Monday, April 11, 2011

Radio Replies Second Volume: Need of Tradition

471. I accept the 6th of the Anglican Articles of Religion, as do all good Protestants.

That Article says: "Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary, so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man." But that Article is itself quite unscriptural! The last verse of St. John's Gospel tells us that not all concerning our Lord's work is contained in Scripture. St. Paul tells us that much of Christian teaching is contained in oral traditions. Scripture tells us also that the Church must teach all nations whatsoever Christ taught the Apostles. He who believes in Scripture as his only guide ends by believing in his own mistaken interpretations of the Bible, and that means belief in the infallibility of his own judgment — which is not belief in the authority of Christ. The Protestant rule of faith is incomplete, is most uncertain, and has led to hundreds of conflicting sects. The Catholic rule of faith has preserved unity amongst millions of adherents. And Christ surely gave a rule of faith calculated to preserve unity rather than produce diversity.

472. Do you place more reliance on Catholic dogma and tradition than on the Bible?

As remote sources of Christian doctrine Catholics accept equally the Bible and authentic Christian tradition. These constitute the written and unwritten Word of God. The immediate guide of Catholics is the official teaching of the Catholic Church. That Church expresses from time to time in a dogma the exact sense of some doctrine contained either in Scripture or tradition. As divine tradition can never be opposed to Scripture, and Catholic dogma can never be opposed to either Scripture or tradition, there can never be any question of placing more reliance on one than on the others. Of course, where a person's private interpretation of Scripture conflicts with a dogma of the Church, I would certainly place more reliance on the dogma of the Church than upon that person's private interpretation of Scripture.

473. Tradition is no more reliable as evidence than mere gossip or rumor.

You are using the word tradition in a sense other than that intended by the Church in this matter. We intend, as a source of Christian truth, that divine tradition which is the collection of doctrines taught by Christ and the Apostles, but which were not written in the New Testament. They have been written in various "Creeds," and "Professions of Faith," and are supported by the unanimous consent of the Fathers who lived in the first centuries and knew the Apostolic teaching. St. Paul said to Timothy, "The things you have heard of me by many witnesses, the same commend to faithful men who will be fit to teach others also." 2 Tim 2:2. The early ecclesiastical writers recorded the teachings of these "faithful men"; and those teachings are an authentic source of the revelation of Christ to be transmitted to posterity. Later, and merely human traditions, have nothing to do with this divine tradition, which has been specially safeguarded by the Holy Spirit.

474. You admit a misdirection in the Calendar.

I admit that the various compilers of our Calendar made mistakes in their calculations, and that the year of Christ's birth was earlier than the authors of our Calendar believed. But this error in the computation of time in no way affects Christianity, as a religion, nor the facts of Christianity. If a schoolboy makes a mistake as to the date when King Richard the First died, that makes no difference to the fact that he died when he did.

475. Does this involve the Catechism's disclosure that Christ lived on earth thirty-three years?

No. It must be noticed, of course, that the Catechism gives merely the accepted approximate estimate of the life of Christ. It is not a defined Article of Faith that Christ lived exactly thirty-three years. If Christ was born four years before we think He was, then He died four years before we think He did. The thirty-three years would remain as the most probable estimate of the length of His life. However, we do not claim more than probability in this matter, and the question is not of any vital importance.

476. The misdirection seems eloquent of the inaccuracy of Apostolic tradition as against the handing down of the written word.

The Calendar, whether accurate or inaccurate, in no way comes under the definition of Apostolic tradition as one of the sources of revelation. No argument based on the Calendar has any bearing, therefore, on the subject of tradition.
Fathers Rumble & Carty
1940. Imprimatur Joannes Gregorius Murray, Archiepiscopus Sancti Pauli. The second of three. A classic. Often recommended and consulted source of apologetic material.

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