RTC has a clear and strong basis of belief. We are committed to a historic Reformed theological understanding of the gospel and biblical truth. The Reformed doctrinal position is stated fully in four documents that the Christian church developed in the 16th & 17th Centuries. RTC is committed to these four confessions of faith.
THE HEIDELBERG CATECHISM
The Heidelberg Catechism is a warm, personal, practical statement of faith. It was written by two young men in their twenties – Zacharias Ursinus (1534-1583) and Casper Olevianus (1536-1584). The Catechism was published in January 1553 in Heidelberg, Germany.
Like other Protestant catechisms of its day, the Heidelberg Catechism employs a question and answer format that covers, among other things, the Apostle’s Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, and the Sacraments. The Catechism opens with the question, “What is your only comfort in life and in death?” The knowledge that our only comfort lies in “my faithful Saviour, Jesus Christ” frames the remainder of the Catechism.
The Catechism has 129 questions and answers that address three primary dimensions of the gospel. Questions 3-11 deal with human sin and guilt, questions 12-85 with God’s grace to us in Jesus Christ, and questions 86-129 with the Christian’s grateful response to God for his saving work in Christ.
The Heidelberg Catechism is warm-hearted and irenic, devotional and personal, with each question being addressed to “you”. Each answer is framed as much as possible in biblical language.
Heinrich Bullinger, the Zurich based Reformer, praised it as “the best catechism ever published.” The Heidelberg Catechism has been translated into many languages and is one of the most influential and widely accepted catechisms coming out of the 16th Century Reformation.
THE BELGIC CONFESSION
The Belgic Confession, written in 1561 by Guido de Brès, owes its origin to the need for a clear and comprehensive statement of the Reformed faith during a time of intense persecution under the Spanish inquisition. A copy of the Confession was sent to King Phillip II of Spain demonstrating the continuity of the ancient creeds with the reformed understanding of Scripture, and its practitioners’ willingness to give their life for the truths expressed in it. Many thousands of believers, including de Brès himself (1567), paid for their faith with their lives.
The title “Belgic Confession” comes from the 17th Century Latin designation Confessio Beligica, with Belgica referring to the whole of the Netherlands (both south and north) which today is divided into the Netherlands and Belgium. The Confession was first written in French, and then translated into Latin and Dutch. It was adopted by the Synod of Dort in 1619, becoming one of the standards of the Dutch Reformed Church.
The Confession covers a spectrum of theological topics: The Doctrine of God (1-13); Doctrine of Man (14-15); Doctrine of Christ (16-21); Doctrine of Salvation (22-26); Doctrine of the Church and Sacraments (27-36); and finally the Doctrine of the Final Judgment (37). This Confession stands as one of the best symbolical statements of the Reformed faith.
THE CANONS OF DORT
This famous document was produced as a response to the controversial teachings of Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609) and his followers. Arminius’ views were developed by his followers in the “Five Articles of the Remonstrance” (1610). The Synod of Dort, which included 62 Dutch delegates and 27 foreign delegates representing eight countries, met in the city of Dordrecht in the Netherlands in 1618-1619 and responded to Arminius’ teaching with five counter-points.
These five points set forth the Reformed position (often referred to as the Five Points of Calvinism or the Doctrines of Grace) on the matters that were being disputed, namely: Total Depravity; Unconditional Election; Limited Atonement (or Definite Redemption); Irresistible Grace; and Perseverance of the Saints.
Simply stated, we may say that the subject matter of the Canons is the free, unmerited and sovereign grace of God. The Canons provide us with a Scripturally balanced statement on the specific doctrines expounded in this document.
THE WESTMINSTER CONFESSION OF FAITH
The Westminster Confession of Faith (1646) is one of the most influential confessions of Calvinism, a symbolical statement for Presbyterian Church, drawn up at Westminster in 1643-1658.
The immediate backdrop of the Confession lies in tensions between Charles I, King of England, and his Puritan subjects, growing in large measure out of Charles’ insistence on imposing high-Anglicanism on England and Scotland. By 1642 civil war had broken out between the Parliamentarians lead by Oliver Cromwell and Royalists lead by Charles I. In this context, Parliament called an Assembly at Westminster to formulate a confession suitable for the English and Scottish churches (1643).
The Assembly, dominated by Puritan Calvinists, was made up of 121 ministers of the Church of England, 30 lay assessors, as well as 6 Commissioners representing the Church of Scotland. The Assembly met for three years (1643-1646) during which time it drew up the Directory for the Publick Worship of God (1644), the Form of Presbyterian Church Government (1644), the Westminster Confession of Faith (1646), the Shorter Catechism (1647), and the Larger Catechism (1648).
The catechisms provided a summary of the Confession and were used for educating church members in its truths. The Confession itself consists of thirty-three chapters and has all of the virtues of a highly developed, comprehensive, systematic, precise, and balanced exposition of the Reformed faith.