Subordinate Standards

Why the RCUS has subordinate confessional standards

When asked, “What does the Bible teach?” or “How do you interpret it?” we respond with a unified voice by referring to the historic creeds and confessions of the Reformed church which summarize the message of Scripture. The RCUS does not, however, make its confessional statements equal to, or elevated above, Scripture, for our Constitution says,

The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, which are called canonical, being recognized as genuine and inspired, are received as the true and proper Word of God, infallible and inerrant, and the ultimate rule and measure of the whole Christian faith and doctrine. (Constitution, Art. 176)

Mere human writings can never be our ultimate and final standard, even those with ecclesiatical authority due to the fact that they were decided in the councils of the church:

Neither may we consider any writings of men, however holy these men may have been, of equal value with those divine Scriptures, nor ought we to consider custom, or the great multitude, or antiquity, or succession of times and persons, or councils, decrees or statutes, as of equal value with the truth of God, since the truth is above all. (Belgic Confession, Art. 7)

It is an integral part of our confession to define the nature of biblical authority and distinguish scripture from confessional statements. Our creeds, confessions, and catechism are to be understood as subordinate standards. And yet they have real authority in the church because they are based upon and embody biblical truth.

Our statement of faith includes the Apostle’s Creed as well as the historic confession of the churches of the Reformation. We affirm and teach that system of doctrine which is set forth in the Three Forms of Unity: the Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, and the Canons of Dort. These three doctrinal statements, born of the Protestant Reformation, define what it means to be “reformed.” The Consitution of our denomination states,

The Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession of Faith, and the Canons of Dort are received as authoritative expressions of the truths taught in the Holy Scriptures, and are acknowledged to be the subordinate standards of doctrine in the Reformed Church in the United States. (RCUS Constitution, Part IV. Doctrine and Worship, Section 1, Doctrine, Article 177)

Because the The Heidelberg Catechism, The Belgic Confession of Faith and the The Canons of Dort accurately summarizes the teachings of Scripture, we have adopted them as our confessional standards.

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