03 June, 2018

Heidelberg Catechism: Lord’s Day III—“wholly incapable of doing any good, and inclined to all wickedness”

Q. 8. Are we then so corrupt that we are wholly incapable of doing any good, and inclined to all wickedness?

A. Indeed we are, except we are regenerated by the Spirit of God.


Q. 1. “The Heidelberg Catechism says that man is ‘wholly incapable of doing any good, and inclined to all wickedness,’ but Ursinus, who wrote the Catechism, clearly did not intend for that to be an absolute statement. For in his commentary, Ursinus elsewhere writes about the ‘good deeds’ that natural man can do ... Surely creeds must be interpreted in the light of the rest of the theology or comments of the men who wrote those creeds? Surely we cannot interpret a creed in a way that the original author did not intend ...” (L. Berkhof, The Three Points: Reformed in All Parts)

The language of the creeds is binding upon the church. The Heidelberg Catechism is binding upon the church, not the commentary of Ursinus on the Heidelberg Catechism (although the commentary of Ursinus is certainly interesting and useful).
If commentaries and theological treatises by the authors of creeds were binding upon the church, then the officebearers of the church, who might not have read such volumes, would be unable to subscribe to the creeds—which would create a “tyranny of scholarship” in the church. The creeds are designed to be clear, simple statements of faith for use in the church. (Rev. Martyn McGeown, 03/05/2018)

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