What is Catholic Tradition?

Q. It seems strange to me that you would reject the Scriptures as our soul authority today, but you still try to establish the Catholic doctrines with it, demonstrating that you recognize its authority over their tradition.

The Scriptures are authoritative but so is Catholic TRADITION because both spring from the same SOURCE: Jesus Christ’s teaching to the Apostles.

I and most apologists cite scripture to demonstrate Catholic doctrine not because we think it is more authoritative than what Jesus Himself taught the Apostles, otherwise known as oral TRADITION, but because we know it is the only authority Protestants will consider. So we try to answer your questions and accusations using what we can find in Scripture. But don’t get the idea that our doctrines are based on such flimsy evidence. We don’t derive our beliefs like Protestants. Protestants look into scripture and then decide to formulate doctrines, unless they have received without criticism Catholic doctrine like the Trinity, Virgin Birth etc.

Our beliefs, existed before anything was ever written down. The Bible is derived from the ORAL TEACHINGS of Jesus to His Apostles and the Apostles to us.

That is why the Bible does not contradict anything Catholics believe. Both the NT and Catholic teaching originated with Jesus.

Q. You seem to understand the fact that if their Traditions contradict the Bible then they cannot be true.


Q. Unless you believe such contradiction indicates that the Bible is untrue!


Q. I trust that you would agree that if the Bible had real (rather than merely alleged) contradictions we would not accept it as The Word of God.

No. It is an article of Faith that Scripture is the infallible Word of God.

Q. Why not apply this very simple and rational principle to the Catholic Traditions as well? Those Traditions contradict not only the Bible, but one another as well!

There are no Traditions that contradict the Bible or each other. They only contradict a Protestant INTERPRETATION the Bible. That is the difference. It is very amusing to me that so many Protestants claim to have an infallible interpretation of Sacred Scripture and thus able to critique Catholic Tradition.
Q. You believe, for instance, that Christ promised that His holy Spirit would guide all Christians in a direct and miraculous way.

No, I don’t. There are some Protestant denominations that teach they are able to be led infallibly by the Holy Spirit and cite for proof of this where Jesus says,

John 14:26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

Q. You go so far as to claim that we all believe that. This is an erroneous assumption. I don’t believe that, and I am not alone.

Yeah me neither…

Q. If the Catholic theologians really did use flawless exegesis they would have noticed that Jesus was not speaking to the Apostles successors when He said those things in the upper room, rather, He was speaking directly to His Apostles only.

Exactly! You are the first Protestant I have heard say that. And therefore the promise was only given to the Apostles and their successors..the Bishops of the Catholic Church.

Q. Where do they get the notion that the Apostles successors were being spoken to in that room?

We don’t have that notion. The successors were ordained as “faithful men able to teach” and empowered by the Holy Spirit in a way that is exclusive to our Bishops and not even had by a priest, let alone the laity.

Q. We must hold to what we know His apostles taught. The Apostles were guided into all truth, and they commanded Christians in general to earnestly contend for the faith once and for all time delivered to the saints (Jude 3).

We totally agree. And that Truth is what is contained in Scripture and Tradition.

Q. Paul commanded that if any man, even one of the Apostles themselves, or even an angel from heaven were to preach any thing that contradicted that faith once delivered, they were to be accursed (Gal. 1: 6-8)!


6 Responses

  1. Jesus sought the apostles to succeed Him after his death. He gave Peter the authority over the Church as the first Bishop. (keys)
    Jesus was speaking to them personally, but He was G-d and knew that His apostles would spread His word and remembrance-He also knew that the trauma of his death would deplete their spirit-the flesh is weak-so He sent the Holy Spirit to protect them and all His teachings once He physically left the Earth.
    So–yes–Jesus knew we would remember Him daily in the Eucharist and that it would sustain us in this imperfect world.

  2. “The Scriptures are authoritative but so is Catholic TRADITION because both spring from the same SOURCE: Jesus Christ’s teaching to the Apostles.”

    I do not agree that the tradition you are referring to came from the apostles.

  3. Why don’t you agree? Based on what evidence?

  4. Based on the evidence that there is no evidence.

    As a former Catholic I can tell you that an objective view of church history yields no evidence that the apostle handed down any of those doctrines your church calls, “Sacred Traditions.”

  5. There is a multitude of evidence. You can find many of them at this site on a many interesting topics that separate Catholics and Protestants..
    The Fathers Know Best

    You will find here a compilation of what the early Fathers of the Church wrote, often against heresies, about what the earliest Christians believed often centuries before the New Testament was canonized. The topics include:

    God & Christ
    The Divinity of Christ
    The Eternal Sonship of Christ
    God Has No Body
    God in Three Persons
    The One True God
    The Trinity
    Scripture & Tradition
    Apostolic Tradition
    The Old Testament Canon
    Church & Papacy
    Apostolic Succession
    The Authority of the Pope Part 1
    The Authority of the Pope Part 2
    Origins of Peter as Pope
    Peter’s Primacy
    Peter’s Roman Residency
    Peter’s Successors
    Mary & Saints
    The Intercession of the Saints
    Mary: Ever Virgin
    Mary: Full of Grace
    Mary: Mother of God
    Private Revelation
    Faith & Science
    Creation and Genesis
    Creation Out of Nothing
    Do Miracles Still Occur?
    Morality & Ethics
    Contraception and Sterilization
    Early Teachings on Homosexuality
    The Real Presence
    Baptismal Grace
    Bishop, Priest, and Deacon
    Born Again in Baptism
    The Permanence of Matrimony
    Early Teachings of Infant Baptism
    The Sacrifice of the Mass
    Women and the Priesthood
    Mortal Sin
    The Necessity of Baptism
    Reward and Merit
    Salvation Outside the Church
    Last Things
    The Antichrist
    The Hell There Is
    Resurrection of the Body
    The Roots of Purgatory
    Non-Catholic groups
    Sabbath or Sunday
    Practical Apologetics
    What “Catholic” Means

    All with imprimatur.

  6. Thank you for your response!

    Catholic Answers covers a pretty broad spectrum of Catholic tradition. Therefore, I thought it would be fitting to point to just one topic and see if it tends to support your claim. The topic that seems most relevant to me for the time being is “Apostolic Tradition.” So with that in mind, let me give you my observations on what I discovered at Catholic Answers.

    The first and oldest source provided is a quote from Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History concerning Papias. Here is the quote as it appears on Catholic Answers:

    Papias [A.D. 120], who is now mentioned by us, affirms that he received the sayings of the apostles from those who accompanied them, and he, moreover, asserts that he heard in person Aristion and the presbyter John. Accordingly, he mentions them frequently by name, and in his writings gives their traditions [concerning Jesus]. . . . [There are] other passages of his in which he relates some miraculous deeds, stating that he acquired the knowledge of them from tradition” (fragment in Eusebius, Church History 3:39 [A.D. 312]).” (Catholic Answers; Apostolic Tradition)

    Now here is the contextual quote taken from Ecclesiastical History:

    And Papias, of whom we are now speaking, confesses that he received the words of the apostles from those that followed them, but says that he was himself a hearer of Aristion and the presbyter John. At least he mentions them frequently by name, and gives their traditions in his writings. These things we hope, have not been uselessly adduced by us.
    But it is fitting to subjoin to the words of Papias which have been quoted, other passages from his works in which he relates some other wonderful events which he claims to have received from tradition.

    Where Eusebius says Papius mentions Aristion and John by name, and gives their traditions in writings, Catholic Answers inserted “concerning Jesus.” Eusebius didn’t say or even imply that Papias that the traditions were concerning Jesus, he said, “in their writings,” something Catholic Answers dubiously left out. By doing that, they created the premise that Papius’ writings revealed unwritten teachings of Christ. Your source, Catholic Answers, is not looking too credible.

    The only thing Catholic Answers has accomplished by using Papias, as a reference for apostolic tradition, is to show that there is a record of some sort of tradition dating back to apostolic times. But what that tradition is Catholic Answers does not say. Is that because they don’t know, or is it because they don’t want us to know?

    When read in context, one can see that Eusebius never mentions even one so-called Sacred Tradition. He does, however, talk about a particular belief that Papias claims came from unwritten tradition. This is found in paragraphs 11-13.

    11 The same writer [Papius] gives also other accounts which he says came to him through unwritten tradition, certain strange parables and teachings of the Savior, and some other more mythical things.

    12 To these belong his statement that there will be a period of some thousand years after the resurrection of the dead, and that the kingdom of Christ will be set up in material form on this very earth. I suppose he got these ideas through a misunderstanding of the apostolic accounts, not perceiving that the things said by them were spoken mystically in figures.

    13 For he appears to have been of very limited understanding, as one can see from his discourses. But it was due to him that so many of the Church Fathers after him adopted a like opinion, urging in their own support the antiquity of the man; as for instance Iranaeus and any one else that may have proclaimed similar views.

    Papius claims to have received unwritten tradition from Aristion and John that proclaims a 1000-year reign of Christ on Earth after the resurrection. But Catholic doctrine expressly rejects this view. Even on Catholic Answers own website one can find the evidence that they disagree with Papius:

    “As far as the millennium goes, we tend to agree with Augustine and, derivatively, with the amillennialists. The Catholic position has thus historically been ‘amillennial’” (Catholic Answers; The Rapture)

    So the apostolic tradition Papias actually recorded contradicts Catholic teaching, yet Catholic Answers passes this off as support for Catholic tradition. What does that tell you about what the early church believed?

    Would you like my synopsis on the quote from Irenaeus next? Or how about a specific doctrine like, the perpetual virginity of Mary; do you have proof that doctrine came from the apostles?

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