Or so they say on their new CWCentral site in their ‘ABCDs’ page.
I do not know of any of the churches or movements that CW criticises that do not hold to the very basic Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds. I know this because they are taught in their Bible Schools and endorsed by the ministries.
Even the Church of England, called Anglicans in Australia, which has diverse theological stances within its communion, doesn’t insist on churches confessing to more than these creeds, even though it promotes the Thirty-Nine Articles, which includes Calvinist theology.
Yet CW insists that if you do not adhere to the CW Reformed list of confessions you are ‘severing’ yourself from historic Christian faith.
Surely Christian faith is primarily based on belief in the Lord Jesus Christ, his substitutionary sacrifice, and his resurrection, which affords salvation and righteousness to those who believe and confess him as Lord, according to the scriptures, as contained in the the recognised canon, and not on subsequent creeds, even though, as stated, there are creeds which help the universal Church adhere to some compatibility.
By the way, and I say this tongue in cheek, it’s a very obvious and profound fact that neither Christ nor his Apostles adhered to Calvinist or Reformed doctrine. Nor is Calvin or the Reformed theological camp mentioned anywhere in scripture. In other words, they have no historic or traditional effect on scripture. Scripture exists with or without them. Scripture is given for them not because of them. They are subject to it. Scripture is not subject to them.
If Calvin had never existed, and Reformed theology not entered the equation, we would still have scripture, and it would still retain its potency and relevance. In fact, we have no need of the schisms, divisions, denominations and separations from the original gospel because we have scripture and are led by the Holy Spirit. Denominational preferences are peripheral to truth, not the arbitrator of it.
1 Corinthians 3:1-3 I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?
Paul calls divisions and schisms carnal, signs of immaturity, made up of baby-talk, led by infant thinking, unspiritual. “Is Christ divided?” he asks. Our faith is in the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Head of the Church. There is one Body, one Spirit, one Lord, One God over all.
The Apostles’ Doctrine, as handed down in the New Testament canon is, according to Paul, our ‘creed’, if we needed one, with the Old Testament an essential pointer to its basic understanding. We do not live by external creeds of men, but by the full gospel – the Word of God presented to us in the Bible.
Ephesians 2:19-22 Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.
We need the whole canon, but live by the New Covenant written in Christ’s blood. Men may, through the ages, and by creeds, attempt to simplify and explain the doctrines held within the canon, but, ultimately, the final word is contained in scripture, not in creeds.
Setting an agenda for disqualifying and eliminating Christians from their faith is fraught with danger, as we have seen throughout history, where good men and women, and their children, were imprisoned, tortured and burned at the stake for their faith, because they did not adhere to some creed or dogma or tradition laid down by men.
Leaders on both sides of the divide, Catholic and Protestant, but mostly the former, have been guilty in one way or another, of destroying lives to sustain their dogmas, which is not something encouraged by Christ or by his Apostles, nor is it sound New Testament theology to base person-destructive decisions on the traditions of men.
Colossians 2:8 Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.
In fact, Paul reminds us that the traditions to which we have to adhere are contained in the gospel and the word taught by Christ and his Apostles as laid down in scripture.
2 Thessalonians 2:15 Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle.
The traditions to which we adhere are already handed to us by Christ and the Apostles, and written in the canon of scripture. Everything that follows should be a representation and confirmation of what went before, not a diversion into another set of beliefs.
However, CW makes the clear distinction that they believe Reformed doctrine formed the historic basis for faith, and those who do not adhere to it are somehow against traditional and historic Christianity. Thus, having falsely accused their target ministries of ‘forcing’ their teaching on people, which they do not, CW attempts to legitimise its own forced agenda.
But what is ‘traditional and historic’ Christianity? Is it not that which is based on the Doctrines of Christ as outlined in the New Testament?
Is there even a case for claiming ‘traditional and historic’ Christianity? Is it not the eternal and established Word of God, and therefore always current and contemporary? Why would anyone doubt that the power of the gospel is just as relevant today as it was when Christ walked the earth and the Apostles and Prophets were bringing us the canon of scripture? The scriptures are as relevant and vibrant today as ever.
Our faith is not built on religious tradition or history but on faith in the Lord Jesus Christ who lives. Indeed, the rhema refers to the living word of God. Today is the day of our salvation.
Many groups have claimed to hold to ‘traditional and historic’ Christianity, including the Roman Catholic Church, which is quite different to the Protestant Church.
Both claim to have built on the traditions of the fathers, but both have basic weaknesses which are not borne out in scripture, although it is plain to note that Protestant teaching has, in its various branches, over the ages, presented a stronger case for Biblical accuracy.
The post-Apostolic fathers have, over time, interpreted what we have received today. They did not compose the scriptures. They interpreted them. Although much of what they have said was brilliant, they were not always right. Some even had disputes over accuracy. Those disputes continue today. But the scriptures, in their purity, remain as potent and sustaining as ever regardless of the traditions of men.
The scriptures have to be our source, led by the Spirit, not tradition or history, which are useful, but not necessarily expedient.
CW have published a list which provides their own take on what constitutes ‘traditional and historic’ Christianity, which, after citing a scripture verse and the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds, proceeds to selectively list catechisms, councils and synods which ultimately steer the reader to Reformed Theology and doctrine.
CW makes the following statement, ‘We are publishing this list on Church Watch to demonstrate that our Christian conduct is not new. We conduct ourselves the way the church has been conducting itself for the last 2000 years. We all come from different church backgrounds. We hold to the ABCD‘s of the global, historical church unlike many contemporary “churches”’
They may come from different church backgrounds, but according to their list they hold to the traditions and history that lead people directly to the Reformed perspective. Not only this, but they teach and encourage Reformed theology throughout their sites, in posts, in comments, in recommended resources, in recognised churches, and in endorsed ministries.
Their extraordinary claim that we have to adhere to the Calvinist or Reformed tradition is divisive. They start with creeds which are acceptable to all Christians, then draw the reader towards their own agenda.
Here are the first three items on their list:
1 Corinthians 15:1-8 – Paul’s explanation of the gospel
Apostles’ Creed – Universally accepted
Nicene Creed – Universally accepted
Few true Christians would have any problem with these. None of the groups targeted by CWCentral would disagree with them, and, indeed, teach on them all, which means they would be at an acceptable level of conformity as Christian movements and ministries.
Then follows, in CWs list, a highly selective list of Council decisions stretching from Augustine to Luther and on to Calvin, followed by those historic decisions which have led to Reformed theology.
Definition of the Council of Chalcedon
The Canons of the Council of Orange
The Anathemas of the Second Council of Orange
The Augsberg Confession
The Apology of the Augsburg Confession
The Smalcald Articles
The Belgic Confessions
The Second Helvetic Confession (Confession of Basel)
The Heidelberg Catechism
The Thirty-Nine Articles
The Scots Confession
The Book of Concord
The Harmony of the Confessions of Faith
The Irish Articles of Religion
The Canons of Dort
The Westminster Confession
The Baptist Confession of Faith
The Theological Declaration of Barmen.
Does anyone else see a pattern here? Or an agenda?
CW has led his reader from a universally accepted set of creeds as an entrée, to a Reformed position as the main meal.
Essentially, if I showed this list to one of my Calvinist or Reformed friends they would whoop with joy and affirmation. This is no less than a journey into Calvinist and Reformed Theology.
Even the last item on the list, The Theological Declaration of Barmen, which was a noble and brave document considering its time and purpose, was based on Reformed/Lutheran theology as alluded to in ‘The Harmony of the Confessions of Faith’, where Calvinist, Reformed and Lutheran Protestants attempted to bring about unity of purpose in doctrine. But theirs is not a creed so much as a belief system.
The other major signatory to the The Theological Declaration of Barmen was the United Church, which was a unification of Reformed and Lutheran teaching in Germany where, along with their Lutheran and Reformed brethren, Christians resisted the move towards an apostate state-controlled church during Hitler’s reich.
They were essentially a Christian resistance movement, and extremely courageous, but we have to see their theology as predominantly Reformed.
More on this in another article, except to say that this declaration is forming the basis of CW theology, and is leading to a claim that contemporary churches are being based on fascist principles. Thus the CW strategic narrative and meme is being established by stealth.
Incidentally, we are not saying that all Reformed theology is evil, godless or bad, but establishing the basis behind the obsessive and relentlessly negative criticisms of various successful contemporary churches by CW, as they set their own agenda and launch attacks on the integrity and theology of their target ministries.
It is plainly evident that, more than others, some within Reformed theology have a penchant for stern opposition to any ministry that is not of their own persuasion, so CW is merely emulating the trend, albeit without acknowledging the fact, so we are doing it for them.
The CW pattern
But the pattern CW is establishing is clear – unless churches hold to Reformed theology and historic understanding they are to be considered to be against traditional and historic Christianity. CW is setting its stall. If it can show that Reformed theology is the one true ‘traditional and historic’ Christianity, all else must be renegade.
This, of course, is a ludicrous assumption. Both Lutheran and Reformed theology, despite their traditions and Christian backgrounds, have theological anomalies and weaknesses, some of which we have already discussed on this site.
They are not necessarily totally accurate to the canon of scripture. This is a debate which has continued for many years, stretching back to Calvin, Zwingli and Arminius. Doctrinal interpretation is the main reason there are so many denominations with varying understandings of scripture, so the problem is not new. Calvinism and Arminianism are just two of the distinctives within the Body of Christ which have issues that need to be addressed within their own theology.
Wesley, for instance, made adjustments to the Church of England’s Thirty-Nine Articles for the benefit of the, then, developing US Methodist Church, which removed the Calvinist elements contained within its articles. This was not expedient in England, where Methodism was formed, because the Church of England was, at that time, considered the sole State Church, whereas the US has always disallowed an official state church.
What CW has done is selectively produce a traditional and historic list of articles, councils and catechisms which direct the reader to Reformed theology as the only viable Christian option. In so doing they have shown their hand.
They have also taken another step towards their goal of accusing certain churches of being based on fascist principles, something CW is obsessed with as a result of its continued collusion with Lutheran critic Chris Rosborough, who peddles this preposterous theory.
The reality is that the only true Christian option for the man or woman of faith as a follower and disciple of Christ is to adhere to the canon of scripture handed to us through the teaching and theology of Christ himself and his chosen Apostles.
It is not hard to follow or understand for the truly born-again believer, who is led by and filled with the Spirit.
The Apostolic and Nicene Creeds are acceptable as creeds, but we do not live by creed alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.