Final Authority and Tradition


When it comes to final authority, the Roman Catholic church teaches that three authorities exist.  The 1994 Catechism of the Catholic Church declares:

"It is clear therefore that, in the supremely wise arrangement of God, sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture, and the Magisterium of the Church are so connected and associated that one of them cannot stand without the others.  Working together, each in its own way, under the action of the one Holy Spirit, they all contribute effectively to the salvation of souls."  (Pg. 34, #95)

So here we see, that along with Scripture, "tradition" (teachings handed down throughout the ages), and "magisterium" (the task of giving an authentic interpretation of the word of God) are associated so that one of them cannot stand without the others.  In other words, "tradition" and "magisterium" are on equal grounds with the Scriptures.  This is enforced by:

"Sacred Scripture is the speech of God as it is put down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit.  And (Holy) Tradition transmits in its entirety the Word of God which has been entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit." (Pg. 31, #81)

And should these authorities disagree with each other the Catechism states:

"The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living, teaching office of the Church alone.  This means that the task of interpretation has been entrusted to the bishops in in communion with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome."  (Pg. 32, #85)

Thus, the final authority being the Roman Catholic Church!  This too, is stated in the Catechism:

"For, of course, all that has been said about the manner of interpreting Scripture is ultimately subject to the judgment of the Church which exercises the divinely conferred commission and ministry of watching over and interpreting the Word of God."  (Pg. 39, #119)

Thus concluding that the Scriptures are not sufficient in itself.

Nowhere do we see that the Scriptures were given only to an elite group to explain it to others.  It is also interesting that the statement above by the Roman Catholic Church  should be #119 in the Catechism.  Do you know what Psalm 119 concerns?  It concerns a person heeding the word of God.  The Bible says it is a lamp unto the feet of ALL who heed it:

"Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." (Psalm 119:105)

 Every "young man" is expected to "heed" God's word:

"Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word." (Psalm 119:9) 

The Roman Catholic church makes claim that only its leadership can interpret Scriptures.  But  Scripture itself is opposed to that idea:

" prophecy of the scriptures is of any private interpretation. (1 Peter 1:21)

Nowhere within Psalm 119 does it say that a Rabbi must explain God's word, and nowhere in the Old or New Testament was the Roman Catholic there to interpret and explain the Scriptures.  

Every person who is born again has the Spirit of God dwelling in him, and it is the same Holy Spirit who will give us  understanding of the Scriptures and guide us into all truth.  It doesn't say an elite group will guide us into all truth, but the Holy Spirit will:

"Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come." (John 16:13)

And Jesus said:

"If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth."  (John 8:31, 32).

Jesus didn't say continue in the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, but in His word.  God gave us the Bible.  Every word of it proceeds from the mouth of God (Deut. 8:3)

The only final authority is the word of God. The Bible declares it is the only authority:

"Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth." (John 17:17).

Whatever a person teaches, it must agree with Scripture, it is the final authority. 

The Catholic church talks about "tradition" standing equal along side the word of God.

The Bible says much about "tradition."  In the New Testament, the words "traditions" and "tradition" occur 14 times.  There are eight references (Matt. 15:2,3,6: Mark 7:3,5, 8,9,13) in which Christ makes statements about traditions, which are derogatory.  In Colossians 2:8 and Galatians 1:14, Paul makes five references, which are derogatory.  Peter also has one reference (1 Peter 1:18) which is derogatory.  There are only three favorable references left concerning tradition.  

In the New Testament Gospel, Jesus publicly rebuked the Pharisees about their traditions:

"Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.  For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men..." (Mark 7:7-8)

What the Pharisees did was elevate their tradition above the word of God.  Doesn't this sound like the Roman Catholic Church?  They have elevated themselves and tradition above the Holy Scriptures.  Jesus' condemnation of the Pharisees was because their traditions led people to a path of eternal destruction.  Jesus says destruction awaited them:

"Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?" (Matthew 23:33)

"Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves."  (Matt. 23:15)

Then we have the Pharisees questioning Jesus because His disciples were transgressing their traditions, but Jesus turned and questioned them:

"Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?" (Matthew 15:3)

Jesus let them know they were elevating their traditions above Scripture.  It was the opposite with Jesus; He elevated the Scriptures above tradition.  He told them they were in err, not knowing the Scriptures:

"Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God." (Matthew 22:29)

Like the Pharisees, the Roman Catholic Church elevates tradition above Scripture.  But we are given a warning in the Bible:

"Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ."  (Colossians 2:8)

The traditions of the Pharisees perverted the word of God, rendering it ineffective (Matt. 15:1-9).

Now for the three favorable references concerning tradition.

"Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the traditions as I delivered them to you." (1 Cor. 11:2)

"Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word or our epistle."  (2 Thess. 2:15)

"Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us." (2 Thess. 3:6)

Nowhere in the above verses does it refer to the Roman Catholic traditions that have developed in past centuries, tracing back to the time of the Apostles.   

The following refer to the time each practices were either A) first introduced, B) formulated, C) adopted by council, or D) proclaimed by a pope:

Even with the above stated, there was much dissension by Catholic scholars concerning certain doctrine.  For instance, at the Council of Trent, not everyone thought the Apocrypha was Scripture.  Nacchianti and Bonuccio rejected the idea that tradition held equal footing with the Scriptures (Gerrit C. Berkouwer, The Second Vatican Council and the New Catholicism Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965, p. 93).  And not all believed the pope should be considered infallible, nor did some of them accept the idea of Mary's immaculate conception (See encyclopedia articles on Vatican II and August Bernhard Hasler, How the Pope Became infallible: Pius IX and the Politics of Persuasion, Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1981, pp. 189ff.)

There are many more Scriptural abuses that could be added to the list above: monks, nuns, monastaries, convents, holy week, Ash Wednesday, holy oil, Palm Sunday, All Saints Day, relics, novenas, St. Christopher medals, charms, incense, forty days of lent, etc. etc.  The above is nothing more than human inventions that have developed throughout the centuries.  Not one of these traditions can be found in Scripture. 

As far as the three favorable Scriptures relating to tradition?  Whatever was taught orally, was eventually put down into writing.   

During the time of the Apostles, the Scriptures were still developing,  and whatever was taught orally by the Apostles was eventually written down.  This is even indicated by Paul.  He presents to them what he earlier taught them orally:

"For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you,"  (1 Cor. 11:23) 

He also says:

"Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?" (1 Thess. 2:5)

So here Paul is writing and elaborating what he had told (orally) them previously.  And when it comes to "tradition," it has to do with what the Apostles commanded them earlier, but now have it in writing:

"Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us."  (2 Thess. 3:6)

Peter also says:

"Moreover I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance."  (2 Peter 1:15)

It is obvious Peter is relating to what he had said earlier so they will remember.  He wanted them to remember for there were some who were already trying to corrupt the word of God:

"For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God:" (2 Cor. 2:17)

Something documented in writing is more reliable than trusting in oral teachings which inevitably is less accurate, even within ten minutes of its transmission.  Could you imagine over a period of many centuries?

People searched the Scriptures, it was their final authority.  We should follow the same example:

"These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so."  (Acts 17:11)

 Jesus says:

"...If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.  He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings..."  (John 14:23-24)

What the Apostles taught was not Catholic doctrine.  For that matter, Catholicism did not exist.  Either God's words are taken as final authority or the teachings and traditions of the Roman Catholic church.

"Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away."  (Matt. 24:35)

As harsh and unpopular as it sounds, we are admonished to avoid anyone who teaches doctrines which are opposed to Scriptures:

"Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.  For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hears of the simple."  (Romans 16:17-18).

"But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed."  (Gal. 1:8)

"As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed."  (Gal. 1:9)

Nowhere in Scripture does it say God gave the final authority to the Roman Catholic Church.  

What will be your final authority?  Will you search the Scriptures?

"These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so."  (Acts 17:11)


Are you "noble" enough, brave enough to face the fact that somewhere down the line, the system of the Roman Catholic Church has go astray? Christ jesus does not say for us to go to ANOTHER system of faith, but to HIM for all your needs! Only HE is God, and a Church, a REAL New Testament kind of church exists only to preach the Gospel, and train familes to live for God according only to the Bible!

Come out and visit some churches in Blarney or Mallow that are endeavouring to do just that! You will be pleasantly surprised, and blessed when you do come!