Reformation Principles in the Second Helvetic Confession

There is a link to the complete Second Helvetic Confession, but we will here look only at those sections of the creed which show the differences between the Catholic and the Protestant beliefs.

Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone)

The Bible is the only inspired and authoritative Word of God and is accessible to all. This doctrine is directly opposed to the teaching of the Catholic Church that scripture can only be authentically interpreted through Holy Apostolic Tradition by the Magisterium (that is, the Pope and bishops at church councils).

Chapter 1 of the Second Helvetic Confession

We believe and confess the canonical Scriptures of the holy prophets and apostles of both Testaments to be the true Word of God, and to have sufficient authority of themselves, not of men. (5.001)

Chapter 2

Nor consequently do we acknowledge as the true or genuine interpretation of the Scriptures what is called the conception of the Roman Church. (5.010)

Likewise we reject human traditions, even if they be adorned with high-sounding titles, as though they were divine and apostolical, delivered to the Church by the living voice of the apostles. (5.014)

Sola Christus (Christ Alone)

Christ is the exclusive mediator between God and man. Neither Mary, the saints, nor priests (other than Christ himself) can act as mediator in bringing salvation. This doctrine is contrasted with the Catholic doctrines of the intercession of saints and of the function of priests.

Chapter 5

In all crises and trials of our life we call upon him alone, and that by the mediation of our only mediator and intercessor, Jesus Christ. (5.024)

For this reason we do not adore, worship, or pray to the saints in heaven, or to other gods, and we do not acknowledge them as our intercessors or mediators before the Father in heaven. (5.025)

Sola Gratia (Grace Alone)

Salvation comes by grace only, not through any merit on the part of the sinner. Thus salvation is an unearned gift. This doctrine is a response to the Catholic doctrine of merit.

Chapter 10

From eternity God has freely, and of his mere grace, without any respect to men, predestinated or elected the saints whom he wills to save in Christ alone. (5.052)

Sola fides (Faith Alone)

Justification (that is, becoming right before God comes through faith only, not good works, though in the classical protestant scheme, saving faith will always be accompanied by good works. This doctrine can be summarized with the formula "Faith yields justification and good works" and is contrasted with the Catholic formula "Faith and good works yield justification." This doctrine is sometimes called the material cause of the Reformation because it was the central doctrinal issue for Martin Luther.

Chapter 15

But because we receive this justification, not through any works, but through faith in the mercy of God and in Christ, we therefore teach and believe with the apostle that sinful man is justified by faith alone in Christ, not by the law or any works. (5.109)

Priesthood of All Believers.

Since Jesus is the one mediator between God and humanity, every human being has direct access to God through Christ.

Chapter 18

Christ's apostles call all who believe in Christ "priests," but not on account of an office, but because, all the faithful having been made kings and priests, we are able to offer up spiritual sacrifices to God through Christ (Ex. 19:6; I Peter 2:9; Rev. 1:6). ...the priesthood is common to all Christians. (5.153)

The Sacraments

The Catholic Church had seven sacraments: Baptism, the Eucharist, Reconcilation(Penance), Confirmation, Marriage, Holy Orders and Anointing of the Sick(formerly known as Extreme Unction or Last Rites). Instead of the seven sacraments of the Catholic church, reformers believed there are only two sacraments and the others, although they may be useful rituals, are of human invention.

Chapter 19.

The sacraments of the new people are Baptism and the Lord's Supper. (5.171)

The Presence of Christ at the Lord's Supper.

The Catholic Church believes in transubstntiation, i.e.- that the elements of bread and wine are changed into the body and blood of Christ during Consecration. The Lutheran doctrine of consubstantiation is that the body and blood of Christ as "in, with, and under" the bread and wine. The Reformers believed that although Crist is present at the sacrament, the elements are only symbols of the body and blood.

Chapter 21

We do not, therefore, so join the body of the Lord and his blood with the bread and wine as to say that the bread itself is the body of Christ except in a sacramental way; or that the body of Christ is hidden corporeally under the bread, so that it ought to be worshipped under the form of bread; or yet that whoever receives the sign, receives also the thing itself. (5.205)

The Festivals of Christ and the Saints.

Chapter 24

But we do not approve of feasts instituted for men and for saints. (5.226)


Chapter 26

But what some teach concerning the fire of purgatory is opposed to the Christian faith.(5.238)

Ceremonies and Rites.

Chapter 27

Unto the ancient people were given at one time certain ceremonies, as a kind of instruction for those who were kept under the law, as under a schoolmaster or tutor. But when Christ, the Deliverer, came and the law was abolished, we who believe are no more under the law (Rom. 6:14), and the ceremonies have disappeared; hence the apostles did not want to retain or to restore them in Christ's Church to such a degree that they openly testified that they did not wish to impose any burden upon the Church. (5.240)