The following has been gleaned from various sources on the Presbyterian Church (USA) website which provides a wealth of information regarding who we are as Presbyterians and what we believe.
Snapshot View of Presbyterian Beliefs
John Calvin is the 16th century Reformer who is most associated with the establishment of the Presbyterian Church. Some of the principles articulated by Calvin remain at the core of Presbyterian beliefs. Among these are the sovereignty of God, the authority of the scripture, justification by grace through faith and the priesthood of all believers. What they mean is that God is the supreme authority throughout the universe. 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. Our salvation (justification) through Jesus is God's generous gift to us and not the result of our own accomplishments. It is everyone's job - ministers and lay people alike - to share this Good News with the whole world. That is also why the Presbyterian church is governed at all levels by a combination of clergy and laity, men and women alike.
What we believe about Jesus
Jesus was born of a woman--Mary; in a particular place--the Middle East; to a particular people--the Jews. He was born as a helpless infant who hungered, cried, had to be changed and grew as all babies grow. As a grown man, Jesus knew all of the feelings humans know--joy, sadness, discouragement, loneliness and longing. Yet, Jesus also trusted completely in God and was without sin.
Jesus' actual ministry on earth was short--approximately three years. Because his teachings challenged powerful religious and government leaders, he was executed as a dangerous and seditious criminal. He died, was buried, and was resurrected by God. For Christians, this resurrection is God's most amazing miracle and proof that Jesus was indeed divine.
We believe that Jesus is as alive today as he was on the first Easter morning and that he is present with us today, even though we cannot see him or physically touch him. We call Jesus "Lord" because he has saved us from the power of death and the power of sin and because, through his sacrifice, we are able to know the fullness of God's love for us.
Christians also believe that Jesus will one day return to the earth to complete the task of creating a world where justice, peace and love rule and evil is no more. To those who believe in Christ, such an event is seen not with fear but with joyful anticipation. Because Jesus showed that not even death can stop God's purpose and God's activity, we know that we have life and hope forever.
What we believe about the Bible
The Bible is a collection of 66 individual books that together tell the story of a group of people bound by a common faith in God. It is divided into two main sections: the Old Testament containing 39 books originally written primarily in Hebrew, and the New Testament containing 27 books originally written primarily in Greek. For Presbyterians and others of the Reformed tradition the Bible is the means by which Christian believers come to understand how God has been present with humanity since the beginning of time and is present in our world today. By studying the scriptures we can begin to know of God's faithfulness, constant love and eternal goodness.
What we believe about sin and salvation
God has always been faithful to the people of Israel and to the church. Presbyterians believe God has offered us salvation because of God's loving nature. It is not a right or a privilege to be earned by being "good enough." No one of us is good enough on our own--we are all dependent upon God's goodness and mercy. From the kindest, most devoted churchgoer to the most blatant sinner, we are all saved solely by the grace of God.
Out of the greatest possible love and compassion God reached out to us and redeemed us through Jesus Christ, the only one who was ever without sin. Through Jesus' death and resurrection God triumphed over sin.
Presbyterians believe it is through the action of God working in us that we become aware of our sinfulness and our need for God's mercy and forgiveness. Just as a parent is quick to welcome a wayward child who has repented of rebellion, God is willing to forgive our sins if we but confess them and ask for forgiveness in the name of Christ.