Review: Creeds, Confessions, and Catechisms edited by Chad Van Dixhoorn

In the last few years, we have seen a rise in the retrieval of historic Christianity. By “historic” Christianity, I mean, creedal, confessional, and catechetical: a communal dialogue of the faith once for all delivered to the saints. The return to an historic faith in a time of disconnect through the paradoxical combination of rugged individualism and the megachurch mindset is cause for rejoicing. The church can and should celebrate this surprising reunion of our common profession.

In this time of retrieval, we have a welcome volume by Crossway, publisher of a beautiful book containing the church’s historic profession of faith in under five hundred pages, edited by Chad Van Dixhoorn. Van Dixhoorn has done a splendid job in not only compiling the important historic creeds, confessions, and catechisms of the Christian faith, but also in adding a short, one-to-two-page introduction before each to ground our understanding. These documents were written in real places and times, and it does the church well to know and be reminded of such history. We are, after all, called to be one people by the Father in Christ Jesus through the Holy Spirit.

Van Dixhoorn begins this volume with an introduction to this editorial work, emphasizing the fact that the church throughout its history has confessed what her beliefs are: a credo, “I believe.”1 This creedal confession states what is believed and what should be believed, on the basis of scriptural testimony and witness. These documents do not share an equal position with Scripture, which stands as the primary authority for doctrine and life in the church, but they do help pilgrims along the way in understanding each other and the Christian faith more soundly.2

This volume is lovely, not only in aesthetics, but also in its content, which covers the historic ecumenical creeds of the first five centuries. From those documents, we move to the Reformation period and the influx of creedal and confessional writings of the Protestant churches. This span of history begins with the Augsburg Confession, a central tenet of the Lutheran faith. This is followed by the Belgic Confession, which is one-third of the Three Forms of Unity in the Reformed churches of continental Europe, and then the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England and Anglicanism, the beginnings of the Reformed branch on the island. We jump across the English Channel again to the Netherlands and the Canons of Dort. This makes sense due to its international focus and tone in formulation of doctrine towards a common threat in the churches. Once more, we bounce back to the British Isles for the assembly at Westminster: the Westminster Confession of Faith. Lastly, some brotherly love is shown to the Baptists and the London Baptist Confession.

The time of the confessional Reformation spans a little over a hundred years, and there were many, many more written throughout the European region. During the Reformation, reformational churches needed to state their case against the church of Rome’s doctrine and issue forth their eligibility to imperial powers which favored Rome and the papacy. Lutherans, Reformed and Presbyterian, Congregationalists, and Baptists were showing the world who they were and what they believed, and not in contradiction to the Scriptures, but to Rome and her authority.

These confessional documents proved their legitimacy to the magistrate and solidified their ecclesial standing. Distinctly Protestant was the dividing line contra Rome, but there were further distinctions to be made. Thus, we have the Three Forms of Unity, or the Book of Concord, or the Westminster Standards.3 So definitions have been drawn—boundaries for good-neighbor relations, outlined. These documents spell out identification before magistrate and ecclesial bodies.

After and, often, during the various periods of confessional formulation, the time to teach their own flock came to the forefront for Protestant church leaders. Catechetical instruction, or teaching, has always been part and parcel of the church, and is desperately needed today. Having already outlined the historic teaching of the confessions on hundreds of pages, this volume includes only three catechisms for the reader’s perusal.4 First, the Heidelberg Catechism, which comprises the last third of the Three Forms of Unity of the continental Reformed churches previously mentioned. This catechism includes fifty-two Lord’s Days of teaching in the church, ideal for Sunday worship services. Second, then third and lastly, the Westminster Larger and Shorter Catechisms. These catechisms are aptly named as one is much longer compared to the slim-downed version which follows it. These catechisms are ideal for use in the churches and in the family home.

The content of this beautiful volume ends with an extensive Scripture index which follows a general index. The general index covers a number of theological topics of interest and historical figures of the various periods. The Scripture index is over thirty pages, which shows us how dependent the creeds, confessions, and catechisms are on the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. This is helpful, for not only does this volume contain the Scripture references noted in the confessions and catechisms within, but it also points to where any particular verse is referenced in one or more of the confessions and catechisms. Whatever authority the creeds, confessions, and catechisms have within the church universal and denominational are derived from the Holy Scriptures.

This volume is a helpful and needed addition to any library, even if some of these documents already have a mainstay on the shelf. Van Dixhoorn and Crossway have done a great service for the retrieval of historic Christian faith and practice. In a modern culture of ever-shifting foundations, Van Dixhoorn assures us, that “These historic statements remind us that the content of the Christian faith does not continually change; they bring Christians of the present into conversation with Christians of the past…that we do not read the Bible only as individuals; we read it as one body, experiencing significant unity as we do so.”5 May the church in all her expressions experience more of this.

©Charles A. Vaughn. All Rights Reserved.


1. Chad Van Dixhoorn, ed., Creeds, Confessions, and Catechisms, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2022), 7.

2. Ibid., 10.

3. I believe the Three Forms and the Westminster Standards have much more in common than in difference, so I say, “Confess the Six Forms of United Standards!”

4. Omitted are Luther’s Large and Small Catechisms, Anglican catechetical writings, and any such baptistic catechisms.

5. Van Dixhoorn, ed., Creeds, Confessions, and Catechisms, 9.


    Post authored by:

  • Charles Vaughn
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    Charles lives in San Diego county with his wife and four covenant children. He has a B.A. in Biblical & Theological Studies from Regent University and an M.A. in both Biblical and Theological Studies from Westminster Seminary California. Charles works as a Junior High history teacher at a Christian school in Escondido, CA.

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  1. Great review, Charles. I just picked this up and agree with your assessment. This is a great portable library of valuable confessional resources. 6 Forms!

    • Rob! Thank you, brother. This should be on every shelf, and, Confess the Six Forms of United Standards!

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