Those of you who know me well or who otherwise read this blog regularly will probably be aware that I am advocate of each person questioning their beliefs and having regular re-evaluations of where they stand on various issues. I do this myself so frequently that I have started to wonder if I have ever actually finished any piece of thinking. In other words, I start down one route but before I reach the end of it, I turn around and go back to the start.
Because of this, I aim to undertake a fairly large task. Using one of the earliest reformed statements of faith as my template, I plan to lay out a statement of my beliefs. The document I shall use will be the Heidelberg Catechism, which I understand dates back to 1563. There were others I could have chosen, such as the Belgic Confession or the Westminster Catechism, but I opted for Heidelberg for a few reasons. Firstly, I think the questions that are asked are more amenable to a series of blog posts. Some will be rather long, possibly broken into several parts, though others will be rather short.
My intention is to ask the question as originally asked (in the English translation) and the answer from the Catechism, followed by own response. Each response will be in two parts. Firstly, I shall aim to critique the answer given by the catechism; secondly, by providing my own answer. By forcing myself to answer someone else’s set of questions, I hope to be forced to think. This may result in me changing my ideas on some matters, or at least clarification of things which I don’t think about too much. So this is as much an exploration as an exposition.
So what’s in it for you? Well, I hope, as ever, to prompt you into thinking. You are, of course, free to disagree and state why in the comments. You may even be prompted to undertake your own version, possibly using a different reformed confession as your basis. I strongly doubt that any one person will agree with my on all points, though I would hope to find solidarity with many christians, whether liberal, conservative, baptist, anglican, methodist, etc.
Though I often describe myself as non-denominational, there are some ideas or traditions which I adhere to more closely than others, some which I outright reject. When asked to sum up my denomination by someone recently, I described myself as ‘a liberal, reformed, pentecostal baptist’. Aspects of each of these will come out, but to help you understand where I come from I’ll briefly expand each term.
Liberal. This is the most easily misunderstood when it comes to theology. This more describes my outlook on socio-economic matters as well as my view of church. I would affirm an ‘orthodox’ view of the bible, rather than “liberal” in the sense of playing fast and loose with theology. This is in opposition to conservative views (small ‘c’) which are more .
Reformed. Though I would not wholly accept the teachings of Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Knox and their ilk, I do think that the reformation was the most important theological movement since the 1st century. This entails the rejection of Catholicism, which is best regarded as an heretical offshoot from christianity in the same vein as Mormonism or Unitarianism. I know this is a minority opinion and is deeply unpopular with some. Though there may be great similarities between Catholicism and christianity, as there between chimpanzees and humans, similarly due to having common ancestors, it is incorrect to mistake one for the other or to conflate the two.
Pentecostal. In my various travels across churches, I have noticed that very few seems to get a balance when it comes in Trinitarian thinking and practice. Where I perceive the lack of balance to be most prevalent is in the treatment of the Holy Spirit. Though cessationists are rare, the Holy Spirit is often given little more than lip service, with the praxis of the more traditionalist churches seeming to ignore the actions of this person of the Trinity. This does not mean that I embrace all the excesses that have sometimes stemmed from the charismatic churches.
Baptist. I believe that as christians we are supposed to be baptised. This is not something that should be done by anyone who does not profess a faith, but is an act of obedience. Therefore, churches which advocate and practice infant ‘baptism’ are, I believe, in error. This will be expanded more in questions 69-74.
So that’s the plan. I can’t promise that I’ll be able to stick to it, but I hope you’ll join me in my progress. Any prodding and poking that you can provide to get me through it will be much appreciated.