The following is a summary of the differences between the “Three Forms of Unity” (typically embraced by Reformed churches), and the Westminster Standards (typically embraced by Presbyterian churches).
What are the standards of concern?
The following topics are only addressed in the Westminster Standards:
- The Covenant of Works
- Invisible/visible church distinction
- Christian Liberty
- Marriage & divorce
- Listing of elements of worship including Psalm singing
- The pope is the Antichrist
- Threatenings and promises in the ten commandments
- Rules for a right understanding of the ten commandments
- The termination of holy days under the Christian era.
- Burial of the dead
The only detail that is exclusively addressed in the Three Forms is:
… a direct reference to historical heresies.
The following differences in theology are noted:
Children Dying in Infancy
The Canons of Dort 1.17 alludes to absolute assurance that children, dying in infancy, are saved, whereas the Westminster Confession 10.3 simply acknowledges that elect infants are surely saved:
Assurance & faith
Heidelberg 21 appears to assert that full knowledge and firm confidence are of the essence of a true faith, whereas Westminster Confession 18.3 asserts that full assurance is not an essential aspect of salvation:
The requirements of the fourth commandment, in keeping the Sabbath differs in emphasis and comprehensiveness:
Understanding of the tenth commandment
The Heidelberg views the tenth commandment as a summary of the other nine commandments, whereas the Westminster documents see this commandment as pertaining to coveting:
Scope and emphasis of petitions in prayer
The Heidelberg summarizes prayer requests relating to “body and soul” matters whereas the Westminster catechisms have God’s glory and the advancement of the Gospel (beyond one’s own salvation) in primary view:
History and Statistics