There are two main issues that divide Protestant Catholics from Roman Catholics. Both groups claim to be catholic, that is, part of the apostolic, universal church of Jesus Christ. Roman Catholics believe we Protestants departed from that church in the sixteenth century. Protestant Catholics believe they departed earlier.
The theme of this opening chapter is one of the issues that still divides us: the source of religious truth for the people of God. (The other main issue, that of how a man is made right with God, has been dealt with in the book Justification by Faith ALONE!,published by Soli Deo Gloria in 1995.) As Protestants we maintain that the Scripture alone is our authority. Our Roman opponents maintain that the Scripture by itself is insufficient as the authority of the people of God, and that tradition and the teaching authority of the church must be added to the Scripture.
This is a solemn topic. This is no time for games. We must be searching for the truth. God has declared that whoever adds to or takes away from His Word is subject to His curse. The Roman church has declared that we Protestants are accursed (“anathematized”) for taking away the Word of God as found in tradition. We Protestants have declared that the Roman church is a false church for adding human traditions to the Word of God. Despite sincere debates by fine apologists over the course of nearly 500 years, the differences remain basically as they were in the sixteenth century. I will not say much new here, but we must continue to pursue the truth.
In spite of the difficulty of this undertaking, I am eager to join that historic train of Protestant apologists to defend the doctrine that the Scripture alone is our ultimate religious authority. I believe that it can be shown that this position is the clear position of Scripture itself. And I hope that, by the grace of God, those committed to the Roman doctrine of tradition will come to see the tragic error of denigrating the sufficiency and perspicuity of God’s own inspired Word.
According to some preachers, including one that I heard recently and what has prompt me to write this article, Christians get sick (or remain sick) because they do not have faith. This preacher I heard said emphatically that “sickness is a curse” and that “no Christian should be sick.” But since there are many Christians that are sick he asked God why:
“I asked God: Why do Christians remain sick? And God told me that it’s because they do not believe. I asked Him again and he repeated to me “because they do not believe” and of course I did not dare to ask again”.
Then the preacher continued saying something like this:
“Christians do not to go to the doctor when the first symptoms of sickness are felt in their bodies, that would be the proof of their unbelief. They need to rebuke the sickness, they need to bind little Satan and reject the symptoms. And they should consider themselves completely healed.”
Trying to define the Reformed faith simply and briefly is like taking a snapshop of the Grand Canyon at 50 yards: inevitably, something is going to get left out. Even an outline of it, though, is better than nothing at all, especially in these days when the American church desperately needs a revival of Calvinism.
That word Calvinism is much abused. Some Church of Christ believers and Baptists, for example, claim that when we of the Reformed faith use it, we are only proving their accusation that we are following a man, John Calvin. They, however, say they are following God and the Bible alone. It is really hard to believe they can be so naive, though. They read books written by and hear sermons preached by leaders of their own group and use these "man-made" works to give them a better understanding of what they believe the Bible teaches. The Reformed do the same thing with Augustine, Luther, Calvin, and others. We believe their teaching is closer to what the Bible teaches than anybody else's; we do not accept their teaching instead of the Bible. Only the Bible is infallible and authoritative; we just believe their teaching about it is superior to competing teachings.