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R Scott Clark‘s Heidelblog is an oasis of clarity in a desert of revisionist and postmodern Christianity.

I heartily recommend it to all Protestants, regardless of affiliation. Even for those of us who are not Reformed (‘Calvinist’), Dr Clark discusses tenets of faith with conviction and intelligence.

In a recent post of his, ‘Implicit Faith and the Cult of Personality‘, Clark explores the basics of Christian belief. These are taken from the Apostles’ Creed. Note the 12 articles below:

1. I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth:

2. And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord:

3. Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary:

4. Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead and buried: He descended into hell:

5. The third day he rose again from the dead:

6. He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty:

7. From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead:

8. I believe in the Holy Ghost:

9. I believe in the holy catholic church: the communion of saints:

10. The forgiveness of sins:

11. The resurrection of the body:

12. And the life everlasting. Amen.

Clark writes (emphases mine):

The temptation is to say to one’s self, “Well, I don’t have to know everything because so and so knows it and I trust him.” Now, it is true that there is much that one need not know. It’s not really material whether you understand the logical order of the decrees (infra v supra). I doubt that it matters if you know the length of the creation days or which Bible translation is the perfect English translation (it doesn’t exist). I doubt that you need be an expert in eschatology [Second Coming theology] to be Reformed. There are any number of things that you need not know but, to paraphrase Luther’s Leipzig Disputation (1519) superstars and coalitions do err.

What must you know and believe explicitly, i.e., embrace intelligently and heartily because Scripture teaches it:

All that is promised us in the Gospel, which the articles of our catholic, undoubted Christian faith teach us in sum (Heidelberg Catechism, A:22).

The articles are the 12 articles of the Apostles’ Creed, which we confess as a summary of the faith and explain in the catechism. So, the list of things that a Christian must read, mark, learn and inwardly digest, to borrow a phrase, is not unending but neither is it nothing. We believe these things not, in the first instance, because they are taught by the church but rather because they are taught by Scripture. The church confesses them because Scripture teaches them. We confess the faith with the church and in the church and even under the ministerial authority of the church as she confesses God’s Word.

That’s a beauty of confessing the faith together. There are great mysteries in the Christian faith: one person, two natures; one God in three persons etc but what the true church actually believes is not a mystery and it’s not a matter of implicit faith. We confess our faith and believe explicitly and that is all that we are bound to believe as a matter of discipline and that’s a source of great freedom.

No personality is the arbiter of our faith and practice. Indeed, in Reformed churches personalities tend to fade into the background. God’s Word is in the foreground. Ministers come and go. The Word stands. The ministry stands. We should give thanks for those gifted, articulate persons whom God has used to strengthen our faith but our confidence rests not on this famous person or that but on the Word incarnate and written.

It is important that Christians — adults and children — pray the Apostles’ Creed, particularly if they are new to the faith. I had to memorise it as a child in Catholic school and most believing parents — whether Protestant or Catholic — see that their offspring know it by heart. It’s only 12 lines long and relatively uncomplicated.

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