A Reformed, Christian Church
As a Reformed, Christian church, Southeast PRC confesses that the Bible alone is the Word of God. As the Word of God, the Bible is also infallible, meaning it is without error, and therefore possesses the authority of God himself. The Bible is to be believed, confessed, loved, taught, and practiced in the life and worship of the church, and in the lives of the individuals who are members of the church. Belief in the authority of Scripture is our fundamental conviction, upon which all other convictions and beliefs are based.
The fundamental message of the Bible is the gospel, which is the good news of salvation in the cross of Jesus Christ. That the gospel of Jesus Christ crucified for the salvation of sinners is the centerpiece of all biblical and Christian theology is the testimony of the Apostle Paul in I Corinthians 2:2: “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” When Jesus Christ died on the cross, he did so as the substitute for all his people, paying the penalty they deserved for their sins against a holy and righteous God. By atoning for their sins, Jesus Christ has given all who believe in him with a true faith peace with God and hope for a future life where death and sin are no more. This gospel is central. From a certain point of view, nothing else matters.
But the gospel must be understood properly, and the Bible warns that there are and will be false teachers who teach a false gospel. In order to help us understand the one gospel which is taught by the Bible, we hold to the Ecumenical and Reformed Creeds. By holding to these creeds as the standards which aid us in our understanding of the gospel, Southeast PRC consciously and deliberately connects itself with the historic Christian faith which may be traced through about 2000 years of history.
The Ecumenical Creeds are the Apostle’s Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Athanasian Creed, and the Creed of Chalcedon. By holding these creeds as standards of Christian doctrine, Southeast PRC confesses that God is triune, that is, God is three persons in one divine being. God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit living an eternal life of intimate love and communion together. By holding these creeds, Southeast PRC also confesses that Jesus Christ is fully human and fully divine. Jesus Christ is the Son of God in human flesh, and therefore a powerful and capable Savior.
The Reformed Creeds, also known as the Three Forms of Unity, are the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession, and the Canons of Dordt. Taken together these three documents give a comprehensive explanation of all the main doctrines of Scripture. The Three Forms of Unity were written at the time of the Reformation of the 16th century, largely in response to the teaching of the Roman Catholic church that God grants salvation to men partly as a deserved reward for their good works instead of on the basis of the cross of Christ alone. Thus, the basic truth which the Reformed Confessions are concerned to defend and explain is the truth that God’s salvation is never a deserved reward, but is always and only given out of God’s free love and by faith in Jesus Christ. The twenty-third article of the Belgic Confession puts it this way: “We believe that our salvation consists in the remission of our sins for Jesus Christ’s sake, and that therein our righteousness before God is implied…. And therefore we always hold fast this foundation, ascribing all the glory to God, humbling ourselves before Him, and acknowledging ourselves to be such as we really are, without presuming to trust in any thing in ourselves, or in any merit of ours, relying and resting upon the obedience of Christ crucified alone, which becomes ours when we believe in Him.”
A Protestant Reformed, Christian Church
Though there are many Reformed churches in the world, Southeast is a member of the denomination called the Protestant Reformed Churches in America (PRCA) because we believe the PRCA holds to the teaching of the Bible and of the confessions most faithfully. Two distinctive and cherished doctrines of the PRCA are the intimately connected doctrines of particular grace and an unconditional covenant.
The doctrine of sovereign, particular grace is the truth that God reserves his grace and good favor for those who are his chosen people, which stands over against the teachings of common grace and the well-meant offer of the gospel. For a more detailed treatment of the doctrine of particular grace and its rejection of common grace, see “Grace Uncommon” by Prof. Barry Gritters. You can also watch Prof. David Engelsma of the PRCA debate Dr. Richard Mouw concerning this topic.
The doctrine of an unconditional covenant brings us into the broad realm of covenant theology, which is a very important and precious aspect of Protestant Reformed theology. The PRC teach that God establishes a bond or relationship of friendship, a covenant, with his people. Because only God establishes the covenant, the covenant bond is not able to be broken, and it is not conditioned on anything that man may do. Those men, women, and children who are in the covenant are in the covenant only because God loves them and chose to be gracious and kind to them. Therefore, they are in the covenant everlastingly, because when God makes a promise he always fulfills it.
Covenant theology as understood and taught by the PRC is rich, warm, and beautiful, but it takes a lifetime of study and practice to grow in understanding and appreciation of it. The following resources will help you begin to grow in appreciation and understanding of the treasure of the doctrine of sovereign grace in the covenant:
- The Declaration of Principles, argued extensively from the Canons of Dordt, is the official statement of the PRCA regarding the unconditional covenant.
- The Unconditional Covenant in Contemporary Debate, by Prof. David Engelsma, details the PRCA’s view of the unconditional covenant and its place in the contemporary dialogue.
- For an in depth treatment of the doctrine of the covenant specifically in its relationship to children and family life, see the book Believers and Their Seed by Rev. Herman Hoeksema.