Presbyterian Church Beliefs and Practices

What Does the Presbyterian Church Believe and Practice?

Kirk in the Hills Presbyterian Church
Kirk in the Hills Presbyterian Church, Michigan. Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

The roots of the Presbyterian Church trace back to John Calvin, a 16th-century French reformer. Calvin's theology was very similar to Martin Luther's. He agreed with Luther on the doctrines of original sin, justification by faith alone, the priesthood of all believers, and the sole authority of the Scriptures. He distinguishes himself theologically from Luther primarily with the doctrines of predestination and eternal security.

Today, The Book of Confessions contains the official creeds, confessions, and beliefs of the Presbyterian Church, including the Nicene Creed, the Apostles' Creed, the Heidelberg Catechism and the Westminster Confession of faith. At the end of the book, a brief statement of faith outlines the major beliefs of this body of believers, which is part of the Reformed tradition.

Presbyterian Church Beliefs

  • The Trinity - We trust in the one triune God, the Holy One of Israel, whom alone we worship and serve.
  • Jesus Christ Is God - We trust in Jesus Christ, fully human, fully God.
  • The Authority of Scripture - Our knowledge of God and God's purpose for humanity comes from the Bible, particularly what is revealed in the New Testament through the life of Jesus Christ.
  • Justification by Grace through Faith - Our salvation (justification) through Jesus is God's generous gift to us and not the result of our own accomplishments.
  • The Priesthood of All Believers - It is everyone's job - ministers and lay people alike - to share this Good News with the whole world. The Presbyterian church is governed at all levels by a combination of clergy and laity, men and women alike.
  • The Sovereignty of God - God is the supreme authority throughout the universe.
  • Sin - The reconciling act of God in Jesus Christ exposes the evil in men as sin in the sight of God. All people are helpless and subject to God's judgment without forgiveness. In love, God took on himself judgment and shameful death in Jesus Christ, to bring men to repentance and new life.
  • Baptism - For both adults and infants, Christian baptism marks the receiving of the sameSpirit by all his people. Baptism with water represents not only cleansing from sin but a dying with Christ and a joyful rising with him to new life.
  • The Mission of the Church - To be reconciled to God is to be sent into the world as his reconciling community. This community, the church universal, is entrusted with God’s message of reconciliation and shares his labor of healing the enmities which separate men from God and from each other.

Presbyterian Church Practices

Presbyterians gather in worship to praise God, to pray, to fellowship, and to receive instruction through the teaching of God's Word.

  • In Baptism the church celebrates the renewal of the covenant with which God has bound his people to himself. By baptism, individuals are publicly received into the church to share in its life and ministry, and the church becomes responsible for their training and support in Christian discipleship. When those baptized are infants, the congregation, as well as the parents, has a special obligation to nurture them in the Christian life, leading them to make, by a public profession, a personal response to the love of God shown forth in their baptism.
  • Through Communion or the Lord’s Supper, the church celebrates the reconciliation of men​with God and with one another, in which they joyfully eat and drink together at the table of their Savior.

To read more about the Presbyterian church visit The Presbyterian Church U.S.A.

(Sources: The Book of Confessions, ReligiousTolerance.org, ReligionFacts.com, AllRefer.com, and the Religious Movements Web site of the University)