GS 1983 art 70

GS 1983 ARTICLE 70Decisions re Apostles· Creed

Committee II presents:


– Agenda  VIII, J, 1 -6.

Appeals concerning Article 107, Acts Syond 1980.

Deletion of the word “begotten” from the Apostles’ Creed. Agenda VIII, J, 1 Appeal from the Church at Burlington-South.

  • J, 2 Appeal from the Church at Burlington-West.
  • J. 3 Appeal from the Church at Chilliwack. J. 4 Appeal from the Church at Lincoln.
  • J. 5 Appeal from the Church at Smithers.
  • J, 6 Appeal from br. L. VanZandwijk.

B.  OBSERVATIONS re “only begotten”

  • 1. a.   Synod 1980 dropped the word “begotten” from the Apostles’ Creed, considering that this change:
    • i  would be in accordance with the original Latin text (unicus);
    • ii  would be in accordance with various Scripture passages, (e.g. John 1:14); iii does not alter but gives even more emphasis to the explanation of Lord ‘s Day 13. Question 33 “Why is He called God’s only Son, since we are also children of God ?”
  • b.   With regard to B. 1, a, i the Churches at Burlington-South, Burlington-West, Smithers, and br. VanZandwijk adduce the following objections (summarized):
    • i. although it has to be granted that the Latin word (unicus) can be translated by “only” as well as by “only begotten,” no conclusive evidence is given that ” only Son” is a much better translation than “only begotten Son”;
    • ii.  an older text of the Apostles’ Creed (Symbolum Romanum) shows the word “unigenitus” ;
    • iii.  not the meaning of the Latin word, but the Word of God is decisive for our confession of faith;
  • c.   Regarding B. 1, a, ii the above-mentioned appellants and the Church at Lincoln formulate their objections as follows: Synod 1980 wrote about “various Scripture passages” but mentioned only John 1:14. Apparently they considered this to be the most important one. However, in John 1:14 the word “monogenes” is used in the Greek text and not “monos.” Prof. Dr. J. van Bruggen comments on this text in his book The future of the Bible (pp. 34. 35) as follows:
    • ” While it is true that the Greek term monogenes can be used for an only child. it is used in this way only when such is actually the case (see Luke 7:12, 8:42. 9:38). The Bible speaks, however. of other children of God; be­lievers in Christ are all the sons and daughters of God (II Cor. 6 18). Thus. when applied to Christ, the term monogenes emphasizes a relationship not shared by other children of God. In a comparable way. Isaac is called an only begotten son in Hebrew 11:17. Among the children of Abraham only Isaac had full birth rights as the natural son of Abraham and Sarah. When the Bible calls Jesus the monogenes Son of God, it means that he alone is the natural Son of God He is distinguished from believers as natural children are distinguished from adopted ones. The phrase ” only be gotten Son of God” is really a summary of Psalm 2:7 where God the Father says to Christ:
    • “Thou art my Son; this day I have begotten thee.” This Psalm is quoted and applied to Christ in Acts 13:33 and in Hebrews 1: 5/5: 5. On the basis of Psalm 2, the ancient Church saw the unique character of Christ’s Son­ ship in His divine nature.
    • The translation only weakens the spiritual insight into the unique Sonship of Christ and threatens the spiritual understanding of the unity of the Father and the Son. Modern theologians may find in this translation ammunition for their theory that Christ is unique as Son, but that He is not Himself God.” Moreover, the RSV translates: “the only Son from the Father.”
    • the KJB has: “the only begotten of the Father.” the NASB translates the same as the KJV.
    • the NIV renders: “the one and only Son, who came from the Father.”
  • d.   With reference to B. 1. a, iii above mentioned appellants point out that while Synod 1980 claims that the version “only Son” gives more emphasis to the explanation of Lord’s Day 13, they fail to see the logic in Synod’s reasoning. On the contrary. when the word ”begotten” is dropped. the answer. which compares the eternal, natural Son of God with children of God by adoption. loses its sense.
  • e.   Other arguments against deletion of the word “begotten” are the following points:
    • i  there is inconsistency in the decisions of Synod: the arguments which Synod uses against deletion of the word “descended into hell” can be used against “begotten” as well;
    • ii  the unity of our Confessional Standards is violated;
    • iii  we have to be aware of our responsibility in respect to an increasing lib­eralism:
    • iv  the quoted text of John 1:14 was one of the weak points of the RSV trans­lation;
    • v  Synod 1980 did not provide sufficient grounds for its decision.


  • 1 a. The reference. made to the original Latin text. to prove that the word “begot­ten” should be deleted from the Apostles’ Creed cannot be considered con­clusive. Since the original Latin text is difficult to ascertain. the Word of God should be decisive in determining whether “only begotten” should be re­ placed by “only.”
    • b. The reference made to John 1:14 is based upon a rather weak or even wrong translation of the word “monogenes” in the RSV.
    • c.   The deletion of the word “begotten” does not emphasize the explanation of Lord’s Day 13 but rather takes away the crux of the matter, because the crucial point in the explanation is the difference between the “natural” Son and the “adopted” children. This main point is expressed in the word “begot­ten.” Deletion of this word makes another formulation of Answer 33 of the Heidelberg Catechism necessary.
    • d The word “begotten” in the Heidelberg Catechism enhances the unity in word usage among the Ecumenical Creeds. since the word “begotten” is used in both the Nicene and the Athanasian Creed. This unity is more relevant than a possible concurrence with the confessions, used by Churches of other denomination.
    • e.   Synod 1980 considered that “the change from the version “descended into hell” to “descended into the realm of death” is a major change, which also affects the text of the Heidelberg Catechism, and should be adopted only if the reasons given prove fully sufficient. The same reasoning can be used with respect to the deletion of the word “begotten” (see B, 1, a, i).


Synod decide:

  • to insert the word “begotten” in the text of the Apostles’ Creed, and to read Article II of the Apostles’ Creed (again) as follows:
    • “I believe in Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, our Lord;”


–   Agenda VIII, J, 3, 5. 6.

Appeal concerning Art. 159, I. 4, b Acts Synod 1974. Deletion of the word “Christian” from the Apostles ‘ Creed. Agenda VIII,

  • J. 3 Appeal from the Church at Chilliwack.
  • J. 5 Appeal from the Church at Smithers.
  • J. 6 Appeal from br. L. VanZandwijk.

B OBSERVATIONS re “Christian”

  • 1.  General Synod 1958 (Acts Art. 190)
    • a.   decided: ” de C-tekst van deze BeliJdenisgeschriften bij de Kerken aan te bevelen, waarbij ze de verwachting uitspreekt, dat de Kerken, indien zij, bij gebruik, de noodzaak tot wijziging constateren, daarover met voorstellen tot de meeste verg adering komen.” (To recommend the Christian Reformed text of these Confessions [Heidelberg Catechism and Canons of Dort] to the Churches, expressing thereby the expectation, that, if in using them they find that changes are to be made, they will come with proposals in this respect to the major assembly.)
    • b. and pronounced: ” dat voorlopig alleen de Nederlandse tekst van de Heidelbergse Catechismus en de Dordtse Leerreg els authentiek is. ” (That for the time being only the Dutch text of the Heidelberg Catechism and the Canon s of Dort is the authentic one )
  • 2.  The following Synods did not change this policy. (see Synod 1965 Acts Art. 70, a, b). General Synod 1971 (Acts Art. 83) appointed a committee with the man­ date to revise the text of the Heidelberg Catechism in close adherence to the original German text.
  • 3.  General Synod 1971 (Acts Art. 28. Recommendation 3, b) appointed a separate Committee for the second half of the Church Book with the mandate, among others: ” to scrutinize the text of the Creeds (and introductions) as to correct­ ness of translation.”
  • 4.  Synod 1974 decided “to remove the word ‘Christian’ from the Apostles’ Creed (Art. IX)” without giving any grounds for this change and Synod 1980 approved this removal by just printing a revised text of the Apostles’ Creed from which the word “Christian” was deleted. (Acts Synod 1980 Art. 107, D, 2)
  • The appellants object to this removal on the following grounds:
    • a.   The fact that the word ” Christian” in the Apostles’ Creed has no historical root in English, should not be determinative in itself to exclude the word.
    • b.   It is proper to retain the word “Christian,” otherwise we deny that Jesus Christ is the head of the Church.
    • c.   Our Churches adopted the Dutch version (see Acts Art. 159, I, 3, 1).
    • d.   In the Canons of Dort, Chapter Ill. Rejection of Errors, Paragraph 1, we find the expression “the Catholic Christian Church. ” We find the same in the title of Art. 29 of the Belgic Confession.
    • e.   The change violates the pledge. made by Synod Orangeville 1968, that changes in the Confessions would be made only after consultation with the corresponding Churches. (Acts, Art 70, 6, b)w


  • Synod 197 4 (Acts Art. 159. I, 4. b) decided to remove the word “Christian ” from the Apostles’ Creed without mentioning any grounds. except the Consideration (Acts Art. 159, I, 4) where only is stated that the Committee on the Church Book should not have inserted the word ·’Christian” in the text of the Apostles’ Creed.
  • 2.  Although it may not have been in the province of the Committee for the Church Book to insert the word “christian” in Art. IX of the Apostles’ Creed. this insert was understandable since the word “Christian” was found in the Dutch text of the Apostles’ Creed and of Lord’s Day 7 of the Heidelberg Catechism. which text by previous Synods had been declared to be the authentic text for the time being (see Observation 1. b).
  • Moreover, the word ” Christian” also appears in the original German text of the Heidelberg Catechism to which text the Committee was referred to by Synod 1971.
  • 3.  When Synod 1974. on the recommendation of the Committee for the Second Half of the Church Book. decided to remove the word “Christian” it was therefore a change in policy, which should not have been taken without weighty grounds.
  • 4.  It is an overstatement to say that the mere removal of the word “Christian” from the text of the Apostles’ Creed is a denial of Jesus Christ being the head of the Church.
  • However, we do agree that the deletion of this word is an impoverishment of the expression of our Catholic and undoubted Christian faith. (In Canons of Dort Ill. Rejection of Errors, Paragraph 1 the word “Christian” can hardly be missed in view of the contents of this paragraph) (see Observations B. 3. d).
  • 5.  From the Acts of Synod 1974 it does not appear that the deletion of the word “Christian” has taken place in consultation with the sister Churches abroad.


Synod decide:

  • To reinsert the word ‘Christian’ in Section Ill of the Apostles’ Creed. because no weighty reasons for the removal of this word have been brought forward.

Committee II presents:


–   Agenda VIII. J. 7.

Letter from br. John Nauta with regard to the expression “descended into hell” in the Apostles’ Creed.


In his letter of October 27. 1983 br. J. Nauta points out that in his opinion the words “descended into hell” in Art. IV of the Apostles’ Creed are:

  • 1. a dishonour to God:
  • 2. a reason for confusion to the believer.

He therefore asks Synod to remove this whole expression from the Apostles’ Creed.


  • As this request intends to have removed from the Apostles· Creed an expres­sion which has not been changed by any of our Synods. this request cannot be considered to be an appeal against a synodical decision (see Acts 1980, Art. 107. C. 1. a).
  • 2. When br. Nauta wants to have an expression removed from one of our Reformed Standards. he should bring this sentiment first to the attention of the Consistory of the Church to which he belongs and he should follow the ecclesiastical way in having this sentiment examined.


Synod decide:

  • Not to deal with this request.