BFHU: You are very close to what we believe here. However, we would not state it quite this way. You say “Scripture is the final authority”. We would say “Nothing believed or taught by the Catholic Church may contradict Scripture”. The relevant difference is going to depend upon INTERPRETATION. Many Protestants think that they are able to infallibly interpret scripture, although they would never admit this. So, when based upon their perceived infallible interpretation, they find the Catholic Church teaching something that contradicts their interpretation they are convinced that the Catholic Church MUST be teaching heresy. When Protestants claim that Scripture is the final authority, what they are really saying is that their interpretation of Scripture is the final and infallible authority, but they would never claim the infallibility part.
As an example: The Catholic Church teaches the perpetual virginity of Mary. But Protestants will point out the scriptures about the “brothers and sisters of Jesus” and assert that the Catholic Church teaches something opposed to Sacred Scripture. They rarely explore with an educated Catholic how we can believe this doctrine in spite of the scriptures about the brothers of Jesus. They totally trust their own “infallible” interpretation.–>A Tradition of Men: Jesus had Siblings. Mary is NOT a Perpetual Virgin.
BFHU: This is a Protestant belief because they rarely understand what we mean by Sacred Tradition. Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scriptures are equal in authority in the Catholic Faith. That is because they both derived from the same exact source: The Teaching of the Apostles.
However, as you read this blog or other Catholic apologetics sources, we quote scripture in defending our faith, not because we think it is more authoritative. It is not. But, we are writing for our audience: Protestants. They believe Sacred Scripture is more authoritative or the only authority. Therefore, we quote Scripture as much as possible and appeal to Sacred Tradition as ancient historical support for our beliefs when necessary.
MONISHA:…to assert that Sacred Tradition is equal to Scripture effectively leaves the canon wide open to doctrinal addition. Since the traditions of men change, then to use tradition as a determiner of spiritual truth would mean that over time new doctrines that are not in the Bible would be added, and that is exactly what has happened in Catholicism with doctrines such as purgatory, praying to Mary, indulgences, etc.
BFHU: You are quite mistaken. As I said before Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture are merely the oral and written teachings of the Apostles as taught to them by Jesus Himself. Therefore they are equal in authority. Even St. Paul teaches this–>Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition Equal
As you said earlier, Christians believe such doctrines as the Trinity, Incarnation etc that cannot be found explicitly in Scripture alone. The Church teaches the doctrine of Purgatory, intercession of the Saints, indulgences etc as simply other things taught by the Apostles but not explicit is Scripture, the same as the Trinity, Incarnation etc..
The canon is very much CLOSED and nothing can now be added to it. New and novel doctrines cannot be added and have not been added. Let me be very clear about something often blurred in Protestant thinking. Sacred Tradition and the tradition of men are two VERY DIFFERENT things. Traditions of men may or may not be true but Sacred Tradition is True Apostolic Teaching. Traditions of men may be so wrong that they are condemned in Scripture and by the Catholic Church. But Sacred Tradition cannot change or be added to and it is never condemned but recommended by St. Paul.
MONISHA:Furthermore, if they can use Sacred Tradition as a source for doctrines not explicit in the Bible, then why would the Mormons then be wrong for having additional revelation as well?
BFHU: The Mormons are wrong because their additional revelation burst upon the scene less than 200 years ago. They have nothing to support that this new revelation came from the Apostolic Tradition or is attested by any document whatsoever in antiquity.
MONISHA:If the Bible is not used to verify and test Sacred Tradition, then Sacred Tradition is functionally independent of the Word of God. If it is independent of Scripture, then by what right does it have to exist as an authoritative spiritual source equivalent to the Bible? How do we know what is and is not true in Sacred Tradition if there is no inspired guide by which to judge it?
BFHU: Sacred Tradition is not at all functionally independent of the Word of God. The Oral Tradition/ Sacred Tradition is one part of Apostolic Teaching. Sacred Scripture/written Tradition is the other part of Apostolic Teaching. It has the right to exist because without it we lose the complete teachings of the Apostles.
Well, one could say that Sacred Tradition may not contradict anything in Sacred Scripture. And it does not. That is because they are both derived from the same God through the Apostles. And the Pope is empowered by Christ to never teach anything to the church that is in error, thereby protecting us from false traditions of men.
MONISHA:Sacred Tradition is invalidated automatically if it contradicts the Bible, and it does. Of course, the Catholic will say that it does not. But, Catholic teachings such as purgatory, penance, indulgences, praying to Mary, etc., are not in the Bible.
BFHU: Yes, Sacred Tradition would be invalidated if it contradicted Sacred Scripture. But it does not. It only contradicts Protestant Traditions and Protestant interpretation. Catholic teachings that are not found in the Bible do not, by their absence create a contradiction to the Bible. They are however found in Sacred Tradition just like the Doctrines of the Trinity, Incarnation, Hypostatic Union etc.
MONISHA:A natural reading of God’s Word does not lend itself to such beliefs and practices. Instead, the Catholic Church has used Sacred Tradition to add to God’s revealed word and then extracted out of the Bible whatever verses that might be construed to support their doctrines of Sacred Tradition.
BFHU: Quite the contrary, I am afraid. If you go back historically you will find all the unique Catholic beliefs in existence prior to the canonization of the Bible. What the Christian Church believed in the first centuries of Christianity is very Catholic. You will not find historic Christianity, prior to Martin Luther, to be anything remotely resembling Protestantism of any denomination.
We have always believed and taught the uniquely Catholic doctrines. They just happened to be found in Sacred Oral Apostolic Teaching rather than in the Written Apostolic Teachings. The Catholic Church did not use “Sacred Tradition to add to God’s revealed word and then extract out of the Bible whatever verses that might be construed to support their doctrines of Sacred Tradition.” It only appears this way to you b/c we try to use scripture as much as possible to show Protestants any possible scriptural support for Sacred Tradition b/c we know that you will reject anything that is not scripture. Protestant even reject historical affirmation of Catholic doctrine. So we do the best we can with what is in Scripture.
MONISHA:Since the Bible is the final authority, we should look to it as the final authenticating and inerrant source of all spiritual truth. If it says Sacred Tradition is valid–fine. But if it doesn’t, then I will trust the Bible alone. Since the Bible does not approve of the Catholic Church’s Sacred Tradition, along with its inventions of prayer to Mary, prayer to the saints, indulgences, penance, purgatory, etc., then neither should Christians.
BFHU: Where does the Bible disapprove of even one thing in Sacred Tradition? Or Catholic Teaching? And, are you fully aware that by rejecting Sacred ORAL Apostolic Teaching that you are left with only a fraction of what Jesus taught by trusting Scripture alone?
Mt 28:18 “And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations,baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you
Jesus told the Apostles to teach all that He commanded. He did not say teach only what gets written down in the first 100 years of Christianity.–>Which Church Did Jesus Start?