Bible vs. Tradition

Let me start here by saying that "Bible vs. Tradition" isn't a good title. Perhaps I'll come up with something better before I'm done typing, but if not, I'm sorry. :-)

Virusdoc has once again dragged me into a Catholic or Prodestant debate today. Try as I may to fight it, this blog is turning into a place to entertain that discussion because of his exploring of the Catholic faith as his own. On the whole it's not a bad thing, but I just hope that folks don't think that I came to the web to talk about Catholicism vs. Protestantism. Actually, his post was quite good and asks some honest and pointed questions.

He points out that most evangelicals put their faith in the Bible unequivocally. Nothing holds any authority over it. I would probably put myself in that category. He also points out that most of us have not done any in-depth study, or probably any study at all, in the origins of scripture. We believe in it because men we know and trust have told us it's reliable, it's consistent and it's worked for us. Until very recently, I would have put myself in that category too. I say until very recently because it was one of many 'conversations' with VirusDoc that pushed me to dig deeper for answers to his probing questions. More on that later.

I find much to disagree with and question in his post today, but I'd rather not get into that today. At the end of the post he asks,

"So, my request to you (particularly if you are a devoted Protestant) is the following: help me understand how the choices of the evangelical protestant to follow the teachings of Scripture are at all different from the choices of the earnest catholic to follow the teachings of the Catholic Church on Mary?"

He bases that on the fact that, as stated above, both the average Catholic and Protestant base their beliefs on their faith in their leaders and the fact that it seems to work. They haven't done any research into the validity of the Bible or the teachings on Mary, they just go with it.

Frankly, he's right. For most followers of either faith, their reasons for doing so are similar. At that level, there is no real reason to choose one over the other. But the question for me becomes is that the only level to think about it? Just because most don't dig for deeper reasons, does that mean that none exsist? If I find myself confronted with no good reason to believe a certain way (as 'doc has done here) I must dig deeper (being aware of the dangers of Intellectual Inertia) and find out if there is a reason to hang onto it or if it should be thrown out. So with VirusDoc asking tough questions, I dug for answers. I discovered an article about the origins of scripture. I'm sure that there are more,in fact John Oakes points out a couple, but this site cane recommended by a man I have a great deal of respect for. Since we are dealing with the NT primarily, I only read that section of it. In it I found reasons to hang on to my belief that scripture is the place to go for the ultimate authority on what Christianity is.

Before I tell you what those reasons are, let me say that I do believe that God can reveal Himself to us in other ways. Each person experiences God in a different way, but I do believe that those experiences will match with the teachings of scripture and that they must be subject to them. So here are m reasons, pretty much from that article, of why the Bible is the ultimate authority:

  1. The early church used the New Testament There is ample evidence that what we know of as the New Testament was codified as the official documents of the faith by the churches by around 200 AD or so. It shows that all the churches were using the same books.
  2. The New Testament Canon was approved by the apostles themselves. I had assumed that some committee of scholars from various backgrounds had gotten together to put the canon together. No, it was done long before there were various backgrounds in Christianity. The evidence suggests that the basis for choosing the books of the Bible was that the apostles, those who had seen Jesus, themselves held them as the inspired standard.
  3. They are highly accurate. Despite the fact that there seems to have been no effort to preserve the original writings or even to research their validity until the 1400's, today we have thousands of texts with parts and sometimes all of the NT and it has proven to have been accurately handed down. There are very very few discrepancies of any consequence in the manuscripts. Remarkable for a book of it's age.

To me the history and teachings of any religious group, Catholic or otherwise cannot live up to the actual evidence for the Bible: in place with in a few generations, approved by the founding fathers (apostles) and reliably handed down for centuries without significant error. The words of men, no matter how learned or in what position, are still only the words of men. They may be profound, wise and worthy of obedience, but they are not scripture. It's a matter of evidence. There is ample evidence that the NT is what it claims to be, the blue print upon which Christianity was built. As far as the teachings or traditions of the Catholic or other churches, there is little evidence to support the idea that God wants them to be treated with the same respect as scripture.

8 Comments

Good points. I'd like to also point out that there are obvious contradictions between Catholic tradition and the Bible. For example, the Bible states that Joseph "knew Mary" whereas the RCC claims she was a perpetual virgin; the Bible says "there is one mediator between God and men" whereas the RCC chooses to use Mary as a mediator; the Bible says "There is none righteous," and "All have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God" while the RCC says Mary never sinned and she ascended to heaven.

Concerning Bird's three examples of contradictions between Marianist doctrine and the Bible:

Do you ever ask anyone you know to pray for you? Then you are asking someone other than Christ to "mediate" between you and God. This is precisely the same understanding that Catholics have: brothers and sisters in Christ, alive or dead, share a real and tangible communion and can pray for one another. Mary is not seen as a kind of legal mediator, who bargains with God for our salvation. Only Christ can do this according to the RCC.

Where does the Bible say that Joseph "knew Mary"? I can't find such a reference at all. I think the stronger case can be made from Biblical references to Jesus's brothers--although of course the RCC plays this off as a spiritual term.

If we are to interpret the "all have sinned" passage as literally as you do, then what about Jesus? He must have sinned, too. I do think this is the strongest biblical case against the sinlessness of Mary, though.

Erik,

Good point on the mediator thing. I don't have anything off the top of my head for that right now, so I won't respond to your response. ;-)

About your other points, I should have been more clear. The bible doesn't say "knew her" per se, so I apologize for the misunderstanding. Here's what the Bible says:

Mat 1:24 And Joseph, being roused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took his wife,

Mat 1:25 and did not know her until she bore her son, the First-born. And he called His name JESUS.

Here's how The Message puts it:


Mat 1:24 Then Joseph woke up. He did exactly what God's angel commanded in the dream: He married Mary.

Mat 1:25 But he did not consummate the marriage until she had the baby. He named the baby Jesus.

About "all have sinned." Since Jesus was God in the flesh, he obviously does not apply to "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" because he is God! ;-)

If there are some contradictions between the RCC and the Bible, then is one "wrong" and the other right?

I am skeptical to put my faith in something besides the Bible for many of the pts. salguod mentioned - when there is a disagreement. Nevertheless, I do read other commentaries and learn from them.

Mary was an amazing woman whom God used to bring His Son into the world. It was indeed an immaculate conception. But does this make Mary worthy of deification? I think not.

Let's keep God and Jesus in their Proper places and let's respect Mary and stand in awe of what God did through her and as such award her a proper place.

I believe the Bible does that.

Just a quick note before I head out on a date with my 6 1/2 year old to say that I fixed the typo in the middle of my post. The link to the John Oakes article should work now.

J

One quick comment: You wrote It was indeed an immaculate conception

I think we would all agree with that. However, unless I'm mistaken, when the RCC refers to the Immaculate Conception they are referring to the conception of Mary, not the conception of Jesus. In other words, that Mary's conception was immaculate and that she was without sin.

I'm open to correction on this if I've bollixed that! Let me know :-)

Bill, you are correct, sir. The IC is about Mary being supposedly born w/out sin, not Jesus. I couldn't tell from J's post whether he was talking about Jesus or Mary's conception.

Knowing 'J' as I do (he's from my church, thanks for the comments, bro!) I'm sure he meant Jesus. I also don't think that the Catholic church teaches Mary's immaculate conception and not Jesus', they believe in both.

I would second the question he asked, though. What happens for the catholic when tradition adn scripture conflict, especially with ideas like those about Mary we are discussing that have been declared 'infallible'? If they are equally valid, how does one reconcile it?

That's one of the reasons that the idea of scripture as ultimate authority mases sense to me. Historical research has shown these documents (the NT) to not only be reliable to the originals, but to be what was settled on as the standard by the early church and the apostles themselves. To me this means I have a consistant definition of what Christianity was and is and I can 'fact check' those teaching me (see Acts 17:11) That's powerful and reasuring, knowing I'm not relying on another man's ability to 'get it right'.



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  • Bill, you are correct, sir. The IC is about Mary being supposedly born w/out sin, not Jesus. I couldn't tell from J's post whether he was talking about Jesus or Mary's conception. ...

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  • Just a quick note before I head out on a date with my 6 1/2 year old to say that I fixed the typo in the middle of my post. The link to the John Oakes article should work now....

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