HT/ST615 Reformed Confessions (Three Forms of Unity)

Course Description

An introduction to the background, doctrine, and use of the Reformed Confessions. Spring. 2 Credits.

The Student Learning Outcome for the Historical Theology Program: The student demonstrates understanding of the main eras of church history, the significant issues, and leaders/theologians of each.

Course Requirements:

(1) Attend all classes, complete all readings, and participate in class discussion (30%).

(2) One double or single spaced, typed, confession of faith of no more than 1000 words which addresses and includes the following topics:

  • Prolegomena (Revelation, Scripture)
  • Theology Proper (God’s being, attributes, the Trinity, creation and providence)
  • Anthropology (Creation, image of God and sin)
  • Christology (Jesus’ person, natures and work)
  • Soteriology (Sin, atonement, ordo salutis)
  • Ecclesiology (Offices, nature, structure, authority)
  • Sanctification and the sacraments (Baptism, Lord’s Supper; preaching and worship)
  • Eschatology (judgment, heaven and eternity)

This confession should be grounded in Scripture and informed by the catholic (universal) creeds of the Church and by the Reformed confession(s) to which you subscribe (e.g., The Three Forms or the The Westminster Standards). Your mark will be determined by whether and how well you address the topics listed. Given the word limit and the number of topics (which works out to about 100 words per topic) you must choose your words carefully. It would be wise to begin this assignment in the first week of classes.

NB: This exercise is intended to help you discover and appreciate the difficulty and art of writing a coherent, useful, confessional document. It is not intended to challenge or replace in your affections your present confessional allegiance.

Due the last day of the semester, 10:00 AM (35%)

(3) One double spaced, typed, essay of no more than 2500 words. A normal typescript page is approximately 300 words, therefore your essay should be about 8 pages. (35%)

Topics: You must exegete some portion of a Reformed confession by placing it in its historical context, considering its theological context, and authorial intent. It must follow the outline prescribed in the Essay on the Writing of Essays. Due the last day of the semester, 10:00 AM.


Those who wish may substitute catechism memory for the assigned paper.

Heidelberg Catechism questions may be memorized from the Schaff edition, the 1959 CRCNA edition, the 1978 RCUS edition,, the edition on this website, or the recent URCNA edition. The text is also available in hardback and paper from Great Commissions Publications (See below).

The Heidelberg questions are:

1-9, 15-17, 19, 21, 26-28, 31, 32, 37, 45, 53, 54, 60, 61, 64, 65, 69, 72, 75, 80, 81, 86, 88, 96-98, 103, 114-116.

Those who choose this option will be tested at the end of the semester during finals week.

You must submit your reading percentage to the instructor by the end of reading week.

(4) Complete the Student Work Portfolio (for any questions not covered here, please contact the Academic Dean).

As a graduating senior, you must submit a Student Work Portfolio, which is a collection of your work over the course of your seminary education. This portfolio will be used by WSC for internal review of our educational effectiveness. It will not be distributed outside of the institution. Please follow the submission instructions carefully and ensure that your portfolio contains all of the required documents. Your portfolio should be submitted in digital form (preferably in PDF).

Cover Page

Submit your portfolio with a cover page that provides the following information:

  • Name
  • Program (MDiv, MATS, MAHT, MABS)
  • Start Date (year/month)
  • End Date (year/month)Required DocumentsPlease write a five-page reflection paper that addresses your impression of your experience here at WSC. Discuss the strengths and weaknesses in the curriculum, things you like and things you would like to see changed. Also comment on how well you believe that you have done in achieving educational improvement on the SLOs for your specific degree program. You do not have to cite any sources, as you are the primary source for this paper!PapersPlease submit a clean copy (your name does not appear anywhere) of the following papers if assigned for the class listed below (note, the submission of these papers is the only exception to the rule against the dual-submission of papers for course credit)


ST501 Christian Mind
NT602 Pauline Epistles
ST703 Doctrine of the Church
OT702 Prophetical Books (or OT701 Psalms and Wisdom)
One sermon manuscript (not an outline) from a Senior-level preaching practicum


ST501 Christian Mind
NT601 Gospels and Acts
OT702 Prophetical Books (or OT701 Psalms and Wisdom) OT601 Historical Books


ST501 Christian Mind
ST702 Christian Life
ST703 Doctrine of the Church

Required Readings

R. Scott Clark, Recovering the Reformed Confession.

D. G. Hart, The Lost Soul of American Protestantism (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2002).

Samuel Miller, Doctrinal Integrity: On the Utility and Importance of Creeds and Confessions and Adherence to our Doctrinal Standards (Dallas: Presbyterian Heritage Press, [repr] 1989), 3–89 (to be uploaded to Populi).

R. Scott Clark, Why We Memorize the Catechism,” Presbyterian Banner (August, 2003).

——“A House of Cards? A Response to Bingham, Cribben, and Caughey,” in Matthew Bingham, Chris Caughey, R. Scott Clark, Crawford Gribben, and D. G. Hart, On Being Reformed: Debates Over a Theological Identity (London: Palgrave-Pivot, 2018), 69–89 (populi).

—— “Notes on a Possible Difficulty in Belgic Confession Article 14

—— “Notes on Belgic Confession Article 15.”

—— On the Revision of Belgic Confession Article 36

—— Guilt, Grace, and Gratitude: Historical, Theological, Pastoral Commentary On The Heidelberg Catechism (populi).

WSC Faculty, Our Testimony on Justification

The Three Forms of Unity:

The 1976 CRC edition of the Heidelberg Catechism (or its successors) is not recommended (unless you are preparing for ministry in the CRC).

W. Robert Godfrey, Saving the Reformation: The Pastoral Theology of the Canons of Dort (Orlando: Reformation Trust, 2019).

Richard Muller, Confessing the Reformed Faith: Our Identity in Unity and Diversity,” New Horizons (1994).

Recommended Reading

Zacharias Ursinus, Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, [repr] 1985).

Lyle D. Bierma, Charles D. Gunnoe Jr., and Karin Y. Maag, An Introduction to the Heidelberg Catechism: Sources, History, and Theology. Texts and Studies in Reformation and Post-Reformation Thought (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2005).

Nicholaas Gootjes, The Belgic Confession: Its History and Sources (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007).

A. A. Hodge, The Westminster Confession of Faith: A Commentary (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth).

David W. Hall, Practice of Confessional Subscription, ed. (Oak Ridge, TN: The Covenant Foundation, repr. 2001).

Joel R. Beeke and S. B. Ferguson, Reformed Confessions Harmonized (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999).

Ligon Duncan, ed. The Westminster Confession into the 21st Century: Essays in Remembrance of the 350th Anniversary of the Publication of the Westminster Confession of Faith, 3 vols (Ross-Shire, Scotland: Mentor, 2003) .

W. R. Godfrey, “Tensions in International Calvinism” (PhD. Diss. Stanford University, 1974), ch.1.

P. Y. DeJong ed., Crisis in the Reformed Churches (Grand Rapids: Reformed Fellowship, 1968), 1,2,3,8.

S. W. Carruthers, The Westminster Confession of Faith: Being an account of the preparation and printing of its seven leading editions to which is appended a critical text of the confession(Greenville, [repr] 1995).

Johannes G. Vos, The Westminster Larger Catechism: A Commentary (Philipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2002).

C. R. Trueman and R. Scott Clark, ed., Protestant Scholasticism: Essays in Reassessment(Carlisle: Paternoster, 1999), Introduction, 1.2; 2.1; 2.4, 5.

Caspar Olevianus, A Firm Foundation, trans. L. D. Bierma (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1995).

——An Exposition of the Apostles’ Creed

R. Scott Clark, Caspar Olevian and the Substance of the Covenant of Grace: The Double Benefit of Christ (2005; Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Press, 2008).

Daniel R. Hyde, “The Holy Spirit in the Heidelberg Catechism,” Mid-America Journal of Theology 17 (2006): 211-37.

Daniel Hyde, With Heart and Mind: An Exposition of the Belgic Confession

James T. Dennison, ed. Reformed Confessions of the 16h and 17th Centuries in English Translation (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2008).

Dorothy Sayers, “Lost Tools of Learning

—— Creed or Chaos

Other Resources

Assertion of Intellectual Property Rights

The instructor holds the copyright to all course lectures and original course materials. This copyright extends to student notes and summaries that substantially reflect the lectures or original course materials. Course lectures and materials are made available for the personal use of students only and may not be recorded or otherwise distributed (including the publication of student notes or summaries on social media) in any way for commercial or non-commercial purposes without the express written permission of the instructor.

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