Why We Should Be Reformed Catholic
The role of tradition in a Protestant/Reformed theology is much broader and deeper than I can ever hope to go into here.
On the one hand there are Roman Catholics and other unbelievers who ignorantly mock the notion that Word and Spirit lead us into all truth because of the supposed abundance of disagreements within the Church.
On the other hand there are Roman Catholics and other unbelievers who piously shun the notion that Word and Spirit lead us to make such unflinchingly dogmatic affirmations of particular doctrines within the Church.
So it is a lose-lose situation for Roman Catholics and other unbelievers. The Roman Catholic fight is against Protestantism after all, which presupposes a unified body. Other unbelievers analogously attack Christianity as a unified body, but there must be more doctrines held in common than not if the enemy is to be identifiable.
There are, sadly, Protestants who join the two aforementioned groups in mistakenly believing that Word and Spirit lead to disagreement. They have taken the Protestant principle of protestation against an established religious authority and exchanged it for an all out rejection of catholicity. They implicitly affirm hyper-Protestantism.
But they do so contrary to Luther, Calvin, and the other Reformers. The Reformers not only knew their Church Fathers well, but followed them very closely in articulating their defense of sound Protestant doctrine from the text of Scripture. They were exceedingly catholic.
To equate Word and Spirit with the currently popular theological methodology of just me, Jesus, and my Bible is to side against the Reformers, the Word, and the Spirit, for Reformed theology is the truest expression of the faith gleaned from that same Word and Spirit. And the aforementioned theological methodology is nothing new. The Reformers were pressed on one side by an apostate church. But do not forget that they were pressed also on the other by the Anabaptists – the Radical Reformers – who followed a strategy similar to the hyper-Protestants. There is nothing new under the sun.
History has shown quite clearly that those who affirm strange doctrines upon the basis of alleged exegesis divorced from the context of the Church fall quickly into error. Hyper-Protestantism is a universal ingredient in the Cookbook of Cults. A rejection of catholicity and orthodoxy, whether implicit or – sometimes – explicit is a sure sign of arrogance and error.
Pride comes before fall. In order for one to affirm, against the testimony of the Church, that some doctrine is true, one must believe his or her own exegesis stemming from the methodological approach of just me, Jesus, and my Bible has revealed something that the vast majority of great thinkers of the catholic church either missed or got completely wrong. Those great thinkers had access to the Word. They had access to the Spirit. They had access to the Church. They had access to what we do today and more. They were great men of the faith who were gifted with some of the keenest intellects the world has ever seen. When the majority of them say something about a teaching of Scripture, we would do well to listen.
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