You may or may not know this, but this year marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. 500 years ago this Haloween, a monk named Martin Luther nailed his famous “95 Theses” noting 95 things that he felt that his church (the Roman Catholic Church, and the only Christian church in the West at the time) needed to pay attention to. You may know that the Roman Catholic church was not too pleased with this constructive criticism, Martin was Excommunicated, and the Protestant Reformation was born.
It is a common misconception that the word “Protestant” is related to the English word “protest.” The usual idea (which does, in fact, make a lot of sense) is that the Protestant Reformers were called that because they protested the indulgences and issues of the Roman Catholic church. However, the root is actually the Latin word, “Protestare” which means: to publicly declare, testify, or confess.
We as a part of the Reformed tradition and the Presbyterian church have historically been those who write, hold up, and preserve creeds and confessions. While the word confession is often used in a more legal sense (“we have his full confession”), more generally it means to tell the truth. If you are confessing to a crime, you admit your own guilt in committing it; if however, we are confessing what we believe as Christians, then you will tell the truth of what Scripture tells us about God, Jesus, Salvation, Etc.
We as Presbyterians in the 21st century have the Book of Confessions, which is a whole group of confessions written during the times of the early church, the Reformation, and more modern times. We use these creeds and confessions as a window into the faith of those who have come before us, what they felt was most important to confess, what they felt was essential to the understanding of the gospel. By collecting these confessions all together, we can compare them, and come to a fuller understanding of these issues.
Our Presbyterian “Book of Confessions” Includes the following creeds and confessions:
- The Nicene Creed
- The Apostles’ Creed
- The Scots Confession
- The Heidelberg Catechism
- The Second Helvetic Confession
- The Westminster Confession of Faith
- The Westminster Shorter Catechism
- The Westminster Longer Catechism
- The Theological Declaration of Barmen
- The Confession of 1967
- A Brief Statement of Faith
- The Belhar Confession
You may be more familiar with some of these confessions than others. Many of us could recite the Apostles’ Creed by heart and could muddle our way through Nicene. Others, however, are less familiar. I have begun, this year, working through the Book of Confessions and talking about each, and I invite you to join me in reading through these important documents. Please use the links above to read over the confessions, and join me in my ongoing YouTube series called “Confessions.”