Why Is Tradition Necessary?


#1

In response to my comments concerning the necessity for an infallible interpretive authority, and in critique of the Protestant theory of Sola Scriptura, a non-Catholic friend replied as follows:

“Even if I accept Catholic doctrine as authoritative, my understanding of it would be just as fallible as my understanding of Scripture. So, simply adding another infallible source wouldn’t keep me from making errors of interpretation. What good is an infallible interpretive authority (magisterium), given that I am fallible? If I’m capable of error in my understanding of the Bible, I’m equally capable of error in my understanding of Catholic Tradition. How will Tradition, therefore, improve the situation?”

I (and my Protestant friend) would be very interested in what some of you might have to say in response to this line of thought. Thanks for your time and attention, and God bless.


#2

[quote=Donald45]In response to my comments concerning the necessity for an infallible interpretive authority, and in critique of the Protestant theory of Sola Scriptura, a non-Catholic friend replied as follows:

“Even if I accept Catholic doctrine as authoritative, my understanding of it would be just as fallible as my understanding of Scripture. So, simply adding another infallible source wouldn’t keep me from making errors of interpretation. What good is an infallible interpretive authority (magisterium), given that I am fallible? If I’m capable of error in my understanding of the Bible, I’m equally capable of error in my understanding of Catholic Tradition. How will Tradition, therefore, improve the situation?”

I (and my Protestant friend) would be very interested in what some of you might have to say in response to this line of thought. Thanks for your time and attention, and God bless.
[/quote]

There are several issues wrapped up here:

Tradition – this is the oral tradition of Christ’s teaching. The Church existed before the books of the New Testament were written and long before those books were incorporated into the canon. How could the Church exist without the New Testament? It existed based on tradition.

Interpretation – this really relates to the Magisterium, the Church’s authority to teach. When the Church tells us the meaning of tradition and scripture, it does’t err.

Now look at the results of the Catholic Magesterium – for 2,000 years the Church has taught a consistent, coherent message. In less than a quarter of that time, Protestantism has fragmented, split, re-split and re-fragmented into literally thousands of denominations.

Why do we need the Magisterium to interpret for us and to teach us? So we will not go off wandering in the wilderness, chasing false ideas, of course!


#3

Tradition in many ways *is *the proper interpretation of the Bible. Many Catholics believe the Bible is materially sufficient, in that it has all the material one needs for Christian theology, but it is not formally sufficient, in that it is not in the proper form in all cases for theology. The Bible just about has, or does have everything regarding the proper Christian faith, however Tradition gives us the window through which to view and interpret Scripture.

For instance, are babies baptized? No where in the Bible is this teaching explicitly addressed, so what should be taught? It can not be ignored, because you either can or can not baptize babies so how can one know? Well, based on Apostolic Tradition, we know they baptized infants along with adults, thus giving us the proper interpretation of the Bible with relation to this topic.

The Bible is part of a Tradition bigger than itself. Tradition is merely an amplified and more thorough teaching of what is in the Bible.


#4

Of course, your friend is correct. And this may be demonstrated by simple observation - *many *Catholics do not correctly understand what their Church teaches. And even learned Catholic theologians disagree over finer points of doctrine.

But the Church is a living Tradition. She can expound upon and clarify doctrine (as She has done many times). It is thus that Tradition improves the situation - by doing what the Bible alone can never do.


#5

Simply put, tradition is the extra biblical witness from the church. Just WHAT did the early church for some 700 years believe about the doctrinal teachings of the bible? Oh we know what the scriptures say? Any man can read the New Testament. But what exactly did Christ and his apostles MEAN, by what they said? The early Catholic church was given the interpretation of just what Christ and his apostles meant and then handed down that info over each generation.

                                          For example John 3:5. It says one must be "born of water." We all can read that. But just what did Jesus REALLY mean? To get a clear understanding of Jesus' intended meaning we must consult just what the early church wrote about that in the early centuries and the Catholic Catechism today. The church says Jesus was referring strictly to water baptism. That is what tradition is. The church's explanation of what was written down. That's why we need church tradition.

#6

[quote=Donald45]“Even if I accept Catholic doctrine as authoritative, my understanding of it would be just as fallible as my understanding of Scripture. So, simply adding another infallible source wouldn’t keep me from making errors of interpretation. What good is an infallible interpretive authority (magisterium), given that I am fallible? If I’m capable of error in my understanding of the Bible, I’m equally capable of error in my understanding of Catholic Tradition. How will Tradition, therefore, improve the situation?”
[/quote]

Hmmph.:hmmm:
This question seems to rest on a couple of unfounded presuppositions. 1. It is the position of the Catholic Church that the bible can’t be understood without the Magisterium and 2. The Magisterium teaches in such a way as to require interpretation. Both of these are incorrect.

To explain:
Point 1: The position of the Catholic Church is (and has always been) that we [laity] should read the bible and interpret it for ourselves. Here’s the punchline: we can’t overrule the interpretation of the Catholic Church when she teaches in a binding manner while exegeting scripture. This means that I can never ‘interpret’ on my own that polygamy is ok (which Martin Luther and Calvin did, actually). The Church has taught that it’s not ok, so I am not allowed to see it any other way.
Point 2: Scripture is very often polyvalent in nature. This means that several interpretations are often possible and correct (or incorrect, for that matter). The only examples of binding teaching of the Magisterium being exercised that I’ve ever seen are when a particular issue is not clear on the surface meaning of scripture alone (rather, when scripture contains polyvalent teachings which could draw opposing conclusions - although more often than not we’re told it’s a “both/and” rather than an “either/or”). When the Magisterium teaches on a subject such as this, quite often great lengths are taken to ensure that only the plain sense of what is taught in the clarifying documentation is to be taken as binding. When the plain text meaning is the only meaning to be taken, interpretation is not required - only literacy. Any attempt at reductio ad absurdum after this point is to travail the “slippery slope” of relativism, where one must interpret the meaning of every word, while not having a proper meaning to assign to any word. Such is the folly of relativism…but this is the topic of another thread…

Hope that clarifies things,
RyanL


#7

Not everything was written down but was transmitted in other ways: Lk 1:1-4; Jn 21;25; Heb 13:22; 2 Jn 12; 2Jn 13-14. These, although not written specifically within a Sacred Scripture comprize the deposit of faith that must be protected and faithfully passed down by the Church.

In a way you can think of tradition as a sacred connection between us alive today, and those who have lived and followed Christ since the beginning.

There are many types of Sacred Tradition. There are what some call big-T traditions or primary realities; these are faith essentials that may be interpreted but cannot be altered such as God as the source of life and all is good, God is love, God’s covenant with humanity, Jesus as fully human and fully devine, Jesus as the Son of God and the fullest revelation of God and human relationship, Jesus as Lord, the 10 Commandments plus the 2 from Jesus (actually the 10 commandments reflect these 2), the Church’s role protected by the Spirit to carry on the teachings of Christ. As was mentioned previously, Sacred Scripture is an essential part of tradition set in writing. Also the Apostles Creed and Eucharistic Celebrations are essential traditions. Then there are small-t traditions, these are things that have been practiced by some of the population, but are not essential interms of faith and morals such as the rosary, benedictions, candles,… Thus by tradition the Catholic Church is NOT referring to traditions of men, but Sacred Tradition that potentiates Christ’s teachings and outreach to the world.

St. Paul expressed the importance of passing along the deposit of faith through Sacred Tradition numerous times: 1 Cor 11:23; 1 Cor 15:3-4; 2 Thes 2:15; 2 Tim 2:2. Thus, we can clearly see that part of the essential seposit of faith includes more than Sacred Scripture alone. To reject such a charge, is like rejecting Scripture – both are necessary to fullness of Christian life. If either is cut off, we loose part of ourselves and Christ’s teachings. Such a thing to me seems horrible and more-- sacraligious!

Paul also talks about the importance of the bishop (the magisterium of the Church) to hold fast to the doctrine handed to them and teach it (Ti 1:9). These elders/bishops were exhorted to safeguard the gospel of Jesus from false teachers (1 Tim 1:1-7; 2Tim 2:14-19, 3:1-9). Thus, we see the responsibility of the Catholic Church for preserving and passing alonbg the truth of Christ without distortion.
Love & peace in Christ,
Bob


#8

[quote=Donald45]In response to my comments concerning the necessity for an infallible interpretive authority, and in critique of the Protestant theory of Sola Scriptura, a non-Catholic friend replied as follows:

“Even if I accept Catholic doctrine as authoritative, my understanding of it would be just as fallible as my understanding of Scripture. So, simply adding another infallible source wouldn’t keep me from making errors of interpretation. What good is an infallible interpretive authority (magisterium), given that I am fallible? If I’m capable of error in my understanding of the Bible, I’m equally capable of error in my understanding of Catholic Tradition. How will Tradition, therefore, improve the situation?”

I (and my Protestant friend) would be very interested in what some of you might have to say in response to this line of thought. Thanks for your time and attention, and God bless.
[/quote]

Because the bible tells us to “hold firmly to the Traditions” which we have been given from the Apostles.


#9

[quote=DavidFilmer]Of course, your friend is correct. And this may be demonstrated by simple observation - *many *Catholics do not correctly understand what their Church teaches. And even learned Catholic theologians disagree over finer points of doctrine.

But the Church is a living Tradition. She can expound upon and clarify doctrine (as She has done many times). It is thus that Tradition improves the situation - by doing what the Bible alone can never do.
[/quote]

:amen:

I really like that answer.

Alan


#10

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