The Belgic Confession Of Faith And The Canons Of Dordt -- By: Joel R. Beeke

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 10:2 (Spring 2001)
Article: The Belgic Confession Of Faith And The Canons Of Dordt
Author: Joel R. Beeke

The Belgic Confession Of Faith
And The Canons Of Dordt

Joel R. Beeke

The oldest of the doctrinal standards of the Reformed Churches of the Netherlands is the Confession of Faith, most commonly known as the Belgic Confession, taken from the seventeenth-century Latin designation Confessio Belgica. “Belgica” referred to the whole of the Low Countries, both north and south, today divided into the Netherlands and Belgium. Variant names for the Belgic Confession include the Walloon Confession and the Netherlands Confession.

The Confession’s chief author was Guido de Brs (1522–1567), a Reformed itinerant pastor. During the sixteenth century the Reformed churches in the Netherlands experienced severe persecution at the hands of Philip II of Spain, an ally of the Roman Catholic Church. As an apology for the persecuted band of Reformed believers in the Lowlands who formed the so-called churches under the cross, de Brs prepared this confession in French in 1561. De Brs was most likely assisted by fellow pastors who, together with himself, desired to prove to their persecutors that the adherents of the Reformed faith were not rebels as was charged, but law-abiding citizens who professed biblical doctrines. The Confession was modeled after the Gallic Confession, a 1559 French Reformed confession, which, in turn, was dependent upon Calvin’s design.

Basically, the Confession follows what has become the traditional doctrinal order of the six loci of Reformed systematic theology: the doctrines concerning God (theology

proper, articles 1–11); man (anthropology, articles 12–15); Christ (Christology, articles 16–21); salvation (soteriology, articles 22–26); the church (ecclesiology, articles 27–35); and the last things (eschatology, article 37). Article 36 addresses the theocratic nature of civil government. Despite following an objective doctrinal order, the Confession breathes a warmly experiential and personal spirit, facilitated by its repeated use of the pronoun “we.”

The year after it was written, a copy of the Confession was sent to King Philip II together with an address in which the petitioners declared that they were ready to obey the government in all things lawful, but that they would “offer their backs to stripes, their tongues to knives, their mouths to gags, and their whole bodies to the fire, well knowing that those who follow Christ must take his cross and deny themselves,” rather than deny the truth expressed in this Confession. Neither the Confession nor the petition, however, bore the desired fruit of toleration for Protestants w...

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