With Heart and Mouth

The title of this blog post is also the title of Danny Hyde’s brand-new commentary on the Belgic Confession. I would like to review and recommend this book to our readers. Commentaries on the Belgic Confession are few, as Hyde notes (pp. 2-3, where Hyde calls the BC “the neglected member of the Three Forms of Unity”). The other parts of the 3FU are the Heidelberg Catechism and the Canons of Dordt. The former is not neglected, since many preach on it, and there are many excellent commentaries on it. The latter are not neglected, since they set forth the so-called Five Points of Calvinism (although, it could be argued that people do not actually read the CD, they merely summarize it. In fact, I would argue, that in terms of commentaries, there is practically nothing on the Canons of Dordt. Maybe Danny would consider doing the CD next?).

In new members classes, I actually gravitate more towards the Belgic Confession, since the information I need is laid out in a much more systematic form there than in the Heidelberg Catechism. So, I usually take our new members most of the way through the BC, explaining it as I go in typical systematic theological form (though obviously on the clearest, simplest level possible). So I was delighted when Danny Hyde published this work, as it will help me in new members classes. The book is pitched at a level for new members and for new officers, and would work well for either as a primer in theology. Hence, its usefulness extends far beyond a mere explanation of the BC. This is one of those few books that you could put into the hands of a brand-new believer and say, “Here. This is what we believe on all the important points of doctrine.” And let not Westminster folk feel left out. There is nothing which I read in the book which is incompatible with the Westminster Standards. We have long been in need of books which give us a solid, systematic overview of Christian doctrine, upon which new believers can cut their teeth. The reason for this is the appalling lack of doctrinal preaching in Christianity today, and an equally appalling lack of discernment on the part of believers, largely due to the abandonment of doctrinal teaching in our churches. All of these reasons make Hyde’s book even more important.

Here are some gems that I found in the book: (commenting on the simplicity of God)

You may be asking, “Why would we confess such a seemingly meaningless doctrine?: The answer is that throughout church history, and especially today, there are errors concerning the doctrine of God. Just ask many people the question, “What is God like?” You will surely get the response, “God is love.” the love of God in our day is pitted against all his other attributes, so that when it comes down to the essence of the question, God’s love is most important (pg. 41).

This is a great example of how Hyde makes clear the relevance of doctrine to today’s world. This is imperative for pastors today, and Hyde is constantly aware of this issue. Furthermore, Hyde is also constantly tying in doctrine to practice.  He agrees that doctrine is practical, and all true practice is doctrinal (pg. 43). We cannot ever divorce the two, as modern Christianity seems literally hell-bent on doing. Another great quotation (on article 4, which is a seemingly boring simple listing of the canonical books):

Some might say that we should not argue over where God speaks, because we have more important and practical things to deal with, such as evangelism and living the practical Christian life. However, this question must be answered before we can deal with more “practical” matters, because we need to be assured of what God is saying to us, and where we can hear his voice (pg. 74).

And lastly, to hit on an issue near and dear to my heart, Hyde talks about merit (in relation to justification):

We should not cringe or be afraid of the word merit, as if it somehow teaches a Roman Catholic view of salvation. In fact, both our Confession and the Reformers reformed the Roman concept of merit by using the term to extol the virtues of Christ’s work on our behalf (pg. 295, emphasis added).

I would add that those who wish to reject the term merit from out vocabulary (it is found in both the 3FU and the WS) make the word-concept fallacy when they accuse anyone who uses the term of being too much indebted to Roman Catholicism. Furthermore, everyone knows that there are points of continuity and discontinuity between Rome and the Reformation. Continuity in the doctrine of the Trinity, for instance. Profound discontinuity on the doctrine of the Sacraments.

A highly recommended resource for all Christians, but especially for those belonging to a church that subscribes to the BC. This is certainly the best introduction to the BC for non-scholars (and scholars will benefit from it as well).