Roman Catholicism, Sola Ecclesia, Tradition, and Romans 14

Roman Catholicism claims to be the only true church, and that it is the repository of God's word and tradition.  In fact, the Roman Catholic Church claims to tells us what the Bible really means, and its members are not allowed to interpret scripture in a manner contrary to what the church says.

" . . . no one, relying on his own skill, shall,--in matters of faith, and of morals pertaining to the edification of Christian doctrine,--wresting the sacred Scripture to his own senses, presume to interpret the said sacred Scripture contrary to that sense which holy mother Church,--whose it is to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the holy Scriptures,--hath held and doth hold," (Trent, Session 4, "Decree Concerning the Edition, and the Use, of the Sacred Books")

Protestants decry such a claim and point to Scripture alone (sola scriptura) as the final rule for everything it addresses.  Roman Catholicism responds by saying it has dipped into the well of Sacred Tradition and drawn out truths that have been passed down from the apostles through the corridors of time in its halls; and since it is the "True Church" descended through Apostolic succession, it possess the authority to guide Christianity into the fullness of the faith.  That is the claim.  Is it biblical?  No, it isn't.  But the problem is that the Catholic Church rejects sola scriptura and appeals to its own authority and tradition--Sacred Tradition that is. 

So, what is this Sacred Tradition?

"There is a formula current in Christian teaching (and the formula is borrowed from St. Paul himself) that traditional truth was confided to the Church as a deposit which it would guard and faithfully transmit as it had received it without adding to it or taking anything away . . . This deposit in fact is not an inanimate thing passed from hand to hand; it is not, properly speaking, an assemblage of doctrines and institutions consigned to books or other monuments . . . it must be represented as a current of life and truth coming from God through Christ and through the Apostles to the last of the faithful who repeats his creed and learns his catechism," (Catholic Encyclopedia, Tradition and the Living Magisterium).

So, tradition is a subjective, "current of life and truth coming from God through Christ and through the Apostles."  This means it can't be verified or tested from scripture because it isn't written.  It is "experienced."  Such ecclesiastical experience is part of the "deposit of faith" in which the RCC derives its extra-biblical teachings.  It should be obvious that such a system of spiritual truth is wrought with the dangers of adopting popular Roman Catholic trends and assertions that are claimed to be "tradition."  But beliefs, assertions, and papal decrees do not make spiritual truth--unless you're a Roman Catholic who has promised to believe whatever the Church tells you to believe because it is the church alone (sola ecclesia) that has the authority to guide you spiritually.  Remember, the Roman Catholic Church states you are not allowed to interpret the scriptures contrary to what the Catholic Church declares--as is cited above.

Romans 14:1-12

So, it is the Roman Catholic church alone that tells the Catholic what the Bible "really" means, and no one is allowed to interpret it apart from its ecclesiastical guidance.  But, let's look at Romans 14:1-12 for a bit.

"Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. 2 One man has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. 3 Let not him who eats regard with contempt him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats, for God has accepted him. 4 Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and stand he will, for the Lord is able to make him stand. 5 One man regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Let each man be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God. 7 For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; 8 for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. 10 But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God. 11 For it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.” 12 So then each one of us shall give account of himself to God." (Rom. 14:1-12).

Notice the underlined verses.  God tells us that people are allowed to have differences of opinion on debatable issues.  What are those debatable issues?  They are dietary and worship days--two highly significant topics.  If Paul tells us that each person should be convinced in his own mind, then how can it also be true that the Roman Catholic Church has to tell you what to believe?  There is a problem here.  If Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, really understood that the Church was to tell people what to believe, why did he write that each person should be convinced in his own mind--on debatable issues?  The answer is simple.  The Roman Catholic's claim to be the only true church, that has the only right to interpret scripture, and reveals "new" doctrines via its Sacred Tradition is nothing more than a fabrication not based in scripture.  It is not biblical.  In fact, it is against Scripture.



About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.