“Catholics abandon sola scriptura in favor of tradition”?

I think not.

Catholics don’t abandon Sola Scriptura.  In order to abandon a doctrine, we would have needed to hold it to begin with.  I, for one, don’t believe that the early Christian Church held it, and thus, neither does the Catholic Church in the modern world.

Beyond this, from a Catholic standpoint, Sola Scriptura is a fiction.  In order to abandon a doctrine, we would have to believe it really exists.  Jim can claim that true Protestants hold to Sola Scriptura all he wants.  Yet when I look out, I see a Protestant world so steeped in tradition that they can no longer even recognize it or distinguish it from what they believe the Bible says.

Apart from tradition, scripture doesn’t exist.  People would feel this tension acutely, if we used language accurately (though this would be laborious).  The words “scripture” and “Bible” are shorthand.  Anyone who has studied textual criticism and the history of the canon knows that, when Jim says “Only one thing that really counts- the unwillingness of the Reformed/Protestant to abandon Scripture …”, what he really means is “Only one thing that really counts- the unwillingness of the Reformed/Protestant to abandon manuscript traditions of their traditional canon of Scripture ….”

I realize manuscript traditions are not usually what the Catholic Church means when speaking of Tradition.  However, we can draw a point from this; No tradition – no Bible.  Though not arriving at the statement from exactly the same direction, the following from Dei Verbum is still fitting in this discussion:

Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, then, are bound closely together, and communicate one with the other. For both of them, flowing out from the same divine well-spring, come together in some fashion to form one thing, and move towards the same goal.

Scripture and Tradition “form one thing.”  You can’t have one without the other.

You know I’m still your buddy, right Jim?

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17 Replies to ““Catholics abandon sola scriptura in favor of tradition”?”

  1. “I, for one, don’t believe that the early Christian Church held it, and thus, neither does the Catholic Church in the modern world.”

    So it’s your opinion that makes or breaks Catholic Church teaching? 🙂

  2. Ok. So that sentence was poorly written. “The early Christian Church didn’t hold it, and thus, neither does the Catholic Church in the modern world. (P.S. I agree with them)”

  3. Interesting that Jim West, despite the fact that he reads this blog assiduously, won’t come here and defend his views.

    1. Actually he responded with another post, after which I responded with another post. Some times we go back and forth in comments and sometimes through posts. We’ve also have “no hard feelings” conversations on FB from time to time. Social media has changed blog commenting a bit.

  4. I don’t think I’m tracking with you on tying tradition/canon/manuscripts/Scripture all together. The Church did not “create” the canon; they “confirmed” it, as Ryrie would say. The issue of heresies gave opportunities for the Church to articulate orthodoxy as revealed IN SCRIPTURE.

    1. Matt,
      There are a couple of things I disagree with you just in those few sentences. But, let’s assume for the sake of argument your distinction between “create” and “confirm” :

      “confirmed” on the basis of what?

      And why do you accept this “confirmation” of the church?

  5. Ok I see that that conversation will end in us agreeing to disagree.
    I was compelled to respond because you said, “I see a Protestant world so steeped in tradition” (I do appreciate the personal pronouns that denote that this is your opinion) Surely All denominations are steeped in tradition, but the issue of where one finds authority is where I am not tracking with you. Traditionally, Protestants may hold to Sola Scriptura, but Protestants do not find their authority in that tradition, but in the Scriptures alone.

    1. We can always agree to disagree, but I will just leave with one example that I used in a post after this one. I question how seriously a group that offers grape juice at communion practices Sola Scriptura. I know, why does it always have to come back to wine? 😉 But, I use this example only because I know what community you worship in.
      The truth is, I joke about this with folks sometimes, but I do think it is important (imagine that – a Catholic believing the elements used in communion are important). If Jesus used wine, but now a community thinks they need to use grape juice to protect the weaker brother or something like that, I think this actually impugns Jesus. Did Jesus not have the weaker brother in mind?
      Beyond that, I think that any attempt to say that Jesus didn’t use wine is eisegesis in the service of a man-made tradition. But, it is a common enough practice to try to show that he did use grape juice.

  6. Hmmm the old Protestants use grape juice argument. Some use wine. That is an argument of interpretation and not authority.

    1. Matt, (again, I’m a Methodist now), doesn’t that shed light on the fact that Protestants have a ‘to each his/her own’ mentality with no real authority based in Scripture?

    2. Matt, I think we are actually closer on this than when we started. And I think we are closer than might appear because this almost exactly my point.
      This is an argument of interpretation, but I think you have a false dichotomy here. From my point of view, we cannot separate out interpretation from authority. While Scripture is certainly the authority from which we all draw, it is the interpretation that actually has authority in the life of the church. And more often than not, interpretations come from tradition, whether in Protestant Churches, Catholic Churches, Eastern Churches ….
      Thus, if interpretations are decisive in the life of the church and these interpretations often stem from traditions, that is why I don’t see Sola Scriptura as possible. Now, I don’t think this means that everyone has to become Catholic. Joel rejects Sola Scriptura and has remained happily Protestant, as well as quite a number of others that I know. I think at least the doctrine sounds better as Prima Scriptura.

  7. Joel, no offense, but your denominational affiliation does not shed light on anything for me.
    Jeremy, while you think I am making your point, I think you are making mine. I never said interpretations were decisive. Because they are not is why I think one should hold to Sola Scriptura. Yes we all draw from Scripture. Yes we interpret it differently. The absolute then is Scripture alone. Unless you don’t believe in absolutes, then this conversation becomes utterly useless. Please don’t read into this comment. I am not in any way offended by anything. Just want to dialogue about an important issue. Thanks for your courteous responses.

    1. Matt, that’s fine. You and I are buddies. And what are friends if we can’t talk about things that are important candidly? I initially wrote this post because Jim is a friend.
      But, the truth is I am just not following your logic. Because the funny thing is, that you say Scripture alone is absolute, but I’m the one who actually ends up with an absolute on the matter that I brought up. If you go to a Catholic Church, you take wine at communion. If you go to a Protestant Church, it’s up in the air. So, somehow a system that is supposed to have a single absolute authority doesn’t produce a consistent result, whereas a system that accepts the authority of Scripture, Tradition, and Magisterium does.

    2. Well, Matt, I could give you my entire background, but it is rather fundamentalist, anti-catholic, pro-sola scriptura.

      How can Scripture Alone be absolute when Tradition put it together, and Tradition interprets it?

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