Thursday, August 24, 2006

Scripture and Tradition (Part 3)

Part 3 of Kevin Cauley's article on Catholic Tradition.

First, there is no doubt that the apostles expected first century (and beyond) believers to accept their words as gospel truth. Acts 2:42 states, "And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers." We have an obligation today to continue in the apostles' doctrine as well. But notice this: the obligation is to continue in the APOSTLES' doctrine, not what someone else SAYS to be the apostles' doctrine. The only way to KNOW what the apostles' doctrine was, is to go back to the things that the apostles themselves said and wrote. This entails acknowledging the source documents as authoritative, but not necessarily secondary sources.

Not if you believe God promised he would give us a Church through which he would protect both oral and written doctrine and preserve it throughout time. A simple look at writings of the Early Church and the Church today on matters such as the Eucharist, the Trinity, Baptism, Communion of Saints, etc, will show the beliefs are the same now as they were then.

This is a good explanation:

In this discussion it is important to keep in mind what the Catholic Church means by tradition. The term does not refer to legends or mythological accounts, nor does it encompass transitory customs or practices which may change, as circumstances warrant, such as styles of priestly dress, particular forms of devotion to saints, or even liturgical rubrics. Sacred or apostolic tradition consists of the teachings that the apostles passed on orally through their preaching. These teachings largely (perhaps entirely) overlap with those contained in Scripture, but the mode of their transmission is different.

They have been handed down and entrusted to the Churchs. It is necessary that Christians believe in and follow this tradition as well as the Bible (Luke 10:16). The truth of the faith has been given primarily to the leaders of the Church (Eph. 3:5), who, with Christ, form the foundation of the Church (Eph. 2:20). The Church has been guided by the Holy Spirit, who protects this teaching from corruption (John 14:25-26, 16:13).

Second, we must remember that during the first century, men and women were directly inspired by the Holy Spirit to speak the gospel message. Jesus said to the apostles in John 16:13 "Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come." Much of the inspired teaching that occurred in New Testament times was oral in nature. Jesus taught the apostles orally. The apostles, in turn, taught the first Christians orally. It wasn't very long, however, before the inspired began to write down their Holy Spirit given messages to be preserved for all Christians everywhere. However, the quality of being inspired isn't the same as receiving and delivering tradition. Inspiration can't be wrong; one's uninspired reception and delivery of tradition CAN be wrong. Herein lies the difference. Yes, individuals were expected to obey apostles and any other individuals who could PROVE they were inspired of God. But once inspiration ceased, the obligation to accept tradition as authoritative ceased as well.

Catholics believe the apostles did have a special kind of insipiration, one that was very individual and allowed them to speak infallibly on matters of faith and morals, and to receive revelation directly from God and share it, and that this particular kind of inspiration was unique to them. But we also believe God promised the Church as a whole, after the full deposit of faith had been given to the apostles and preached, would be protected by the Holy Spirit in preserving that which the apostles teached once and for all.

Third, there is no evidence to suggest that the apostles wanted men to believe a succession of church leaders over the inspired words that they spake and wrote. In fact, Paul made it clear that he expected no one to believe anything less than what he himself directly received from the Lord. In Galatians 1:11,12 he wrote, "But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ." We can understand Paul to say here that the message he taught was given to him directly by God and that he held no expectation for anyone to believe anything less than that. His teaching and preaching wasn't "after man" nor did he "receive it of man" nor was he "taught it" by man. The meaning is clear; Christians have no obligation to respect such teaching when it does not contain authority that is directly from God Himself.

We agree! But again, we believe that what "he himself directly received from the Lord" IS what the Church preserved and has passed on and teaches orally and through scripture. It is not of man, it is of God, and therefore we absolutely agree with this and believe ourselves to be following it.

Finally, we can be confident that in these documents they recorded everything that they taught orally.

I don't know about that...

...this truth is not limited to the Bible, but also includes prophetic and apostolic proclamation and oral tradition, as well as teaching not included in the Bible itself, as seen in the following biblical passages (RSV):

Mark 4:33 With many such parables he spoke the word to them . . .

In other words, by implication, many parables are not recorded in Scripture.

Mark 6:34 . . . he began to teach them many things.

None of these "many things" are recorded here.

John 16:12 I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.

Perhaps these many things were spoken during His post-Resurrection appearances alluded to in Acts 1:2-3. Very few of these teachings are recorded, and those which are contain only minimal detail.

John 20:30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book.

John 21:25 But there are also many other things which Jesus did; were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.

Paul told Timothy that everything that he needed to know to be a faithful man of God was found in the scriptures ( 2 Timothy 3:15,16).

John Henry Newman has this to say about that passage, which explains the Catholic view well:

"Now, a good part of the New Testament was not written in his boyhood: Some of the Catholic epistles were not written even when Paul wrote this, and none of the books of the New Testament were then placed on the canon of the Scripture books. He refers, then, to the scriptures of the Old Testament, and, if the argument from this passage proved anything, it would prove too much, viz., that the scriptures of the New Testament were not necessary for a rule of faith."

Furthermore, Protestants typically read 2 Timothy 3:16-17 out of context. When read in the context of the surrounding passages, one discovers that Paul’s reference to Scripture is only part of his exhortation that Timothy take as his guide Tradition and Scripture. The two verses immediately before it state: "But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim. 3:14–15).


Further, it is clear that the oral teaching of Christ would last until the end of time. "’But the word of the Lord abides for ever.’ That word is the good news which was preached to you" (1 Pet. 1:25). Note that the word has been "preached"—that is, communicated orally. This would endure. It would not be supplanted by a written record like the Bible (supplemented, yes, but not supplanted), and would continue to have its own authority.

This is made clear when the apostle Paul tells Timothy: "[W]hat you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also" (2 Tim. 2:2). Here we see the first few links in the chain of apostolic tradition that has been passed down intact from the apostles to our own day. Paul instructed Timothy to pass on the oral teachings (traditions) that he had received from the apostle. He was to give these to men who would be able to teach others, thus perpetuating the chain. Paul gave this instruction not long before his death (2 Tim. 4:6–8), as a reminder to Timothy of how he should conduct his ministry.

Peter said that everything that the Christian needed for life and godliness they had through the knowledge of Jesus Christ ( 2 Peter 1:3). We know that Jesus promised that His words would never pass away ( Matthew 24:35).

Neither of these verses contradict the idea that the Word of God is both oral and written, we absolutely agree all we need to live a Christian life was given by Christ, and we agree His Words will never pass away. We just have a different definition of what "His Words" are.

When we couple these facts with the truth that God always keep his promises ( Hebrews 6:17,18), we have irrefutable evidence that the scriptures are all that we need in order to live the kind of lives that God wants us to live today.

I only see one verse you quoted that mentions scripture, and it says it's profitable, not sufficient, and it is referring to Old Testament scriptures, as that is all they had at the time. The other verses are as easily applied to the Word of God as oral and written.

I suppose the crux of the matter is, while you believe the authority and tradition the apostles had passed away, we believe it was passed down, and necessarily so.

We believe Christ promised us a Church to make sure that the teachings would be protected:

Christ instructed the Church to preach everything he taught (Matt. 28:19–20) and promised the protection of the Holy Spirit to "guide you into all the truth" (John 16:13). That mandate and that promise guarantee the Church will never fall away from his teachings (Matt. 16:18, 1 Tim. 3:15), even if individual Catholics might.

Another quote from Newman, which I think explains the problem of having scriptures without an authority to interpret them correctly:

"Surely then, if the revelations and lessons in Scripture are addressed to us personally and practically, the presence among us of a formal judge and standing expositor of its words is imperative. It is antecedently unreasonable to suppose that a book so complex, so unsystematic, in parts so obscure, the outcome of so many minds, times, and places, should be given us from above without the safeguard of some authority; as if it could possibly from the nature of the case, interpret itself. Its inspiration does but guarantee its truth, not its interpretation. How are private readers satisfactorily to distinguish what is didactic and what is historical, what is fact and what is vision, what is allegorical and what is literal, what is [idiomatic] and what is grammatical, what is enunciated formally and what occurs, what is only of temporary and what is of lasting obligations. Such is our natural anticipation, and it is only too exactly justified in the events of the last three centuries, in the many countries where private judgment on the text of Scripture has prevailed. The gift of inspiration requires as its complement the gift of infallibility."

Anyway, thanks for inviting me to read your series of articles. I have to say, though, that there was nothing I read that I hadn't heard before, and nothing I hadn't previously considered. But I appreciate the effort.

God Bless!


Kevin Cauley said...

Thank you for linking to my articles on our web site. I appreciate your taking the time to write your comments.

Stephanie said...

No prob! I'm afraid you won't get much traffic from my humble blog, though, I mainly keep it as a folder for the stuff I write so that I can refer back to when necessary, I doubt I have many readers. ;-) But I certainly wouldn't reference something without providing a link.

Thanks for visiting! Peace and blessings to you!