Presbyterian and Reformed Beliefs



What do Presbyterians believe?

John Calvin

In the Christian religion, Presbyterianism, whose bodies are also called Reformed Churches, share a common origin in the 16th-century Swiss Reformation and the teachings of John Calvin, and today is one of the largest Christian denominations in Protestantism.

Like the Lutherans, Presbyterian churches have traditionally emphasized doctrine. Also like Lutherans, Presbyterians have produced several confessions expressing the doctrines of their denomination.

Among the most important historical confessions for the Presbyterian and Reformed traditions are the Second Helvetic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, and the Westminster Confession of Faith.

Presbyterian beliefs are rooted in the thought of the French reformer John Calvin. In addition to the common Reformation themes of justification by faith, the priesthood of all believers, and the importance of the Bible, Presbyterianism also reflects Calvin's distinctive emphasis on the sovereignty of God and a representational form of church government.



Summary of theological convictions

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The PC(USA) summarizes Presbyterian beliefs this way:

God is the supreme authority throughout the universe. Our knowledge of God and God's purpose for humanity comes from the Bible, particularly what is revealed in the New Testament through the life of Jesus Christ. Our salvation (justification) through Jesus is God's generous gift to us and not the result of our own accomplishments. It is everyone's job - ministers and lay people alike - to share this Good News with the whole world. That is also why the Presbyterian church is governed at all levels by a combination of clergy and laity, men and women alike. {1}

Although all Presbyterian and Reformed churches share these basic emphases, there are some differences between various church groups.

The Presbyterian Church of Australia, for instance, remains open to the possibility of salvation of infants and those with no knowledge of Christ, denies "double predestination" (predestination to condemnation), and teaches that fallen humanity is capable of some virtuous actions. {2}

In the United States, the liberal end of the Presbyterian/Reformed spectrum is represented by the United Church of Christ (UCC). The UCC stresses unity of all believers and encourages theological diversity among its members more than other Presbyterian churches. {3}

Much more conservative is the Presbyterian Church in America, whose members affirm the inerrancy of the Bible, the truth of the Calvinist teachings represented by "TULIP," and seek to distance themselves from more liberal branches of the Presbyterian denomination.

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Sources
  1. "Presbyterian 101." PCUSA.org.
  2. Declaratory Statement, Presbyterian Church of Australia.
  3. "About Us." UCC.org.