Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Extra-Biblical Oral Tradition?

  • Preliminary Points:
          -The Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches teach that Scripture alone is an insufficient guide for Christian doctrine and that Jesus Christ gave the twelve apostles infallible oral tradition to pass on to future generations. It is claimed that we need to submit to an infallible interpreter of Scripture in order to properly understand its message.
          -Apologists for these groups have attempted to construct a biblical case for their their church's claims by citing various Scripture passages such as 2 Thessalonians 2:15, John 20:30, 2 John 12, 3 John 13, John 21:25, 2 Thessalonians 3:6, and 1 Corinthians 11:2. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to provide a solid defense of Sola Scriptura against these biblical objections. It also strives to show the ultimate futility behind claiming extra-biblical oral tradition. 
          -While it is true that the Bible never presents itself as the only authority for the church (Solo Scriptura), it does indeed present itself as the final court of authority in all religious matters (Sola Scriptura). Scripture is the only infallible rule of faith for the church to use, that is, for preaching the gospel, establishing, developing, and testing doctrines. Therefore, people who object to the biblical doctrine of Sola Scriptura by using this faulty definition (i.e. that the Bible is the only authority) are only attacking a misrepresentation of this Reformation doctrine. We have been incorrectly labeled as "Bible only Christians". So quoting Scripture passages that merely affirm the existence of other authorities does not refute Sola Scriptura. Other authorities are exist, insofar that they are subordinate to scriptural instruction.
          -It is indeed self-contradictory to appeal to the Bible as the ultimate standard of authority to prove that it is not the ultimate standard of authority for the church to heed to. It is a hypocritical double standard for Roman Catholics and members of the Eastern Orthodox Church to use Scripture as a means to justify their doctrines, but disapproving of Protestants acting in the same manner. These points are some of the major fallacies committed by our opponents when they argue against Sola Scriptura by appealing to Scripture passages such as 2 Thessalonians 2:15.   
  • Clarifying Sola Scriptura:
          -It needs to be understood that Protestantism is not opposed to "traditions", as long as they are consistent with the principles of Scripture.
          -If the "traditions" mentioned in the above references are grounded on Scripture, then the doctrine of Sola Scriptura is not at all in jeopardy. But if this can be shown to not be the case, then this teaching would be soundly refuted because the Bible itself would be admitting to the charge that we need an infallible interpreter/extra-biblical tradition. Remember also that Scripture is written tradition. 
  • 2 Thessalonians:
          -The previous context of 2 Thessalonians 2:15 (v. 1-14) reveals that the Apostle Paul is speaking of traditions pertaining to the second coming of Christ which should be measured against apostates who pervert the truths concerning that doctrine, eternal salvation, and the gospel. These topics are addressed in great depth throughout both Testaments (Daniel 7:13-14;  Zechariah 14:1-9; Matthew 24:5-27; Psalm 22-23; Isaiah 53; John 3:16; 1 Corinthians 15:1-8; etc.). Hence, there is no need to search for extra-biblical oral traditions. 2 Thessalonians 3:6 has also been addressed, since the same tradition is in mind. The Apostle Paul was not trying to establish a distinction in content between the oral and written revelation, but rather, demonstrating the unity of his message when communicated in both forms.
  • 1 Corinthians 11:2:
          -The immediate context is about the purposes of men and women in worship and in terms authority (v, 3-16). Then, the Apostle Paul goes on to talk about the correct observance and practice pertaining to the Lord's Supper (v. 17-31). Later on, he goes on to identify traditions, which he himself previously received, as the basic message of the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-8). None of these oral traditions are mysterious in nature or foreign to scriptural instruction. Paul said "not beyond what is written" (1 Corinthians 4:6)
  • Do John 20:30, John 21:25, 2 John 12, and 3 John 13 claim that the Bible itself is an inadequate, ambiguous body of divine revelation that is in need of some infallible oral traditions to fill in any alleged "gaps"?:
          -The major problem with this argument is that adherents to the principle of Sola Scriptura do not claim that the Bible contains an exhaustive list of everything done by Jesus and the apostles, but rather, Scripture tells us everything that we need to know concerning salvation (John 20:30-31). We have every necessary bit of divine revelation that is important in bringing out conversions to Christianity. 
          -The logic employed by our critics here is self-defeating. Even if we added all the details that critics claimed was a part of some inspired oral tradition, then we would still not have enough (and never would have enough) revelation, based on John 20:30 and John 21:25 (taking these two verses literally). These texts simply mean that there was too may miracles and sayings of Jesus to record on a single scroll.
          -Anybody (including Mormons) can abuse Scripture passages like these by claiming that we need the doctrines of his or her religion. They can be misused to open up doors to just about any heretical doctrine. We need to know exactly what John is talking about in the above passages. In other words, it is wrong to make assertions that are devoid of evidence. 
          -Why just assume that these passages are about infallible oral revelation that gets passed on to posterity, when none of them indicate specifically what the contents are? In light of this, it is equally possible for the "missing materials" to be from other parts of the New Testament, a public rebuke of sin or heresy, or even personal details about his life or close companions such as his fellow ministers, the apostles.
          -2 John 12 and 3 John 13 mention nothing about the alleged insufficiency of Scripture, the  coming of new divinely inspired oral traditions being passed on to future generations, or anything about church infallibility. Passages like these are therefore totally irrelevant to the debate at hand. 2 John 12 and 3 John 13 simply mean that the Apostle John decided not to write down every single detail of what he intended on saying in his epistles. He wanted to speak directly to his audience for the sake of his audience's comfort, joy, and edification.
  • Conditions That Need To Be Met:
          -If it is going to be claimed that the apostles spoke of infallible tradition as being something different from Scripture, then:
           1.) The exact traditions need to be identified (not specified by the quoted verses above).
           2.) It needs to be proven beyond any shadow of a doubt that the word "tradition" mentioned within the specific texts of Scripture are different in substance from what is contained in the Bible (not specified by the quoted passages, either).     
           3.) Conclusive evidence needs to be provided in order for any random tradition to be considered apostolic and infallible.
  • Are The Traditions Of The Roman Catholic And Eastern Orthodox Churches Equal To Or Superior To The Bible In Terms Of Authority?:
          -The Lord Jesus Christ rebuked the Scribes and Pharisees for placing their own traditions on the same level of authority as the written Word of God (Matthew 15:1-9; Mark 7:1-13). This scenario is a direct mirror reflection to the modern day structure of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches because both involve the placing of an unscriptural body of oral traditions on par with the Bible. Both parties equally believe in the divine inspiration of their own religious customs and beliefs. But how can we judge the truthfulness of such claims if the Bible alone is not a sufficient or trustworthy source of spiritual information?
  • The Burden Of Proof:
         -Although opponents of Sola Scriptura claim that we need their oral traditions, they cannot produce any sayings of Jesus Christ or the apostles apart from Scripture.
  • Historical Evidence Of Failure:
          -History has proven that when anything has been given the same authority as Scripture, that object of devotion always ends up superseding the authority of the Bible and consequently produces dangerously false doctrines. For instance, the Mormons accept other writings as inspired by God. The Jehovah's Witnesses accept the Watchtower Society and its magazine publications as divinely inspired by God. Other Pseudo-Christian groups who make absolute claims to authority in doctrinal matters (and even other aspects of life) would include (but are by no means limited to) Scientology and the Moonies. Just dedicate some time to investigating the basic teachings of these aberrant sects. Compare them to the plain teachings of Scripture. The Magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church has fallen into the same grievous error for its inflated perspective of "oral tradition" and its claims to perpetual infallibility, just as the Scribes and Pharisees were in error for upholding the same views on their man-made traditions. The issue is that it has fallen victim to pride. The Church of Rome is literally the modern-age mirror reflection of the pompous Jewish leaders who lived back when Jesus Christ walked here on earth.

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