Distinctive Doctrines We Believe

The Protestant Reformed Churches of America (PRCA) had their official beginnings in 1925, just less than a year after the founding of the Reformed Free Publishing Association (RFPA). The group of men who organized the RFPA joined themselves to this new denomination, committed to witnessing to the Reformed truth by way of the printed word. These men had either been involved in or affected by the doctrinal controversy regarding the nature of God’s grace that ripped through the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) in the early 1920’s, resulting in the formation of both the PRCA and the RFPA. The nature of God’s grace is still an area of great debate, and the PRCA’s upholding of the truth of sovereign, particular grace sets them apart from others in the Reformed church world.


Although the RFPA is an independent, non-ecclesiastical organization, it is closely allied with the PRCA, publishing much of the work of its professors, ministers, and educators as a witness to the Reformed truth of the Scriptures.
     Recommended reading:
          Doctrine according to Godliness by Ronald Hanko


The Bible and the Creeds

The Bible is the inspired, infallible, and inerrant word of God. The truth contained in the Scriptures is set forth and summarized in the Three Forms of Unity: The Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession, and the Canons of Dortdrecht. These three creeds are upheld by the Protestant Reformed Churches as sound, accurate interpretations of the doctrines contained in the Bible. (John 10:35, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, 1 Timothy 1:4). Click here to read more on the Bible / Scriptures.
     Recommended reading:
          The Doctrine of Scripture by Homer C. Hoeksema

Sovereign Particular Grace

Grace is the attribute of God whereby first he loves himself and desires his own glory, which is then shown in his speech and actions toward his people. Grace is never general or common. Rather, God grants his sovereign, particular grace only to his elect according to his own sovereign will. God’s grace is revealed as undeserved favor in the salvation of his people, so that they may become like him and find favor with him. Grace is never conditioned by faith, but is always sovereign, powerful, irresistible, and effective to the salvation of God’s people in Christ. (Romans 8:28-39, Ephesians 1:3-14)
     Recommended reading:
         Particular Grace by Abraham Kuyper
        
Common Grace Revisited by David J. Engelsma

Covenant of Grace

The nature and essence of the covenant of grace between God and his people has been a subject of disagreement in the church world in general, and more particularly within the Reformed community. Most view the covenant as a mutual agreement between God and man, a pact between two equal parties, with mutual stipulations and promises. Many, especially in the Presbyterian tradition, make a distinction between two or more covenants—the covenant of works and the covenant of grace. Still others have no covenant concept whatsoever, preferring to understand salvation in individualistic terms.

The development of the doctrine of the covenant of grace, together with its practical implications, is perhaps the major contribution of the PRCA to a fuller and clearer understanding of biblical truth in the context of the Reformed faith. A significant portion of this development and defense of the truth of the covenant is embodied in RFPA publications.

The covenant of grace is the living relationship of friendship established by God between himself and his people in Christ. This covenant is unilateral—established, maintained, and perfected by God alone. The Scriptures teach that there is only one covenant of grace, beginning with Adam and culminating in the perfection of eternity. The covenant is realized by the atoning death and resurrection of Christ, the head and mediator of the covenant. Faith is never a condition of the covenant, but rather the gift of God by which he includes his elect in his covenant, the means by which the elect enjoy the fellowship of God and willingly carry out the demands of the covenant, living in obedience to the Lord. The covenant is organic, which means that God establishes it with believers and their seed in the line of continued generations. And the covenant is not a means to an end, but is the goal of all history. (Genesis 17:7, Acts 2:39, Acts 16:14-15, Galatians 3, Psalm 89)
     Recommended reading:
         Believers and Their Seed by Herman Hoeksema
        
The Covenant of God and the Children of Believers by David J. Engelsma
        
God’s Everlasting Covenant of Grace by Herman Hanko

Total Depravity

All men are totally depraved, dead in sin, as a result of wickedness that entered the world through the sin of Adam. Man is totally depraved both in his nature and in his activities. This death is so absolute that man, of himself, is completely incapable of doing any good and inclined toward all evil. This implies that the will of man is not free, but is in bondage to the power of sin. The complete depravity of mankind emphasizes the sovereignty of God alone and the necessary work of Christ for salvation. (Ephesians 1, Ephesians 2). Click here to read more on total depravity.
     Recommended reading:
        
Saved by Grace by Ronald Cammenga and Ronald Hanko
        
Voice of Our Fathers by Homer C. Hoeksema

Unconditional Election

Unconditional election is God’s sovereign choosing of his people from before the foundations of the world, thereby effectively predestinating his children to everlasting life with him and condemning the reprobate to everlasting punishment. Election reveals the eternal and unchangeable love God has for his people. (Romans 8:28-Romans 9, Psalm 5:4-6, Psalm 11:5-7), while reprobation reveals God’s wrath against the reprobate in the way of their sin, with the consequence of everlasting destruction in hell.
     Recommended reading:
         Saved by Grace by Ronald Cammenga and Ronald Hanko
        
Voice of Our Fathers by Homer C. Hoeksema


Limited Atonement

The atonement Christ made in his conquering of sin and death is effective only for God’s elect people. The power of Christ’s death and resurrection is not itself limited, but is intended for his particular people. In no way is his death effective for all men, dependent on their acceptance or rejection of the benefits of his death. (Romans 8, Romans 9, Ephesians 3:18-19)
     Recommended reading:
         Saved by Grace by Ronald Cammenga and Ronald Hanko
        
Voice of Our Fathers by Homer C. Hoeksema


Irresistible Grace

Grace as the power of God to save his elect cannot be resisted. The Spirit of God and the grace obtained for God’s people through the work of his Son Jesus Christ is completely effectual and cannot be rejected by anyone whom God has chosen to be his own. By his grace and in the way of sanctification, God works in the hearts of his people a desire to love, seek, and obey him.
     Recommended reading:
         Saved by Grace by Ronald Cammenga and Ronald Hanko
        
Voice of Our Fathers by Homer C. Hoeksema


Perseverance of the Saints

Once having been saved, it is impossible for the elect of God to lose their salvation.
The children of God are called to live in complete obedience to him, by his grace, out of thankfulness for their salvation, and they are to persevere in this obedience to the end. God has chosen his children before the foundation of the world and has written their names in his book of life. Never is their faith a condition of their salvation, and never can they go lost. They will forever be God’s children, and will continue in faith until their end of everlasting glory in the new heavens and new earth.
     Recommended reading:
         Saved by Grace by Ronald Cammenga and Ronald Hanko
        
Voice of Our Fathers by Homer C. Hoeksema


Preaching as Means of Grace

Grace is conveyed to his elect by the word of God and the Spirit of Christ. The preaching of the word of God, delivered only by ordained ministers, is the chief means of grace by which God works faith in the hearts of his people. The preaching of sermons is central to the worship services of the PRCA and is a powerful tool by which God strengthens the faith of his elect and hardens the hearts of those he has chosen unto everlasting condemnation. (Romans 1:16, Romans 10:14-15, I Corinthians 14:34-35, I Thessalonians 2:13, I Timothy 2:11-3:13)
     Recommended reading:
        
Hyper-Calvinism and the Call of the Gospel by David J. Engelsma

Amillenialism

In its preaching, teaching, and writing regarding the doctrine of the last things, the PRCA upholds the biblical teaching of amillennialism. It does so in opposition to all forms of dispensationalism and premillennialism on the one hand, and against all forms of postmillennialism and theonomy on the other hand. The millennium is neither a literal one thousand year reign of Christ on the earth nor an indefinite period of improvement until perfection, but refers to the entire New Testament period. During this age, Christ continually comes through the signs of the times, and at the end of this age he will return in person to raise the dead, to execute judgment on all men, and to usher in the eternal age of perfection in the new heaves and the new earth.
     Recommended reading:
        
Behold He Cometh by Herman Hoeksema

Covenant of Marriage

Marriage is a lifelong bond, sealed by the vows taken between one man and one woman, and is an earthly reflection of the covenant between Christ and his church. Divorce is allowable only in the instance of adultery, although the marriage bond is not dissolved until the death of one of the parties. Because this bond is lifelong, even in the case of divorce, neither party is permitted to remarry while the other is still living. Those who divorce and remarry while their first spouse is still living are considered adulterers and are disciplined as such according to God’s word. (Genesis 2:24, Ephesians 5:22-33, Matthew 5:32, Mark 10:11-12, Romans 7:2-3)
     Recommended reading:
        
Marriage: The Mystery of Christ and the Church by David J. Engelsma

Christian Education

Christian education is a demand of the covenant according to which children are to be educated to view all earthly knowledge in the light of God’s word.  Rejecting the education of covenant children by the secular state, members of the Protestant Reformed Churches have established a number of parental Christian grade schools and high schools, using their own time and monetary sacrifice to see to the proper Reformed instruction of their children.
     Recommended reading:
        
Reformed Education by David J. Engelsma

 


Click on the articles below to read more about the doctrines of the Protestant Reformed Churches.

 

Recommended reading about the history of the PRCA:
     A Watered Garden by Gertrude Hoeksema
     For Thy Truth’s Sake by Herman Hanko