John Stonestreet on Evil

In response to the recent shooting in Aurora, Colorado, John Stonestreet over at Breakpoint does a good job of quickly addressing the problem of evil at this post.

Evil is both a problem for academic philosophers who wrestle with God’s existence and a problem for individuals who wrestle with the pain and suffering they endure.  The two groups overlap (what academic philosopher has lived a life untouched by evil), but I have little patience for the academic problem. 

Many times when someone brings up a specific example of evil that he feels invalidates God’s existence, he admits that he is not personally trying to eliminate the very suffering he finds so repugnant.  It is difficult for me to respect that. 

In addition, as Stonestreet points out in his article, a person who uses the problem of evil as a philosophical argument must provide a rationale for the existence of evil.  In a materialistic world, what gives a person the right to say something is evil?  I am not asking about behavior; I am asking about rational justification.  The bottom line is that a person must borrow from the Christian view of the world in order to criticize the Christian view of the world.

The personal problem of evil moves me at an emotional level.  What Christian has never questioned the way God orders the events in his or her own life when pain and suffering come?  However, I will continueto hold a view of the world that allows me to call human pain and suffering“evil.” In Christianity, all people are made in God’s image.  All people have intrinsic worth.  Evil is “real” evil, not just imagined evil. 
This is a help to me emotionally.  Evil becomes an enemy that I can combat. 

Why does God allow evil in certain circumstances?  I have no idea.  I know that humans as sinners do not deservea painless existence.  I know that my own sins qualify me for nothing but hell if I face God on my own merits. 
However, the main balm to my emotional pain is the sufferingof Jesus Christ.  God in the Person of Jesus Christ came to earth with a mission to endure the greatest pain and suffering imaginable.  He suffered many of the specific types of pain that I have had to endure (rejection by friends, having people misunderstand Him because of the message He was to deliver, etc.).  He also endured the wrath of God the Father on the cross for the sins of the world (John 3:16). 

I know of no other religion that has a conception of a God who would suffer.  All other gods stand aloof from the world and never enter its pain.  The Christian God is one I respect.


Christ’s Work and Assurance

My last two posts have discussed antinomianism.  This one will help to point Christians to the one Person who can provide assurance of salvation in view of their remaining sin.

Assurance is Christian ‘shorthand’ for the knowledge that one will be in heaven when he / she dies.  I have treated the subject of assurance of salvation in otherposts.  This post will ‘plough some of the same ground.’ 

From John Calvin:

The consciences of believers, in seeking assurance of their justification before God, should rise above and advance beyond the law, forgetting all law righteousness…For there the question is not how we may become righteous but how, being unrighteous and unworthy, we may be reckoned righteous. If consciences wish to attain any certainty in this matter, they ought to give no place to the law. Nor can anyone rightly infer from this that the law is superfluous for believers, since it does not stop teaching and exhorting and urging them to good, even though before God’s judgment seat it has no place in their consciences (Calvin, Institutes, 3.19.2).

We must look to Christ, looking to Jesus,” the founder and perfecter of our faith,” both to save us and to provide assurance of our salvation (Hebrews 12:2).   What Christ has done for us is our only hope. 

The law is always present as a guide for the Christian, and the Christian will follow that guide as a basic pattern of life.  We follow Christ’s commands, but we are never saved by following Christ’s commands.  We can be confident of our law-keeping, but not confident in our law-keeping.


Piper on True Christianity

My last post discussed antinomianism.  The heresy of antinomianism teaches that true Christians do not necessarily perform good works.  This post deals with some of the logical out-workings of antinomianism.  True Christians will show their commitment to Christ in lives marked by good works. 

What are we to make of the oft quoted surveys of George Barna and others that show  Christians are just as likely to divorce as non-Christians, nine percent of Christians tithe (give ten percent of their income as the Bible commands), 80% of those who take pledges to wait for marriage are sexually active outside marriage in the next seven years, and 20% of Christians do not think premarital sex is wrong?     Is it true that commitment to Christ makes no difference in a person’s life?  (Statistics as quoted in Finally Alive by John Piper, p. 13) 

Keep in mind that Barna and others define Christians based on what they say they believe.  In other words, they say a person is a Christian based upon a mere profession of belief.  This is no way to define a Christian.  Anyone can say they believe anything, even when they do not really commit themselves to those beliefs. 

John Piper, in his book FinallyAlive,  makes a strong argument that these widely quoted surveys are biased because they define Christianity based on a mere profession of belief and not a life lived differently.  Piper says that “[The New Testament] moves from the absolute certainty that the new birth radically changes people, to the observation that many professing Christians are indeed (as the Barna Group says) not radically changed, to the conclusion that they are not born again” (p. 15).

True Christians are committed to lives of radical Christ-likeness.  They accept that a person cannot believe what Christ says about how to get to heaven without believing what Christ said about how to live their lives (John 3:12).  This belief in Christ’s commands will mean a life lived differently, not perfectly, but differently.  A Christian will do good works ‘as naturally as sparks fly upwards’ because he is thankful for what God has done for him inChrist.

Good works are always present in the life of a believer, but those good works are corrupted by the sin remaining in us (Isaiah 64:6).  Good works are always present, but they never save.  We can be confident of good works, but not confident in them.


Do all Christians do good works?

Antinomianism, crassly stated, is the idea that a person can be a Christian without doing good works.  It is a separation of good works from true Christian profession.  Sometimes called “easy believism,” the idea of antinomianism is common in some Christian circles today.

I have treated the necessity of good works in the life of a Christian in a post called “Faith + Works” on this blog.  In that post, I discussed John H. Gerstner’ s approach to antinomianism.  Gerstner teaches that people must necessarily do good works if they are Christians.  Those works do not earn them salvation, but they must be present in Christian’s lives. 

Martin Luther, the great protestant reformer, first used the term “antinomian.”  Luther wrote, “Anyone who does not do good works in this manner is an unbeliever…Thus, it is just as impossible to separate faith and works as it is to separate heat and light from fire!” (“Holiness Wars: Antinomianism in Church History,” Mar.21, 2012 by Michael Horton)

Will Christians be perfect?  Of course they will not (Romans 7:7-25).  All Christians sin, and there is no sin that a Christian cannot commit.  But no true Christian makes a habit of sin without repentance. 


Late Easter Post

It will not surprise my blog readers that my Easter post is late this year. I have found that I spend more and more time on Face Book when I have free time to be on the computer. I have also renewed my love for reading after graduate school at Union University (Some of the books I am reading are here, here, and here.)

I did want to recount and link to several other posts that have caught my eye during the Easter Season. They are separated below under two topics.

Did the resurrection occur?

Debunking 3 Common Myths about the Resurrection

Podcast: Glenn Peoples on the Minimal Facts Approach to the Resurrection

Communicating the Claims of Easter

Teaching Kids About the Reality and Historicity of the Resurrection

Did the Apostles Hallucinate When They Saw the Risen Christ?

Five Strand of Evidence for Jesus’ Resurrection

Top Ten Myths of the Resurrection

What does the resurrection mean to me?

R. C. Sproul on the Meaning of the Cross

Easter for Atheists and Skeptics

Two Important Words This Good Friday: Expiation and Propitiation

Resources for Passion Week

Jesus’ Last Words

How the Resurrection Undoes Our Need to Be Proven Right

Ten Results of the Resurrection

I hope you enjoy these links.


Whitefield on Election

From George Whitefield:

The doctrines of our election, and free justification in Christ Jesus are daily more and more pressed upon my heart. They fill my soul with a holy fire and afford me great confidence in God my Savior.

I hope we shall catch fire from each other, and that there will be a holy emulation amongst us, who shall most debase man and exalt the Lord Jesus. Nothing but the doctrines of the Reformation can do this. All others leave free will in man and make him, in part at least, a Savior to himself. . . .

I know Christ is all in all. Man is nothing: he hath a free will to go to hell, but none to go to heaven, till God worketh in him to will and to do of His good pleasure.

Oh the excellency of the doctrine of election and of the saints' final perseverance!

I am persuaded, till a man comes to believe and feel these important truths, he cannot come out of himself, but when convinced of these, and assured of their application to his own heart, he then walks by faith indeed! Love, not fear, constrains him to obedience.

--quoted in Arnold Dallimore, George Whitefield: The Life and Times of the Great Evangelist of the 18th Century Revival (2 vols; Banner of Truth, 1970, 1980), 1:407


Atheist Morality in Action - Dr. K. Scott Oliphint

Dr. K. Scott Oliphint ‘s penetrating analysis of a spat within the atheist community can be found at this link. Reason alone simply cannot provide an adequate framework for ethical decision-making.

Dr. Oliphint, professor of apologetics and systematic theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, has been doing some strong work in apologetics from the presuppositional point of view (now referred to as covenantal apologetics) at the Reformation21 blog. Dr. Oliphint also defends the presuppositional position at The Gospel Coalition in a debate summarized at this link.

I recommend Dr. Oliphint’s work because it brings much needed clarity to the subject.


Jonathan Edwards: Missionary

It is well known that the great pastor-theologian Jonathan Edwards spent 1751-1758 in the position of a missionary to the Indians in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. I have always heard that either this was a time Edwards arranged to work on his writing, or else a period of exile after a bitter conflict cause Edwards to lose the pastorate of his church of twenty-two years.

An article by Jonathan Gibson, a PhD candidate in Hebrew Studies at Girton College, Cambridge, puts together a convincing case that Edwards was a missionary who took his role quite seriously. The well-written and convincing article can be found at this link.


An Hypothesis Test for God’s Existence

I recently had the chance to comment on an atheist web site that prides itself on requiring testable hypotheses in order to gain any knowledge. I formed one of Alvin Plantinga’s arguments into hypothesis testing format. The point is that arguments for God’s existence are based on verifiable, testable data and that science assumes the validity of higher-ordered mental functions in the experimentation process. The comment is reproduced below with some modifications and some links included.

This will be an observational study using the data we find in the known universe. The null hypothesis is that our faculties of reasoning which allow us to develop higher-order beliefs arose from chance guided by natural selection. The alternative hypothesis is that our faculties of reasoning which allow us to develop higher-order beliefs arose from a process guided by God or an event brought about by God.

This is a valid way of describing the problem at hand. We have data in the known universe. We can observe or experience this data. We can then use this data to accept or reject the null hypothesis. (I will not go into all of the philosophical assumptions inherent in a test of this nature, but I reserve the right to do so in future discussion.)

First, we must assume that our reasoning faculties are valid in order to pursue the test. We are dealing with higher-order beliefs, those not related to survival. We are reasoning about those beliefs. Our mental faculties must be assumed from the get go to form and execute the experiment. We assume these higher order functions every time we even discuss these issues.

Second, the null hypothesis would require us to assume that some form of evolutionary process brought about by random mutations and guided by natural selection developed mental faculties capable of accurate higher-order beliefs. There is no guarantee that evolutionary processes would lead to our faculties of reasoning. We are only guaranteed that the mental faculties we have are capable of reasoning which would enable our survival based on natural selection. (Evolution does not “care” whether we flee from the tiger because we think it will eat us or because we think tigers look better from a distance. It just “cares” whether we flee from the tiger.)

Third, an intelligent being could account for our existing metal faculties. This being could have created us in such a way as to allow for us to process information about higher-order issues. This being could have the intelligence to design a brain and mind that can accurately determine the truth or falsehood of higher-order beliefs and the power to create what it designed. (It should also be noted that designing and creating are powers most often associated with personhood.)

The null hypothesis is extremely unlikely, if not impossible. Therefore we reject the null and accept the alternative.

This argument is cogent and based on the data we observe in the universe and in our own self-awareness. We can explore similar arguments that allow for proofs of God’s logic, power, and even a form of freedom of choice; but we should stick with the argument at hand for the time being. We have an intelligent, purposeful and powerful being that created our minds to know the world in all of its splendor.


Lord’s Day 17: Christ Rose from the Grave

[This article was written for a series for my local paper.]

This series of Soli Deo Gloria articles is focused on the Heidelberg Catechism. This catechism is a series of questions and answers written in 1563 to teach people the Christian faith. The writers divided the catechism into 52 Lord’s Days so a person could learn it in one year. Today’s article discusses Lord’s Day 17, Question 45.

Q 45 How does Christ’s resurrection benefit us?

A. First, by his resurrection he has overcome death, so that he might make us share in the righteousness he obtained for us by his death. (Rom. 4:25; 1 Cor. 15:16-20; 1 Pet. 1:3-5) Second, by his power we too are already raised to a new life. (Rom. 6:5-11; Eph. 2:4-6; Col. 3:1-4) Third, Christ’s resurrection is a sure pledge to us of our blessed resurrection. (Rom. 8:11; 1 Cor. 15:12-23; Phil. 3:20-21)

John Warrick Montgomery, a prominent Lutheran defender of the Christian faith, presents a strong evidential case for the truth of Christianity based on the resurrection of Christ. In his book History, Law and Christianity, he lays out the argument that the resurrection is a stamp of approval on Jesus Christ’s claims to be God, and that Christ’s identity as God in the flesh (His deity) makes Him a perfect witness to the truth of the Bible.

Montgomery writes, “Jesus’ deity in itself establishes the truth of the Christian message over and against competing religions and secular world-views.” The well-documented fact that Christ rose from the dead provides strong evidence for the truth of Christianity, but it provides so much more.

First, in Christianity, death is an enemy to be destroyed, not an event to be accepted. Christ has “overcome death,” our enemy.

With the resurrection, sin, death and the devil are conquered. This is why Christians can share in the righteousness Christ earned for them in His perfect life and sacrificial death. As Kevin DeYoung writes in his book The Good News We Almost Forgot, “The resurrection means Christ proved Himself righteous to the Father, so that through faith we now share in His righteousness.”

Second, because Christ died and rose again, we have a new life. New life is not just a goal for the Christian; it is a reality. We have the power to live godly lives from our hearts. That is not all, however.

Third, Christ’s resurrection guarantees the resurrection of those who place their faith in Him. I will never forget about how this hope ‘played out’ in my life.

A few short years ago, my mother died. I struggled to explain what had happened to my three-year-old daughter. My mother had been very sick for some time, and I had taken the chance to read several books and pamphlets on how to talk to children about death.

Many of those booklets told me to emphasize the finality of death so that my daughter would not be confused. In this theory, Granny Jones was not “asleep” or “living in heaven,” but permanently gone. That is what death is to the world: final.

My approach changed when I stood over Mom’s casket with my daughter in my arms. Theology ‘kicked in;’ psychological theory went ‘out the window.’ I said, “Granny is dead, but one day she will live again. When Christ comes back, Granny will come back to life because she placed her faith in Him before she died. She will have a new body that is perfect and joy in her heart.”

I helped my daughter to understand that Christ’s “resurrection is a sure pledge to us of our blessed resurrection.” Christians will come back to life after they die. In this, we have hope.


Lord’s Day 16: Christ Died

[This article was written for my local paper in a series on the Heidelberg Catechism.]

We continue our series of articles on the Heidelberg Catechism. The catechism is a series of 129 questions and answers on the Christian faith. Theologians wrote the catechism in 1563 to teach people the Christian faith.

The questions are divided into 52 Lord’s Days, one for each week of the year. Today’s article covers Lord’s Day 16, Questions 40-44, as we continue our discussion of the Apostle’s Creed.

Q 40 Why did Christ have to suffer death?

A. Because God’s justice and truth require it: (Gen. 2:17) nothing else could pay for our sins except the death of the Son of God. (Rom. 8:3-4; Phil. 2:8; Heb. 2:9)

How does a holy and just God forgive sinful human beings without becoming unholy or unjust? Humanly speaking, this question presented God with a problem. On the one hand, God loved His people and did not want to punish them. On the other hand, since God is just, he must punish their sin. God solved this ‘problem’ in the Person of Jesus Christ.

God became a man and came to earth as Jesus Christ. Because He was a man, He was tempted just as we are. Because He was God, He lived a perfect life in the face of that temptation.

Christ died a death he did not deserve in order to pay the full penalty for our sins. Because He was a man, He represented fallen human beings. Because He was God, He could suffer an infinite punishment, a punishment horrific enough to pay for the sins of all those who place their faith in Him. (See Cur Deus Homo [lit. ‘Why the God-Man?’] by Anselm of Canterbury.)

Q 41 Why was he “buried”?

A. His burial testifies that he really died. (Isa. 53:9; John 19:38-42; Acts 13:29; 1 Cor. 15:3-4)

Many modernist theorists hold to the ‘swoon theory.’ The idea behind the swoon theory is that Christ did not die on the cross; he only passed out or swooned. The cool air of the tomb revived him.

But the fact of His burial by those who loved Him most exposes this theory as untrue. Why would his closest friends and family members bury Him without knowing he was dead?

Q 42 Since Christ has died for us, why do we still have to die?

A. Our death does not pay the debt of our sins. (Ps. 49:7) Rather, it puts an end to our sinning and is our entrance into eternal life. (John 5:24; Phil. 1:21-23; 1 Thess. 5:9-10)

Christ’s death has changed the very nature of death for those who repent of their sins and place their trust in Him. Death is not a punishment for sin; it is a deliverance from sin. Christ makes Christians into the kind of people they have longed to be: people who are perfect in what they think, speak, and do.

Q 43 What further benefit do we receive from Christ’s sacrifice and death on the cross?

A. By Christ’s power our old selves are crucified, put to death, and buried with him, (Rom. 6:5-11; Col. 2:11-12) so that the evil desires of the flesh may no longer rule us, (Rom. 6:12-14) but that instead we may offer ourselves as a sacrifice of gratitude to him. (Rom. 12:1; Eph. 5:1-2 )

Remember the three main divisions of the Heidelberg Catechism: guilt, grace and gratitude. We realize that we are guilty of sin. We become aware of all that Christ has done by His grace, and we place our faith in Him. We then live the best lives we can because we are thankful for what Christ has done for us. Christ’s sacrifice helps us to be grateful.

Q 44 Why does the [Apostle’s] creed add, “He descended to hell”?

A. To assure me during attacks of deepest dread and temptation that Christ my Lord, by suffering unspeakable anguish, pain, and terror of soul, on the cross but also earlier, has delivered me from hellish anguish and torment. (Isa. 53; Matt. 26:36-46; 27:45-46; Luke 22:44; Heb. 5:7-10)

Satan’s very name means “accuser.” He can bring torment on God’s people by reminding them of their sins, and we have all committed sins that Satan uses to torture us. When Satan reminds us of what we have done, we should remind him of what Christ has done. Christ’s suffering of the wrath of God frees the Christian from his or her tormented conscience.


Abortion: Horror, Healing and the Short-term Plan

John Piper comments on the horror of abortion (link).

David Powlison posts a video on how to heal after having an abortion (link).

Justin Taylor explains why we should not ‘go for the home run.’ A series of ‘base hits’ might do the job, or at least most of it (link).


How can we trust the gospels?

Thanks to Apologetics 315 for a link to a presentation by Richard Bauckham on the topic: The Gospels as Historical Biography. Click through for the link to the video.

Bauckman is one of my heroes, and his excellent book Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony can be purchased at this link.


God: Three in One - Another Article for my Local Paper

[This is the full text of an article that I recently wrote for our local paper.]

We will look at the Apostle's Creed in more detail this week in our series on the Heidelberg Catechism. From a close look at the outline of the creed, we can see the doctrine of the Trinity clearly displayed.

Question and answer 24 read, “How are these articles divided? Into three parts: God the Father and our creation; God the Son and our deliverance; and God the Holy Spirit and our sanctification.”

The catechism introduces us to the three Persons of the Trinity and their role in our salvation when we have true faith. Almighty God, the Father of all Christians, creates us and sends the Son and the Spirit. God the Son, Jesus Christ, delivers us from our sin and misery by His life and death. In addition, God the Spirit, the Holy Spirit, empowers us for the Christian life and makes us holy.

Question and answer 25 clearly state the nature of the Trinity, “Since there is only one divine being (Deut. 6:4; 1 Cor. 8:4, 6), why do you speak of three: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? Because that is how God has revealed himself in his Word: (Matt. 3:16-17; 28:18-19; Luke 4:18 (Isa. 61:1); John 14:26; 15:26; 2 Cor. 13:14; Gal. 4:6; Tit. 3:5-6) these three distinct persons are one, true, eternal God.”

In the words of another famous catechism, “God is a spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth.” Does that sound like anyone you have ever met? There is only one Being like this, and it is awesome to think about Him.

Why should we expect Him to be just like us, having one person in one being? Should we not expect Him to be so much more? God is, as C. S. Lewis put it, “beyond personality.”

There is nothing like God, and there are no good examples that help explain this doctrine. As I know from trying to explain the Trinity to my eight-year-old daughter, it is very hard to describe. That is why the catechism carefully states the doctrine and does not try to explain it.

God is one in Being or Essence, but three in Person. His being is what He is. His person is who He is. He is not one in being and three in being; that explanation would be nonsense. It would be like saying it is raining outside and not raining outside at the same time. He is not one in person and three in person; that would be nonsense too.

God is one in one way and three in another, one in being and three in person. It is like saying it is raining outside in one place and not raining outside in another place across town. That description is not nonsense. It seems strange, but it can be true.

It is fitting that we begin our journey through the Apostle’s Creed with this doctrine because it humbles us and makes us see the limits of our own thinking. Next week, we will begin to explore what the doctrine of God the Father means to us.


2012 Bible Reading Plan

Having accomplished much of what I had planned to do in 2011, I have now turned to the Bible reading plan I will use in 2012. I hope to get back on track with a regular, through-the-Bible reading plan. My sporadic reading of the Bible in 2011 left me unsatisfied.

My plans are to tackle Reading God's Story: A Chronological Daily Bible arranged and authored by George Guthrie. The organization of the Scripture text in this book’s format intrigues me. It claims to have a memorable format organized by acts and scenes like an unfolding play.

It will be interesting to see how this organization plays out, and especially what the over-arching theme of the “play” will be. I may abandon it if the theme does not prove to be the story of Jesus.

I also wish Reading God's Story was available in something other than the Holman Christian Standard Bible translation. It will also be interesting to see how this translation compares to the ESV that I normally use for detailed study and close reading.

I am reading through The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name by Sally Lloyd-Jones with my eight-year-old daughter. This book has reinforced my thinking on the story of Jesus Christ as the main theme of the Bible. I hope to read through The Jesus Storybook Bible with her several times this year.

Please see last year’s post at this link to find other reading plans that are available on the web. God bless the time you spend in His Word in 2012.


True Faith: Another Article for My Local Paper

[This is the full text of an article I was able to publish in the local paper.]

I hope you have been following Soli Deo Gloria’s series on the Heidelberg Catechism. The Heidelberg Catechism is a collection of questions and answers written in 1563 and used to instruct children and adults in the faith.

As we continue the articles, we approach Lord’s Day 7, which contains four questions and answers. These four questions and answers reference 27 passages of the Bible in the original catechism.

Question and Answer 20 reads, “Are all people then saved through Christ just as they were lost through Adam? No. Only those are saved who through true faith are grafted into Christ and accept all his benefits.”

We must hold this truth near and dear to our hearts. Some teachers say that people can be saved without conscious faith in Christ, or even without direct knowledge of what Christ did in His perfect life and sacrificial death. It is an awful sin to fail to tell someone the gospel because we incorrectly assume he is saved based on the way he lives his life. We must call others to “true faith.”

Question and Answer 21 define the “true faith” mentioned in 21, “What is true faith? True faith is not only a sure knowledge by which I hold as true all that God has revealed to us in Scripture; it is also a wholehearted trust, which the Holy Spirit creates in me by the gospel, that God has freely granted, not only to others but to me also, forgiveness of sins, eternal righteousness, and salvation. These are gifts of sheer grace, granted solely by Christ’s merit.”

“True faith” is a “sure knowledge.” It holds the facts the Bible teaches to be certainly true, including facts about how to live one’s life. “True faith” goes beyond mere head knowledge, however. It moves into the area of “wholehearted trust.” Belief in certain facts is not enough; one must trust that “God has freely granted…forgiveness of sins, eternal righteousness and salvation” not just to people in general, but “to me” in particular.

“True faith” is to depend on Christ alone, to depend on what He earned for us in His perfect life and sacrificial death. It is to trust in Christ “solely.” That is, to trust what He did without trusting in anything or anyone else; not my good works, not my baptism, not the Lord’s Supper, and certainly not some aisle that I walked down or some insincere prayer that I said.

“True faith” is to acknowledge that only God’s grace can save me. Grace is completely unearned favor. Grace can be explained with an acrostic: G-R-A-C-E, God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense. It can be explained in Latin, “De Favor Dei Propter Christum,” the favor of God on account of Christ.

“True faith” and all it entails are “gifts of sheer grace.” Faith is a free gift of God’s grace alone, and it is not dependent on my own reasoning that helped me make a good decision. Faith is something that the Holy Spirit “creates in me.”

Question and answer 22 says, “What then must a Christian believe? All that is promised us in the gospel, a summary of which is taught us in the articles of our universal and undisputed Christian faith.”

The Heidelberg Catechism will have none of the modern Christian notion that only a few minimal facts must be known and believed in order to be saved. A person must understand the Christian faith and trust in what it reveals before they can be a Christian.

People express these facts in many ways, but The Apostle's Creed is probably the oldest short statement of them. The catechism gives that creed as the answer to question twenty-three.

Question and answer 23 read, “What are these articles?

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit
and born of the virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to hell.
The third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended to heaven
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic [ or universal] church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.”

The next set of questions and answers in the catechism will explain the words of the Apostle’s Creed in more detail. Please continue to read these Soli Deo Gloria articles because there are several parts of the creed that many have misunderstood.

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