Seeing the small picture: 3-26-13
Help with understanding Islam: 3-28-13

Confessing the right numbers: 3-27-13

If you surf around in what my denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA), calls The Book of Confessions, you'll find almost a dozen different statements of faith that various parts of the church universal have adopted over the centuries.

Boc_coverIt begins, in fact, with the Nicene Creed from the Fourth Century.

But there's a numerical oddity that eventually may strike you. One of the statements of faith is called the Second Helvetic Confession, but there's no First Helvetic Confession.

What happened to it? Or was it that the people who book together The Book of Order weren't very good at math?

Today is a good day to answer that pressing question because it was on this date in 1536 that Swiss Protestants signed the First Helvetic Confession. As you may be able to tell by the year, the Protestant Reformation, inadvertently started by Martin Luther, was by then in full swing.

Before long, however, people began to gripe that the confession was not only too short but also too Lutheran.

So in 1566 Swiss Protestants adopted a much longer -- 30 chapters -- statement of faith mostly written a few years earlier by theologian Heinrich Bullinger, a younger but close friend of the great Reformer Ulrich Zwingli.

And it was this Second Helvetic Confession that made it into The Book of Confessions when the book was first put together in the 1960s.

Which just proves that it pays to be curious when you see missing numbers.

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A CRACKDOWN IN CHINA

The Chinese government, it's reported, is working to eradicate all unofficial Protestant churches in the country. Government officials there must understand what even some adherents of religion don't -- the power of faith.

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