A couple of weeks ago we had a Classis Ontario West where a number of recent seminary grads were being examined for candidacy in the Canadian Reformed Churches. During one of the Doctrine and Creeds exams, a colleague asked one of the men something about article 15 of the Belgic Confession. The aspiring candidate was asked to evaluate a change that the Reformed Church in the United States (RCUS) had made to article 15. The CanRC edition (along with the original and every other edition that I’ve checked) says this about original sin:
“It is not abolished nor eradicated even by baptism, for sin continually streams forth like water welling up from this woeful source.”
The examiner said that the word “baptism” was replaced with “regeneration” in the RCUS edition. I’d never heard of that before. I made a mental note of it.
When I got home, I checked the RCUS website to see this for myself. However, this is what I found in article 15:
“Nor is it by any means abolished or done away by baptism; since sin always issues forth from this woeful source, as water from a fountain…”
Hmmm…..was the examiner wrong? We had some e-mails back and forth and he was sure that they had changed it. Giving my colleague the benefit of the doubt, I did some further research with the help of the Wayback Machine. There I found it, on a 2006 version of the official RCUS website:
“Nor is it altogether abolished or wholly eradicated even by regeneration; since sin always issues forth from this woeful source, as water from a fountain…”
Further investigation by my colleague revealed that the RCUS did make the change, but somehow the changes have not been made on the most recent update of their website.
This amendment to article 15 is an odd, idiosyncratic change. I have not yet heard a convincing reason for it. “Baptism” was originally mentioned there because of the background of the struggle with Rome. Rome claimed (and still claims) that baptism washes away original sin. What is gained by swapping ‘regeneration’ for ‘baptism’? Is there a new error being addressed? What’s going on here? If somebody could fill us in, it would be much appreciated.