The gospel message which was rediscovered in the 16th century has often been summed up in what is known as the Five Solas of the Reformation. Although they were not articulated in this form until the 20th century, the writings of the reformers clearly teach that we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone, as revealed in scripture alone. These Five Solas are a direct response to the errors of Roman Catholicism, and mark out the differences between the reformed church and the Church of Rome. Where the Roman Catholic Church teaches that were are saved by a combination of God’s grace and our own good works, the reformers responded that it is by grace alone. Where they teach that we approach God through Christ, Mary and the saints, the response is that it is through Christ alone. To turn away from any of these biblical truths is to depart from the faith and begin the journey back into Roman apostasy. Of the Five Solas it is surely that of ‘sola scriptura’, or scripture alone, where Rome's difference with Protestantism has its root, for it is by appealing to scripture plus tradition that they are then able to support all of their other erroneous doctrines. This rejection of scripture as God’s complete and final revelation to man, and his only rule for faith and practice, is something of which the Charismatic Movement is also guilty, and by so doing it turns away from the biblical principles of the Reformation, back to the error of Rome.
What is the position of the Church of Rome as regards Holy Scripture? The Church of Rome does teach that Scripture is inspired, that it is the Word of God, and that it is inerrant. In these points Roman Catholicism and Protestantism are in agreement. Yet there is still a fundamental difference, for the Roman Catholic Church does not teach that scripture is all sufficient. The custom of Rome is always to add, and to scripture it adds the tradition of the church. Revelation 22:18 says that ‘If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book’, yet to scripture the Church of Rome adds its tradition, not as a subordinate authority, but as authority equal to the Bible. Vatican II makes it clear that oral tradition is to be accepted on the same level as scripture; ‘both sacred tradition and sacred Scripture are to be accepted and venerated with the same sense of devotion and reverence. Sacred tradition and sacred Scripture form one sacred deposit of the Word of God, which is committed to the church.’a The catechism of the Roman Catholic Church states that the church ‘does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy scriptures alone. Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honoured with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence.’b
Roman Catholicism divides its tradition into three classes; divine tradition, that oral teaching allegedly attributed to Christ; apostolic tradition, that which the apostles are supposed to have taught; and ecclesiastical tradition, that which councils and popes have decreed throughout the centuries. The official documents of the Roman Catholic Church make it abundantly clear that that each of these three classes of tradition are to be regarded as being as much the Word of God as the Bible. The teachings of a pope from the middle ages and the unwritten oral teachings supposedly passed down from the apostles and the church fathers are to be considered as divinely inspired as the sixty six books of the Old and New Testaments.
To provide a complete and detailed refutation of the Roman Catholic teaching on tradition would take considerable time and space, and is beyond the scope of this post. That said, the Roman Catholic doctrine of Tradition can be described as being nothing other than absurd. The tradition of the church is full of contradictions and cannot in any sense be accepted as authoritative. Pope Pious IX, at the First Vatican Council in 1870 stated ‘nor will I ever receive and interpret them (The Holy Scriptures) except according to the unanimous consent of the fathers’c. Yet the church fathers were never, and have never been unanimous, but have contradicted both themselves and each other. This contradiction and lack of unanimous consent is a sure sign that the tradition of the church should not be regarded as inspired and on an equal footing with the Word of God. As the light of the Reformation dawned on Europe, Luther, Calvin, Knox and the other great reformers made their appeal to the scriptures alone as their rule for faith and practice. Sadly that Reformation principle of ‘Sola Scriptura’ has been rejected by the Charismatic Movement who have also added to the word of God.
2. How the Charismatic Movement adds to the Word of God
The Charismatic Movement does not add to Scripture in exactly the same manner as the Church of Rome, yet it adds to it nonetheless. Charismatic teachers do not claim that the teachings of historic church councils, nor the works of the early church fathers should be held on a par with the Holy Scriptures. Yet they add to the Word of God by claiming that God continues to give new revelation to the church today. By claiming that God speaks to them in an audible or seemingly audible voice, that he gives new revelation through dreams and visions, through messages spoken in tongues, or by a special word of prophecy, charismatics are just as guilty as Rome is of rejecting the sufficiency of scripture. Such an erroneous view can be traced right back to the errors of the Gnostics and Mystics in early centuries of the church who also believed that they had an additional source of knowledge and teaching apart from the Word of God. For most charismatic teachers today ‘it is written’ has been replaced by ‘the Lord told me.’
One of the most popular charismatic teachers within Christianity today, Joyce Meyer, claimed that not only does she receive revelation direct from God, but that this revelation is necessary as scripture alone is not sufficient. Meyer said ‘The Bible can’t even find any way to explain this. Not really, that is why you have got to get it by revelation. There are no words to explain what I am telling you.’d Joyce Meyer claim not only to have revelation direct from God, but also from angels; ‘I certainly hope there is several angels up here this morning that are preaching with me. I believe that right before I speak some anointed statement to you, that one of them bends over and says in my ear what I'm supposed to say to you.’e Charles Peter Wagner has said that ‘we speak with God and expect him to speak with us. We can hear God’s voice. He also reveals new things to prophets as we have seen.’f Southern Baptist teacher Beth Moore has claimed on numerous occasions that God has spoken her outside of scripture, on one occasion saying ‘What God began to say to me about five years ago and I'm telling you it sent me on such a trek with him that my head is still whirling over it. He began to say to me, 'I'm gonna say something right now, Beth. And boy you write this one down.’g Space does not permit us to further multiply examples, however it is the norm for charismatics to claim to have a received a message from God, either through an audible voice, in dreams or visions or through speaking in tongues. This is not a view which is limited to the extremes of the Charismatic Movement, but is accepted by the mainstream of the movement.
The claim of charismatic teachers that they have received a new revelation from God is exceptionally dangerous, because if God has spoken to that person, then what they say must be taken with the same authority as the sixty six books of the bible. They can therefore introduce new teaching into the church with the claim of divine authority. It cannot be tested against scripture, because it has been received direct from God who cannot lie. This will ultimately result in people blindly following a preacher, rather than the word of God and will result in ‘infallible teachers’, something which we shall consider in a later post. One such example of this is found at Elevation Church, Charlotte, North Carolina. Pastored by Steven Furtick, they have supplied colouring books to their children instructing them to be united, not under the truth of scripture, but under the vision of ‘Pastor Steve’.h The vision which he has supposedly received is what is to unite them, and to disagree with him is to disagree with God. No Christian should ever accept the word of any preacher without comparing what he says with the Word of God. To follow any man rather than God is the mark, not of genuine Christianity, but of a cult, yet it is the inevitable result of accepting that God still gives new revelation to certain men and women today.
3. God’s Revelation is complete
Hebrews 1:1-2 says that ‘God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son’. The supernatural means by which God formerly revealed his word to men have ceased for the simple reason that his revelation is complete. All that is necessary for our salvation and for Christian living has been revealed in the Word of God. We have no reason to expect new revelation, and to look for God to speak to us outside of his word will result in all manner of error. The messages which charismatic leaders claim to have received from God are readily proved to be of no divine origin due to their absurdity and their contradiction of scripture. ‘When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him’ (Deuteronomy 18:22). The failure of the prophecies of charismatic leaders is clear evidence that their extra biblical revelation is actually un-biblical revelation, for the mark of a prophet is the coming to pass of that which he has prophesied. The constant failure of charismatic prophecies marks out those who have taught them as false prophets to be rejected.
Like the reformers of the 16th century we must hold to the principle of sola scriptura. The bible is our only rule for faith and practice, for it alone is the authoritative Word of God. 2nd Timothy 3:16-17 teaches that ‘All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works’. The Word of God is sufficient to make man perfect, or complete, and there is no need for any additional revelation. Once we look beyond the scriptures for our authority it is certain that sooner or later we will fall into serious error. Indeed by expecting God to speak some other way, we already have erred! Just as we reject the attempts of Rome to add its tradition to the Word of God, so we also reject the charismatic delusion that God is still giving new revelation today. It is the scriptures alone!
Next: Counterfeit Miracles
a ‘Dogmatic Constitution on divine Revelation Dei Verbum Chapter 2 Paragraphs 9-10 (Pope Paul VI November 18 1965)’
b ‘Catechism of the Catholic Church Part 1 Section 1 Chapter 2 Article 2 Paragraph 82’
c ‘Pope Pious IX First Vatican Council, Session 2, 1st January 1870’
d ‘Joyce Meyer – What happened from the Cross to the Throne’
e ‘Joyce Meyer – Witchcraft and Related Spirits Part 1 (Audiotape)’
f ‘The New Apostolic Reformation is not a Cult – Charisma News August 24 2011’