Should Catholic tradition have equal or greater authority than the Bible?

I expect to do post that relates to this subject in the near future, and my approach will look something like altruistico’s. Note that altruistico is not hostile or judgemental. He just presents his case.

When it comes to our interpretation of the Bible, why should we refrain from hostility? Consider the number of different religious denominations. With few exceptions, each is based upon their founder’s particular interpretation of the Bible. In some cases, the founder of a new denomination did not even intend to start a new denomination. But that is how the founder’s adherents chose to work out their differences with the church they came from.

So what point will I being trying to make? I guess we will get to that after I write my post.


Should church traditions be accepted as equally authoritative as Scripture? Or, should church traditions be followed only if they are in full agreement with Scripture? The answer to these questions plays a large role in determining what you believe and how you live as a Christian. It is our contention that Scripture alone is the only authoritative and infallible source for Christian doctrine and practice. Traditions are only valid if they are built on the firm foundation of Scripture and in full agreement with the entirety of Scripture. The following are seven biblical reasons supporting the teaching that the Bible should be accepted as the authority for faith and practice:

(1) It is Scripture that is said to be God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16), and it is Scripture that has the repeated, “Thus saith the LORD…” In other words, it is the written Word that is repeatedly treated as…

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23 thoughts on “Should Catholic tradition have equal or greater authority than the Bible?

  1. Protestants, Orthodox and Catholics all agree on the first 4 Church councils. We agree that God created the whole universe, the Bible is the word of God, Jesus was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, died on the cross for our sins and rose from the dead and if we believe that He died and rose for us, we have eternal life in Heaven = 7 things we all hold together.

    Catholic tradition can have whatever authority Catholics want it to have.


    1. Agreed. There some aspects of what Catholics believe that I find somewhat dismaying, but Catholics uphold what C. L. Lewis would have described as mere Christianity.


  2. A puzzling post, as is the linked article, in that neither seems to have any particular context. It would be helpful to understand what element(s) of Catholic tradition the writer feels is inconsistent with Scripture. I suppose you intend to elaborate on that point when you weigh in.

    A relatively small point regarding Altruistico’s exegesis: the early Church Councils not only decided what writings would form the Canon, they also decided (either actively or passively) what writings would be excluded. In the latter sense, they did “give” the Scriptures to the lay community. Nonetheless, I take his (her?) point that the Church is not the source of the writings. It was the self-appointed (or, in those days, state-appointed) filter through which the writings were sorted out and deemed orthodox. Those not so deemed were largely lost or forgotten.


  3. Apologies: “is” should read “are” in third line. Haste and grammar are often not compatible, especially for those of us who are English-challenged.


    1. I had heard the misinformation about the Bible being canonized at The First Council of Nicaea too. At one time I was somewhat taken in too. Nonetheless, I decided to investigate, and that definitely is not what happened. With respect to content, the Bible arrived at its present form by about 200 AD.

      Here are some references for you.


  4. Thanks , I went in to see the original site and read it and am following the site , looking forward to more of your post on this subject


  5. Actually, I didn’t mention the Council of Nicaea, more known for our Nicaean Creed than anything else these days. I was thinking more of the Councils of Carthage, Hippo, Rome and Trent. But, if your point is that these Councils were reacting to external practices, it’s a fair point. The content of the Canon is something that seems never to be pinned down with precision. Even Martin Luther felt that some of the books were of lesser authority or more dubious provenance than others (James and Revelation, for example). In my German Bible, James, Jude, Hebrews are grouped with Revelation at the end of the sequence because of those types of reservations. Hebrews to me is one of the most profound and challenging books in the NT, but I have no idea who wrote it or where it comes from. (As I look back on that last sentence, I guess the same could be said of almost all the other books other than the six or seven that must almost surely be authored by Paul – but not knowing the authors or their history doesn’t diminish their content).


  6. The usual legend is that Constantine forced early church leaders to agree upon what to include in the Bible. Hence, I presumed you were referring to the Council of Nicaea, and I noted that with respect to content, the Bible arrived at its present form by about 200 AD. All the other church councils you listed occur at a latter date.

    Nicaea = A.D. 325
    Carthage = A.D. 419
    Hippo = A.D. 393
    Rome = A.D. 382
    Constantinople = A.D. 381
    Trent = A.D. 1545

    The other issue is whether the Roman Catholic Church (or early church fathers) gave us the Bible.

    Did the latter church councils give us the Bible? I don’t think so. I see it as the problem of the chicken and the egg. Generally (as the Council of Trent tends to indicate most clearly) church councils occurred in response to factionalism. What happens when we divide and a revolutionary faction starts protesting? Don’t we respond by taking a closer look at what we believe? Thus, what these church councils did is reaffirm what was already known to them. Oddly, when it comes to reform, Christians look to the past and the beliefs of the early church. That’s because our tendency is to drift from the Truth.

    Consider the example of the Council of Trent. What was the best the Roman Catholic Church could do to reaffirm its “right” to canonize scripture? That council added what Catholics call the deuterocanonical books and Protestants call the Apocrypha. Yet except for that term “canonized,” does anybody really have significant disagreement about those books?

    For all practical purposes, the various church councils certified what was already known to them. Had they done any differently, we would still be arguing about what should be included in the Bible. Instead, we argue about how it came to be.


  7. The phrase “gave us the Bible” is a false scent. The Church simply lent its imprimatur to a set of documents in circulation and said this selection and sequence is the universe of accepted Scripture and anything that differs is heterodox or perhaps even heretical. I agree with you that indications are that the Canon (content, if not sequence) was more or less in place by common usage in most early churches rather early on. Bishop Irenaeus’s efforts fairly settled that John should be included as a fourth Gospel, for example (not a trivial decision, by any means). That was in the late Second Century. But Bishop Athanasius’s Easter letter of 367 A.D. post-dated Irenaeus and Nicaea and indicates that content disputes continued well into the Fourth Century. The process of coming to a conclusion on content and sequence was ongoing and extended into the 16th Century and, to a minor extent, even beyond (hence my reference to Luther’s misgivings). Trent and the 39 Articles kind of put the lid on it for Roman Catholics and the English Church (respectively). Barring some Dead Sea Scroll or Nag Hammadi-like discovery (and there have been a few 20th century surprises) of unimpeachable authenticity, I doubt that the Canon will ever change for the mainstream Western Christian churches short of the Second Coming.


    1. I doubt we actually have much disagreement on this, but the topic interests me.

      It is unfortunate you don’t seem to like altruistico’s post. Shrug. Has anyone ever been able to please everyone. If I could afford it, I could go to street corner and start giving away money. Generous, right? But don’t we both know someone would get mad?

      Because of the Roman Catholic Church’s emphasis on church authority, some Protestants respond with that loaded phrase “gave us the Bible”. When Catholics focus too much on the process of canonization, the role of councils, and overly emphasize the role of church “fathers,” one thing leads to another.

      Keep in mind both the history and the basic issue: “Should Catholic tradition have equal or greater authority than the Bible?” altruistico argues that scripture should be the final authority. However, if it is church authorities who determine what scripture is authentic, altruistico’s argument pointing to scriptural authority starts to look rather weak. If the authority of scripture depends upon the authority of church “fathers”, then logic suggests church “fathers” have more authority than scripture.

      Consider also the basis for the Protestant Revolution. What was the justification for the revolt? Protestant would say an abuse of authority. As teachers, church leaders certainly have a role, but men tend to abuse authority, and I think God knows that. Hence, I think it unfortunate when church leaders claim more authority than they can justify with scripture.

      If you are curious about it, altruistico does have a post on how we got the New Testament.

      I tend to go along with the explanation offered by altruistico and here.


  8. I said nothing about Altruistico’s post other than that it would help to identify where there was a conflict between Catholic orthodoxy and Scripture. It was a lot of words, many of which are quite rational, but with no particular point. I assumed you would fill that in in due course.

    I happen to believe that there are a few examples of disparity (some trivial) or even conflict between Roman Catholic orthodoxy and Scripture, but the Altruistico post was extremely abstract. If you or he/she can fill that in, then we know what we’re talking about.


  9. PS: re the links to earlier posts by Altruistico, a minor quibble: when St. Paul quotes “Scripture”, it is not the synoptic Gospels, but the Hebrew Bible. Pauls writings likely precede the Matthew, Mark, Luke, John series.


    1. I don’t recall seeing where Altruistico says Paul quotes one of the four Gospels.

      At any rate, when historians date the books of the Bible, I have my doubts. If they don’t believe what the Bible says, they will not date books correctly because they do not take the prophecies seriously. Even if they do believe the Bible, the best they can do is date their earliest copies. I doubt we have many of the originals. Nonetheless,I agree that most or all Paul’s writings probably predate the Gospels.


  10. You’re right. There’s no such thing as an “original manuscript” for any of the Books of the Bible. (Which I don’t find at all surprising. What surprises me is how much we have managed to preserve over centuries despite the fact that there are no “originals”)

    Check the links you provided. Altruistico and others sometimes assert that St. Paul quotes Luke with reference to the saying about feeding the threshing ox. Of course, that statement is in the Old Testament and both Luke and Paul were very familiar with the Hebrew Bible.


  11. Back to your original question… I believe the answer is NO…The traditions of any denomination should not have equal or greater authority than the Bible. I believe the Word alone should be looked to as the only source of Divine Truth in today’s time.

    Just because certain teachings or practices have been in existence for centuries does not prove their validity nor does it dictate they are to continue to be followed. Each one of us will stand before our Lord someday and will be held responsible to the Word He has given to us.

    There is not on shred of Biblical evidence that says that we will be held accountable for keeping traditions and practices of men simply because they are “traditional”. We are held accountable to follow the Word of God alone. Whether it is practiced in the form of a tradition or not really makes on difference to the issue..

    Lord bless you Tom. I enjoy reading all of your postings.


    1. I agree. If the Word of God is the Word of God, then it stands to reason that the Word of God should be authoritative. And the Bible itself says that it is the Word of God.

      When we don’t treat the Bible as the Word of God, we have taken issue with the fact the Word of God is the Word of God. To do that, we must put things of our own invention ahead of God. As Hebrews 10:26-31 explains, that’s not a trivial issue.

      The problem is getting to the point to where we believe the Bible. On our own, we cannot. That is the work of the Holy Spirit. We can only pray and encourage each other to read the Bible, and we can only encourage each other to go to people like you, someone who can help us to understand what the Bible says.

      Thanks for being there. May our Lord bless your labors.


  12. So what traditions of the Church are in conflict with Scripture? Without that bit, the rest of the discussion is fairly abstract and meaningless.


    1. I agree that bloggers should write each post so that it either stands alone or links to appropriate supplemental material, but sometimes we don’t. So here is the answer to your question. Use the search function. Go to =>

      If you type “Catholic” in that little box where it says “search this site,” you will get the same results as going to this link.

      altruistico has written various posts that explain his disagreement with various Catholic traditions.

      Alternatively, you can read this.

      Of course, during the period of the Reformation, there was also a Catholic Reformation. So many of Luther’s complaints no longer apply.


    2. @ scout
      Per your request.

      If nobody minds, here are a few that some pretty good minds find fault with:

      -the tradition of papal succession and authority
      -the tradition of holding to ‘no marriage’ for men leaders (meanwhile the alleged first pope had a wife)
      -the church tradition of teaching and promoting transubstantiation
      -the tradition of absolute belief in papal infallibility (meanwhile Paul rebuked Peter for some careless practice)
      -the tradition of holding to faith plus works equals salvation; plainly contradicting the Lord, Paul, Peter, and James

      Rest here.

      -the teaching of water baptism to remove sin
      -the teaching of a human to absolve others of real sins
      -the teaching of the tradition of Purgatory (meant solely to relieve the miscreants of an unrepentant and Godless life)
      -the tradition of Mary as Saviour through her sinless life (her alleged sinless life)
      -the tradition of ‘last rites’ to once more hope for favour

      Time fails to document the ramifications of these at this site, but there are these and more. Plese keep in mind ‘the devil believes in God and trembles,’ so it is not impressing for people to hold to things that require no ‘change of life.’ Born again’, as Tom as alluded,in other places, suggests a changed mind, heart and soul, which becomes evident in a new life.

      The tradition of the RCC does a fine dance of NOT insisting upon the new life which is commanded by the LORD.


  13. Thank you, guys. Now we’re talking. That’s much better. Each of these issues could carry its own post, both historically and theologically.


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