Catholicam et Apostolicam

July 9, 2013 — 2 Comments

“On Scripture and Tradition”

What are the sources of teaching authority in the Catholic Church? What are the sources of teaching authority in the Protestant church?  The image below demonstrates the difference. This difference is a key reason why I choose the Catholic faith over the evangelical/Protestant faith. During this article I will attempt to justify my belief on this issue while allowing the reader to discover for him or herself which option is best.

Image

First, I will outline the Protestant or evangelical belief to the best of my knowledge, which is based on light research. If you notice any mistakes or would like to clarify a point, then please make a comment below. I’m more than happy to change what I write if it is incorrect.

Let’s take a look at a few biblical verses that appear to support sola Scriptura, or Scripture alone as a basis for teaching authority and doctrine.

1) “All scripture is inspired by God and isuseful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work,” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

2) “I have applied all this to Apollos and myself for your benefit, brothers and sisters,so that you may learn through us the meaning of the saying, ‘Nothing beyond what is written,’ so that none of you will be puffed up in favor of one against another,” (1 Cor. 4:6).

3) “These Jews were more receptive than those in Thessalonica, for they welcomed the message very eagerly and examined the scriptures every day to see whether these things were so,” (Acts 17:11).

For Protestants, these verses are convincing. Apparently, they show that Scripture is the only standard in Christianity. Why, then, do I disagree with the Protestant reading of these passages? In the first quote from Timothy, note that Paul says that Scripture is useful, not that Scripture is the only authority in the Church. There is a difference between usefulness and unique power. In the second quote from 1 Corinthians, Paul is quoting a common saying from Jewish schools around the Roman Empire. The instructors would teach their students to write by exactly copying the instructor’s letters. In the context of this passage, then, Paul is asserting that the Corinthians should follow Apollos and him exactly. They should not part from Paul’s arguments and Paul’s doctrine. Furthermore, the New Testament had not been fully written or compiled when Paul wrote 1 Corinthians.  He could not possibly be telling his friends in Corinth to follow books that had not yet been redacted! In the third quote from Acts, we find that Scriptures help to support the Christian message, which they do. However, we find no comment about sola Scriptura in this verse. Clearly, these verses demonstrate that Scripture is important and necessary; however, they do not in any way suggest that the Bible is the only source of Christian teaching.

Now, let’s consider a few biblical verses that support the Catholic understanding of the sources of Christian doctrine.

1. “So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by our letter,” (2 Thess. 2:15).

2. “What you have heard from me through many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will be able to teach others as well,” (2 Tim. 2:2).

3. “So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ” (Rom. 10:17).

4. “’But the word of the Lord abides for ever.’ That word is the good news which was preached to you” (1 Pet. 1:25).

5. “Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me,” (Luke 10:16).

These verses make the following obvious: not only what is written is essential, but also what is spoken. Additionally, Paul commands his followers to entrust the truth to “faithful people.” These faithful people, in Catholic understanding, make up the Church. They pass on the fundamentals of the faith throughout the ages. The faithful do not contradict Scripture in the slightest; they fortify it and complement it.

The Catholic Church is apostolic and universal. She follows the teachings of the apostles who built the Church founded by Jesus in Matthew 16. These apostles and their successors shaped what we know today as the early Church. These men and women called their church “catholic” as early as the late 1st century and the early 2nd century. We cannot reject the apostolic Church, for in doing so we reject the Church of Christ. Jesus says, “Whoever rejects you [the apostles], rejects me.”

For more information on this subject, I suggest the following web page: http://www.catholic.com/tracts/scripture-and-tradition

Please leave a comment if you have a question or a statement to add. May the Lord bless you in abundance. May He unite you with the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church founded by Himself.

–David

2 responses to Catholicam et Apostolicam

  1. 
    Mike Marcinkowski July 10, 2013 at 2:28 am

    Hi David, Thanks for being so faithful with your blog! I enjoy reading your posts — they definitely provoke good thought and discussion. From a Protestant perspective, I would says the following: There is a difference between that which is “the ultimate authority” and that which is “useful and instructive.” Like Catholics, I read other Christian books besides the Bible that I think are helpful to my Christian walk. That said, the “book” with the ultimate authority in my life is the Bible, and I believe that there are no other books, doctrines, or philosophies that parallel it in transformative power. Though the verses you have chosen to represent the Protestant perspective are valuable, they would not have been my top 3. Instead I would have chosen as support for my belief that the Word of God alone is the ultimate authority, the following:

    John 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

    Matthew 4:4 “Man shall not live on bread alone but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”

    Hebrews 4:12 “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

    Matthew 24:35 “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.”

    Isaiah 55:11 “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
    It shall not return to Me void,
    But it shall accomplish what I please,
    And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”

    No other book, doctrine or philosophy IS God. Nor is it our very sustenance. Nor is it living and powerful such that it is a discerner of the heart’s intent. Nor will it live forever. Nor will it always prosper in the thing for which it was sent. I believe that the “renewing of the mind” spoken of in Romans 12 come with the daily meditation on nothing other than the living Word of God. Nothing else has the kind of power described in these verses.

    So, though I find value in other Christian books, nothing has the “life authority” that the Bible does, — or more accurately — that the Word of God does (both written and spoken).

    • 

      Dear Mike,

      Thank you for your response. The verses that you quote emphasize the “Word.” What makes you think that the “Word” refers to the 60-some books of the Protestant Bible? In my opinion (and–I might argue–in the opinion of the vast majority of academic biblical scholars), the “Word” refers to the second person of the Trinity–Jesus. The original Greek translation of “Word” is LOGOS. LOGOS translates into English as “Word,” but it really means “message.” Jesus is the message sent from heaven. He is the bearer of a message of good news, which he preaches. Additionally, Jesus is involved in the act of creation. God “speaks,” and his “Word” becomes real. If you have a moment, please check out the following web page, which explains what the scriptural authors mean when they write about the “Word”: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09328a.htm
      I hope to hear from you soon.

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