"For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. -- Hebrews 4:12
The Scriptures are the Word of God and, as such, they are authoritative. Both Roman Catholics and evangelical Christians believe this. From that point on, there is disagreement concerning the written Word.
Evangelicals hold that Scripture alone is the Word of God. For them, the Bible alone establishes standards for faith and religious practice. It is the final authority in these matters.
Roman Catholics, on the other hand, consider the Scriptures holy and authoritative, but incomplete. They consider the RCC's body of Tradition to be equally holy and authoritative and consider it also to be divinely inspired.
The Roman church claims she is responsible for the Canon of Scripture and alone is entrusted by God to properly interpret His Word. She has established strict rules to prohibit private access to or individual study of the Bible. For centuries, the penalties for owning and reading a Bible were severe. Interestingly, God's Word was listed among the proscribed books on the 'Index Librorum Prohibitorum.'
In that special language apparently only clearly understood by RCC clergy, the Roman Church declares there has been no new revelation since the closing of the Canon of Scripture. Rome informs the Catholic faithful that oral tradition is nothing more than the teachings of the Apostles handed down through an unbroken succession of bishops. In spite of this stand, new doctrines are declared and old ones modified with alarming regularity.
The origin and authority of the written Word is unquestioned. It came from God Himself and, therefore, is backed by His authority.
Christians accept the Scriptures as being the inspired Word of God because that is what they tell us. This is not circular reasoning, however, for the statements of Scripture are supported historically by the words of Christ Himself and of the Apostles and others who contributed to the Canon of Scripture. Jesus validated many books of what is known as the Old Testament by quoting from them in His teachings. He validated the Hebrew Bible (Tenakh) when He told us:
The origin of Rome's 'Sacred Tradition,' on the other hand, is less clear. It is unsupported in Scripture, though Roman apologists will apply their eisegesis to the Word of God and point to passages which allegedly 'prove' that tradition is biblical. In doing this, they pointedly ignore that Christ and the Apostles, when referring to tradition, supported their words with passages from the Scriptures known to the Jews. They were not innovators. The Scriptures preserved God's words and Christ and the Apostles passed them along as part of Jewish tradition. What Rome does is invent new 'traditions,' claiming they are but the results of more clear understandings of what has been passed down from the Apostles.
Rome claims the Bible alone is insufficient for purposes of salvation or building up the true Church. She argues that the Bible must be supplemented by Tradition, which is equally inspired. Of course, this cannot be supported from Scripture. Nowhere does the Lord tell us that His revealed Word is inadequate for the purposes He intended. Nowhere does He tell us we must look to a body of tradition as a separate source of revelation. I think it not unreasonable to suggest that, if tradition indeed were intended to be accepted as revelation, then surely God would have mentioned it in the Bible.
In apostolic times, there existed a great body of Jewish tradition, almost all of it closely linked to Scripture, yet Paul never claimed this tradition to be divinely inspired. In fact, the Bible is utterly silent concerning the inspiration of tradition.
That doesn't stop Rome, however. By twisting and contorting God's revelation, Rome emulates the Pharisees and scribes of Jesus' time. You know, the ones our Savior so berated for having created a huge body of manmade rules and laws which, in practice, appeared to supersede or supplant the laws of God (Matthew 15:1-9).
What does the Bible have to say about tradition? Well, among other things, it warns us:
Other teachings regarding man's traditions include:
Christ validated Scripture as authoritative in His conflicts with detractors. He rebuked them with Scripture and corrected their flawed understanding, teaching and concepts.
If Messiah held Scripture to be authoritative and valid even for correcting the traditions of men, should we do less?
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