Summary of Reformation Creeds

To review, the Reformation creeds, as we have seen in the discussion of the Second Helvetic Confession, have brought us:

Sola Fides (Faith Alone)

Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone)

Sola Christus (Christ Alone)

Sola Gratia (Grace Alone)

Calvinism, through the Reformation creeds, particularly in the Canons of Dordt (1619) , has added:

Total Depravity (also known as Total Inability and Original Sin)
Unconditional Election
Limited Atonement (also known as Particular Atonement)
Irresistible Grace
Perseverance of the Saints (also known as Once Saved Always Saved)

These five categories do not comprise Calvinism in totality. They simply represent some of its main points and are reflected in the three Reformation Creeds we have studied.

Total Depravity:

Sin has affected all parts of man. The heart, emotions, will, mind, and body are all affected by sin. We are completely sinful. We are not as sinful as we could be, but we are completely affected by sin. All parts and passions of the person have been touched by sin and are affected by sin.  It means that our intellect is corrupted, our speech does not glorify God, and that our motives are not pure.  Even the good which a person may intend is faulty in its premise, false in its motive, and weak in its implementation; and there are no mere refinement of natural capacities that can correct this condition.     

The doctrine of Total Depravity is derived from scriptures that reveal human character: Man’s heart is evil (Mark 7:21-23) and sick (Jer. 17:9). Man is a slave of sin (Rom. 6:20). He does not seek for God (Rom. 3:10-12). He cannot understand spiritual things (1 Cor. 2:14). He is at enmity with God (Eph. 2:15). And, is by nature a child of wrath (Eph. 2:3). The Calvinist asks the question, "In light of the scriptures that declare man’s true nature as being utterly lost and incapable, how is it possible for anyone to choose or desire God?" The answer is, "He cannot. Therefore God must predestine."      

Calvinism also maintains that because of our fallen nature we are born again not by our own will but God’s will (John 1:12-13); God grants that we believe (Phil. 1:29); faith is the work of God (John 6:28-29); God appoints people to believe (Acts 13:48); and God predestines (Eph. 1:1-11; Rom. 8:29; 9:9-23).

Also Westminster Ch 6, Helvetic Ch 8 , Heidelberg Question 7, Scots Ch 3.

Unconditional Election:

God does not base His election on anything He sees in the individual. He chooses the elect according to the kind intention of His will (Eph. 1:4-8; Rom. 9:11) without any consideration of merit within the individual. Nor does God look into the future to see who would pick Him. Also, as some are elected into salvation, others are not (Rom. 9:15, 21).

Also Westminster Ch 3, Helvetic Ch 10, Scots Chapter 8.

Limited Atonement: 

Jesus died only for the elect. Though Jesus’ sacrifice was sufficient for all, it was not efficacious for all. Jesus only bore the sins of the elect. Support for this position is drawn from such scriptures as Matt. 26:28 where Jesus died for ‘many'; John 10:11, 15 which say that Jesus died for the sheep (not the goats, per Matt. 25:32-33); John 17:9 where Jesus in prayer interceded for the ones given Him, not those of the entire world; Acts 20:28 and Eph. 5:25-27 which state that the Church was purchased by Christ, not all people; and Isaiah 53:12 which is a prophecy of Jesus’ crucifixion where he would bore the sins of many (not all).

Also Westminster Ch 10, Helvetic Ch 10,

Irresistible Grace:

When God calls his elect into salvation, they cannot resist. God offers to all people the gospel message. This is called the external call. But to the elect, God extends an internal call and it cannot be resisted. This call is by the Holy Spirit who works in the hearts and minds of the elect to bring them to repentance and regeneration whereby they willingly and freely come to God. Some of the verses used in support of this teaching are Romans 9:16 where it says that "it is not of him who wills nor of him who runs, but of God who has mercy"; Philippians 2:12-13 where God is said to be the one working salvation in the individual; John 6:28-29 where faith is declared to be the work of God; Acts 13:48 where God appoints people to believe; and John 1:12-13 where being born again is not by man’s will, but by God’s.

Also Westminster Confession Ch 10 (called effectual calling ), Heidelberg Q 56, 60

Perseverance of the Saints:

You cannot lose your salvation. Because the Father has elected, the Son has redeemed, and the Holy Spirit has applied salvation, those thus saved are eternally secure. They are eternally secure in Christ. Some of the verses for this position are John 10:27-28 where Jesus said His sheep will never perish; John 6:47 where salvation is described as everlasting life; Romans 8:1 where it is said we have passed out of judgment; 1 Corinthians 10:13 where God promises to never let us be tempted beyond what we can handle; and Phil. 1:6 where God is the one being faithful to perfect us until the day of Jesus’ return.

Also Ch 17 of Westminster

If we add S: Sovereignty of God to the TULIP acronym to make TULIPS, we have predestination and providence as well.

Westminster Ch 3 and Ch 5, Helvetic Ch 6, Heidelberg Questions 26,27,28

The Westminster Catechisms

The purpose of the Shorter  Catechism is to educate lay persons in matters of doctrine and belief. Typically, the parents and the church would use the shorter catechism to train their children in the ways of the Lord.

The New England Primer, first printed in 1690, was a mandatory textbook for every student entering school throughout the 1700s. Almost every student read from the pages of this book through the early 1900s. This book contains the Shorter Catechism. Of the 107 questions in the Catechism, 40 deal specifically with the Ten Commandments. Students learned not only the alphabet and grammar, but were also taught Christian principles. The New England Primer used biblical concepts to teach the alphabet. For the letter "A", the students learned, "In Adam's Fall, We sinned all." For the letter "C", the students recited: "Christ crucified, For sinners died."

The catechism is composed of 107 questions and answers. The first 12 questions concern God as Creator. Questions 13-20 deal with original sin and the fallen state of man's nature. Questions 21-38 concern Christ the Redeemer and the benefits that flow from redemption. The next set of questions, 39-84, discuss the ten commandments. Questions 85-97 teach concerning the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion. The final set of questions 98-107 teach and explain the Lord's prayer.

Finally, the Shorter Catechism does add one more Sola to our list: Sola Deo Gloria (alone for the glory of God.) This is demonstrated by the first question:

Q1. What is the chief end of man?

A. Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.

This last of the five Solas because truly the other four are summed into the fifth. It is the Scriptures alone that are our only ultimate and infallible source of authority. This is so because God in His mercy and faithfulness has seen fit to preserve the Scriptures down through the centuries. The proper roles of Church tradition or the teachings of the officers within the church are the same; all in submission to the ultimate authority of the Scriptures. God is therefore glorified alone.

It is the incarnate second person of the Trinity to which the Prophets and Scriptures point. It is the ministry of Jesus Christ sent by the Father to accomplish His purposes in His covenant of Redemption. There is no other Mediator nor Redeemer other than the one provided by the Father Himself to fulfill the righteous requirements of His law. God is therefore glorified alone.

It is only by His inestimable grace that we may stand before Him. Through the good pleasure of His mercy, He graciously imputed to us the righteousness of His son and imputed to His Son our sin where it was judged upon the cross. God is therefore glorified alone.

The grace of God has its affect upon us by faith alone. We do not merit the grace (otherwise grace would not be grace) nor is this grace infused in us in order to make us righteous in ourselves. Instead, the grace of God imputes the righteousness of Christ to us and we believe this by faith alone. We have no other basis upon which to rely than the accomplishments of Christ, the imputation of the work to us and the faith given to us so that we may believe Him and these things. God is therefore glorified alone.