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Tuesday
Dec062011

Theological Term of the Week

Second Helvetic Confession
The “Reformation statement of faith written by Heinrich Bullinger in 1562, which became popular in many Reformed congregations in geographical areas such as Switzerland, Scotland, and France.”1

  • From the Second Helvetic Confession: 
    CHAPTER I

    Of The Holy Scripture Being The True Word of God

    CANONICAL SCRIPTURE. 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. For God himself spoke to the fathers, prophets, apostles, and still speaks to us through the Holy Scriptures.

    And in this Holy Scripture, the universal Church of Christ has the most complete exposition of all that pertains to a saving faith, and also to the framing of a life acceptable to God; and in this respect it is expressly commanded by God that nothing be either added to or taken from the same.

    SCRIPTURE TEACHES FULLY ALL GODLINESS. We judge, therefore, that from these Scriptures are to be derived true wisdom and godliness, the reformation and government of churches; as also instruction in all duties of piety; and, to be short, the confirmation of doctrines, and the rejection of all errors, moreover, all exhortations according to that word of the apostle, “All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof,” etc. (II Timothy 3:16-17). Again, “I am writing these instructions to you,” says the apostle to Timothy, “So that you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God,” etc. (I Timothy 3:14-15). 

    SCRIPTURE IS THE WORD OF GOD. Again, the selfsame apostle to the Thessalonians: “When,” says he, “You received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it, not as the word of men but as what it really is, the Word of God,” etc. (I Thess. 2:13) For the Lord himself has said in the gospel, “It is not you who speak, but the Spirit of my Father speaking through you”; therefore “He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me” (Matt. 10:20; Luke 10:16; John 13:20)

  • From Reformed Confessions Harmonized edited by Joel R. Beeke and Sinclair B. Ferguson:
  • The Second Helvetic Confession … began life in the form of a personal confession and testimony written by Heinrich Bullinger in 1562. In 1564, during the plague which Bullinger contracted when it ravaged Zurich, he revised his earlier work in anticipation of his death. Although his wife and three daughters died, Bullinger survived. Asked by Frederick III, Elector of the Palatinate, to provide an exposition of the Reformed faith, Bullinger provided him with a copy of his work. Frederick had it translated into German before his appearance to defend himself against Lutheran criticism at the Imperial Diet of 1566. …

    The Second Helvetic Confession is in fact a compact manual of Reformed theology, containing thirty chapters and extending to some twenty thousand words. … Beginning with Scripture it moves through the loci of systematic theology, striking characteristic Reformed and Calvinian notes: the preaching of the Word of God is the word of God (ch. 1); Christ is the mirror in which we are to contemplate our election (ch. 10); providence and predestination are given separate treatments; the body and blood of Christ are received not carnally but spiritually, that is by the Holy Spirit. But practical religious issues are also of major concern; prayer and singing, the question of holy days, catechizing, visitation of the sick, and burial of the dead are discussed (chs. 23—26) as well as issues surrounding marriage and celibacy and the role of the magistrate (chs. 29—30). 

    The Second Helvetic Confession was thus a mature statement of Reformed theology for the second half of the sixteenth century. Well-received internationally, it was translated into Dutch, English, Polish, Italian, Magyar, Turkish, and Arabic. It stands as a worthy testimony to the labors and faith of Heinrich Bullinger.

Learn more:

  1. Christian Classics Ethereal Library: The Second Helvetic Confession
  2. Philip Schaff: Notes on the Second Helvetic Confession
  3. Believe Religious Information Source: The Second Helvetic Confession of Faith
Related terms:

Filed under Creeds and Confessions.

1From The Christian Faith by Michael Horton.

Do you have a term you’d like to see featured here as a Theological Term of the Week? If you email it to me, I’ll seriously consider using it, giving you credit for the suggestion and linking back to your blog when I do.

Clicking on the Theological Term graphic at the top of this post will take you to a list of all the previous theological terms in alphabetical order.

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