I am going to start backwards with our Theses from our book; starting with Thesis 15 first. This will be the kickoff post in my ACCESSIBLE postings. I am going to quote our 15th Thesis, and then try to flesh it out in more accessible and understandable ways for folks who that might be advantageous for.
Thesis Fifteen. Evangelical Calvinism is in continuity with the Reformed confessional tradition.
Evangelical Calvinism fits into the Reformed family of faith as a participant with the confession-making of the Protestant Reformed tradition. Confessions and catechisms are timely voices that mature in different spaces, and due to various occasions wherein the situation calls for a decisive statement to be made by a body of Christians who submit to biblical authority (sola scriptura). Jack Stotts captures well the Evangelical Calvinist perception of the place that confessions have within the Reformed tradition:
The Reformed sector of the Protestant Reformation is one that holds to what can be called an “open” rather than a “closed” confessional tradition. A closed tradition holds to a particular statement of beliefs to be adequate for all times and places. An open tradition anticipates that what has been confessed in a formally adopted confession takes its place in a confessional lineup, preceded by statements from the past and expectant of more to come as times and circumstances change. Thus, the Reformed tradition—itself a wide river with many currents—affirms that, for it, developing and adopting confessions is indeed an obligation, not an option. These contemporary confessions are recognized as extraordinarily important for a church’s integrity, identity, and faithfulness. But they are also acknowledged to be relative to particular times and places. This “occasional” nature of a Reformed confession is as well a reminder that statements of faith are always subordinate in authority to scripture.58
In this vein Evangelical Calvinism is not slavishly committed to the Canons of Dort or the Westminster Standards. While Evangelical Calvinists respect both of these, for instance, as Reformed confessions, they do not necessarily see either as being the definitive standard. What happened at Dordrecht was an historical response to a localized situation and as such the five points were never meant to define Calvinism or the Reformed faith in toto; and Westminster, while of abiding value, is couched in its own very specific English Puritan context and logic which again is specific to that time and place and as such does not necessarily translate well into other contexts. The same would go for the other confessions. Nevertheless, Evangelical Calvinists believe that the Reformed confessions reflect a rich heritage to draw from; and, in fact, Evangelical Calvinists find a special affinity for both the Scot’s Confession of the Faith and the Heidelberg Catechism. Both of these convey the Trinitarian foci, the Christocentric logic, and the relational warmth of the Gospel, each of which is inimical to Evangelical Calvinism.59
58. Jack Stotts in Rohls, Reformed Confessions, xi.
59. See Grow, chapter 4, and Purves, chapter 5.
This one seems pretty accessible and straightforward, but let me try to clarify it even further. Evangelical Calvinism, in the way that Myk Habets and myself take it, is committed to working from the rich heritage offered by the Protestant Reformed movement. We don’t see confession making as something that is binding (like Scripture is), but we see it as the natural overflow that happens when Reformed Christians gather together, and reflect upon the depth of our God who is Triune love(Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), and engage with who He has revealed Himself to be in His dearly beloved Son, as it has been deposited and written for us by the Apostles and Prophets in the Scriptures. We see then Reformed Confessions and Catechisms from the past as expressions of heart’s that are super-abundantly filled with the love of Christ, and that need somewhere to capture that for their local and regional bodies of like-minded believers. In this way, the Confessions don’t serve as binding documents which we as Reformed Christians must adhere to in every jot and tittle in order to be considered a Reformed Christian; instead we look back at the ‘spirit’ that gave rise to these Confessions and Catechisms, and we look back at what these thoughtfully crafted documents have to say doctrinally, and we take our inspiration from this, as we continue on in this ‘spirit’, and engage with some of the doctrinal points covered and articulated in these Confessions and Catechisms. Evangelical Calvinists do their thinking in this same kind of style of thinking, we build upon some of the riches left for us in these documents, and in this tradition; and we joyfully affirm our place in the Confessional heritage of the Reformed church, by being so aligned.
Here are examples of one confession and one catechism that Myk and I particularly like:
I would have to say, personally, that The Heidelberg Catechism is probably my favorite Reformed catechism out of all of the Reformed catechisms and confessions.