Sunday, December 16, 2012

Book Review: With Heart and Mouth: An Exposition of the Belgic Confession by Daniel R. Hyde

A number of statements of faith came out of the Protestant Reformation during 16th and 17th centuries, statements that described what constituted belief by a particular group in contrast to the Roman Catholic Church and other groups .  Many of these statements, both catechisms and confessions, were so well-written that they continue to be held as basic statements of faith today.  The Belgic Confession is one of these enduring statements, and it is affirmed by several denominations that identify themselves as theologically Reformed, including the Reformed Church in America and the Christian Reformed Church.

The Belgic Confession was written by Guy de Bres in 1561.  De Bres was a pastor in the Netherlands who had previously studied in Geneva under John Calvin.  De Bres’ intent was to provide a systematic statement of belief, one that demonstrated that orthodox Protestant belief, particularly the theology we know today as Reformed, was thoroughly biblical and consistent with the belief system of the early church, and of no threat to the government.  De Bres may have failed in his intended purpose, for he was martyred in 1567, a victim of the persecution he was seeking to end, but the confession he wrote continues to speak vibrantly today.   Teaching the 21st century church the relevance of a 16th century confession is the purpose that underlies With Heart and Mouth: An Exposition of the Belgic Confession by Daniel R. Hyde (Grandville, MI: Reformed Fellowship, Inc., 2008).

Hyde takes a systematic, step-by-step approach in his discussion of the Confession.  He provides an introduction to the setting, theologically and politically, that led to its writing, and he then goes through each of the Confession’s 37 Articles.  De Bres organized his writing well, outlining in turn doctrines of God, Man, Christ, Salvation, the Church, and the End.  As he explains each Article Hyde demonstrates its grounding in history and its continued relevance to the church today.  Time and again Hyde shows how the questions and problems facing the church in the 16th century are questions and problems that we seek to answer again today. 

One example is in the discussion of Article 14.  De Bres wrote a brief yet thorough and biblically-based statement regarding the creation, fall and corruption of man.  Hyde then explains how de Bres’ words remain relevant today, how despite the passing of over four centuries of theology, philosophy and psychology, we have the same desire to understand the world and our place in it.  Hyde shows that the Confession points the Christian to this conclusion: “So - Who am I?  Where did I come from? Where am I going? This is our message to the world – that we were made in the image of God but have shattered ourselves into a thousand pieces by the fall and our actual sins.  Yet in Christ we have been remade, and a day is coming in which we shall be completely remade and restored.” (194)

In addition to thoroughly discussing each Article of the Confession Hyde has included several study questions with each Article, questions that deepen the reader’s understanding and which may also be used to shape a small group or class undertaking a study of the Confession.

In With Heart and Mind Hyde has taken what many people may consider to be a rather black-and-white topic, a somewhat little-known 16th century confession of Christian faith, and presented it in full color.  I highly commend it to anyone who seeks to understand Christian faith in a robust way, both for their own spiritual growth and as they witness to faith in Christ in the places where they live.  

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