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Reflections on Blogging the Belgic Series

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At the end of 2016 I set a goal (I hesitated to call it a resolution because we all know how they go!) to blog through the Belgic Confession, believing that both Faith Church and I could benefit from some discussion of each of the 37 articles that are found in this confession that stands as one of our church’s statements of belief. Last week marked the completion of this goal. Sometimes we achieve a goal or complete a task and then quickly move on to the next one, but I wanted to take a step back and do a little reflecting on what I have learned in this process (if you have been reading the posts, I would encourage you to reflect on what you have learned). I have five  key takeaways that I thought were worthwhile sharing.

  1. Theology must be believed and confessed with our head, hearts, and mouths.

I was pretty familiar with the opening words of the Heidelberg Catechism (Q: “What is your only comfort in life and in death?” A: “That I am not my own but belong, body and soul, in life and in death, to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ”) and the Westminster Shorter Catechism (Q: “What is the chief end of man?” A: “To glorify God and enjoy Him forever”), but I now know that the opening words of the Belgic Confession can be as just as formative, as they say, “We all believe in our hearts and confess with our mouths.” Theology is not just a head thing, but something that goes to the heart and must come out of our mouths! It stands alongside of the Heidelberg Catechism and Westminster Shorter Catechism in terms of great opening lines.

  1. Theology can be written in the midst of chaos and busyness — and may even need to be written in those situations!

As one who comes from the Presbyterian tradition, I was pretty familiar with the Westminster Confession of Faith which was written in Westminster Abbey by an assembly of church leaders. That is how we often think theology comes out — when people are comfortable. However, the Belgic Confession was written by a guy (Guido de Bres) who was martyred in the midst of a period of persecution. Christians often say that they are too busy to think about theology, but I am skeptical of that claim; just as we need prayer even more when we are busy, so also when our faith is being threatened, we need theology all the more, a theology that reminds us of truths about God and who He is (taking care of us), truths about the gospel of Jesus Christ (what He has done for us, giving us confidence but also challenging us to share this with others), and truths about how we should live in light of it.

  1. It seems like governments are always suspicious of Christians, even though the Christian faith is one that both proclaims Christ is Lord and also that we should respect our authorities.

We see early Christian leaders speaking about the duty of Christians in government in places like Romans 13, 1 Timothy 2, and 1 Peter 2, and we see many examples in the Old Testament of God’s people serving foreign governments (e.g., Joseph, Daniel, Nehemiah), but it seems that governing leaders are often afraid of Christians and the church. Remember, one of the primary reasons that the Belgic Confession was written was to show that the Reformed Christians were not threats or opposed to the government. While we feel like this might not be the case in America since there is a protection of the exercise of all religions, there have been two recent Senate confirmation hearings in which prominent Senators have expressed reservations about the nominees because they were Christians – even though both candidates gave no indications that they would impose their beliefs on others. Our faith does certainly affect how we live, but part of that means that we will respect leaders and systems while also seeking to work for the common good of others, regardless of their religious affiliation. This seems to be a perennial problem that Christians face; our allegiance is to Christ, but we still give to Caesar what is Caesar’s; though this might not always make sense to the outside world.

  1. Reformed Christians need to remember that we are connected to the whole story and history of Christianity.

This year is the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, as Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door in Wittenberg, Germany back in 1517. Some Reformed Christians will speak as if this is the “birthday” of the church. It is an important event, but it is not the start of the Christian faith or Reformed tradition; it is more akin to getting your driver’s license or graduating from high school (important steps) than being born. Guido de Bres and his community sought to show their connections to the Christian tradition, showing that they were not something new but the continuation and renewal of the church that has existed since Jesus and his apostles (and traces back to Israel). The foundations of our beliefs are in the Apostles’ Creed, Nicene Creed, and Athanasian Creed and while Scripture is the final and ultimate authority, we do look to and learn from our mothers and fathers in the faith who have come before us. We should not forget the longer history of the Christian church.

  1. Present concerns and debates will influence what and how things will be said in any statement.

At times, we saw how the Confession “names names,” in particular talking about the Anabaptists or the practices of the Roman Catholic Church of that day – while those things might not seem as relevant for us in the 21st century, they remind us that we always live in a particular time and place that will shape us. We can learn from past times, but also need to recognize present realities and address concerns and issues that our contemporaries are discussing. The past might help us address these things, as “new” ideas and challenges often are just updated versions of past concerns and thus not really “new.” The Belgic Confession does not address every area of theology, and that is okay, but the ones it needed to address then. We should stand on the shoulders of this work as we look to the challenges and questions we face today.

If you learned any important lessons or have any takeaways from the “Blogging the Belgic” series, I would love to hear them. I also have been thinking of what I can do as another series (perhaps “Digging into Dort”, looking at the Canons of Dort, another one of our confessions), so if you have thoughts, ideas, or suggestions, please send them my way.

Questions about the Bible or theology? Email them to Pastor Brian at Theology@wearefaith.org. You can also subscribe to receive weekly emails with our blog posts by filling out the information on the right side.

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