Theology

Theology is the study of God. More specifically, theology is the study of God and his relation to the world, the study of spiritual faith, practice and experience. You will find Covenant Reformed Church in San Diego is committed to searching the Bible to find answers to the deep questions of life. All Christian churches should begin their study of God by searching the Scriptures. Some churches are more diligent in this approach than other churches. All churches are more or less pure in their doctrine and practices, and therefore each church contains some error, however serious or minor those errors may be. This mixture of truth and error is due to human weakness. Yet, despite human weakness, God has made clear in the Scriptures what is essential for man to know and understand in order to love and serve him faithfully.

Some 2,000 years have passed since Jesus Christ was born, suffered, died, resurrected and ascended into heaven, from where he will again appear on earth marking the end of human history as we know it. Over the past 2,000 years, sincere Christian leaders have diligently studied the Bible as Christianity continued to spread across the face of the earth. These Christian leaders have made valuable contributions to our theological understanding, and we do well to weigh the value of their written works, especially when those works can be demonstrated to echo faithful expressions of the Bible's teachings. These historical writings are commonly referred to as creeds, confessions, canons or catechisms. Why are these historical writings given names like 'canon' or 'catechism'? The word 'canon' comes from the New Testament Greek word kanon, which simply means a 'rule' or 'standard'. So for instance, the Apostle Paul wrote, "And as many as walk according to this rule (canon), peace and mercy be upon them...". Galatians 6:16. So the Greek word kanon is the source for the word canon, which means a Bible rule or standard. Likewise, the word 'catechism' comes from the Greek word katecheo, which provides you with a helpful image. Katecheo is the combination of two Greek words. Kata is a word that generally means "down" or "towards." And Echeo means "to sound", which is the source for our English word "echo". Bible translators often translate the word Katecheo as "to instruct". So for instance, Luke writes about Jesus Christ in his gospel with the purpose for you to know "...the certainty of those things, wherein you have been instructed (catechized)" concerning Christ. Luke 1:4. To be catechized is simply to be instructed or taught theology, often in a question and answer format. A question is asked, and an answer is echoed back. For example, Heidelberg Catechism Question 1 asks:

Question. What is your only comfort in life and death?

Answer. That I am not my own,1 but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death,2 to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ.3 He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood,4 and has set me free from all the power of the devil.5 He also preserves me in such a way6 that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head;7 indeed, all things must work together for my salvation.8 Therefore, by his Holy Spirit he also assures me of eternal life9 and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for him.10

  1. 1 Corinthians 6:19, 20
  2. Romans 14:7-9
  3. 1 Corinthians 3:23; Titus 2:14
  4. 1 Peter 1:18, 19; 1 John 1:7; 2:2
  5. John 8:34-36; Hebrews 2:14, 15; 1 John 3:8
  6. John 6:39, 40; 10:27-30; 2 Thessalonians 3:3; 1 Pet 1:5
  7. Matthew 10:29-31; Luke 21:16-18
  8. Romans 8:28
  9. Romans 8:15, 16; 2 Corinthians 1:21, 22; 5:5; Ephesians 1:13, 14
  10. Romans 8:14

Notice how each phrase or clause in the catechism answer is supported by references to Bible verses.

Confessions, creeds, canons and catechisms are a helpful and necessary resource to organize our understanding of God and his relation to the world, and to aid your study of spiritual faith, practice and experience. Christian parents have catechized their children for centuries. These written documents help organize and structure your understanding of the Bible. You will find faithful creeds, confessions, canons and catechisms useful in interpreting and learning truth from the Bible. Covenant Reformed Church affirms the Apostles' Creed, Nicene Creed, Athanasian Creed, the Heidelberg Catechism, the Canons of Dort and the Belgic Confession. The link below invites you to consider the history behind each of these faithful Christian standards that accurately echo the Bible's teachings. These time-honored documents do not add to the Bible's teaching. Rather, they merely clarify what the Bible teaches; a kind of road map that guides us to truth from the Bible. There may be many cities on a map, and a road map steers us away from danger and guides us safely from city to city. Confessions, creeds, canons and catechisms provide insightful and meaningful information from the Bible that shapes Christian thinking and unites believers together around what the Bible teaches.

A Brief History of the Apostles' Creed

The Apostles' Creed is considered to be the oldest creed known to the Christian Church, and was likely written in the early centuries after Christ resurrected and ascended into heaven. The creed's author is uncertain. It is among the briefest of the creeds, and the basic truths in this creed have made it easily and widely accepted by Christian churches over the past two thousand years.

Read the Apostles' Creed

A Brief History of the Nicene Creed

The Nicene Creed is also an older creed, adopted in the City of Nicaea (present day Turkey) in 325 A.D. The creed is a doctrinal statement written by Christian leaders to address the error of a minister named Arius. Arius believed that Jesus Christ was the divine Son of God, yet also believed that Jesus was created by God the Father. Arius said about the Son - "there was when he was not", referring to the Son as having never existed before he existed. The Nicene Creed was written to address Arius' false theological view. The creed declared Arius in error and affirmed the mutual equality between God the Father and God the Son as co-essential in the Trinity.

Read the Nicene Creed

A Brief History of the Athanasian Creed

The Athanasian Creed was written in the 4th Century. Tradition attributes the authorship to Athanasius, the Archbishop of Alexandria (a large seaport city in Egypt). This creed is a doctrinal statement ascribing divine attributes individually to God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Thus, each person of the Trinity is described as uncreated, limitless, eternal and omnipotent. The creed also stresses the unity of the three persons of the Godhead.

Read the Athanasius Creed

A Brief History of the Heidelberg Catechism

The Heidelberg Catechism was written in 1563 in Heidelberg, a German town from which the catechism derives its name. This catechism presents doctrine in the form of 129 questions and answers, divided into 52 sections to be taught on each of the 52 Sundays of the year. The catechism teaches what the Bible says about the misery of man, the redemption of man, and the gratitude due from man.

Read the Heidelberg Catechism

A Brief History of the Canons of Dort

The Canons of Dort were written in the City of Dordrecht, located in south Holland in the Netherlands, from 1618-19. This document was written by Christian leaders concerned with the teachings of Joseph Arminius. Though Arminius' theological views were not really new in church history, nevertheless the Christian church found it necessary to address his errors. The Canons of Dort address five errors by asserting five main points. The canon affirmed that God alone has made complete provision for man's salvation, and that man's salvation is not conditioned or dependent upon a sinner's actions. The Canons were not intended to be a comprehensive explanation of all Christian doctrine, but only an exposition on the five points of doctrine in dispute. Sometimes the Canons of Dort are referred to as the five points of Calvinism, or by the mnemonic TULIP, which stands for Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace and Perseverance of the Saints.

Read the Canons of Dort

A Brief History of the Belgic Confession

The Belgic Confession originated in the lower Netherlands, known as Belgium, and was written in the 17th Century. The confession provides an expanded treatment on the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Church, and the Sacraments. This confession was sincerely written and at personal cost to many Christians.

Read the Belgic Confession