In retrospect, however, it appears that 1970s were not a staging ground for further growth but the zenith of Dispensationalism. Its influence began to wane through the 1980s. In 1990 Bock and Blaising  published Progressive Dispensationalism, which signaled a movement away from the Dispensationalism of not only of Scofield but also of Chafer, Ryrie, and Walvoord. There are bastions of modified Dispensationalism, however, that are continue to hold the fort but they seem to feel beleaguered not  without and within.

I. Covenant Theology Began in the 1640s?
Perhaps in reaction, some defenders of modified Dispensationalism are prone to make certain exaggerated historical and theological claims as part of their defense. One of them is that covenant theology arose in the 1640s (or 1670s).

C. Fred Lincoln made this claim in a series of articles published in Bibliotheca Sacra beginning in 1943. His work has been further reduced to the bald claim, as one pastor puts it on his website: “Covenant theology is a system developed by two men, Johannes Cocceius (1603–1669) and Hermann Witsius (1636-1708).” I have heard this claim repeatedly.

However comforting such a narrative might be to Dispensationalists it is demonstrably false. Covenant theology did mature in the 17th century but the very system of a prelapsarian (pre-fall) covenant of works and a postlapsarian covenant of grace, which allegedly arose in the 1640s, existed explicitly as early as 1561 and implicitly much earlier than that. In the transitional period from 1561 until 1600 one sees multiple writers doing explicitly what some Dispensational apologists claim did not exist until the 1640s.

Further, there is good evidence to think that the roots of the explicit covenant theology of the early 1560s were in in the magisterial Reformers as they worked out an account of redemptive history from the 1520s. forward By the early 17th century the Reformed themselves believed that the roots of their covenant theology were in Oecolampadius (1520s). Certainly Zwingli and Bullinger were working out a covenant theology in response to the Anabaptists. The latter published a treatise on the covenant of grace in 1534. Ursinus taught the covenant of works or a covenant of nature in 1561. Caspar Olevianus published a series of treatises on covenant theology in the 1560s, 70s, and 80s culminating in his work, On The Substance of the Covenant of Grace Between God and the Elect (1585). Arguably, Olevianus taught a legal, prelapsarian covenant between God and Adam which was substantially identical to that found in Ursinus and later in Rollock and Perkins. He also taught something very much like the pre-temporal covenant of redemption. See Caspar Olevian and the Substance of the Covenant for a survey of his theology.

Long before the Reformed developments in the late 16th century there had been covenant theologies current in the medieval and patristic periods. Much of what the Reformed argued in their account of the substantial unity of salvation was influenced by those earlier responses, e.g., to the Albigensians in the 13th century and to the Gnostics and Marcionites in the 2nd century. Among the second-century writers Barnabas, Irenaeus, and Justin were clearly proponents of a covenantal explanation of redemptive history, which the Reformed would repeat in the 16th century against the Anabaptists. In short, the evidence that a developed covenant theology pre-existed the mid-17th century is overwhelming and claims that Reformed covenant theology arose as a system in mid-17th century are not tenable.

Part 2: Is Reformed covenant theology a “replacement theology”?


R. Scott Clark, “Christ and Covenant: Federal Theology in Orthodoxy,” in Herman Selderhuis, ed., Companion to Reformed Orthodoxy (Leiden: Brill, 2013).

R. Scott Clark, A Brief History of Covenant Theology.

Here’s the syllabus for my course on the history of covenant theology (with a bibliography).

II. Covenant Theology Is Replacement Theology
Our English word canard is actually a French word for duck (the noun, not the verb). Used figuratively in both French and English it signals “an unfounded rumor or story” (Oxford American Dictionary). In this brief three-part series I am addressing three canards, i.e., three unfounded claims that Dispensational apologists make about Reformed theology. This series should interest those more irenic Dispensationalists who seek to build bridges between the Reformed and Dispensationalists. It should also interest those who, though they have been raised in Dispensational congregations, are investigating Reformed theology or who are in transition between Dispensationalism and Reformed theology, piety, and practice. In part 1 we looked at the claim by some Dispensationalists that covenant theology arose in the mid-17th century.

The second thing that Dispensational apologists should stop saying that Reformed theology is a “replacement” or “supersessionist” theology. According to this criticism Reformed theology is supposed to teach that whereas the Jews were God’s visible people under the Old Testament, under the New Testament, they have been replaced or superseded (hence supersessionism) by the New Testament Church. This is a gross mischaracterization of Reformed theology and it begs the question, i.e., it assumes what it must prove.

The charge is loaded with a premise that we do not accept: that “Israel” and “the church” are two distinct or parallel things. As we understand redemptive history the church has always been. There was a church, of sorts, even before the fall. The garden was a temple, a holy place, which Adam as prophet, priest, and king was to rule, guard, and administer. He failed. There was a church after the fall, beginning with Adam, then Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, etc.

This is not some theory that the Reformed impose upon Scripture. The doctrine that the church has always been is a biblical idea. According to Deuteronomy 4:10, when Israel was gathered at the foot of Sinai (Horeb) they were gathered, before the face of Yahweh (‏לִפְנֵ֨י יְהוָ֣ה) as the covenant assembly (‏קהל). The Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, which was highly influential upon the vocabulary of the Greek NT uses the expression “on the day of the assembly” (τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῆς ἐκκλησίας). The noun that the LXX uses there and in Deuteronomy 9:10, 18:16. In Deuteronomy 23:3 (LXX) the same noun is used for the “assembly (‏ (קהלof the Lord” (ἐκκλησίαν κυρίου). Deuteronomy 31:30 speaks of the “assembly of Israel” (ἐκκλησίας Ισραηλ). This is the noun which, in the New Testament, is translated “church.” When our Lord says, in Matthew 16:18, “I will build my church” he uses this noun (ἐκκλησίαν). In v. 17, when he says “tell it to the church” (ἐκκλησίᾳ), he is saying, “tell it to the covenant assembly.” It is the very same idea, the very same sort of assembly in view in Deuteronomy 4, 9, 18 (as surveyed above) that is being invoked in Matthew 16. Here is a longer, more detailed explanation of the biblical doctrine of the church as the Christ-confessing covenant community. The Biblical understanding would be clearer if we used the same terms in both cases. We could speak of the church gathered at Sinai etc or Jesus building his covenant assembly.

In the Reformed understanding, the church gradually became predominantly and distinctively Jewish with the institution of the sacrament of circumcision, as Paul says in Rom 4:–12. Abraham believed before he was circumcised, i.e., while he was a Gentile and he believed after he was circumcised, when he became a Jew. So it is with the history of redemption. God had his people under Noah and Abraham but, in the providence of God, the focus of redemption gradually narrowed, like a funnel, through redemptive history as it became focused for about a millennium, temporarily, on national Israel. From Israel would come the Savior of the world. So, for a time the church was predominantly Jewish. In no way do we diminish the importance of this administration of the church or the outward administration of the covenant of grace under national Israel. We agree with Paul who wrote, “They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen” (Rom 9:4–5; ESV). In Ephesians 2:12 Paul says that to national Israel was given “the covenant of promise” (διαθηκῶν τῆς ἐπαγγελίας). They had the highest privilege.

The very notion of a “replacement” or “succession” assumes that God is no longer saving Jews. This is contrary to Paul’s teaching in Romans 11:

I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.” But what is God’s reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace (Rom 11:1–5; ESV).

Paul appealed to himself as a proof that God was still honoring his promise and still saving his people, his elect, from among the descendants of Abraham. Further, it is held by many faithful Reformed theologians, on the basis of Romans 11, that there will a future, great conversion of Jews to new life and true faith in Jesus as the Messiah. That would be a glorious thing indeed.

We must also remember, however, that Paul also says that, in Christ, the dividing wall erected by the 613 commandments (of the Mosaic law) has been broken down. It’s worth quoting at length:

Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands—remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit (Eph 2:11–22; ESV).

According to Paul, though there was a temporary dividing wall, under Moses and David (for about 1,000 years). That dividing wall has been demolished by the death of Christ. Now, for those who are in Christ there is only “one man,” as it were. Peace has been made. Reconciliation has been accomplished. Even under the Mosaic and Davidic administrations of the covenant of grace (the church) there were some Gentiles grafted in to the body as a foreshadow of the future ingathering of the Gentiles. Remember Naaman the Syrian (2 Kings 5)? He was a Gentile but he was received by the prophet as a member of the covenant community. Rahab is another case (Matt 1:5; Heb 11:31).  In the NT we see that the Old, Mosaic covenant (2 Cor 3:14) was fulfilled and cancelled (Col 2:14) by the death of Christ. In the New Testament the nations, Gentiles, would be called to faith in Jesus the Messiah just as the Jews had been (Isa 52:10, 15; 60:3). Indeed, the actual inclusion of Gentiles into covenant communities (into the church) created a crisis that had to be resolved by a formal assembly (Acts 15). Paul had to address the problem repeatedly (e.g., in Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians to name but a few).

Now, in Christ, there is no longer any distinction between Jew or Gentile (See Rom 10:12; Gal 3:28; Col 3:11). The wall, erected in the temporary national covenant with Israel, has been destroyed never to be rebuilt. God is saving all his elect, Jew and Gentile alike (See Rom 11) and shall continue to do so until Christ returns. Reformed theologians and the Reformed churches have always believed this. The very category “replacement” is alien to Reformed theology. Like all Christians we pray for the conversion of Jews and Gentiles by the sovereign, gracious work of the Holy Spirit. With Paul, we pray for the conversion of Israel to saving faith in the ascended and glorified Messiah Jesus of Nazareth.

We reject the idea that there are two peoples, an earthly and a spiritual people. God’s spiritual promises were temporarily administered through an earthly national people but, as Paul says in Galatians 3:17, the Mosaic covenant was 430 years after Abraham and the Mosaic covenant did not change the Abrahamic. Agreeing with Paul in Galatians is hardly “replacement theology” or of “supersessionism.”

If Dispensationalists are genuinely interested understanding Reformed theology and it representing it accurately to others, they must stop saying that Reformed theology teaches “replacement theology.”

Here are some resources on the so-called “replacement theology.”

III. Reformed Covenant Theology Allegorizes?

“For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Cor 3:6b)

It was widely held in the early church that 2 Corinthians 3:6 intended to distinguish between the literal sense of the text of Scripture and its figurative sense. The literal sense is that sense the text had in its original context, to its original readers (or hearers). The figurative sense referred to metaphorical or symbolic truth contained in the text, which might take a variety of shapes. There was never any doubt, even by that most prolific scholar of the figurative senses Origen (c. 184–c.254), that the literal sense is always present and most basic. What varied, however, was the degree to which a writer was interested in one category or the other. Thus, whereas Origen was much more interested in the figurative (theological and moral) senses, John Chyrsostom (347–407) was much more interested in the literal sense.

Over time, the figurative sense developed. Initially it was said to contain the doctrinal (allegorical) and the moral (tropological). Eventually, by the 7th century writers were speaking of a third sub-category of figurative meaning, the eschatological (analogical). Together, these 4 senses came to be known as the quadriga. The development of the three sub-categories of the figurative sense was not arbitrary. It was driven by two impulses. First, there was a correlation with 1 Corinthians 13:13, “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” Faith refers to the doctrinal sense (allegory) or what is to be believed (credenda), hope refers to what the text teaches about heaven (eschatology) or what is to hoped (speranda), and love to what is to be done (agenda). Each of these correlated to a cardinal, basic, pivotal (cardo = hinge) Christian virtue: faith (fides), hope (spes), and charity (or love; caritas). The medievals developed a song to help students remember how to keep the senses distinct:

Litera gesta docet, (The letter teaches of deeds)
quid credas allegoria; (allegory of what is believed)
moralis quid agas; (morality of what is done)
quo tenda anagogia. (anagoge of things to come)

Sometimes one is given the impression that users of the quadriga sought to find every sense in every text. This is not likely. In his commentary on Job (Moralia in Job), Gregory the Great (c. 540–604) wrote,

Let it be known that we survey some passages with a literal interpretation. Other passages we examine by means of allegory in a figurative interpretation. Still others we study through the exclusive use of moral comparisons. Finally, some passages we investigate with greater care through the combined use of all three ways. Thus, we first lay a foundation of literal meaning. Then, through the figurative sense, we raise the structure of the mind into a citadel of faith. Finally, through the moral interpretation, we clothe our building with an additional shading.

The second driver of the expansion of the figurative sense was the influence of the spirit/matter dualism of middle and neo-Platonism. In this scheme the material is less real and less significant than the spiritual. To the degree this bias influenced Christians, it is not surprising that they (e.g., Origen) came to see the literal sense of the text as superficial and the spiritual (or figurative) senses of the text as more significant. Thus, for Origen, the literal narrative about the ark in Genesis 6–9 was undoubtedly true (contra critics like Celsus) but the literal sense was obvious. What was less obvious, what required more skill, more insight was the figurative (spiritual) senses of the narrative, particularly the theological (or allegorical) sense of the narrative. Origen was most interested in the theological sense of the ark because it suited his apologetic program. For Origen, Celsus and the critics missed the point of the ark by focusing on its size and the number of animals on board. We see analogous use of Scripture by apologists today in the way some make us of “every thought captive” (2 Cor 10:5). In context Paul does not mean to teach immediately what that text is often used to say. If there is a connection, it is via the theological implication of the text.

By the fourth century, under Origen’s considerable influence—Origen was not condemned until 553—it became fairly commonplace for interpreters to assign multiple senses to an important term such as Jerusalem.

Literal = the actual city
Allegorical = Christ’s church
Tropological = Human souls
Anagogical = The heavenly city

In this approach, Jesus did not get into a boat to teach (Luke 5:3) for practical reasons but in order to send a symbolic message about the centrality of the visible institutional church. The boat was said to represent the visible church. Again, we recoil against such a reading (or we should) because it is arbitrary, because it ignores the context and the grammar but one can see how, under the influence of Platonic dualism and the ordinary pastoral need to try to impress God’s people with the significance of the narrative, or to apply the text, or even to maintain the congregation’s interest in a sermon—it is not as if evangelical pastors do not allegorize in precisely this way every Sunday across the globe for precisely these reasons—such an approach would have been attractive. Again, this approach, however misguided it might seem to us, it is not as if Paul did not invoke allegory (in some sense) in Galatians 4 in his explanation of the flow of redemptive history. Add a little Platonic dualism to one’s hermeneutic and voilà and the text becomes, in the tropological sense, about the journey of the soul to God. We would be less than honest if we did not recognize at least a little popular contemporary evangelical preaching and teaching in the very approach that many have been taught to condemn.

By the 13th century Thomas Aquinas (c. 1224–74) recognized the excess to which the quadriga had been taken and attempted to rein it in by leading a sort of back to the Bible movement wherein the spiritual senses were said to be embedded in the text itself, rather than derived outside the text and imposed upon it but he continued to read the text in ways that the Reformation would ultimately find unsatisfying and arbitrary.

In The Reformation the Protestants not only affirmed the primacy of the literal sense but they rejected the quadriga as an abuse of Scripture. This is not to say that they did not themselves find “spiritual” or figurative senses from time to time but that they were so committed to the notion that the text has one intended sense that rhetorically and in practice were highly critical of the quadrigal system. When the text was intended by the divine and human authors to be taken figuratively, they sought to do so. When the text was intended (as in the case of Luke 5:3) to be taken as a straightforward historical narrative), they did so. They certainly made theological and moral applications of the text but that was a rather different thing than finding multiple senses in the text.

I offer this narrative to help our Dispensationalist friends understand why it is so wrongheaded for them to continue to criticize Reformed covenant theology for “allegorizing.” What the Dispensationalist critic typically means by this criticism is not that the Reformed are guilty of looking for the doctrinal sense of the text, as the fathers and medievals did, but rather that the Reformed have reached a different conclusion than the Dispensationalist. In my experience with Dispensationalists there is not a great awareness of the history of hermeneutics, the quadriga, or even of what the allegorical sense really was. “Allegory” is used a synonym for figurative or even as a synonym for typology. In the classic and modified dispensational schemes, the promises made to national Israel are central to the unfolding of redemptive history. By contrast, in classic Reformed covenant theology, Christ is said to be at the center of the unfolding history of redemption. According to some Dispensationalist critics, any scheme which fails to read the divine promises to be chiefly about national Israel (e.g., in a millennial kingdom including the institution of the memorial Levitical sacrifices) is said to be guilty of “allegorizing.”

This charge is false. The reality is that Reformed interpreters are committed to the original, intended literal sense of Scripture. Historically, however, we have recognized that Scripture intends to use a variety of forms of speech and genres and we interpret Scripture in light of the human and divine authorship of Scripture. We let the clearer interpret the less clear. The prophecies of Daniel and Ezekiel are manifestly less clear insofar as symbolic language is inherently less clear than didactic and narrative discourse. We let the newer teach us how to interpret the older. Thus, when Jesus said, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” (Luke 24:25, 26; ESV) and Luke adds, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27; ESV) and further that when Christ “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:45; ESV) it was to see that the central message is, as Luke writes, “that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Luke 24:46, 47; ESV). In other words, it is not “allegorizing” to see all of Scripture chiefly pointing to Christ as the fulfillment of divine promises but rather it is the intended sense of Scripture understood as Jesus and the Apostles would have it. That this is so seems abundantly clear to those who are not burdened with the a priori that God’s plan for national Israel and its restoration must be at the center of redemptive history and therefore the hermeneutical key to Scripture. As we understand the literal sense of Scripture, Jesus said, “Abraham saw my day and rejoiced” (John 8:56). Abraham literally believed in Jesus. Contra Dispensationalism, the “content” of faith has not changed throughout redemptive history. Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David all believed in Jesus. That is the literal, intended message of Hebrews 11 and Paul’s teaching in 2 Corinthians 1:20, “all the promises of God are amen in Christ Jesus.” Paul literally teaches in Ephesians 2 that Christ figuratively tore down the dividing wall that separated Jew and Gentile and that all those who believe in Christ form one, new covenant, man.

Scripture uses “types” (τύπος) and shadows (σκιὰ). Paul says that Adam was a “type” of Jesus (Rom 5:14). Paul teaches that the 613 Mosaic laws were a “shadow” of Christ (Col 2:16–17). Hebrews 10:1 says exactly the same thing in exactly the same terms. They were anticipations of the reality. They prefigured the coming of Christ. Heaven is a reality. Arguably, in John and Hebrews, it is the reality. After all, the true bread comes from heaven (John 6:32). On this see Geerhardus Vos, “True and Truth in the Johannine Writings” in Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation).

Hebrews 8:5 says that the Levitical priests serve at a copy and shadow (ὑποδείγματι καὶ σκιᾷ) of the reality, i.e., of the heavenly temple, where Christ is now. In other words, unless we are to accuse Hebrews of Platonism, which charge is nothing but rationalism, then we must say that the earthly temple was only and ever intentionally an illustration of something else. Thus, it is not allegorizing to recognize, as the fathers and the Reformed did, that when Jesus said “destroy this temple, and in thee days I will raise it up” (John 2:19) he was speaking figuratively, he was saying that he is the temple. He was saying that he is the fulfillment of the temple. This is not Reformed allegorizing. It is the patent teaching of God’s Word: “But he was speaking about the temple of his body” (John 2:21). The true sense of Jesus’ words is a figure of speech. It is on the basis of our union with Christ that believers become corporately and individually, figuratively, the temple of God (1 Cor 3:16, 17; 6:19; 2 Cor 6:16). The dividing wall having been broken down by Christ’s death, Jewish and Gentile Christians are being made into one figurative temple (Eph 2:21). The Spirit of God and of Shekinah glory rests upon us corporately (1 Pet 4:14).

As Hebrews says, he is our high priest (Heb 2:17; 3:1; 4:15, 15; 5:5, 10, 6:20; 7:26; 8:1, 3; 9:11). That is why Jesus “once for all” (ἐφάπαξ) offered himself up as the sacrifice for sin (Heb 7:27). He entered “once for all” into the holy of holies (Heb 9:12). He appeared “once for all” to put away sin by his sacrifice (Heb 9:26). Believers have been sanctified by his “once for all” offering (Heb 10:10). There were literal sacrifices, priests, and temples but they prefigured the literal reality of Jesus’ perfect, active suffering obedience, which he accomplished for all his elect (Jew and Gentile) and which has been graciously imputed to all who believe by grace alone. His literal obedience made him figuratively the “lamb of God” (John 1:29, 36). He is the lamb who was led before its shearer (Acts 8:32). He is our Passover lamb (1 Cor 5:7; 1 Pet 1:19; Rev 5:6).

In short, as Hebrews teaches, Moses and the entire typological system, worked for (i.e., pointed to and was fulfilled by) Jesus:

Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house. For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses—as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself. (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.) Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope (Heb 3:1–6; ESV).

Jesus is the literal Son, the literal heir, and the literal owner of God’s figurative house. Moses was a worker, a servant in that house. The whole Israelite arrangement was never anything but a type and shadow of the reality to come: Christ. That is not allegorizing. That is the way holy Scripture itself, inspired by the Holy Spirit, inerrant in every syllable, intends to be interpreted. Fidelity to Scripture requires that we distinguish properly between the literal and the figurative, that we recognize literary devices, that we recognize what is a type and what is a fulfillment. Fidelity to Scripture requires that we not only see where Scripture explicitly finds a fulfillment but that we learn from Scripture how to interpret Scripture. J. Dwight Pentecost was wrong (Things to Come, 17). The rabbis did not have the right hermeneutic but the wrong conclusions. Their system meant that Jesus could not be the Savior because he did not meet their expectations. The question we might ask, in light of the clear, repeated, and abundant testimony of Scripture is whether the hermeneutic of our Dispensationalist friends is more like that the Pharisees than it is like that of Jesus and the Apostles?

Further Reading
My understanding of the history of the quadriga is influenced by a number of sources beginning with the work of Beryl Smalley (e.g., The Study of the Bible in the Middle Ages, 1940). The Song of the Exegete is taken from Richard Muller, Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1985), s.v., “Quadriga.”

Who Are The True Catholics?

There are truly important works that have simply been forgotten or unjustly ignored. One of those is William Ames’ Fresh Suit Against Human Ceremonies in defense of the Reformed theology and practice of worship. Another is William Perkins’ 1597 treatise, A Reformed Catholic subtitled Or a Declaration Showing How Near We may Come to the Present Church of Rome in Sundry Points of Religion and Wherein We Must Forever Depart From Them. To this he added, With An Advertisement [a statement calling attention to something] to “All Favorers of the Roman Religion Showing How the Said Religion is Against the Catholic Principles and Grounds of the [English] Catechism.”

William Perkins (1558–1602) is worthy of our attention for a few reasons. First, he was one of the most important English Reformed theologians of the Reformation/post-Reformation periods. The other is John Owen. Arguably Perkins should be on anybody’s short list of Great English Theologians. Second, his teaching was a great influence on the Westminster Assembly, and thus to understand Perkins is to understand our own confession more fully. Third, he articulated Reformed theology at a time when the Reformation was under assault from the Socinians, the Arminians (Remonstrants), and a renewed Romanism. We still face these challenges in our day. We know the Socinians as “The Unitarians” today but they were influential upon many of the followers of Arminius (post-Episcopius) and their methodological influence is still felt in American Evangelical circles. The advocates of Open Theism rely on essentially a Socinian view of God and biblical hermeneutic (approach to reading Scripture). “Biblicism,” i.e., the idea that one is going to read the Bible as if no one has ever read it before, is not only deliberately ignorant and contrary to the Reformation approach to reading Scripture with the church past and present, is essentially a Socinian approach to Scripture that yielded a denial of Christ’s divinity, the Trinity, and the atonement, among other things.

Most Reformed folk who are familiar with Perkins might think of his Golden Chaine, his exposition of the doctrine of predestination, and the criticism he received from Jacob Arminius but Perkins was much more than a theologian of predestination. He was a member of the “Spiritual Brotherhood” at Cambridge. He was a Reformed churchman who understood that theology is not mere theory. He defined it as the “science of living blessedly forever. ” He was as devoted to cultivating true piety as he was to defending true theology. For Perkins the two were inseparable. For more on his life and setting see Paul Schaefer’s The Spiritual Brotherhood, 49–107.

Were the Reformation a boxing match, it appeared in the first half of the sixteenth century that Rome was flat on the canvas. Beginning with Ignatius of Loyola (1491–1556) in the 1540s, Rome got off the canvas, as it were, and began counter-punching theologically and militarily. Rome would try to recover her geo-political influence and the struggle would not end until the close of the Thirty-Years War (1648). The Jesuits and others proved to be a genuine difficulty for the Reformation. They began to make more sophisticated appeals to tradition and to Scripture that required increased sophistication from the Reformed.

In this essay we cannot survey all that Perkins wrote but we will look at how his soteriology (doctrine of salvation) responded to Rome. Perkins’ argument was that it was the Reformed (and the Reformation doctrine more broadly), not Rome, that was the home of truly catholic (universal), Christian theology.

The Reformed Response To The Roman Counter-Reformation
This treatise is an interesting and useful example of the way the Reformed responded to the Roman response (the “Counter Reformation” or the “Catholic Reformation”). Perkins responded by challenging a central Romanist assumption: that the Roman communion is the “Catholic Church.”

Perkins began his assault on Rome in the dedicatory epistle. [NB: I’ve modernized the spelling, capitalization, and punctuation on C. S. Lewis’ theory that we tend to impute ignorance to older writers when we see variance from our practice.]

RIGHT worshipful, it is a notable policy of the devil, which he has put into the heads of sundry men in this age, to think that our religion, and the religion of the present Church of Rome are all one for substance: and that they may be re-united as (in their opinion) they were before. Writings to this effect are spread abroad in the French tongue, and respected of English Protestants more then is meet, or ought to be. For, let men in show of moderation, pretend the peace and good estate of the Catholic Church as long as they will; this union of the two religions can never be made, more then the union of light and darkness. And this shall appear, if we do but a little consider, how they of the Roman Church have razed the foundation.

For though in words they honor Christ, yet in deed they turn him to a Pseudo-Christ, and an idol of their own brain. They call him our Lord, but with this condition, that the Servant of Servants of this Lord, may change and add to his commandments: having so great power, that he may open and shut heaven to whom he will; and bind the very conscience with his own laws, and consequently be partaker of the spiritual kingdom of Christ.

Again, they call him a Savior, but yet in us: in that he gives this grace unto us, that by our merits, we may partake in the merits of the saints. And they acknowledge, that he died and suffered for us, but with this caveat, that the fault being pardoned, we must satisfy for the temporal punishment, either in this world, or in purgatory. In a word, they make him our Mediator of Intercession unto God: but withal, his Mother must be the Queen of Heaven, and by the right of a Mother command him there.

Thus, in word, they cry Hosanna, but indeed they crucify Christ. Therefore we have good cause to bless the name of God, that hath freed us from the yoke of this Roman bondage, and hath brought us to the true light and liberty of the Gospel. And it should be a great height of unthankfulness in us, not to stand out against the present Church of Rome, but to yield our selves to plots of reconciliation.

To this effect and purpose I have penned this little treatise, which I present to your worship, desiring it might be some token of a thankful mind, for undeserved love. And I crave withal, not only your worshipful (which is more common) but also your learned protection; being well assured, that by skill and art you are able to justify whatsoever I have truly taught. Thus wishing to you and yours the continuance and the increase of faith and good conscience, I take my leave.

Cambridge, June 28. 1597.

Your W. in the Lord,


Notice the issues that Perkins highlighted: the unique authority (and Spirit-wrought) clarity of the Scriptures, its corollary Christian freedom, the uniqueness of Christ’s once-for-all work, and the Roman denial of the assurance of faith that is gift of God to believers as a consequence of the first two.

These are the issues that face us today. Perkins was concerned about a false ecumenism then and we have just as much right to be concerned about it now. As Rome begins its year-long celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of Vatican II it is well to remember that Vatican II changed none of the doctrines against which the Reformation reacted. The issues remain. The popular, informal role of Mary as mediatrix has become formalized. The Roman doctrine of the necessity of cooperation with grace as part of progressive sanctification unto eventual justification (after purgatory), the mediation of the saints, the authority of the church, all these issues are as divisive today as they were at Trent and Perkins’ re-assertion of the genuine catholicity (university) of the Reformed faith, against the pretension of the Roman Bishop and councils, is as relevant today as the day it was first published.

In his treatise defending the Reformation understanding of Scripture against resurgent Romanism Perkins counted 22 issues between Protestants (his term) and Rome:

  1. Of Free-will.
  2. Of Original sin.
  3. Assurance of salvation.
  4. Justification of a sinner.
  5. Of Merits.
  6. Satisfactions for sin.
  7. Of Traditions.
  8. Of Vows.
  9. Of Images.
  10. Of Real presence.
  11. The sacrifice of the Mass.
  12. Of Fasting.
  13. The state of Perfection.
  14. Worshipping of Saints departed.
  15. Intercession of Saints.
  16. Implicit faith.
  17. Of Purgatory.
  18. Of the Supremacy.
  19. Of the efficacy of the Sacraments.
  20. Of Faith.
  21. Of Repentance.
  22. The sins of the Roman Church

He began he exposition with a decidedly unfriendly quotation from Revelation 18:4:

And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Go out of her my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and receive not of her plagues….

His intent, as he went on to make clear, was to identify Rome as the whore of Babylon:

And the whore of Babylon, as by all circumstances may be gathered, is the state or regiment of a people that are the inhabitants of Rome and appertain thereto. This may be proved by the interpretation of the holy Ghost: for in the last verse of the seventeenth Chapter, the woman, that is, the whore of Babylon, is said to be a city which reigns over the kings of the earth: now in the days when Saint John penned this book of Revelation, there was no city in the world that ruled over the kings of the earth but Rome; it then being the seat where the Emperor put in execution his imperial authority. Again, in the seventh verse she is said to sit on a beast having seven heads and ten horns: which seven heads be seven hills, verse 9. whereon the woman sits, and also they be seven kings. Therefore by the whore of Babylon is meant a city standing on seven hills. Now it is well known, not only to learned men in the Church of God, but even to the heathen themselves, that Rome alone is the city built on seven distinct hills….

In response to the charge that to separate from Rome is schism, Perkins replied:

…all those who will be saved, must depart and separate themselves from the faith and religion of this present church of Rome. And whereas they are charged with schism that separate on this manner; the truth is, they are not schismatics that do so, because they have the commandment of God for their warrant: and the party is the schismatic in whom the cause of this separation lies: and that is the Church of Rome, namely, the cup of abomination in the whores hand, which is their heretical and schismatical religion

The Problem Of Sin And Free Will
His first charge against Rome, which he notes is not the principal issue, is that the Roman communion has corrupted the doctrine of sin. It comes under the heading of free will, which he defined thus:

Free-will both by them and us, is taken for a mixed power in the mind and will of man; whereby discerning what is good and what is evil, he doth accordingly choose or refuse the same.

He identified three aspects of free will. Natural, human, and spiritual. The question is whether, after the fall, humans have this power. He began to address this question the same way Augustine began with the Pelagians (and semi-Pelagians!) and the way Thomas Boston would do after Perkins, with the fourfold state of humanity:

Man must be considered in a four-fold estate, as he was created, as he was corrupted, as he is renewed, as he shall be glorified. In the first estate, we ascribe to mans will liberty of nature, in which he could will or not nill [to be unwilling] either good or evil: in the third, liberty of grace: in the last, liberty of glory. All the doubt is of the second estate: and yet therein also we agree

“All the doubt is of the second….” The issue between Rome and Protestants is what are the effects of the fall. How sinful are we? The great attraction of semi-Pelagianism has always been that they avoid to obvious and gross error of the Pelagians, who denied any legal or spiritual connection between Adam and us, formally by affirming our connection with Adam. They affirm that in Adam’s fall sinned we all but they deny what Paul, Augustine, the medieval neo-Augustinians, and the Protestants affirm, namely that the effect of Adam’s sin is extensive and intensive. According to the semi-Pelagians, whether in Rome or out, we’re not that sinful. In this case, they assert that we are not so sinful that we cannot do our part in cooperation with grace, which is said to make it possible.

He distinguished between different aspects of human freedom. On the question of what Luther and Melanchthon called “external freedom,” i.e., the lack of compulsion, there is no disagreement:

Human actions are such as are common to all men good and bad, as to speak, and use reason, the practice of [al]mechanical and liberal arts, and the outward performance of civil and ecclesiastical duties; [such] as to come to [the] church, to speak and preach the word, to reach out the hand to receive the Sacrament, and to lend the ear to listen outwardly to that which is taught. And hither we may refer the outward actions of civil virtues: as namely, justice, temperance, gentleness, and liberality.

The Augustinian and Protestant doctrine of corruption (pravitas) does not teach that humans are as wicked as they could be. In the providence of God, by which the Spirit restrains evil, humans are capable of civil, outward, virtues.

Protestants agree with Rome that when fallen humans sin they do so without compulsion.

[I]n these we likewise join with the Papists, and teach, that in sins or evil actions man have freedom of will.

On Free Will And Regeneration
Perkins says that we Protestants even agree with Rome, in part on a second part of spiritual willing.

We likewise in part join with the Church of Rome, and say, that in the first conversion of a sinner, man’s free-will concurs with Gods grace, as a fellow or co-worker in some sort. For in the conversion of a sinner three things are required: the Word, God’s spirit, and man’s will, for man’s will is not passive in all and every respect, but has an action in the best conversion and change of the soul. When any man is converted, this work of God is not done by compulsion, but he is converted willingly: and at the very time when he is converted, by Gods grace he wills his conversion.

The point of discussion is what we now call “regeneration,” not sanctification as much as the moment of awakening from death to life. He quoted Augustine to the effect that when God gives quickening grace he also gives “a desire and will” simultaneously. We will freely but we do so with a renewed, Spirit-given, will. When he gives faith the Spirit gives a new will causing the will to “desire faith and to willingly receive the gift of believing….” So, even in regeneration we do not act under compulsion because, as Perkins noted, “no man can receive grace utterly against his will, considering [that] will constrained is no will.”

On free will, the difference between confessional Protestants and Rome is the effect of the fall.

The Papists say, mans will concurs and works with Gods graces in the first conversion of a sinner, by itself, and by it own natural power: and is only helped by the Holy Ghost. We say, that mans will works with grace in the first conversion: yet not of it self, but by grace. Or thus: They say, will has a natural cooperation: we deny it, and say it has cooperation only by grace, being in itself not active but passive, willing well only as it is moved by grace, whereby it must first be acted and moved, before it can act or will.

The difference between Rome and Protestants is illustrated by the different analogies we use. They use the analogy of a prisons and prisoners, who are said to be bound and weak, who are “but living in part” i.e., “not wholly dead” and therefore “yet has ability to stir….” On this image, if the warden [the Holy Spirit] “and do but untie his bands, and reach him his hand of grace, then can [the prisoner] stand of himself, and will his own salvation, or any thing else that is good.”

We Protestants, however, use a different image to describe the human condition after the fall: death. Perkins wrote that we must describe the prisoner as he actually is, “even stark dead” and “one that lies rotten in the grave, not having any ability or power to move or stir: and therefore he cannot so much as desire to do any thing that is truly good of himself” who is utterly dependent upon the Spirit, who

must first come and put a new soul into him, even the spirit of grace to quicken and revive him: and then being thus revived, the will begins to will good things at the very same time, when God by his spirit first infuses grace.

This is, as Perkins wrote, “the true difference between us and the Church of Rome in this point of free will.” The issue is not whether we sinned in Adam but whether, as Perkins put it, “after baptism…how far forth it remains after baptism.” In other words, after baptism, how sinful are we. This is important because, as he wrote, “hereupon depend many points of Popery.”

The Reformed and Romanists agree that after baptism “natural corruption” is abolished but we disagree as to what extent. For Perkins there were three things in original sin:

  1. The punishment (the first and second death)
  2. Guiltiness (the binding up of the creature unto punishment)
  3. The fault (offending of God)

Under the third heading he addressed our guilt in Adam, the corruption of the heart, i.e., a natural inclination and proclivity to “any thing that is evil or against the law of God.”

According to Perkins, for the regenerate, in baptism, “the punishment of original sin is taken away” because “There is no condemnation (saith the Apostle) to them that be in Jesus Christ, Rom. 8. 1.”

Working backward, guilt is also taken away in the regenerate (i.e., those given new life). He cautioned that this is true of the person regenerate but not of the “sin in the person.” His clear intent was to restrict these benefits to the regenerate and he did not attribute the power of regeneration (new life) to the sacrament of baptism. In effect he was saying that Baptism was the sign and seal to the regenerate of what is promised in the gospel. He continued to explain that the corruption of sin remains until death.

Where he differ with Rome, however, concerns “the manner, and the measure of the abolishment of this sin.” Rome teaches, he argued, that, in baptism, original sin is “taken away” so completely that “it ceases to be a sin properly” so that it is now, after baptism, only a “want, a defect, a weakness” which leaves the potential of sin “like tinder” that is ready to burst into flames. They take this position in order to make it possible for them to “uphold some gross opinions of theirs namely, that a man in this life may fulfill the law of God: and do good works void of sin: that he may stand righteous at the bar of God’s judgement by them.”

In contrast, the Reformed teach that though “original sin be taken away in the regenerate” nevertheless it remains in them after baptism not only as “a want and weakness” but “as sin….”

He appealed to Romans 7:17. Sin, not mere want or weakness, dwells in baptized believers. Further, baptized infants “die the bodily death before they come to the years of discretion.” If baptism removes original sin in the way Rome claims there would be no cause of death them. Third, concupiscence (sinful desire) remains after baptism (Galatians 5:17 and (James 1:14). Finally, under this heading, Perkins appealed to Augustine (Epistle 29), where he argued that in baptism the reigning power of sin is broken but not that there is no sin whatever.

Perkins concluded this section by addressing four objections the essence of which has to do with defining sin. According to Perkins, Rome is Pelagianizing. Rome’s account of sin does not match the biblical doctrine of sin and it doesn’t square with Augustine’s (mature) doctrine of sin against the Pelagians and semi-Pelagians. Rome is implicitly perfectionist. Once again, according to Rome, in Adam we are sinful but we are not so sinful (depraved) that we cannot do our part, cooperate with grace unto sanctification and thence to justification.

Assurance Of Salvation
Perkins’ third point against Rome concerned the assurance of salvation. According to Perkins, the Protestants and Rome agree that:

  1. A man in this life may be certain of salvation; and the same thing does the Church of Rome teach and hold (William Perkins, A Reformed Catholic 562).
  2. A man is to put a certain trust [“affiance”] in God’s mercy in Christ for the salvation of his soul
  3. Assurance of salvation in our hearts is joined doubting; and there is no man so assured of his salvation, but he at sometime doubts
  4. A man may be certain of the salvation of men, or of the Church by Catholic faith: and so say we.
  5. A man by faith may be assured of his own salvation through extraordinary revelation, as Abraham and others were, and so do we.

The disagreements between the Reformed faith and Rome on assurance are quite substantial. Perkins wrote,

We hold that a man may be certain of his salvation in his own conscience even in this life, and that by ordinary and special faith. They hold that a man is certain of his salvation only by hope: both of us hold a certainty, we by faith, they by hope (ibid, 563).

There have been some Reformed writers who made assurance a second blessing. There are some who continue to teach that assurance may be had only by a special work of the Spirit. This is closer to the Roman dogma than to the confessional Reformed faith. According to Roman dogma, assurance is only “only probable.” Further, by contrast we “hold and avouch that our certainty by true faith is infallible.”

The Heidelberg Catechism (1563), which had been widely used in Latin and English by the time Perkins wrote, confessed that assurance is of the essence of saving faith. The first question began with “trust” (German) or “consolation” (Latin). Our comfort, trust, consolation is that we belong to Christ. It’s not that might belong or we belong if we meet a test. Our comfort is that we cannot be separated from Christ.

According to the Heidelberg Catechism, true faith is “a certain knowledge and a hearty trust” (following the German text). The Latin text, with which Perkins was certainly familiar defined faith as not only knowledge (notitia) “by which we firmly assent to all things, which God works in us by his Word, but also a certain trust (certa fiducia) kindled (accensa) in my heart by the Holy Spirit through the gospel….” In fact, the catechism refers to certainty no fewer than nine times.

Perkins summarized the difference between Rome and the Reformed thus:

our confidence comes from certain and ordinary faith: theirs from hope, ministering (as they say) but a conjectural certainty.

He anticipates three objections from Rome:

  1. Where there is no word, there is no faith, for these two are relatives: but there is no word of God, saying, Cornelius believe thou, Peter believe thou, and thou shalt be saved (ibid);
  2. It is no article of the Creed, that a man must believe his own salvation: and therefore no man is bound thereto
  3. We are taught to pray for the pardon of our sins day by day, Mat. 6 12. and all this were needless, if we could be assured of pardon in this life.

Perkins replied:

It is true. God does not speak to men particularly, “Believe and you shall be saved. But yet does he that which is answerable hereunto, in that he gives a general promise, with a commandment to apply the same: and has ordained the holy ministry of the word to apply the same to the persons of the hearers in his own name: and that is as much as if the Lord himself should speak to men particularly. To speak more plainly: in the Scripture the promises of salvation be indefinitely propounded: it does not say any where, “If John will believe, he shall be saved;” or “if Peter will believe, he shall be saved;” but “whosoever believes shall be saved.” Now then comes the minister of the word, who standing in the room of God, and in the stead of Christ himself, takes the indefinite promises of the Gospel, and lays them to the hearts of every particular man: and this in effect is as much as if Christ himself should say, “Cornelius believe thou, and thou shalt be saved: Peter believe thou, and thou shalt be saved.”

These promises are not for “hypocrites, heretics, and unrepentant persons.” They are presumptuous, not believing. “Nevertheless it is true in all the elect having the spirit of grace, and prayer: for when God in the ministry of the word being his own ordinance….” When the offer of the gospel comes, they believe by divine grace.

Rome Does Not Understand The Creed

for in that which is commonly called the Apostles’ Creed, every article implies in it this particular faith. And in the first article, “I believe in God,” are three things contained: the first, to believe that there is a God, the second, to believe the same God to be my God, the third, to put my confidence in him for my salvation: and so much contain the other articles, which are concerning God.

Finally, to the objection that we cannot have assurance since that denies the fourth petition in the Lord’s Prayer that asks for the forgiveness of sins:

The fourth petition must be understood not so much of our old debts or sins, as of our present and new sins: for as we go on from day to day, so we add sin to sin: and for the pardon of them must we humble our selves and pray. I answer again, that we pray for the pardon of our sins; not because we have no assurance thereof, but because assurance is weak and small: we grow on from grace to grace in Christ, as children do to mans estate by little and little (ibid, 564).

According to Perkins “true faith” is “both an infallible assurance, and a particular assurance of the remission of sins, and of life everlasting.” True faith is not simply a categorical faith that certain things are true of believers but a particular faith, i.e., that things are true of one’s self. He appealed to Matthew 14:31, our Lord’s rebuke of the disciples’ unbelief. To doubt is not to believe. To believe is to trust. As Perkins says, “to be certain and to give assurance is of the nature of faith.” He also quoted Romans 4:20, 22. Abraham, he reminds us, “did not doubt” God’s promise but believed. The “property of faith is to apprehend and apply the promise, and the thing promised, Christ with his benefits” John 1:12).

The very act of communion presupposes a personal, particular assurance:

[H]e sets forth his best hearers, as eaters of his body and drinkers of his blood; and…he intends to prove this conclusion, that to eat his body and to drink his blood, and to believe in him, are all one. Now then, if Christ be as food, and if to eat and drink the body and blood of Christ, be to believe in him, then must there be a proportion between eating and believing (ibid, 564).

Perkins also argued the “Holy Ghost particularly testifies to us our adoption, the remission of our sins, and the salvation of our soul. Therefore we may and must particularly and certainly by faith believe the same” (ibid, 565). Rome says that the Spirit does witness to us about our adoption but they reduce it to a “bare sense” or mere “comfortable feeling of God’s love and favor” but it is weak “and oftentimes deceitful.”

Law And Gospel
By definition, the command to pray presupposes faith. One cannot ask anything of God unless he believes that God has made a promise. Part of the Roman problem is that they do not distinguish the law and the gospel:

God in the Gospel commands us to believe the pardon of our own sins, and life everlasting; and therefore we must believe thus much, and may be assured thereof. This proposition is plain by the distinction of the commandments of the law, and of the Gospel, The commandments of the law show us what we must do, but minister no power to perform the thing to be done; but the doctrine and commandments of the Gospel do otherwise, and therefore they are called spirit and life: God with the commandment giving grace that the thing prescribed may be done. Now this is a commandment of the Gospel, to believe remission of sins, for it was the substance of Christ’s ministry, repent and believe the Gospel.

Since Rome makes all of Scripture a species of law (old law or new law) they see no free promise in Scripture. It’s worth noting how naturally Perkins turns to this distinction. It was a basic part of his hermeneutic (way of interpreting Scripture) and a quite uncontroversial piece of mental furniture.

Again, the gospel is not believed in general but in particular. It’s more than a vague hope. When Rome speaks of “hope” she makes it essentially uncertainty. Biblically, hope is certainty. “For the property of true and lively hope is never to make a man ashamed, Romans 5:5.” Rome objects that we can never be sure of our own disposition (to which we we come in the next post the series) and Perkins agrees. We cannot be certain of our disposition but we can be certain of God’s toward us and we may be, on the basis of his gracious promise in Christ revealed in his Holy Word.

The Formal And Material Principles Of The Reformation
In theological terms, there were two principles of the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformation: the formal principle and the material principle. The first, the formal principle, was the doctrine that Scripture is the sole, unique, and infallible authority for Christian faith and life. The second, the material principle, was the pan-Protestant consensus that sinners are justified, i.e., accepted by God as righteous, solely on the basis of righteousness or merit Christ earned for his people and imputed to them and received by faith that rests and trusts in Christ and his finished work.

In his fourth point, Perkins turned his attention to the material principle of the Reformation, the “justification of a sinner.” He first summarizes the Protestant position and then the Roman view indicating where we disagree. We get a glimpse into the significance of this section (and the heat with which it was composed) when he added, “wherein we are to stand against them, even to death.”

He began with “four rules:”

Rule I. That justification is an action of God, whereby he absolves a sinner, and accepts him to life everlasting for the righteousness and merit of Christ.
Rule II. That justification stands in two things: first, in the remission of sins by the merit of Christ his death: secondly, in the imputation of Christ his righteousness; which is another action of God whereby he accounts and esteems that righteousness which is in Christ, as the righteousness of that sinner which believes in him. By Christ his righteousness we are to understand two things, first, his sufferings specially in his death and passion, secondly, his obedience in fulfilling the law: both which go together: for Christ in suffering obedience and obeying suffered. And the very shedding of his blood to which our salvation is ascribed, must not only be considered as it is passive, that is, a suffering; but also as it is active, that is, an obedience, in which he showed his exceeding love both to his Father and us, and thus fulfilled the law for us. This point if some had well thought on, they would not have placed all justification in remission of sins as they do.

A word of explanation is in order here. Under this point Perkins not only gave a brief account of the Protestant doctrine of justification but articulated it in light of developments after Calvin, one of which was the denial by the Lutheran theologian Kargius and the Reformed theologian Piscator (and others) of the imputation of Christ’s active obedience. To do this they first made a chronological distinction between the obedience Christ owed for himself, which he accomplished in order to qualify himself to be the Savior of sinners by his death. His passion, or “suffering” then, they argued is that part of Christ’s obedience intended to be substitutionary.The majority of the Reformed theologians, however, rejected the chronological distinction in Christ’s work. They taught that his “whole obedience” (to use the language that was proposed at the Westminster Assembly but rejected in favor of “perfect obedience” in order to satisfy the minority who opposed IAO) was both active and passive. This is why Perkins says that Christ suffered while he obeyed and he obeyed while he suffered. For more on this see the chapter on the imputation of active obedience in Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry.

Rule III. That justification is from Gods mere mercy and grace, procured only by the merit of Christ.
Rule IV. That a man is justified by faith alone; because faith is that alone instrument created in the heart by the holy Ghost, whereby a sinner lays hold of Christ his righteousness, and applies the same unto himself. There is neither hope, nor love, nor any other grace of God within man, that can do this but faith alone.
In contrast, Perkins wrote, the Roman communion teaches that before justification there must be a “preparation” which is worked partly by the Holy Spirit and partly by the “power of natural free will” by which a man disposes himself or a “habitus” is created in him toward future justification.

When Rome says “faith” they mean “a general knowledge” or an intellectual apprehension of one’s sins, “a fear of hell, hope of salvation, love of God, repentance and the like….” When we have attained to these things they are said by Rome to be “fully disposed” to their justification. In short, for Rome, justification is the process, the result of sanctification or grace and cooperation with grace.

For Rome, justification is not God’s declaration that we are righteous on account of what Christ has done for us but a recognition of the righteousness that has been wrought in us by grace and cooperation with grace.

To effect this, two things are required: first, the pardon of sin, which is one part of the first justification: secondly, the infusion of inward righteousness, whereby the heart is purged and sanctified, and this habit [disposition] of righteousness stands specially in hope and charity.

This is the first justification. According to Rome there is a second, when a “just man is made better and more just: and this, say they, may proceed from works of grace: because he which is righteous by the first justification, can bring forth good works: by the merit whereof he is able to make himself more just and righteous: and yet they grant that the first justification comes only of Gods mercy by the merit of Christ.”

The great difference between the Protestants and Rome is the “cause” or ground of justification with God. We say: “Nothing but the righteousness of Christ, which consists partly in his sufferings and partly in his active obedience in fulfilling the rigor of the law.” Rome grants that “in justification sin is pardoned by the merits of Christ, and that none can be justified without remission of sins” and they concede that “the righteousness whereby a man is made righteous before God, comes from Christ” alone. Further, the “most learned among them” teach that Christ’s satisfaction and merit is “imputed to every sinner” who believes and we agree.

The “very point of difference”is that we say that Christ made satisfaction for us and Rome says

The thing…that makes us righteous before God, and causes us to be accepted to life everlasting, is remission of sins, and the habit of inward righteousness; or charity with the fruits thereof.

Perkins hastened to add that we believe in a “habit of righteousness.” We call it sanctification and it is the “most excellent gift of God” but it not the ground of justification but rather the fruit of justification.

William Perkins illustrates the Reformed contention that Rome, by embracing the very error rejected at the Council of Ephesus (431 AD), by effectively turning its back on Augustine, by rejecting the biblical doctrines of sin, grace, free will, regeneration, and the biblical distinction between law and gospel, removed itself from true catholicity. Perkins thought that catholicity was a significant category. He valued universality. In other words, he did not consider the Reformed a mere sect nor the Reformation a sectarian movement. In that he might be thought to have answered critics of the Reformation such as Hillaire Belloc, who classified the Reformation as one of the great heresies in the history of the church.

Canones Synodi Dordrechtanae


Habitæ Dordrechti Anno MDCXVIII. et MDCXIX. Cui Plurimi insignes Theologi Reformatarum Ecclesiarum Magnæ Britanniæ Germaniæ, Galliæ, interfuerunt, de Quinque Doctrinæ Capitibus in Ecclesiis Belgicis Controversis: Promulgatum VI. Maii MDCXIX.



Inter plurima, quæ Dominus et Servator noster Jesus Christus militanti suæ Ecclesiæ in hac ærumnosa peregrinatione dedit solatia, merito celebratur illud, quod ei ad Patrem suum in cœleste sanctuarium abiturus reliquit: Ego, inquiens, sum vobiscum omnibus diebus usque ad consummationem sæculi. Hujus suavissimæ promissionis veritas elucet in omnium temporum Ecclesia, quæ quum non solum aperta inimicorum violentia, et hæreticorum impietate, sed etiam operta seductorum astutia inde ab initio fuerit oppugnata, sane, si unquam salutari promissæ suæ præsentiæ præsidio eam destituisset Dominus, pridem aut vi tyrannorum fuisset oppressa, aut fraude impostorum in exitium seducta. Sed bonus ille Pastor, qui gregem suum, pro quo animam suam posuit, constantissime diligit, persecutorum rabiem tempestive semper, et exserta sæpe dextera, miraculose repressit, et seductorum vias tortuosas, ac consilia fraudulenta detexit atque dissipavit, utroque se in Ecclesia sua præsentissimum esse demonstrans. Hujus rei illustre documentum exstat in historiis piorum imperatorum, regum, et principum, quos Filius Dei in subsidium Ecclesiæ suæ toties excitavit, sancto domus suæ zelo accendit, eorumque opera, non tantum tyrannorum furores compescuit, sed etiam Ecclesiæ cum falsis doctoribus religionem varie adulterantibus conflictanti, sanctarum synodorum remedia procuravit, in quibus fideles Christi servi conjunctis precibus, consiliis, et laboribus pro Ecclesia et veritate Dei fortiter steterunt, Satanæ ministris, licet in angelos lucis se transformantibus, intrepide se opposuerunt, errorum et discordiæ semina sustulerunt, Ecclesiam in religionis puræ concordia conservarunt, et sincerum Dei cultum ad posteritatem illibatum transmiserunt.
Simili beneficio fidelis noster Servator Ecclesiæ Belgicæ, annos aliquam multos afflictissimæ, gratiosam suam præsentiam hoc tempore testatus est. Hanc enim Ecclesiam a Romani antichristi tyratnnide et horribili papatus idololatria potenti Dei manu vindicatam, in belli diuturni periculis toties miraculose custoditam, et in veræ doctrinæ atque disciplinæ concordia ad Dei sui laudem, admirabile reipub. incrementum, totiusque reformati orbis gaudium efflorescentem, JACOBUS ARMINIUS ejusque sectatores, nomen Remonstruntium præ se ferentes, variis, tam veteribus, quam novis erreribus, primum tecte, deinde aperte tentarunt, et scandalosis dissensionibus ac schismatibus pertinaciter turbatam, in tantum discrimen adduxerunt, ut florentissimæ Ecclesiæ, nisi Servatoris nostri miseratio opportune intervenisset, horribili dissidiorum et schismatum incendio tandem conflagrassent. Benedictus autem sit in sæcula Dominus, qui postquam ad momentum faciem suam a nobis (qui multis modis iram et indignationem ejus provocaveramus) abscondisset, universo orbi testatum fecit, se fœderis sui non oblivisci, et suspiria suorum non spernere. Cum enim vix ulla remedii spes humanitus appareret, illustrissimis et præpotentibus Belgii fæderati ordinibus generalibus hanc mentem inspiravit, ut consilio et directione illustrissimis et fortissimi principis Arausicani legitimis mediis, quæ ipsorum apostolorum, et quæ eos secutæ Ecclesiæ Christianæ exemplis longo temporum decursu sunt comprobata, et magno cum fructu in Ecclesia etiam Belgica antehac usurpata, sævientibus hisce malis obviam ire decreverint, synodumque ex omnibus, quibus præsunt, provinciis, authoritate sua, Dordrechtum convocarint, expetitis ad eam et favore serenissimi ac potentissimi Magnæ Britanniæ regis JACOBI, et illustrissimorum principum, comitum, et rerumpublicarum, impetratis plurimis gravissimis theologis, ut communi tot Reformatæ Ecclesiæ theologorum judicio, ista ARMINII ejusque sectatorum dogmata accurate, et ex solo Dei verbo, dijudicarentur, vera doctrina stabiliretur, et falsa rejiceretur, Ecclesiisque Belgicis concordia, pax et tranquillitas, divina benedictione, restitueretur. Hoc est illud Dei beneficium, in quo exultant Ecclesiæ Belgicæ, et fidelis Servatoris sui miserationes humiliter agnoscunt, ac grate prædicant.
Hæc igitur veneranda Synodus (prævia per summi magistratus authoritatem in omnibus Belgicis Ecclesiis, ad iræ Dei deprecationem et gratiosi auxilii implorationem, precum et jejunii indictione et celebratione) in nomine Domini Dordrechti congregata, divini Numinis et salutis Ecclesiæ accensa amore, et post invocatum Dei’uomen, sancto juramento obstricta, se solam Scripturam sacram pro judicii norma habituram, et in caussæ kujus cognitione et judicio, bona integraque conscientia versaturam esse, hoc egit sedulo magnaque patientia, ut præcipuos horum dogmatum patronos, coram se citatos, induceret ad sententiam suam de Quinque notis doctrinæ Capitibus, sententiæque rationes, plenius exponendas. Sed cum Synodi judicium repudiarent, atque ad interrogatoria, eo, quo æquum erat, modo respondere detrectarent, neque Synodi monitiones, nec generosorum atque amplissimorum ordinum generalium Delegatorum mandata, imo ne ipsorum quidem illustrissimorum et præpotentum DD. ordinum generalium imperia, quicquam apud illos proficerent, aliam viam eorundem Dominorum jussu, et ex consuetudine jam olim in synodis antiquis recepta, ingredi coacta fuit; atque ex scriptis, confessionibus, ac declarationibus, partim antea editis, partim etiam huic Synodo exhibitis, examen illorum quinque dogmatum institutum est. Quod cum jam per singularem Dei gratiam, maxima diligentia, fide, ac conscientia, omnium et singulorum consensu absolutum sit, Synodus hæc ad Dei gloriam, et ut veritatis salutaris integritati, conscientiarum tranquillitati, et paciac saluti Ecclesiæ Belgicæ consulatur, sequens judicium, quo et vera verboque Dei consentanea de praedictis Quinque Doctrinæ Capitibus sententia exponitur, et falsa verboque Dei dissentanea rejicitur, statuit promulgandum.


Quam Synodus Dordrechtana Verbo Dei consentaneam atque in Ecclesiis, Reformatis hactenus receptam esse, judicat, quibusdam Articulis exposita.



Cum omnes homines in Adamo peccaverint, et rei sint facti maledictionis et mortis æternæ, Deus nemini fecisset injuriam, si universum genus humanum in peccato et maledictione relinquere, ac propter peccatum damnare voluisset, juxta illa Apostoli, Totus mundus est obnoxius condemnationi Dei. Rom. 3:19. Omnes peccaverunt et destituuntur gloria Dei. Ver. 23. Et, Stipendium peccati mors est. Rom. 6:23.


Verum in hoc manifestata est charitas Dei, quod Filium suum unigenitum in mundum misit, ut omnis qui credit in eum, non pereat, sed habeat vitam æternam. 1 Johan. 4:9; Johan. 3:16.


Ut autem homines ad fidem adducantur, Deus clementer Iætissimi hujus nuntii præcones mittit, ad quos vult, et quando vult, quorum ministerio homines ad resipiscentiam et fidem in Christum crucifixum vocantur. Quomodo enim credent in eum, de quo non audierint? quomodo autem audient absque prædicante? quomodo prædicabunt, nisi fuerint missi? Rom. 10:14, 15.


Qui huic Evangelio non credunt, super eos manet ira Dei. Qui vero illud recipiunt, et Servatorem Jesum vera ac viva fide amplectuntur, illi per ipsum ab ira Dei et interitu liberantur, ac vita æterna donantur.


Incredulitatis istius, ut et omnium aliorum peccatorum, caussa seu culpa neutiquam est in Deo, sed in homine. Fides autem in Jesum Christum et salus per ipsum, est gratuitum Dei donum, sicut scriptum est: Gratia salvati estis per fidem, et hoc non ex vobis, Dei donum est. Ephes. 2:8. Item: Gratis datum est vobis in Christum credere. Phil. 1:29.


Quod autem aliqui in tempore fide a Deo donantur, aliqui non donantur, id ab æterno ipsius decreto provenit; Omnia enim opera sua novit ab æterno: Actor. 15:18; Ephes. 1:11; secundum quod decretum electorum corda, quantumvis dura, gratiose emollit, et ad credendum inflectit, non electos autem justo judicio suæ malitiæ et duritiæ relinquit. Atque hic potissimum sese nobis aperit profunda, misericors pariter et justa hominum æqualiter perditorum discretio; sive decretum illud electionis et reprobationis in verbo Dei revelatum. Quod ut perversi, impuri, et parum stabiles in suum detorquent exitium, ita sanctis et religiosis animabus ineffabile præstat solatium.


Est autem electio immutabile Dei propositum, quo ante jacta mundi fundamenta ex universo genere humano, ex primæva integritate in peccatum et exitium sua culpa prolapso, secundum liberrimum voluntatis suæ beneplacitum, ex mera gratia, certam quorundam hominum multitudinem, aliis nec meliorum, nec digniorum, sed in communi miseria cum aliis jacentium, ad salutem elegit in Christo, quem etiam ab æterno Mediatorem et omnium electorum caput, salutisque fundamentum constituit; atque ita eos ipsi salvandos dare, et ad ejus communionem per verbum et Spiritum suum efficaciter vocare ac trahere; seu vera et ipsum fide donare, justificare, sanctificare, et potenter in Filii sui communione custoditos tandem glorificare decrevit, ad demonstrationem suæ misericordiæ, et laudem divitiarum gloriosæ suæ gratiæ, sicut scriptum est: Elegit nos Deus in Christo, ante jacta mundi fundamenta, ut essemus sancti et inculpati in conspectu ejus, cum charitate; qui prædestinavit nos quos adoptaret in filios, per Jesum Christum, in sese, pro beneplacito voluntatis suæ, ad laudem gloriosæ suæ gratiæ, qua nos gratis sibi acceptos fecit in illo dilecto. Ephes. 1:4, 5, 6. Et alibi: Quos prædestinavit, eos etiam vocavit; ct quos vocavit, eos etiam justificavit; quos autem justificavit, eos etiam glorificavit. Rom. 8:30.


Hæc electio non est multiplex, sed una et eadem omnium salvandorum in Vetere et Novo Testamento, quandoquidem Scriptura unicum prædicat beneplacitum, propositum, et consilium voluntatis Dei, quo nos ab æterno elegit et ad gratiam et ad gloriam; et ad salutem et ad viam salutis, quam præparavit ut in ea ambulemus.


Eadem hæc electio facta est non ex prævisa fide, fideique obedientia, sanctitate, aut alia aliqua bona qualitate et dispositione, tanquam caussa sen conditione in homine eligendo prærequisita, sed ad fidem, fideique obedientiam, sanctitatem, etc. Ac proinde electio est fons omnis salutaris boui: unde fides, sanctitas, et reliqua dona salvifica, ipsa denique vita æterna, ut fructus et effectus ejus profluunt, secundum illud Apostoli: Elegit nos (non quia eramus, sed) ut essemus sancti et inculpati in conspectu ejus in charitate. Ephes. 1:4.


Caussa vero hujus gratuitæ electionis, est solum Dei beneplacitum, non in eo consistens, quod certas qualitates seu actiones humanas, ex omnibus possibilibus, in salutis conditionem elegit; sed in eo, quod certas quasdam personas ex communi peccatorum multitudine sibi in peculium adscivit, sicut scriptum est: Nondum natis pueris, cum neque boni quippiam fecissent neque mali, etc., dictum est (nempe Rebeccæ), Major serviet minori, sicut scriptum est, Jacob dilexi, Esau odio habui. Rom. 9:11, 12, 13. Et, Crediderunt quotquot erant ordinati ad vitam æternam. Act. 13:48.


Atque ut Deus ipse est sapientissimus, immutabilis, omniscius, et omnipotens: ita electio ab ipso facta nee interrumpi, nec mutari, revocari, aut abrumpi, nec electi abjici, nee numerus eorum minui potest.


De hac æterna et immutabili sui ad salutem electione, electi suo tempore, variis licet gradibus et dispari mensura, certiores redduntur, non quidem arcana et profunditates Dei curiose scrutando; sed fructus electionis infallibiles, in verbo Dei designatos, ut sunt vera in Christum fides, filialis Dei timor, dolor de peccatis secundum Deum, esuries et sitis justitiæ, etc., in sese cum spirituali gaudio et sancta voluptate observando.


Ex hujus electionis sensu et certitudine, filii Dei majorem indies sese coram Deo humiliandi, abyssum misericordiarum ejus adorandi, seipsos purificandi, et eum, qui ipsos prior tantopere dilexit, vicissim ardenter diligendi, materiam desumunt: tantum abest, ut hac electionis doctrina atque ejus meditatione in mandatorum divinorum observatione segniores, aut carnaliter securi, reddantur. Quod iis justo Dei judicio solet accidere, qui de electionis gratia, vel temere præsumentes, vel otiose et proterve fabulantes, in viis electorum ambulare nolunt.


Ut autem hæc de divina electione doctrina sapientissimo Dei consilio per prophetas, Christum ipsum, atque Apostolos, sub Veteri æque atque sub Novo Testamento, est prædicata, et sacrarum deinde literarum monumentis commendata: ita et hodie in Ecclesia Dei, cui ea peculiariter est destinata, cum spiritu discretionis, religiose et sancte, suo loco et tempore, missa omni curiosa viarum altissimi scrutatione, est proponenda, idque ad sanctissimi nominis divini gloriam, et vividum populi ipsius solatium.


Cæterum æternam et gratuitam hanc electionis nostri gratiam eo vel maxime illustrat, nobisque commendat Scriptura Sacra, quod porro testatur non omnes homines esse electos, sed quosdam non electos, sive in æterna Dei electione præteritos, quos scilicet Deus ex liberrimo, justissimo, irreprehensibili, et immutabili beneplacito decrevit in communi miseria, in quam se sua culpa præcipitarunt, relinquere, nec salvifica fide et conversionis gratia donare, sed in viis suis, et sub justo judicio relictos, tandem non tantum propter infidelitatem, sed etiam cætera omnia peccata, ad declarationem justitiæ suæ damnare, et æternum punire. Atque hoc est decretum reprobationis, quod Deum neutiquam peccati authorem (quod cogitatu blasphemum est) sed tremendum, irreprehensibilem, et justum judicem ac vindicem constituit.


Qui vivam in Christum fidem, seu certam cordis fiduciam, pacem conscientiæ, studium filialis obedientiæ, gloriationem in Deo per Christum in se nondum efficaciter sentiunt, mediis tamen, per quæ Deus ista se in nobis operaturum promisit, utuntur, ii ad reprobationis mentionem non consternari, nec se reprobis accensere, sed in usu mediorum diligenter pergere, ac horam uberioris gratiæ ardenter desiderare et reverenter humiliterque expectare debent. Multo autem minus doctrina de reprobatione terreri debent ii, qui cum serio ad Deum converti, ei unice placere, et e corpore mortis eripi desiderant, in via tamen pietatis et fidei eo usque, quo volunt, pervenire nondum possunt, siquidem linum fumigans se non extincturum, et arundinem quassatam se non fracturum, promisit misericors Deus. Iis autem hæc doctrina merito terrori est, qui Dei et Servatoris Jesu Christi obliti, mundi curis et carnis voluptatibus se totos manciparunt, quamdiu ad Deum serio non convertuntur.


Quandoquidem de voluntate Dei ex verbo ipsius nobis est judicandum, quod testatur liberos fidelium esse sanctos, non quidem natura, sed beneficio fœderis gratuiti, in quo illi cum parentibus comprehenduntur, pii parentes de electione et salute suorum liberorum, quos Deus in infantia ex hac vita evocat, dubitare non debent.


Adversus hanc gratuitæ electionis gratiam, et justæ reprobationis severitatem, obmurmuranti opponimus hoc apostolicum: O homo! tu quis es qui ex adverso responsas Deo? Rom. 9:20. Et illud Servatoris nostri, An non licet mihi quod volo facere in meis? Matt. 20:15. Nos vero hæc mysteria religiose adorantes, cum Apostolo exclamamus: O profunditatem divitiarum tum sapientiæ tum cognitionis Dei! Quam imperascrutabilia sunt Dei judicia, et ejus viæ impervestigabiles! Quis enim cognovit mentem Domini? Aut quis fuit ei a consiliis? Aut quis prior dedit ei ut reddatur ei? Nam ex eo, et per eum, et in eum sunt omnia. Ipsi sit gloria in sæcula. Amen. Rom. 11:33–36.


Quibus Ecclesiæ Belgicæ sunt aliquamdiu perturbatæ. Exposita doctrina Orthodoxa de Electione et Reprobatione, Synodus rejicit Errores eorum:


Qui docent, ‘Voluntatem Dei de servandis credituris, et in fide fideique obedientia perseveraturis, esse totum et integrum electionis ad salutem decretum; nec quicquam aliud de hoc decreto in verbo Dei esse revelatam.’ Hi enim simplicioribus imponunt, et Scripturæ sacræ manifeste contradicunt, testanti Deum non tantum servare velle credituros, sed etiam certos quosdam homines ab æterno elegisse, quos præ aliis in tempore fide in Christum et perseverantia donaret; sicut scriptum est, Manifestum feci nomen tuum hominibus, quos dedisti mihi. Johan. 17:6. Item, Crediderunt quotquot ordinati erant ad vitam æternam. Act. 13:48. Et, Elegit nos ante jacta mundi fundamenta, ut essemus sancti, etc. Ephes. 1:4.


Qui docent, ‘Electionem Dei ad vitam æternam esse multiplicem; aliam generalem et indefinitam, aliam singularem et definitam; et hanc rursum vel incompletam, revocabilem, non peremptoriam, sive conditionatam: vel completam, irrevocabilem, peremptoriam, seu absolutam.’ Item, ‘Aliam electionem esse ad fidem, aliam ad salutem; ita ut electio ad fidem justificantem absque electione peremptoria ad salutem esse possit.’ Hoc enim est humani cerebri commentum extra Scripturas excogitatum, doctrinam de electione corrumpens, et auream hanc salutis catenam dissolvens: Quos prædestinavit, eos etiam vocavit: et quos vocavit, eos etiam justificavit: quos autem justificavit, eos etiam glorificavit. Rom. 8:30.


Qui docent, ‘Dei beneplacitum ac propositum, cujus Scriptura meminit in doctrina electionis, non consistere in eo, quod Deus certos quosdam homines præ aliis elegerit, sed in eo, quod Deus ex omnibus possibilibus conditionibus (inter quas etiam sunt opera legis) sive ex omnium rerum ordine actum fidei, in sese ignobilem, et obedientiam fidei imperfectam, in salutis conditionem elegerit; eamque gratiose pro perfects obedientia reputare, et vitæ æternæ præmio dignam censere voluerit.’ Hoc enim errore pernicioso beneplacitum Dei et meritum Christi enervatur, et homines inutilibus quæstionibus a veritate justificationis gratuitæ, et simplicitate Scripturarum avocantur; illudque Apostoli falsi arguitur; Deus nos vocavit vocatione sancta; non ex operibus, sed ex suo proposito et gratia, quæ data est nobis in Christo Jesu ante tempora sæculorum. 2 Tim. 1:9.


Qui docent, ‘In electione ad fidem hanc conditionem prærequiri, ut homo lumine naturæ recte utatur, sit probus, parvus, humilis, et ad vitam æternam dispositus, quasi ab ipsis electio aliquatenus pendeat.’ Pelagium enim sapiunt, et minime obscure falsi insimulant Apostolum scribentem: Versati sumus olim in cupiditatibus carnis nostrœ, facientes quæ carni et cogitationibus libebant, eramusque natura filii iræ, ut et reliqui. Sed Deus, qui dives est misericordia, propter multam charitatem suam, qua dilexit nos, etiam nos cum in offensis mortui essemus, una vivificavit cum Christo, cujus gratia estis servati, unaque suscitavit, unaque collocavit in cœlis in Christo Jesu; ut ostenderet in seculis supervenientibus supereminentes illas opes suæ gratiæ, pro sua erga nos benignitate in Christo Jesu. Gratia enim estis servati per fidem (et hoc non ex robis, Dei donum est), non ex operibus, ut ne quis glorietur. Ephes. 2:3–9.


Qui docent, ‘Electionem singularium personarum ad salutem, incompletam et non peremptoriam, factam esse ex prævisa fide, resipiscentia, sanctitate et pictate inchoata, aut aliquamdiu continuata: completam vero et peremptoriam ex prævisæ fidei, resipiscentiæ, sanctitatis, et pietatis finali perseverantia: et hanc esse gratiosam et evangelicam dignitatem, propter quam qui eligitur dignior sit illo qui non eligitur: ac proinde fidem, fidei obedientiam, sanctitatem, pietatem, et perseverantiam non esse fructus sive effectus electionis immutabilis ad gloriam, sed conditiones, et caussas sine quibus non, in eligendis complete prærequisitas, et prævisas, tanquam præstitas.’ Id quod toti Scripturæ repugnat, quæ hæc et alia dicta passim auribus et cordibus nostris ingerit: Electio non est ex operibus, sed ex vocante. Rom. 9:11. Credebant quotquot ordinati erant ad vitam æternam. Act. 13:48. Elegit nos in semetipso ut sancti essemus. Ephes. 1:4. Non vos me elegistis, sed ego elegi vos. Johan. 15:16. Si ex gratia, non ex operibus. Rom. 11:6. In hoc est charitas, non quod nos dilexerimus Deum, sed quod ipse dilexit nos, et misit Filium suum. 1 Johan. 4:10.


Qui docent, ‘Non omnem electionem ad salutem immutabilem esse, sed quosdam electos, nullo Dei decreto obstante, perire posse et æternam perire.’ Quo crasso errore et DEUM mutabilem faciunt, et consolationem piorum de electionis suæ constantia subvertunt, et Scripturis sacris contradicunt docentibus, Electos non posse seduci: Matt. 24:24. CHRISTUM datos sibi a Patre non perdere: Johan. 6:39. DEUM quos prædestinavit, vocavit et justificavit, eos etiam glorificare. Rom. 8:30.


Qui docent, ‘Electionis immutabilis ad gloriam nullum in hac vita esse fructum, nullum sensum, nullam certitudinem, nisi ex conditione mutabili et contingente.’ Præterquam enim quod absurdum sit ponere certitudinem incertam, adversantur hæc experientiæ sanctorum, qui cum Apostolo ex sensu electionis sui exultant, Deique hoc beneficium celebrant, qui gaudent cum discipulis, secundum Christi admonitionem, quod nomina sua scripta sunt in cœlis: Luc. 10:20; qui sensum denique electionis ignitis tentationum diabolicarum telis opponunt, quærentes, Quis intentabit crimina adversus electos Dei? Rom. 8:33.


Qui docent, ‘Deum neminem ex mera justa sua voluntate decrevisse in lapsu Adæ et in communi peccati et damnationis statu relinquere, aut in gratiæ ad fidem et conversionem necessariæ communicatione præterire.’ Stat enim illud, Quorum vult, miseretur; quos vult, indurat. Rom. 9:18. Et illud, Vobis datum est nosse mysteria regni cœlorum, illis autem non est datum. Matt. 13:11. Item, Glorifico te, Pater, Domine cæli et terræ, quad hæc occultaveris sapientibus et intelligentibus, et ea detexeris infantibus: etiam, Pater, quia ita placuit tibi. Matt. 11:25, 26.


Qui docent, ‘Caussam cur Deus ad hanc potius, quam ad aliam gentem Evangelium mittat, non esse merum et solum Dei beneplacitum, sed quod hæc gens melior et dignior sit ea, cui Evangelium non communicatur.’ Reclamat enim Moses, populum Israeliticum sic alloquens, En Jehovæ Dei tui sunt cæli, et cæli cœlorum, terra, et quicquid est in ea: Tantum in majores tuos propensus fuit amore Jehova diligendo eos; unde selegit semen eorum post eos, vos inquam, præ omnibus populis, sicut est hodie. Deut. 10:14, 15. Et Christus: Væ tibi Chorazin, væ tibi Bethsaida, quia si in Tyro et Sidone factæ essent virtutes illæ quæ in vobis factæ sunt, in sacco et cinere olim pœnitentiam egissent. Matt. 11:21.

Ita nos sentire et judicare, manuum nostrarum subscriptione testamur.

JOHANNES BOGERMANNUS, Pastor Ecclesiæ Leoverdiensis et Synodi Præses.
JACOBUS ROLANDUS, Pastor Ecclesiæ Amstelodamensis et Præsidis Assessor.
HERMANNUS FAUKELIUS, Pastar Ecclesiæ Middelburgensis et Præsidis Assessor.
SEBASTIANUS DAMMAN, Pastor Ecclesiæ Zutphaniensis et Synodi Scriba.
FESTUS HOMMIUS, Pastor Ecclesiæ Leydensis et Synodi Scriba.


JOHANNES DAVENANTIUS, Presbyter; Doctor ac Sacrœ Theologiæ publicus Professor in Academia Cantabrigiensi et Collegii Reginalis ibidem Præses.
SAMUEL WARDUS, Presbyter, SS. Theologiæ Doctor, Archidiaconus Fauntonnensis, et Collegii Sidneyani in Academia Cantabrigiensi Præfectus.
THOMAS GOADUS, Presbyter, SS. Theologiæ Doctor, Cathedralis Ecclesiæ Paulinæ Londinensis Præcentor.
GUALTERUS BALCANQUALLUS, Scoto-Britannus, Presbyter, S. Theologiæ Baccalaureus.


ABRAHAMUS SCULTETUS, S. Theologiæ Doctor et Professor in Academia Heydelbergensi.
PAULUS TOSSANUS, S. Theologiæ Doctor, et Consiliarius in Senatu Ecclesiastico inferioris Palatinatus.
HENRICUS ALTINGIUS, S. Theologiæ Doctor et Professor in Academia Heydelbergensi.


GEORGIUS CRUCIGER, S. Theologiæ Doctor, Professor, et pro tempore Rector Academiæ Marpurgensis.
PAULUS STEINIUS, Concionator Aulicus et S. Theologiæ in Collegio Nobilitatis Adelphico Mauritiano Professor, Cassellis.
DANIEL ANGELOCRATOR, Ecclesiæ Marpurgensis Pastor, et vicinarum ad Lanum et Æderam Superintendens.
RODOLPHUS GOCLENIUS, Senior. Philosophiæ purioris in Academia Marpurgensi Antecessor primarius, et nunc Decanus.


MARCUS RUTIMEYERUS, S. Theologiæ Doctor et Ecclesiæ Bernensis Minister.
SEBASTIANUS BECKIUS, SS. Theologiæ Doctor, et Novi Testamenti Professor in Academia Basiliensi, ibidemque Facultatis Theologice Decanus.
WOLFGANGUS MAYERUS, SS. Theologiæ Doctor, Ecclesiæ Basiliensis Pastor.
JOHANNES CONRADUS KOCHIUS, Ecclesiæ Schaphusianœ Minister.


JOHANNES HENRICUS ALSTEDIUS, in illustri Schola Nassovica, quw est Herbornæ, Professor ordinarius.
GEORGIUS FABRICIUS, Ecclesiæ Windeccensis in Comitatu Hanovico Pastor, et vicinarum Inspector.


JOHANNES DEODATUS, in Ecclesia Genevensi Pastor, et in eadem Schola SS. Theologiæ Professor.
THEODORUS TRONCHINUS, Divini verbi Minister in Ecclesiæ Genevensi, et ibidem SS. Theologiæ Professor.


MATTHIAS MARTINIUS, illustris Scholæ Bremensis Rector, et in ea Divinarum literarum Professor.
HENRICUS ISSELBURG, SS. Theologiæ Doctor, in Bremensi Ecclesia ad B. Virginis Jesu Christi servus et in Schola Novi Testamenti Professor.
LUDOVICUS CROCIUS, SS. Theologiœ Doctor, Ecclesiæ Bremensis ad S. Martini Pastor, et in illustri Schola Veteris Testamenti et Philosophiœ Professor.


DANIEL BERNARDUS EILSHEMIUS, Emdanæ Ecclesiæ Pastor senior


JOHANNES POLYANDER, SS. Theologiæ Doctor, atque in A cademia Leydensi Professor.
SIBRANDUS LUBERTUS, SS. Theologiæ Doctor, et Professor in A cademia Frisiorum.
FRANCISCUS GOMARUS, Sacrosanctæ Theologiæ Doctor, et Professor in Academia Groningæ et Omlandiæ.
ANTONIUS TYSIUS, Sacræ Theologiœ in illustri Schola Geldro-Velavica, quæ est Hardervici, Professor.
ANTONIUS WALÆUS, Pastor Ecclesiæ Middelburgensis, et ex ejusdem urbis illustri Schola inter Theologos ad Synodum evocatus.


GUILIELMUS STEPHANI, SS. Theologiæ Doctor, et Arnhemiensis Ecelesiæ Pastar.
ELLARDUS A MEHEN, Ecclesiæ Hardrovicenæ Pastor.
JOHANNES BOUILLET, Pastor Ecclesiæ Warnsfeldensis.
JACOBUS VERHEYDEN, Senior, Ecclesiæ Noviomagensis et Scholæ Rector.


BALTHASAR LYDIUS, M. F. Pastor Ecclesiæ Dei in urbe Dordrechto.
HENRICUS ARNOLDI, Ecclesiastes Delphensis.
GISBERTUS VOETIUS, Ecclesiæ Heusdanæ Pastor.
ARNOLDUS MUSIUS AB HOLY, Baillivus Suyd-Hollandiæ, Senior Ecclesiæ Dordrechtanæ.
JOHANNES DE LAET, Senior Ecclesiæ Legdensis.


JACOBUS TRIGLANDIUS, Pastor Ecclesiæ Amstelodamensis.
ABRAHAMUS A DORESLAER, Pastor Ecclesiæ Enchusanæ.
SAMUEL BARTHOLDUS, Pastor Ecclesiæ Monachodammensis.
THEODORUS HEYNGIUS, Senior Ecclesiæ Amstelodamensis.
DOMINICUS AB HEEMSKERCK, Senior Ecclesiæ Amstelodamensis.


GODEFRIDUS UDEMANNUS, Pastor Ecclesiæ Ziericzeanœ.
CORNELIUS REGIUS, Ecclesiæ Goesanæ Pastor.
LAMBERTUS DE RYCKE, Ecclesiæ Bergizomianœ Pastor.
JOSIAS VOSBERGIUS, Senior Ecclesiæ Middelburgensis.
ADRIANUS HOFFERUS, urbis Zirizææ Senator, et Ecclesiæ ibidem Senior.


JOHANNES DIBBEZIUS, Pastor Dordracenus, Synodi Orthodoxæ Ultrajectinæ Deputatus.
ARNOLDUS OORTCAMPIUS, Ecclesiæ A mersfortianæ Pastor.


FLORENTIUS JOHANNES, Jesu Christi crucifixi Servus in Ecclesia Snecana.
PHILIPPUS DANIELIS EILSHEMIUS, Pastor Ecclesiæ Harlingensis.
KEMPO HARINXMA A DONIA, Senior Ecclesiæ Leoverdiensis.
TACITUS AB AYSMA, Senior Ecclesiæ in Buirgirt Hichtum, et Hartwardt.


CASPARUS SIBELIUS, Pastor Ecclesiæ Daventriensis.
HERMANNUS WIFERDINGIUS, Ecclesiæ Swollanæ in Evangelio Christi Minister.
HIERONYMUS VOGELLIUS, Hasseltanæ Ecclesiæ Pastor, tempore deputationis inserviens Ecclesiæ Orthodoxæ Campensi.
JOHANNES LANGIUS, Ecclesiastes Vollenhovianus.
JOHANNES A LAUWICK, tanquam Senior deputatus.


CORNELIUS HILLENIUS, Servus Jesu Christi in Ecclesia Groningana.
GEORGIUS PLACIUS, Pastor Ecclesiæ Appingadammonensis.
WOLFGANGUS AGRICOLA, Pastor Ecclesiæ Bedumanæ.
WIGBOLDUS HOMERUS, Ecclesiæ Midwoldanæ Pastor.
EGBERTUS HALBES, Ecclesiæ Groninganæ Senior.
JOHANNES RUFELAERT, Senior Ecclesiæ Stedumanæ.


THEMO AB ABSCHEBERG, Pastor Ecclesiæ Meppelensis.
PATROCLUS ROMELINGIUS, Pastor Ecclesiæ Rhuinensis.


DANIEL COLONIUS, Pastor Ecclesiæ Leydensis, et Regens Collegii Gallo-Belgici in Academia Leydensis.
JOHANNES CRUCIUS, Pastor Ecclesiæ Haerlemensis.
JOHANNES DOUCHER, Pastor Ecclesiæ Flissinganæ.
JEREMIAS DE POURS, Ecclesiæ Gallo-Belgicæ Middelburgensis Pastor.
EVERARDUS BECKERUS, Senior Ecclesiæ Gallo-Belgicæ Middelburgensis.
PETRUS PONTANUS, Senior Ecclesiæ Amstelodamensis.


Articulus Primus.

Deus non tantum est summe misericors, sed etiam summe justus. Postulat autem ejus justitia (prout se in verbo revelavit), ut peccata nostra, adversus infinitam ejus majestatem commissa, non tantum temporalibus, sed etiam æternis, tum animi, tum corporis, pœnis puniantur: quas pœnas effugere non possumus, nisi justitiæ Dei satisfiat.


Cum vero ipsi satisfacere, et ab ira Dei nos liberare non possimus, Deus ex immensa misericordia Filium suum unigenitum nobis Sponsorem dedit, qui, ut pro nobis satisfaceret, peccatum et maledictio in cruce pro nobis, seu vice nostra, factus est.


Hæc mors Filii Dei est unica et perfectissima pro peccatis victima et satisfactio, infiniti valoris et pretii, abunde sufficiens ad totius mundi peccata expianda.


Ideo autem hæc mors tanti est valoris et pretii, quia persona, quæ eam subiit, non tantum est verus et perfecte sanctus homo, sed etiam unigenitus DEI Filius, ejusdem æternæ et infinitæ cum Patre et Spiritu S. essentiæ, qualem nostrum Servatorem esse oportebat. Deinde, quia mors ipsius fuit conjuncta cum sensu iræ Dei et maledictionis, quam nos peccatis nostris eramus commeriti.


Cæterum promissio Evangelii est, ut quisquis credit in Christum crucifixum, non pereat, sed habeat vitam æternam. Quæ promissio omnibus populis et hominibus, ad quos Deus pro suo beneplacito mittit Evangelium, promiscue et indiscriminatim annunciari et proponi debet cum resipiscentiæ et fidei mandato.


Quod autem multi per Evangelium vocati non resipiscunt, nec in Christum credunt, sed infidelitate pereunt, non fit hoc hostiæ CHRISTI in cruce oblatæ defectu, vel insufficientia, sed propria ipsorum culpa.


Quotquot autem vere credunt, et per mortem CHRISTI a peccatis, et interitu liberantur ac servantur, illis hoc beneficium, ex sola Dei gratia, quam nemini debet, ab æterno ipsis in CHRISTO data, obtingit.


Fuit enim hoc Dei Patris liberrimum consilium, et gratiosissima voluntas atque intentio, ut mortis pretiosissimæ Filii sui vivifica et salvifica efficacia sese exereret in omnibus electis, ad eos solos fide justificante donandos, et per eam ad salutem infallibiliter perducendos: hoc est, voluit Deus, ut Christus per sanguinem crucis (quo novum fœdus confirmavit) ex omni populo, tribu, gente, et lingua, eos omnes et solos, qui ab æterno ad salutem electi, et a Patre ipsi dati sunt, efficaciter redimeret, fide (quam, ut et alia Spiritus Sancti salvifica dona, ipsis morte sua acquisivit) donaret, ab omnibus peccatis, tum originali, tum actualibus, tam post, quam ante fidem commissis sanguine suo mundaret, ad finem usque fideliter custodiret, tandemque absque omni labe et macula gloriosos coram se sisteret.


Hoc consilium, ex æterno erga electos amore profectum ab initio mundi in præsens usque tempus, frustra obnitentibus inferorum portis, potenter impletum fuit, et deinceps quoque implebitur: ita quidem ut electi suis temporibus in unum colligantur, et semper sit aliqua credentium Ecclesia in sanguine Christi fundata, quæ illum Servatorem suum, qui pro ea, tanquam Sponsus pro sponsa, animam suam in cruce exposuit, constanter diligat, perseveranter colat, atque hic et in omnem æternitatem celebret.


Exposita doctrina orthodoxa, rejicit Synodus errores eorum:


Qui docent, ‘Quod Deus Pater Filium suum in mortem crucis destinaverit, sine certo ac definito consilio quemquam nominatim salvandi, adeo ut impetrationi mortis Christi sua necessitas, utilitas, dignitas sarta tecta, et numeris suis perfecta, completa atque integra constare potuisset, etiamsi impetrata redemptio nulli individuo unquam acta ipso fuisset applicata.’ Hæc enim assertio in Dei Patris sapientiam meritumque Jesu Christi contumeliosa, et Scripturæ contraria est. Sic enim ait Servator: Ego animam pono pro ovibus, et agnosco eas. Johan. 10:15, 27. Et de Servatore Esaias propheta: Cum posuerit se sacrificium pro reatu, videbit semen, prolongabit dies, et voluntas Jehovæ in manu ejus prosperabitur. Esai. 53:10. Denique, articulum Fidei, quo Ecclesiam credimus, evertit.


Qui docent, ‘Non fuisse hunc finem mortis Christi, ut novum gratiæ fœdus suo sanguine reipsa sanciret, sed tantum, ut nudum jus Patri acquireret, quodcunque fœdus, vel gratiæ, vel operum, cum hominibus denuo ineundi.’ Hoc enim repugnat Scripturæ, quæ docet, Christum melioris, id est, novi fœderis Sponsorem et Mediatorem factum esse. Heb. 7:22. Et, Testamentum in mortuis demum ratum esse. Heb. 9:15, 17.


Qui docent, ‘Christum per suam satisfactionem, nullis certo meruisse ipsam salutem et fidem, qua hæc Christi satisfactio ad salutem efficaciter applicetur, sed tantum Petri acquisivisse potestatem vel plenariam voluntatem, de novo cum hominibus agendi, et novas, quascunque vellet conditiones, præscribendi, quarum præstatio a libero hominis arbitrio pendeat, atque ideo fieri potuisse, ut vel nemo, vel omnes eas implerent.’ Hi enim de morte Christi nimis abjecte sentiunt, primarium fructum seu beneficium per eam partum nullatenus agnoscunt, et Pelagianum errorem ab inferis revocant.


Qui docent, ‘Fœdus illud novum gratiæ, quod Deus Pater, per mortis Christi interventum cum hominibus pepigit, non in eo censistere, quod per fidem, quatenus meritum Christi apprehendit, coram Deo justificemur et salvemur; sed in hoc, quod Deus, abrogate perfectæ obedientiæ legalis exactione, fidem ipsam et fidei obedientiam imperfectam pro perfecta legis obedientia reputet, et vitæ æternæ præmio gratiose dignam censeat.’ Hi enim contradicunt Scripturæ, Justificantur gratis, ejus gratia, per redemptionem factam in Jesu Christo, quem proposuit Deus placamentum per fidem in sanguine ejus. Rom. 3:24, 25. Et cum impio Socino, novam et peregrinam hominis coram Deo justificationem, contra totius Ecclesiæ consensum, inducunt.


Qui docent, ‘Omnes homines in statum reconciliationis et gratiam fœderis esse assumptos, ita ut nemo propter peccatum originale sit damnationi obnoxius, aut damnandus, sed omnes ab istius peccati reatu sint immunes.’ Hæc enim sententia repugnat Scripturæ, affirmanti nos natura esse filios iræ. [Ephes. 2:3.]


Qui impetrationis et applicationis distinctionem usurpant, ut incautis et imperitis hanc opinionem instillent: Deum, quantum ad se attinet, omnibus hominibus ex æquo ea beneficia voluisse conferre, quæ per mortem Christi acquiruntur; quod autem quidam præ aliis participes fiant remissionis peccatorum, et vitæ æternæ, discrimen illud pendere ex libero eorum arbitrio, se ad gratiam indifferenter oblatam applicante, non autem ex singulari misericordiæ dono, efficaciter in illis operante, ut præ aliis gratiam illam sibi applicent. Nam isti, dum simulant se distinctionem hanc sano sensu proponere, populo perniciosum Pelagianismi venenum conantur propinare.


Qui docent, ‘CHRISTUM, pro iis, quos DEUS summe dilexit, et ad vitam æternam elegit, mori nec potuisse, nec debuisse, nec mortuum esse, cum talibus morte CHRISTI non sit opus.’ Contradicunt enim Apostolo dicenti: Christus dilexit me, et tradidit seipsum pro me. Galat. 2:20. Item, Quis est, qui crimina intentet adversus electos DEI? DEUS est is, qui justificat. Quis est qui condemnet? CHRISTUS est, qui mortuus est. Rom. 8:33, 34: nimirum, pro illis. Et Salvatori assevcranti, Ego pono animam meam pro ovibus meis, Johan. 10:15. Et, Hoc est præceptum meum, ut diligatis alii alios, sicut ego dilexi vos. Majorem dilectionem nemo habet, quam ut ponat animam suam pro amicis. Johan. 15:12, 13.

Huic capiti eadem quæ prius subscribuntur nomina.


Articulus Primus.

Homo ab initio ad imaginem DEI conditus vera et salutari sui creatoris et rerum spiritualium notitia in mente, et justitia in voluntate et corde, puritate in omnibus affectibus exornatus, adeoque totus sanctus fuit; sed Diaboli instinctu, et libera sua voluntate a Deo desciscens, eximiis istis donis seipsum orbavit: atque e contrario eorum loco cœcitatem, horribiles tenebras, vanitatem, ac perversitatem judicii in mente, malitiam, rebellionem, ac duritiem in voluntate et corde, impuritatem denique in omnibus affectibus contraxit.


Qualis autem post lapsum fuit homo, tales et liberos procreavit, nempe corruptus corruptos; corruptione ab Adamo in omnes posteros [solo Christo excepto] non per imitationem [quod Pelagiani olim voluerunt], sed per vitiosæ naturæ propagationem, justo Dei judicio, derivata.


Itaque omnes homines in peccato concipiuntur, et filii iræ nascuntur, inepti ad omne bonum salutare, propensi ad malum, in peccatis mortui, et peccati servi; et absque Spiritus Sancti regenerantis gratia, ad Deum redire, naturam depravatam corrigere, vel ad ejus correctionem se disponere nec volunt, nec possunt.


Residuum quidem est post lapsum in homine lumen aliquod naturæ, cujus beneficio ille notitias quasdam de Deo, de rebus naturalibus, de discrimine honestorum et turpium retinet, et aliquod virtutis ac disciplinæ externæ studium ostendit: sed tantum abest, ut hoc naturæ lumine ad salutarem Dei cognitionem pervenire, et ad eum se convertere possit, ut ne quidem eo in naturalibus ac civilibus recte utatur, quinimo qualecumque id demum sit, id totum variis modis contaminet, atque in injustitia detineat, quod dum facit, coram Deo inexcusabilis redditur.


Quæ luminis naturæ, eadem hæc Decalogi per Mosen a Deo Judæis peculiariter traditi est ratio: cum enim is magnitudinem quidem peccati retegat, ejusque hominem magis ac magis reum peragat, sed nec remedium exhibeat, nec vires emergendi ex miseria conferat, adeoque per carnem infirmatus transgressorem maledictione relinquat, non potest homo per eum salutarem gratiam obtinere.


Quod igitur nec lumen naturæ, nec lex potest, id Spiritus Sancti virtute præstat Deus, per sermonem, sive ministerium reconciliationis, quod est Evangelium de Messia, per quod placuit Deo homines credentes tam in Veteri, quam in Novo Testamento servare.


Hoc voluntatis suæ mysterium Deus in Veteri Testamento paucioribus patefecit, in Novo Testamento pluribus, sublato jam populorum discrimine, manifestat. Cujus dispensationis caussa, non in gentis unius præ alia dignitate, aut meliore luminis naturæ usu, sed in liberrimo beneplacito, et gratuita dilectione DEI est collocanda. Unde illi, quibus præter et contra omne meritum tanta fit gratia, eam humili et grato corde agnoscere, in reliquis autem, quibus ea gratia non fit, severitatem et justitiam judiciorum DEI cum Apostolo adorare, nequaquam vero curiose scrutari debent.


Quotquot autem per Evangelium vocantur, serio vocantur. Serio enim et verissime ostendit DEUS verbo suo, quid sibi gratum sit, nimirum, ut vocati ad se veniant. Serio etiam omnibus ad se venientibus et credentibus requiem animarum, et vitam æternam promittit.


Quod multi per ministerium Evangelii vocati, non veniunt et non convertuntur, hujus culpa non est in Evangelio, nec in Christo per Evangelium oblato, nec in Deo per Evangelium vocante, et dona etiam varia iis conferente, sed in vocatis ipsis, quorum aliqui verbum vitæ non admittunt securi; alii admittunt quidem, sed non in cor immittunt, ideoque post evanidum fidei temporariæ gaudium resiliunt; alii spinis curarum et voluptatibus sæculi semen verbi suffocant, fructusque nullos proferunt; quod Servator noster seminis parabola docet, Matt. 13.


Quod autem alii, per ministerium Evangelii vocati, veniunt et convertuntur, id non est adscribendum homini, tanquam seipsum per liberum arbitrium ab aliis pari vel sufficiente gratia ad fidem et conversionem instructis discernenti (quod superba Pelagii hæresis statuit), sed Deo, qui ut suos ab æterno in Christo elegit, ita eosdem in tempore efficaciter vocat, fide et resipiscentia donat, et e potestate tenebrarum erutos in Filii sui regnum transfert, ut virtutes ejus, qui ipsos e tenebris in admirandam hanc lucem vocavit, prædicent, et non in se, sed in Domino, glorientur. Scriptura apostolica passim id testante.


Cæterum, quando Deus hoc suum beneplacitum in electis exequitur, seu veram in iis conversionem operatur, non tantum Evangelium illis externe prædicari curat, et mentem eorum per Spiritum Sanctum potenter illuminat, ut recte intelligant et dijudicent quæ sunt Spiritus Dei, sed ejusdem etiam Spiritus regenerantis efficacia ad intima hominis penetrat, cor clausum aperit, durum emollit, præputiatum circumcidit, voluntati novas qualitates infundit, facitque eam ex mortua vivam, ex mala bonam, ex nolente volentem, ex refractaria morigeram, agitque et roborat eam, ut, ceu arbor bona, fructus bonarum actionum proferre possit.


Atque hæc est illa tantopere in Scripturis prædicata regeneratio, nova creatio, suscitatio e mortuis, et vivificatio, quam Deus sine nobis, in nobis operatur. Ea autem neutiquam fit per solam forinsecus insonantem doctrinam, moralem suasionem, vel talem operandi rationem, ut post Dei (quoad ipsum) operationem, in hominis potestate maneat regenerari vel non regenerari, converti vel non converti; sed est plane supernaturalis, potentissima simul et suavissima, mirabilis, arcana, et ineffabilis operatio, virtute sua, secundum Scripturam (quæ ab Authore hujus operationis est inspirata) nec creatione, nec mortuorum resuscitatione minor, ant inferior, adeo ut omnes illi, in quorum cordibus admirando hoc modo Deus operatur, certo, infallibiliter, et efficaciter regenerentur, et actu credant. Atque tum voluntas jam renovata, non tantum agitur et movetur a Deo, sed a Deo acta, agit et ipsa. Quamobrem etiam homo ipse per gratiam istam acceptam credere et resipiscere recte dicitur.


Modum hujus operationis fideles in hac vita plene comprehendere non possunt; in eo interim acquiescentes, quod per istam DEI gratiam, se corde credere, et Servatorem suum diligere, sciant ac sentiant.


Sic ergo fides Dei donum est, non eo quod a Deo hominis arbitrio offeratur, sed quod homini reipsa conferatur, inspiretur, et infundatur. Non etiam quod Deus potentiam credendi tantum conferat, consensum vero seu actum credendi ab hominis deinde arbitrio expectet, sed, quod et velle credere, et ipsum credere in homine is efficiat, qui operatur et velle et facere, adeoque omnia operatur in omnibus.


Hanc gratiam DEUS nemini debet. Quid enim debeat ei, qui prior dare nihil potest, ut ei retribuatur? Imo quid debeat ei, qui de suo nihil habet, præter peccatum et mendacium? Qui ergo gratiam illam accipit, soli Deo æternas debet et agit gratias; qui illam non accipit, is aut hæc spiritualia omnino non curat, et in suo sibi placet: aut securus se habere inaniter gloriatur, quod non habet. Porro de iis, qui externe fidem profitentur, et vitam emendant, optime secundum exemplum apostolorum judicandum et loquendum est, penetralia enim cordium nobis sunt incomperta. Pro aliis autem qui nondum sunt vocati, orandus est Deus, qui quæ non sunt vocat tanquam sint. Neutiquam vero adversus eos est superbiendum, ac si nosmetipsos discrevissemus.


Sicuti vero per lapsum homo non desiit esse homo, intellectu et voluntate præditus, nec peccatum, quod universum genus humanum pervasit, naturam generis humani sustulit, sed depravavit, et spiritualiter occidit; ita etiam hæc divina regenerationis gratia, non agit in hominibus tanquam truncis et stipitibus, nec voluntatem ejusque proprietates tollit, aut invitam violenter cogit, sed spiritualiter vivificat, sanat, corrigit, suaviter simul ac potenter flectit: ut ubi antea plene dominabatur carnis rebellio et resistentia, nunc regnare incipiat prompta, ac sincera Spiritus obedientia; in quo vera et spiritualis nostrœ voluntatis instauratio et libertas consistit. Qua ratione nisi admirabilis ille omnis boni opifex nobiscum ageret, nulla spes esset homini surgendi e lapsu per liberum arbitrium, per quod se, cum staret, præcipitavit in exitium.


Quemadmodum etiam omnipotens illa Dei operatio, qua vitam hanc nostram naturalem producit et sustentat, non excludit sed requirit usum mediorum, per quæ Deus pro infinita sua sapientia et bonitate virtutem istam suam exercere voluit: ita et hæc prædicta supernaturalis DEI operatio, qua nos regenerat, neutiquam excludit, aut evertit usum Evangelii, quod sapientissimus DEUS in semen regenerationis, et cibum animæ ordinavit. Quare, ut Apostoli, et qui eos secuti sunt doctores, de gratia hac DEI ad ejus gloriam et omnis superbiæ depressionem, pie populum docuerunt, neque tamen interim sanctis Evangelii monitis, sub verbi, sacramentorum, et disciplinæ exercitio eum continere neglexerunt: sic etiamnum, absit, ut docentes aut discentes in Ecclesia DEUM tentare præsumant, ea separando, quæ DEUS pro suo beneplacito voluit esse conjunctissima. Per monita enim confertur gratia, et quo nos officium nostrum facimus promptius, hoc ipso DEI in nobis operantis beneficium solet esse illustrius, rectissimeque ejus opus procedit. Cui soli omnis, et mediorum, et salutaris eorum fructus atque efficaciæ debetur gloria in sæcula. Amen.


Exposita doctrina orthodoxa, Synodus rejicit errores eorum:


Qui docent, ‘Proprie dici non posse, quod peccatum originis per se sufficiat toti generi humano condemnando, aut temporales et æternas pœnas promerendo.’ Contradicunt enim Apostolo, dicenti, Rom. 5:12: Per unum hominem peccatum in mundum introiit, ac per peccatum mors, et ita in omnes homines more transiit, in quo omnes peccaverunt. Et vers. 16: Reatus ex uno introiit ad condemnationem. Item, Rom. 6:23: Peccati stipendium mors est.


Qui docent, ‘Dona spiritualia, sive habitus bonos, et virtutes, ut sunt bonitas, sanctitas, justitia, in voluntate hominis, cum primum crearetur, locum habere non potuisse, ac proinde nec in lapsu ab ea separari.’ Pugnat enim hoc cum descriptione imaginis Dei, quam Apostolus ponit Ephes. 4:24; ubi illam describit ex justitia et sanctitate, quæ omnino in voluntate locum habent.


Qui docent, ‘Dona spiritualia non esse in morte spirituall ab hominis voluntate separata, cum ea in sese nunquam corrupta fuerit, sed tantum per tenebras mentis, et affectuum inordinationem impedita; quibus impedimentis sublatis, liberam suam facultatem sibi insitam exerere, id est, quodvis bonum sibi propositum ex se, aut velle, sive eligere, aut non velle, sive non eligere possit.’ Novum hoc et erroneum est, atque eo facit ut extellantur vires liberi arbitrii, contra, Jeremiæ prophetæ dictum, cap. 17:9: Fraudulentum est cor ipsum supra omnia et perversum. Et Apostoli, Ephes. 2:3: Inter quos (homines contumaces) et nos omnes conversati sumus olim in cupiditatibus carnis nostrœ, facientes voluntates carnis ac cogitationum.


Qui docent, ‘Hominem irregenitum non esse proprie nec totaliter in peccatis mortuum, aut omnibus ad bonum’ spirituale viribus destitutum, sed posse justitiam vel vitam esurire ac sitire, sacrificiumque Spiritus contriti, et contribulati, quod Deo acceptum est, offerre.’ Adversantur enim hæc apertis Scripturæ testimoniis, Ephes. 2:1, 5: Eratis mortui in offensis et peccatis. Et Gen. 6:5 et 8:21: Imaginatio cogitationum cordis hominis tantummodo mala est omni die. Adhæc liberationem ex miseria et vitam esurire ac sitire, Deoque sacrificium Spiritus contriti offerre, regenitorum est, et eorum qui beati dicuntur. Psa. 51:19 et Matt. 5:6.


Qui docent, ‘Hominem corruptum et animalem gratia communi, quæ ipsis est lumen naturæ, sive donis post lapsum relictis, tam recte uti posse, ut bono isto usu majorem gratiam, puta evangelicam, sive salutarem, et salutem ipsam gradatim obtinere possit. Et hac ratione DEUM se ex parte sua paratum ostendere, ad Christum omnibus revelandum, quandoquidem media ad Christi revelationem, fidem, et resipiscentiam necessaria, omnibus sufficienter et efficaciter administret.’ Falsum enim hoc esse præter omnium temporum experientiam Scriptura testatur. Psa. 147:19, 20: Indicat verba sua Jacobo, statuta sua et jura sua Israeli, non fecit ita ulli genti, et jura ista non noverunt. Act. 14:16: Deus sivit præteritis ætatibus omnes gentes suis ipsarum viis incedere. Act. 16:6, 7: Prohibiti sunt (Paulus cum suis) a Spiritu Sancto loqui sermonem DEI in Asia. Et, Quum venissent in Mysiam, tentabant ire versus Bithyniam, sed non permisit eis Spiritus.


Qui docent, ‘In vera hominis conversione, non posse novas qualitates, habitus, seu dona in voluntatem ejus a Deo infundi, atque adeo fidem, qua primum convertimur, et a qua fideles nominamur, non esse qualitatem seu donum a Deo infusum; sed tantum actum hominis, neque aliter donum dici posse, quam respectu potestatis ad ipsam perveniendi.’ Contradicunt enim hæc sacris literis, quæ testantur DEUM novas qualitates fidei, obedientiæ, ac sensus amoris sui cordibus nostris infundere. Jer. 31:33: Indam legem meam menti eorum, ac cordi eorum inscribam eam. Esa. 44:3: Effundam aquas super sitientem, et fluenta super aridam; effundam Spiritum meum super semen tuum. Rom. 5:5: Charitas Dei effusa est in cordibus nostris per Spiritum Sanctum, qui datus est nobis. Repugnant etiam continuæ praxi Ecclesiæ, sic apud prophetam orantis: Converte me, Domine, et convertar. Jer. 31:18.


Qui docent, ‘Gratiam’ qua convertimur ad Deum, nihil aliud esse quam lenem suasionem; seu’ (ut alii explicant) ‘nobilissimum agendi modum in conversione hominis, et naturæ humanæ convenientissimum esse, qui fiat suasionibus; nihilque obstare quo minus vel sola moralis gratia homines animales reddat spirituales; imo Deum non aliter quam morali ratione consensum voluntatis producere: atque in eo consistere operationis divinæ efficaciam, qua Satanæ operationem superet, quod Deus æterna bona, Satan autem temporaria promittat.’ Omnino enim hoc Pelagianum est, et universæ Scripturæ contrarium, quæ præter hunc etiam alium, et longe efficaciorem ac diviniorcm Spiritus Sancti agendi modum, in hominis conversione agnoscit. Ezech. 36:26: Dabo vobis cor meum, et spiritum novum dabo in medio vestri, et auferam cor lapideum, daboque cor carneum, etc.


Qui docent, ‘Deum in hominis regeneratione eas suæ omnipotentiæ vires non adhibere, quibus voluntatem ejus ad fidem et conversionem potenter et infallibiliter flectat; sed positis omnibus gratiæ operationibus, quibus Deus ad hominem convertendum utitur, hominem tamen Deo, et Spiritui regenerationem ejus intendenti, et regenerare ipsum volenti, ita posse resistere, et actu ipso sæpe resistere, ut sui regenerationem prorsus impediat, atque adeo in ipsius manere potestate, ut regeneretur vel non regeneretur.’ Hoc enim nihil aliud est, quam tollere omnem efficaciam gratiæ Dei in nostri conversione, et actionem Dei omnipotentis subjicere voluntati hominis, idque contra Apostolos, qui docent, Nos credere pro efficacitate fortis roboris Dei. Ephes. 1:19. Et, Deum bonitatis suæ gratuitam benevolentiam et opus fidei potenter in nobis complere. 2 Thess. 1:11. Item, Divinam ipsius vim omnia nobis donasse, quæ ad vitam et pietatem pertinent. 2 Pet. 1:3.


Qui docent, ‘Gratiam et liberum arbitrium esse causas partiales simul concurrentes ad conversionis initium; nec gratiam ordine causalitatis efficientiam voluntatis antecedere;’ id est, ‘Deum non prius hominis voluntatem efficaciter juvare ad conversionem, quam voluntas ipsa hominis se movet ac determinat.’ Hoc enim dogma Ecclesia prisca in Pelagianis jam olim condemnavit, ex Apostolo Rom. 9:16: Non est volentis nec currentis, sed Dei miserentis. Et, 1 Cor. 4:7: Quis te discernit? Et, Quid habes quod non acceperis? Item, Phil, 2:13: Deus est qui in vobis operatur ipsum velle et perficere pro suo beneplacito.

Huic capiti eadem quæ prius subscribuntur nomina.


Articulus Primus.

Quos Deus secundum propositum suum, ad communionem Filii sui Domini nostri Jesu Christi, vocat, et per Spiritum sanctum regenerat, eos quidem et a peccati dominio et servitute, non autem a carne, et corpore peccati, penitus in hac vita liberat.


Hinc quotidiana infirmitatis peccata oriuntur, et optimis etiam sanctorum operibus nævi adhærescunt: quæ illis perpetuam sese coram Deo humiliandi, ad Christum crucifixum confugiendi, carnem magis ac magia per Spiritum precum et sancta pietatis exercitia mortificandi, et ad perfectionis metam suspirandi, materiam suggerunt; tantisper dum hoc mortis corpore soluti, cum Agno Dei in cœlis regnent.


Propter istas peccati inhabitantis reliquias, et mundi insuper ac Satanæ tentationes, non possent conversi in ista gratia perstare, si suis viribus permitterentur. Sed fidelis est Deus, qui ipsos in gratia semelcollata misericorditer confirmat, et in eadem usque ad finem potenter conservat.


Etsi autem illa potentia Dei vere fideles in gratia confirmantis et conservantis, major est, quam quæ a carne superari possit; non semper tamen conversi ita a Deo aguntur et moventur, ut non possint in quibusdam actionibus particularibus a ductu gratiæ, suo vitio, recedere, et a carnis concupiscentiis seduci, iisque obsequi. Quapropter ipsis perpetuo est vigilandum et orandum, ne in tentationes inducantur. Quod cum non faciunt, non solum a carne, mundo, et Satana, in peccata etiam gravia et atrocia abripi possunt, verum etiam interdum justa Dei permissione abripiuntur. Quod tristes Davidis, Petri, aliorumque sanctorum lapsus, in sacra Scriptura descripti, demonstrant.


Talibus autem enormibus peccatis Deum valde offendunt, reatum mortis incurrunt, Spiritum S. contristant, fidei exercitium interrumpunt, conscientiam gravissime vulnerant, sensum gratiæ nonnunquam ad tempus amittunt: donec per scriam resipiscentiam in vitam revertentibus paternus Dei vultus rursum affulgeat.


Deus enim, qui dives est misericordia, ex immutabili electionis proposito, Spiritum Sanctum, etiam in tristibus lapsibus, a suis non prorsus aufert, nec eousque eos prolabi sinit, ut gratia adoptionis, justificationis statu excidant, aut peccatum ad mortem, sive in Spiritum Sanctum committant, et ab eo penitus deserti in exitium æternum sese præcipitent.


Primo enim in istis lapsibus conservat in illis semen illud suum immortale, ex quo regeniti sunt, ne illud pereat aut excutiatur. Deinde per verbum et Spiritum suum, eos certo et efficaciter renovat ad pœnitentiam, ut de admissis peccatis ex animo secundum Deum doleant, remissionem in sanguine Mediatoris, per fidem, contrito corde, expetant, et obtineant, gratiam Dei reconciliati iterum sentiant, miserationes per fidem ejus adorent, ac deinceps salutem suam cum timore et tremore studiosius operentur.


Ita non suis meritis, aut viribus, sed ex gratuita Dei misericordia id obtinent, ut nec totaliter fide et gratia excidant, nec finaliter in lapsibus maneant aut pereant. Quod quoad ipsos non tantum facile fieri posset, sed et indubie fieret; respectu autem Dei fieri omnino non potest: cum nec consilium ipsius mutari, promissio excidere, vocatio secundum propositum revocari, Christi meritum, intercessio, et custodia irrita reddi nec Spiritus Sancti obsignatio frustranea fieri aut deleri possit.


De hac electorum ad salutem custodia, vereque fidelium in fide perseverantia, ipsi fideles certi esse possunt, et sunt pro mensura fidei, qua certo credunt se esse et perpetuo mansuros vera et viva Ecclesiæ membra, habere remissionem peccatorum, et vitam æternam.


Ac proinde hæc certitudo non est ex peculiari quadam revelatione præter aut extra verbum facta, sed ex fide promissionum Dei, quas in verbo suo copiosissime in nostrum solatium revelavit: ex testimonio Spiritus Sancti testantis cum spiritu nostro nos esse Dei filios et hæredes. Rom. 8:16 Denique ex serio et sancto bonæ conscientiæ et bonorum operum studio. Atque hoc solido obtinendæ victoriæ solatio, et infallibili æternæ gloriæ arrha, si in hoc mundo electi Dei destituerentur, omnium hominum essent miserrimi.


Interim testatur Scriptura fideles in hac vita cum variis carnis dubitationibus conflictari, et in gravi tentatione constitutos hanc fidei plerophoriam, ac perseverantiæ certitudinem, non semper sentire. Verum Deus, Pater omnis consolationis, supra vires tentari eos non sinit, sed cum tentatione præstat evasionem. 1 Cor. 10:13. Ac per Spiritum Sanctum perseverantiæ certitudinem in iisdem rursum excitat.


Tantum autem abest, ut hæc perseverantiæ certitudo vere fideles superbos, et carnaliter securos reddat, ut e contrario humilitatis, filialis reverentiæ, veræ pietatis, patientiæ in omni lucta, precum ardentium, constantiæ in cruce et veritatis confessione, solidique in Deo gaudii vera sit radix: et consideratio istius beneficii sit stimulus ad serium et continuum gratitudinis et bonorum operum exercitium, ut ex Scripturæ testimoniis et sanctorum exemplis constat.


Neque etiam in iis, qui a lapsu instaurantur, lasciviam aut pietatis injuriam procreat rediviva perseverantiæ fiducia; sed multo majorem curam de viis Domini solicite custodiendis, quæ præparatæ sunt ut in illis ambulando perseverantiæ suæ certitudinem retineant, ne propter paternæ benignitatis abusum propitii Dei facies (cujus contemplatio piis vita dulcior, subductio morte acerbior) denuo ab ipsis avertatur, et sic in graviores animi cruciatus incidant.


Quemadmodum autem Deo placuit, opus hoc suum gratiæ per prædicationem Evangelii in nobis inchoare; ita per ejusdem auditum, lectionem, meditationem, adhortationes, minas, promissa, nec non per usum sacramentorum illud conservat, continuat, et perficit.


Hanc de vere credentium ac sanctorum perseverantia, ejusque certitudine, doctrinam, quam Deus ad nominis sui gloriam, et piarum animarum solatium, in verbo suo abundantissime revelavit, cordibusque fidelium imprimit, caro quidem non capit, Satanas odit, mundus ridet, imperiti et hypocritæ in abusum rapiunt, spiritusque erronei oppugnant; sed sponsa Christi ut inæstimabilis pretii thesaurum tenerrime semper dilexit, et constanter propugnavit: quod ut porro faciat procurabit Deus, adversus quem nec consilium valere, nec robur ullum prævalere potest. Cui soli Deo, Patri, Filio, et Spiritui Sancto sit honor et gloria in sempiternum. Amen.


Exposita doctrina orthodoxa, Synodus rejicit errores eorum:


Qui docent, ‘Perseverantiam vere fidelium non esse effectum electionis, aut donum Dei morte Christi partum, sed esse conditionem novi fœderis, ab homine ante sui electionem ac justificationem’ (ut ipsi loquuntur) ‘peremtoriam, libera voluntate præstandam.’ Nam sacra Scriptura testatur eam ex electione sequi, et vi mortis, resurrectionis et intercessionis Christi electis donari. Rom. 11:7: Electio assecuta est, reliqui occalluerunt. Item, Rom. 8:32: Qui proprio Filio non pepercit, sed pro omnibus nobis tradidit ipsum, quomodo non cum eo nobis omnia donabit? Quis intentabit crimina adversus electos Dei? Deus est qui justificat Quis est qui condemnet? Christus in est qui mortuus est, imo qui etiam resurrexit, qui etiam sedet ad dexteram Dei, qui etiam intercedit pro nobis: Quis nos separabit a dilectione Christi?


Qui docent, ‘Deum quidem hominem fidelem sufficientibus ad perseverandum viribus instruere, ac paratum esse eas in ipso conservare si officium faciat: positis tamen illis omnibus, quæ ad perseverandum in fide necessaria sunt, quæque Deus ad conservandam fidem adhibere vult, pendere semper a voluntatis arbitrio, ut perseveret, vel non perseveret.’ Hæc enim sententia manifestum Pelagianismum continet; et homines, dum vult facere liberos, facit sacrilegos, contra perpetuum evangelicæ doctrinæ consensum, quæ omnem gloriandi materiam homini adimit, et hujus beneficii laudem soli divinæ gratiæ transcribit; et contra Apostolum testantem: Deum esse qui confirmabit nos usque in finem inculpatos in die Domini nostri Jesu Christi. 1 Cor. 1:8.


Qui docent, ‘Vere credentes et regenitos non tantum posse a fide justificante, item gratia, et salute totaliter et finaliter excidere, sed etiam reipsa non raro ex iis excidere, atque in æternum perire.’ Nam hæc opinio ipsam justificationis ac regenerationis gratiam, et perpetuam Christi custodiam irritam reddit, contra diserta Apostoli Pauli verba, Rom. 5:8, 9: Si Christus pro nobis mortuus est, quum adhuc essemus peccatores, multo igitur magis, jam justificati in sanguine ejus, servabimur per ipsum ab ira. Et contra Apostolum Johannem, 1 John 3:9: Omnis qui natus est ex Deo, non dat operam peccato: quia semen ejus in eo manet, nec potest peccare, quia ex Deo genitus est. Nec non contra verba Jesu Christi, Johan. 10:28, 29: Ego vitam æternam do ovibus meis, et non peribunt in æternum, nec rapiet eas quisquam de manu mea; Pater meus, qui mihi eas dedit, major est omnibus, nec ullus potest eas rapere de manu Patris mei.


Qui docent, ‘Vere fideles ac regenitos posse peccare peccato ad mortem, vel in Spiritum Sanctum.’ Quum idem Apostolus Johan. [Ep. I.] cap. 5 postquam vers. 16, 17 peccantium ad mortem meminisset, et pro iis orare vetuisset, statim ver. 18 subjungat: Scimus quod quisquis natus est ex Deo, non peccat (nempe illo peccati genere), sed qui genitus est ex Deo, conservat seipsum, et malignus ille non tangit eum.


Qui docent, ‘Nullam certitudinem futuræ perseverantiæ haberi posse in hac vita, absque speciali revelatione.’ Per hanc enim doctrinam vere fidelium solida consolatio in hac vita tollitur, et pontiflciorum dubitatio in Ecclesiam reducitur. Sacra vero Scriptura passim hanc certitudinem, non ex speciali et extraordinaria revelatione, sed ex propriis filiorum Dei signis, et constantissimis Dei promissionibus petit. Imprimis Apostolus Paulus, Rom. 8:39: Nulla res creata potest nos separare a charitate Dei, quæ est in Christo Jesu, Domino nostro. Et Johannes, Epist. I. 3:24: Qui servat mandata ejus, in eo manet, et ille in eo: et per hoc novimus ipsum in nobis manere, ex Spiritu quem dedit nobis.


Qui docent, ‘Doctrinam de perseverantiæ ac salutis certitudine, ex natura et indole sua, esse carnis pulvinar, et pietati, bonis moribus, precibus aliisque sanctis exercitiis noxiam; contra vero de ea dubitare, esse laudabile.’ Hi enim demonstrant se efficaciam divinæ gratiæ, et inhabitantis Spiritus S. operationem ignorare: et contradicunt Apostolo Johanni contrarium disertis verbis affirmanti, Epist. I. 3:2, 3: Dilecti mei, nunc filii Dei sumus; sed nondum patefactum est id quod erimus: scimus autem fore, ut quum ipse patefactus fuerit, similes ei simus, quoniam videbimus eum, sicuti est. Et quisquis habet hanc spem in eo, purificat seipsum, sicut et ille purus est. Hi præterea sanctorum tam Veteris quam Novi Testamenti exemplis redarguuntur, qui licet de sua perseverantia et salute essent certi, in precibus tamen, aliisque pietatis exercitiis, assidui fuerunt.


Qui docent, ‘Fidem temporariorum a justificante et salvifica fide non differre nisi sola duratione.’ Nam Christus ipse Matt. 13:20 et Luc. 8:13 ac deinceps, triplex præterea inter temporarios et veros fideles discrimen manifesto constituit, quum illos dicit semen recipere in terra petrosa, hos in terra bona, seu corde bono: illos carere radice, hos radicem firmam habere: illos fructibus esse vacuos, hos fructum suum diversa mensura, constanter seu perseveranter proferre.


Qui docent, ‘Non esse absurdum, hominem priore regeneratione extincta, iterato, imo sæpius renasci.’ Hi enim per hanc doctrinam negant seminis Dei, per quod renascimur, incorruptibilitatem: adversus testimonium Apostoli Petri, Epist. I. 1:23: Renati non ex semine corruptibili, sed incorruptibili.


Qui docent, ‘Christum nunquam rogasse pro infallibili credentium in fide perseverantia.’ Contradicunt enim ipsi Christo, dicenti, Luc. 22:32: Ego rogavi pro te, Petre, ne deficiat fides tua; et Evangelistæ Johanni testanti, Johan. 17:20, Christum non tantum pro apostolis, sed etiam pro omnibus, per sermonem ipsorum credituris, orasse, ver. 11: Pater sancte, conserva eos in nomine tuo; Et ver. 15: Non oro ut eos tollas e mundo, sed ut conserves eos a malo.


Atque hæc est perspicua, simplex, et ingenua Orthodoxæ de Quinque Articulis in Belgio controversis doctrinæ declaratio, et errorum, quibus Ecclesiæ Belgicæ aliquamdiu sunt perturbatæ, rejectio, quam Synodus ex verbo Dei desumptam, et Confessionibus Reformatarum Ecclesiarum consentaneam esse judicat. Unde liquido apparet eos, quos id minime decuit, citra omnem veritatem, æquitatem, et charitatem, populo inculcatum voluisse:
‘Doctrinam Ecclesiarum Reformatarum de prædestinatione et annexis ei capitibus, proprio quodam genio atque impulsu, animos hominum ab omni pietate et religione abducere: esse carnis et Diaboli pulvinar, arcemque Satanæ, ex qua omnibus insidietur, plurimos sauciet, et multos tum desperationis, tum securitatis jaculis lethaliter configat: eandem facere Deum authorem peccati, injustum, tyrannum, hypocritam; nec aliud esse quam interpolatum Stoicismum, Manicheismum, Libertinismum, Turcismum: eandem reddere homines carnaliter securos, quippe ex ea persuasos electorum saluti, quomodocunque vivant, non obesse, ideoque eos secure atrocissima quæque scelera posse perpetrare; reprobis ad salutem non prodesse, si vel omnia sanctorum opera vere fecerint: eadem doceri Deum nudo puroque voluntatis arbitrio, absque omni ullius peccati respectu, vel intuitu, maximam mundi partem ad æternam damnationem prædestinasse et creasse: eodem modo, quo electio est fons et caussa fidei ac bonorum operum, reprobationem esse caussam infidelitatis et impietatis: multos fidelium infantes ab uberibus matrum innoxios abripi et tyrannice in gehennam præcipitari, adeo ut iis nec baptismus, nec Ecclesiæ in eorum baptismo preces prodesse queant.’
Et quæ ejus generis sunt alia plurima, quæ Ecclesiæ Reformatæ non solum non agnoscunt, sed etiam toto pectore detestantur. Quare quotquot nomen Servatoris nostri Jesu Christi pie invocant, eos Synodus hæc Dordrechtana per nomen Domini obtestatur, ut de Ecclesiarum Reformatarum fide, non ex coacervatis hinc inde calumniis, vel etiam privatis nonnullorum, tum veterum tum recentium doctorum dictis, sæpe etiam aut mala fide citatis, aut corruptis, et in alienum sensum detortis, sed ex publicis ipsarum Ecclesiarum Confessionibus, et ex hac orthodoxæ doctrinæ declaratione, unanimi omnium et singulorum totius Synodi membrorum consensu firmata, judicent. Calumniatores deinde ipsos serio monet, viderint quam grave Dei judicium sint subituri, qui contra tot Ecclesias, contra tot Ecclesiarum Confessiones, falsum testimonium dicunt, conscientias infirmorum turbant, multisque vere fidelium societatem suspectam reddere satagunt.
Postremo hortatur hæc Synodus omnes in Evangelio Christi symmystas, ut in hujus doctrinæ pertractatione, in scholis atque in ecclesiis, pie et religiose versentur, eam tum lingua, tum calamo, ad Divini nominis gloriam, vitæ sanctitatem, et consternatorum animorum solatium accommodent, cum Scriptura secundum fidei analogiam non solum sentiant, sed etiam loquantur; a phrasibus denique iis omnibus abstineant, quæ præscriptos nobis genuini sanctarum Scripturarum sensus limites excedunt, et protervis sophistis justam ansam præbere possint doctrinam Ecclesiarum Reformatarum sugillandi, aut etiam calumniandi. Filius Dei Jesus Christus, qui ad dextram Patris sedens dat dona hominibus, sanctificet nos in veritate, eos qui errant adducat ad veritatem, calumniatoribus sanæ doctrinæ ora obstruat, et fidos verbi sui ministros spiritu sapientiæ et discretionis instruat, ut omnia ipsorum eloquia ad gloriam Dei, et ædificationem auditorum, cedant. Amen.

Huic capiti eadem quæ prius subscribuntur nomina.

Hæc omnia de Quinque Doctrinæ Capitibus Controversis supra comprehensis, ita esse gesta testatur Illustrissimorum ac Præpotentium DD. Ordinum Generalium ad hanc Synodum Deputati, manuum nostrarum subsignatione.


MARTINUS GREGORII D., Consiliarius Ducatus Geldriæ, et Comitatus Zutphaniæ.
HENRICUS VAN ESSEN, Consiliarius Ducatus Geldriæ, et Comitatus Zutphaniæ.




SYMON SCOTTE, Consiliarius et Secretarius Civitatis Middelburgensis.
JACOBUS CAMPE, Ordinum Zelandiæ Consiliarius.




ERNESTUS AB AYLVA, Ordinum Frisiæ Consiliarius, Orientalis Dongriæ Grietmannus.
ERNESTUS AB HARINXMA, Consiliarius primarius in Curia Provinciali Frisiæ





Et Illustribus ac Amplissimis DD. Delegatis a Secretis,


Explicata hactenus, et asserta, per Dei gratiam, veritate, erroribus rejectis, et damnatis, abstersis iniquis calumniis; SYNODUS HÆC DORDRECHTANA (quæ ipsi porro cura superest) serio, obnixe et pro auctoritate, quam ex Dei verbo in omnia suarum Ecclesiarum membra obtinet, in Christi nomine rogat, hortatur, monet, atque injungit omnibus et singulis in Fœderato Belgio Ecclesiarum Pastoribus, academiarum et scholarum Doctoribus, Rectoribus, et Magistris, atque adeo omnibus in universum, quibus vel animarum cura, vel juventutis disciplina est demandata, ut missis quinque notis Remonstrantium Articulis, qui et erronei sunt, et mera errorum latibula, hanc sanam veritatis salutaris doctrinam, ex purissimis verbi divini fontibus haustam, sinceram, et inviolatam, pro viribus et munere suo, conservent: illam populo et juventuti fideliter et prudenter proponant et explicent; usumque ejus suavissimum atque utilissimum, tum in vita, tum in morte, diligenter declarent: errantes ex grege, secus sentientes, et opinionum novitate abreptos, veritatis evidentia mansuete erudiant, si quando det ipsis Deus resipiscentiam, ad agnoscendam veritatem: ut saniori menti redditi, uno spiritu, ore, fide, charitate, Ecclesiæ Dei, et sanctorum communioni, denuo accedant; atque tandem coalescat vulnus Ecclesiæ, et fiat omnium ejus membrorum cor unum et anima una in Domino.
At vero, quia nonnulli e nobis egressi, sub titulo Remonstrantium (quod nomen Remonstrantium ut et Contra-Remonstrantium, SYNODUS perpetua oblivione delendum censet), studiis et consiliis privatis, modis illegitimis, disciplina et ordine Ecclesiæ violato, atque fratrum suorum monitionibus et judiciis contemptis, Belgicas Ecclesias antea florentissimas, in fide et charitate conjunctissimas, in his Doctrinæ Capitibus, graviter et periculose admodum turbarunt: errores noxios et veteres revocarunt, et novos procuderunt, publice et privatim, voce ac scriptis, in vulgus sparserunt, et acerrime propugnarunt: doctrinam, hactenus in Ecclesiis receptam, calumniis et contumeliis enormibus insectandi, nec modum nec finem fecerunt: scandalis, dissidiis, conscientiarum scrupulis, et exagitationibus, omnia passim compleverunt: quæ certe gravia in fidem, in charitatem, in bonos mores, in Ecclesiæ unitatem et pacem, peccata, cum in nullo homine tolerari juste possint, in Pastoribus censura severissima ab omni ævo in Ecclesia usurpata, necessario animadverti debent; SYNODUS, invocato Dei sancto nomine, suæ auctoritatis ex verbo Dei probe conscia, omnium legitimarum tum veterum tum recentium Synodorum vestigiis insistens, et illustrissimorum DD. Ordinum Generalium auctoritate munita, declarat atque judicat, Pastores illos, qui partium in Ecclesia ductores, et errorum doctores sese præbuerunt, corruptæ religionis, scissæ Ecclesiæ unitatis, et gravissimorum scandalorum, citatos vero ad hanc Synodum, intolerandæ insuper adversus supremi magistratus in hac Synodo publicata decreta, ipsamque hanc venerandam Synodum, pervicaciæ, reos et convictos teneri. Quas ob causas, primo Synodus prædictis citatis omni ecclesiastico munere interdicit, eosque ab officiis suis abdicat, et academicis functionibus etiam indignos esse judicat, donec per seriam resipiscentiam, dictis, factis, studiis contrariis abunde comprobatam, Ecclesiæ satisfaciant, et cum eadem vere et plene reconcilientur, atque ad ejus communionem recipiantur: quod nos in ipsorum bonum, et totius Ecclesiæ gaudium unice in Christo Domino nostro exoptamus. Reliquos autem, quorum cognitio ad Synodum hanc Nationalem non devenit, Synodus Provincialibus, Classibus, et Presbyteriis, ex ordine recepto, committit: quæ omni studio procurent ne quid Ecclesia detrimenti vel in præsens capere, vel in posterum metuere possit. Errorum istorum sectatores spiritu prudentiæ discriminent: refractarios, clamosos, factiosos, turbatores, quam primum officiis ecclesiasticis, et scholasticis, quæ sunt suæ cognitionis et curæ, abdicent: eoque nomine monentur, ut nulla interjecta mora, post acceptum hujus Synodi Nationalis judicium, impetrata ad hoc magistratus auctoritate, conveniant, ne lentitudine malum invalescat et roboretur. Ex infirmitate, et vitio temporum lapsos, vel abreptos, et in levioribus forte hæsitantes, aut etiam dissentientes, modestos tamen, sedatos, vitæ inculpatæ, dociles, omni lenitate, charitatis officiis, patientia, ad veram atque perfectam concordiam cum Ecclesia provocent: ita tamen, ut diligenter sibi caveant, ne quemquam ad sacrum ministerium admittant, qui doctrinæ hisce synodicis constitutionibus declaratæ subscribere, eamque docere recuset: neminem etiam retineant, cujus manifesta dissensione, doctrina in hac Synodo tanto consensu comprobata violari, et Pastorum concordia, Ecclesiarumque tranquillitas denuo turbari queat. Præterea veneranda hæc Synodus serio monet ecclesiasticos omnes cœtus, ut invigilent diligentissime in greges sibi commissos, omnibus subnascentibus in Ecclesia novitatibus mature obviam eant, easque tanquam zizania ex agro Domini evellant: attendant scholis et scholarum moderatoribus ne qua ex privatis sententiis et pravis opinionibus juventuti instillatis, postmodum Ecclesiæ et reipub. pernicies denuo creetur. Denique illustrissimis et præpotentibus DD. Fœderati Belgii Ordinibus Generalibus, gratiis reverenter actis, quod tam necessario et opportuno tempore, afflictis et labentibus Ecclesiæ rebus, Synodi remedio clementer succurrerint, probos et fideles DEI servos in suam tutelam receperint, pignus omnis benedictionis et præsentiæ divinæ, verbi nempe ipsius veritatem, in suis ditionibus sancte et religiose conservatam voluerint: nulli labori, nullis sumptibus ad tantum opus promovendum et perficiendum pepercerint: pro quibus eximiis officiis largissimam a Domino et publice et privatim, et spiritualem et temporalem, remunerationem toto pectore SYNODUS comprecatur: Eosdem porro Dominos clementissimos obnixe et demisse rogat, ut hanc salutarem doctrinam, fidelissime ad verbum Dei et Reformatarum Ecclesiarum consensum a Synodo expressam, in suis regionibus solam et publice audiri velint et jubeant: arceant suborientes omnes hæreses et errores, spiritus inquietos et turbulentos compescant: veros et benignos Ecclesiæ nutritios ac tutores sese probare pergant: in personas supra dictas sententiam pro jure ecclesiastico, patriis legibus confirmato, ratam esse velint, et auctoritatis suæ adjecto calculo, synodicas constitutiones immotas et perpetuas reddant.


FESTUS HOMMIUS, Eccl. Leydensis Pastor, et Synodi Nat. Actuarius.

In testimonium Actorum, DANIEL HEINSIUS.


Ordines Generales Fœderati Belgii omnibus qui hasce visuri aut lecturi sunt, salutem. Notum facimus, Quum ad tollendas tristes et noxias illas controversias, quæ aliquot abhine annis cum magno reipubl. detrimento, et pacis Ecclesiarum perturbatione, exortæ sunt super quinque notis Doctrinæ Christianæ Capitibus, eorumque appendicibus, visum nobis fuerit, ex ordine in Ecclesia Dei, ipsaque adeo Belgica, Dordrechtum convocare Synodum Nationalem omnium Ecclesiarum Fæderati Belgii; utque illa maximo cum fructu et reipubl emolumento celebrari posset, non sine gravi molestia, magnisque impensis, ad eandem expetiverimus et impetraverimus complures præstantissimos, doctissimos, et celeberrimos Reformatæ Ecclesiæ Theologos exteros, uti ex prædictæ Synodi Decretorum subscriptione, post singula doctrinæ Capita videre est; delegatis insuper ex singulis provinciis ad ejusdem directionem nostris deputatis, qui in eadem ab initio usque ad finem præsentes curam gererent, ut omnia ibidem in timore Dei, et recto ordine, ex solo Dei verbo, sinceræ nostrœ intentioni congruenter, possent pertractari: Cumque prædicta hæc Synodus singulari Dei benedictione tanto omnium et singulorum, tam exterorum quam Belgicorum, consensu, de prædictis quinque Doctrinæ Capitibus, eorumque doctoribus jam judicarit, nobisque consultis et consentientibus sexto Maii proxime præterito decreta et sententiam hisce præfixa promulgarit; Nos, ut exoptati fructus ex magno et sancto hoc opere (quale nunquam antehac Ecclesiæ Reformatæ viderunt), ad Ecclesias harum regionum redundare queant, quandoquidem nihil nobis æque cordi et curæ est, quam gloria Sanctissimi Nominis Divini, quam conservatio et propagatio veræ Reformatæ Christianæ Religionis (quæ fundamentum est prosperitatis et vinculum unionis Fœderati Belgii), quam concordia, tranquillitas, et pax Ecclesiarum; itemque conservatio concordiæ et communionis Ecclesiarum, quæ sunt in hisce regionibus, cum omnibus exteris Reformatis Ecclesiis, a quibus nos separare nec debuimus, nec potuimus, Visis, cognitis, et mature examinatis atque expensis, prædicto judicio et sententia Synodi, ista plene in omnibus approbavimus, confirmavimus, et rata habuimus, approbamus, confirmamus, et rata habemus per præsentes: Volentes ac statuentes, ut nulla alia doctrina de quinque prædictis Doctrinæ Capitibus in Ecclesiis harum regionum doceatur aut propagetur, præter hanc, quæ prædicto judicio sit conformis atque consentanea; Mandantes atque imperantes omnibus ecclesiasticis cœtibus, Ecclesiarum Ministris, Sacrosanctæ Theologiæ Professoribus et Doctoribus, Collegiorum Regentibus, omnibusque in universum et singulis, quos hæc aliquatenus concernere queant aut attingere, ut in suorum ministeriorum et functionum exercitio eadem in omnibus fideliter et sincere sequantur, iisque convenienter sese gerant. Utque bonæ nostrœ intentioni plene ac per omnia ubique possit satisfieri, Denunciamus et mandamus Ordinibus, Gubernatoribus, Deputatis Ordinum, Consiliariis et Ordinibus Deputatis provinciarum Geldriæ, et comitatus Zutphaniæ, Hollandiæ, et Westfrisiæ, Zelandiæ, Ultrajecti, Frisiaæ, Transisalaniæ, civitatis Groningæ et Omlandiarum, omnibusque aliis Officiariis, Judicibus, et Justitiariis, ut prædicti Judicii Synodici, eorumque quæ inde dependent, observationem promoveant et tueantur, ac promovere et tueri faciant, adeo ut nullam in hisce mutationem aut ipsi faciant, aut ab aliis ullo modo fieri permittant: Quoniam ad promovendam Dei gloriam, securitatem et salutem status harum regionum, tranquillitatem et pacem Ecclesiæ, ita fieri debere judicamus.
Actum sub nostro sigillo, signatione Præsidis, et subscriptione nostri Graphiarii, Hagæ-Comitis, secundo Julii, anno millesimo, sexcentesimo et decimo nono, signatum erat.

A. PLOOS, ut
Et inferius
Ex mandato prædictorum Præpotentium Dominorum Ordinum Generalium
Eratque spatio impressum prædictum sigillum in cera rubra.

Source: Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, with a History and Critical Notes: The Evangelical Protestant Creeds, with Translations, vol. 3 (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1882), 550–80.

The 5 Articles Of Remonstrance (1610)

ARTICLE I. That God, by an eternal, unchangeable purpose in Jesus Christ, his Son, before the foundation of the world, hath determined, out of the fallen, sinful race of men, to save in Christ, for Christ’s sake, and through Christ, those who, through the grace of the Holy Ghost, shall believe on this his Son Jesus, and shall persevere in this faith and obedience of faith, through this grace, even to the end; and, on the other hand, to leave the incorrigible and unbelieving in sin and under wrath, and to condemn them as alienate from Christ, according to the word of the Gospel in John iii. 36: “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him,” and according to other passages of Scripture also.

ART. II. That, agreeably thereto, Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, died for all men and for every man, so that he has obtained for them all, by his death on the cross, redemption, and the forgiveness ef sins; yet that no one actually enjoys this forgiveness of sins, except the believer, according to the word of the Gospel of John iii. 16: “God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life”; and in the First Epistle of John ii. 2: “And he is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only. but also for the sins of the whole world.”

ART. III. That man has not saving grace of himself, nor of the energy of his free-will, inasmuch as he, in the state of apostasy and sin, can of and by himself neither think, will, nor do anything that is truly good (such as having faith eminently is); but that it is needful that he be born again of God in Christ, through his Holy Spirit, and renewed in understanding, inclination, or will, and all his powers, in order that he may rightly understand, think, will, and effect what is truly good, according to the word of Christ, John xv. b: “Without me ye can do nothing.”

ART. IV. That this grace of God is the beginning, continuance, and accomplishment of an good, even to this extent, that the regenerate man himself, without that prevenient or assisting; awakening, following, and co-operative grace, elm neither think, will, nor do good, nor withstand any temptations to evil; so that all good deeds or movements that can be conceived must be ascribed to the grace of God in Christ. But, as respects the mode of the operation of this grace, it is not irresistible, inasmuch as it is written concerning many that they have resisted the Holy Ghost, -Acts vii., and elsewhere in many places.

ART. V. That those who an incorporated into Christ by a true faith, and have thereby become partakers of his lifegiving spirit, have thereby full power to strive against Satan, sin, the world, and their own flesh, and to win the victory, it being well understood that it is ever through the assisting grace of the Holy Ghost; and that Jesus Christ assists them through his Spirit in all temptations, extends to them his hand; and if only they are ready for the conflict. and desire his help, and are not inactive, keeps them from falling, so that they, by no craft or power of Satan, can be misled, nor plucked out of Christ’s hands, according to the word of Christ, John x. 28: “Neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” But whether they are capable. through negligence, of forsaking again the first beginnings of their life in Christ, of again returning to this present evil world, of turning away from the holy doctrine which was delivered them, of losing a good conscience, of becoming devoid of grace, that must be more particularly determined out of the Holy Scriptures before we ourselves can teach it with the full persuasion of our minds.

Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed

We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made. Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.

And [we believe] in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father and the Son;1 who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets; and one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.


1. The Latin text of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan (381) as revised by the Third Council of Toledo (589) ratified the use of the filioque clause  (and the Son) to further define the procession of the Holy Spirit. This revision is received by the Reformed and Presbyterian churches but is not received by the Eastern Churches. Here is a more detailed explanation.

The Received Greek Text

Πιστεύομεν εἰς ἕνα ΘΕΟΝ ΠΑΤΕΡΑ παντοκράτορα, ποιητὴν οὐρανοῦ καὶ γῆς, ὁρατῶν τε πάντων καὶ ἀοράτων.

Καὶ εἰς ἕνα κύριον ἸΗΣΟΥΝ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΝ, τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ θεοῦ τὸν μονογενῆ, τὸν ἐκ τοῦ πατρὸς γεννηθέντα πρὸ πάντων τῶν αἰώνων, φῶς ἐκ φωτός, θεὸν ἀληθινὸν ἐκ θεοῦ ἀληθινοῦ, γεννηθέντα, οὐ ποιηθέντα, ὁμοούσιον τῷ πατρί· διʼ οὔ τὰ πάντα ἐγένετο· τὸν διʼ ἡμᾶς τοὺς ἀνθρώπους καὶ διὰ τὴν ἡμετέραν σωτηρίαν κατελθόντα ἐκ τῶν οὐρανῶν καὶ σαρκωθέντα ἐκ πνεύματος ἁγίου καὶ Μαρίας τῆς παρθένου καὶ ἐνανθρωπήσαντα, σταυρωθέντα τε ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν ἐπὶ Ποντίου Πιλάτου, καὶ παθόντα καὶ ταφέντα, καὶ ἀναστάντα τῇ τρίτῃ ἡμέρᾳ κατὰ τὰς γραφάς, καὶ ἀνελθόντα εἰς τοὺς οὐρανούς, καὶ καθεζόμενον ἐκ δεξιῶν τοῦ πατρός, καὶ πάλιν ἐρχόμενον μετὰ δόξης κρῖναι ζῶντας καὶ νεκρούς· οὗ τῆς βασιλείας οὐκ ἔσται τέλος.

Καὶ εἰς τὸ ΠΝΕΥΜΑ ΤΟ ἌΓΙΟΝ, τὸ κύριον, (καὶ) τὸ ζωοποιόν, τὸ ἐκ τοῦ πατρὸς ἐκπορευόμενον, τὸ σὺν πατρὶ καὶ ὑιῷ συν προσκυνούμενον καὶ συνδοξαζόμενον, τὸ λαλῆσαν διὰ τῶν προφητῶν· εἰς μίαν, ἁγίαν, καθολικὴν καὶ ἀποστολικὴν ἐκκλησίαν· ὁμολογοῦμεν ἓν βάπτισμα εἰς ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν· προσδοκῶμεν ἀνάστασιν νεκρῶν, καὶ ζωὴν τοῦ μέλλοντος αἰώνος. Ἀμήν.

Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, with a History and Critical Notes: The Greek and Latin Creeds, with Translations, vol. 2 (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1890), 57.

Received Latin Text

Credo in unum DEUM PATREM omnipotentem; factorem cœli et terrœ, visibilium omnium et invisibilium.

Et in unum Dominum JESUM CHRISTUM, Filium Dei unigenitum, et ex Patre natum ante omnia sæcula [Deum de Deo], Lumen de Lumine, Deum verum de Deo vero, genitum, non factum, consubstantialem Patri; per quem omnia facta sunt; qui propter nos homines et propter nostram salutem descendit de cœlis, et incarnatus est de Spiritu Sancto ex Maria virgine, et homo factus est; crucifixus etiam pro nobis sub Pontio Pilato, passus et sepultus est; et resurrexit tertia die, secundum Scripturus; et ascendit in cœlum, sedet ad dexteram Patris; et iterum venturus est, cum gloria, judicare vivos et mortuos; cujus regni non erit finis.

Et in SPIRITUM SANCTUM, Dominum et vivificantem, qui ex Patre [Filioque] procedit; qui cum Patre et Filio simul adoratur et conglorificatur; qui locutus est per Prophetas. Et unam, sanctam, catholicam et apostolicam ecclesiam. Confiteor unum baptisma in remissionem peccatorum; et expecto resurrectionem mortuorum, et vitam venturi seculi. Amen.

Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, with a History and Critical Notes: The Greek and Latin Creeds, with Translations, vol. 2 (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1890), 58–59.