by Matt Slick
In my dealings with Roman Catholics the subject of tradition invariably comes up. Roman Catholics put a great deal of emphasis on their, so-called, sacred tradition which the Roman Catholic church asserts is equal to Scripture
"...the Church, to whom the transmission and interpretation of Revelation is entrusted, does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence," (CCC, par. 82).
In Roman Catholicism you can see that Scripture and tradition are to be considered with equal reverence. This means that Scripture is not superior to tradition. Of course, this makes sense considering the numerous un-biblical doctrines that the Roman Catholic Church has added throughout the centuries.
In light of that, I am proposing a series of questions. Of course I do not believe that any Roman Catholic will answer them all. But I propose them for possible consideration. Some of the questions are better than others and maybe in the future might refine the list. But for now, I hope they serve to foment discussion and examination on what sacred tradition is and how it can be known to be true or not true.
- What exactly is Sacred Tradition?
- How is Sacred Tradition declared to be such in the Church?
- What is the means of The Church determining what is true Sacred Tradition?
- Did the Apostles intend for there to be Sacred Tradition or is Sacred Tradition something invented by the Church?
Sacred Tradition and particular verses
- 2 Tim. 2:2, "The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also." How can this verse be used to validate Roman Catholic Sacred Tradition when its context is that Paul was instructing Timothy to entrust what he said to faithful men who can then teach others? Nothing is there about then transferring that knowledge down an apostolic line with intended apostolic authority.
- 1 Cor. 11:2, "Now I praise you because you remember me in everything, and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you." How can this verse be used to validate Roman Catholic Sacred Tradition when its context is either about avoiding idolatry or the restating the tradition concerning head-coverings, authority, and prayer. There is nothing here about RCC Sacred Tradition where authority and tradition is passed down from apostle to aposlte.
- 2 Thess. 2:15, "So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us." How can this verse be used to validate Roman Catholic Sacred Tradition when its context is about the return of Christ, not about apostlic succession? There is nothing here about RCC Sacred Tradition where authority and tradition is passed down from apostle to aposlte.
- 2 Thess. 3:6, "Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep aloof from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us." How can this verse be used to validate Roman Catholic Sacred Tradition when its context is about working hard and not being idle? There is nothing here about RCC Sacred Tradition where authority and tradition is passed down from apostle to apostle.
- Matt. 15:4-6, Jesus said, "For God said, ‘HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER,’ and, ‘HE WHO SPEAKS EVIL OF FATHER OR MOTHER IS TO BE PUT TO DEATH.’ 5 “But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever I have that would help you has been given to God,” 6 he is not to honor his father or his mother.’ And by this you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition." Does this teaching of Jesus speak against tradition in general or a specific kind of tradition? If so, which kind?
- Mark 7:8-9, "‘BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.’ 8 “Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.” " Do you see this verse as a warning about the tradition of men? If so, what are the traditions of men?
- Col. 2:8, "See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ." Paul warns about the traditions of men. How do you determine the difference between good tradition and bad tradition? Remember, if you say the Church tells you then you are assuming a tradition to validate tradition and that is a fallacious argument.
Sacred Tradition's Transmission Through The Centuries
- How is Sacred Tradition transmitted in the Church through the centuries?
- Is Sacred Tradition transmitted through the centuries orally, by written record, by divine revelation, is it invented and then voted on, or is it a combination of these?
- If is a combination of these (as mentioned above), when which options are the right ones?
- If the means of transmission of Sacred Tradition is not known, then how can Sacred Tradition be true?
Sacred Tradition Via Oral Transmission
- Is the transmission of Sacred Tradition a verbal communication from one person to another down through the centuries regarding ancient theological teachings that originated with the Apostles?
- If sacred tradition is a verbal communication, then does the person know that he is communicating actual Sacred Tradition when passing it on to another person or is he unaware he is doing so?
- If such a person is aware, then how does know he is conveying authentic information and not mere heresay?
- If he is not aware, then how is actual Sacred Tradition discovered amongst the plethora of rumored statements declared by the Apostles?
- If Sacred Tradition is a verbal communication from person to person down through the centuries, how can it be determined to be a reliable transmission since people routinely make mistakes in reciting concepts to other people?
- If Sacred Tradition is a verbal communication from person to person down through the centuries, then who are these people?
- If there are people who possess the knowledge of Sacred Tradition, how are they recognized as being the one's who possess this Sacred Tradition?
- If it cannot be determined who these people are who are privilaged to convey the verbal communication of Sacred Tradition, then how can Sacred Tradition be trusted at all since it would not be known from whence it comes?
- Can aspects of Sacred Tradition contradict each other if they are orally transmitted through different people, at different times, in different churches?
Sacred Tradition Via Written Transmission
- If the transmission of Sacred Tradition is a written record from one person to another from the Apostles, can the Church produce this written record?
- If the transmission of Sacred Tradition is a written record passed down from one person to another, can it be verified that such records originated with the Apostles or the disciples of the Apostles?
- If it cannot be verified that the transmission of Sacred Tradition is a written record from one person to another from the Apostles, then why should we trust it?
- If the Church cannot produce this written record, then does that mean that Sacred Tradition is verbal only?
Sacred Tradition Via Transmission By Divine Revelation
- If Sacred Tradition is obtained by divine revelation, then is it equal to Scripture?
- If Sacred Tradition is obtained by divine revelation, then how is it verified to be of divine revelation?
- If Sacred Tradition is obtained by divine revelation, then who are the ones who receive this divine revelation?
- If Sacred Tradition is obtained by divine revelation because the church says it is obtained by divine revelation, then how do we know such a claim is true?
Sacred Tradition Via Transmission By The Holy Spirit
- If Sacred Tradition is invented by ecclesiastical authority, is such invention guided by the Holy Spirit?
- If Sacred Tradition is which is invented by ecclesiastical authority and is under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, then how do we judge the validity of such a claim?
- If Sacred Tradition which is invented by ecclesiastical authority is not guided by the Holy Spirit, then should we trust it?
- If Sacred Tradition which is invented by ecclesiastical authority under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, then is it new revelation?
- If such Sacred Tradition is new revelation, then would you agree that it is not obtained by apostolic succession and is, therefore, not really Sacred Tradition?
- If Sacred Tradition is received by the Holy Spirit through the church, then should such Sacred Tradition be enscripturated since it would be inspired?
Sacred Tradition Via Ecclesiastical Authority
- If there is Sacred Tradition which is invented by ecclesiastical authority is validated by Scripture, then is Scripture superior to such ecclesiastical authority?
- If there is Sacred Tradition which is invented by ecclesiastical authority and is claimed to be valid because the the ecclesiastical authority says it is valid, then how is this not Begging the Question and therefore is invalid?
- If ecclesiastical authority validates Sacred Tradition, then is ecclesiastical authority superior to Sacred Tradition?
- If ecclesiastical authority validates Sacred Tradition, then is ecclesiastical authority superior to Scripture?
- Would you agree that if Scripture is superior to Sacred Tradition, then it means that Sacred Tradition is not equal to Scripture?
Validation Of Sacred Tradition
- How are potential verbal communications determined to be Sacred Tradition or not Sacred Tradition?
- If Sacred Tradition is assumed that God will work through the Church to reveal it, then why ought such a position be assumed?
- If one says that Sacred Tradition is reliable because God ensures that it is reliable through The Church, then how do you know this is true since just saying it doesn't make it so?
- If Sacred Tradition is validated by the church's authority, how do we know that any particular church denomination (Catholic, Orthodox, et. al) has the authority from God to approve Sacred Tradition since they disagree with each other, yet each claims apostolic authority?
- If Sacred Tradition is validated by the churches authority, then isn't Sacred Tradition subordinate to the Church?
- If Sacred Tradition is subordinate to the Church, then is the Church the determiner of all spiritual truths?
- If the Church is the determiner of all spiritual truths, then isn't it above Scripture?
- If the Church is above Scripture, how can it be determined whether or not the Church is teaching the truth?
- If you say the church is correct because the Bible says there's apostolic authority in the church, then are you not judging the validity of the church based on your interpretation of Scripture?
- If Sacred Tradition does not need to be validated by Scripture, but is claimed to be true because the Church says it as true, then how do we know that the Church is correct if Scripture is not consulted?
Validation of Sacred Tradition Via Scripture
- Should Sacred Tradition, whatever it is, be compared to Scripture or is it not subject to Scripture?
- If Sacred Tradition is subject to Scripture, then does that make Scripture the final authority? This supports Sola Scriptura.
- If Sacred Tradition is not subject to Scripture, then it is its own standard?
- If Apostolic Sacred Tradition cannot be verified by Scripture, then why should we assume that it exists?
- If Apostolic Sacred Tradition cannot be verified by Scripture, then how do we know it is true?
- If Sacred Tradition is not subject to Scripture, then doesn't that effectively put Sacred Tradition on equal footing as God's inspired Word?
- If the means of verifying Sacred Tradition is practiced apart from Scripture, then can you tell us what that means of verification is, so we know examine it?
Validation of Sacred Tradition Other
- If Sacred Tradition is used to validate Sacred Tradition, then isn't that Begging the Question which is an invalid form of reasoning?
- If Church Councils are used to validate Sacred Tradition, then which church council is correct and why?
- If you cannot reveal the means of verifying Sacred Tradition, why should we trust any so-called Sacred Tradition?
- If the Apostles intended for there to be Sacred Tradition, how is this assertion verified?
- If the Apostles did not intend for there to be Sacred Tradition if it cannot be found in Scripture, then how is Sacred Tradition true?