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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 apostles infallible oral revelation which He supposedly been passed on throughout history.
            -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 from the above objections and make additional points that are indeed worthy of consideration.
            -While it is true that the Bible never presents itself as the only authority for the church, it does indeed present itself as the final court of authority in all religious matters. Scripture is the only infallible rule of faith for the church to function, that is, for preaching the gospel, establishing or developing already established doctrines, and staying in accordance to God's will. Therefore, people who object to the biblical doctrine of Sola Scriptura by using this faulty definition are only attacking a mere shadow or misrepresentation of the classic doctrine of the Reformation. We have been incorrectly labeled as "Bible only Christians".  So quoting Scripture passages mentioning the existence of other authorities does not refute the belief that Scripture is the ultimate authority for the church.
          -The Bible would not need to assert itself as being the only infallible rule of faith for us to operate on if no other infallible authorities can be found. Since no other God-appointed, infallible authority exists for the church, the Bible alone is our ultimate spiritual standard. Sola Scriptura kicks in by default. 
          -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 in jeopardy. But if this not the case, then the teaching would be soundly refuted because the Bible itself would be admitting to the charge that it is inadequate, that is, in need of supplemental revelation. Remember, Scripture is also 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 (i.e. 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.
  • 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. 
            -If the traditions mentioned in 1 Corinthians 11:2 were meant to be different in substance from the message contained in Scripture, then why did Paul tell the Church of Corinth "not to exceed what is written" (1 Corinthians 4:6)? Would he contradict himself under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit? No, it is best to assume that the traditions that the apostle is speaking about were already implied in previous Scripture passages and/or any new traditions and further developments in revelation would be thoroughly incorporated into Scripture for the sake of pure internal consistency of the Bible. 
  • 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. 
                  -This type of logic is self-defeating. Even if we added all of the information that our detractors claim that we need in addition to the Bible, then we would still not have enough (and never would have enough revelation), according to John 20:30 and John 21:25. 
                   -Anybody can abuse Scripture passages like these by claiming that we need traditions of his or her religion. 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 not based on any form 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? Can the Roman Catholic Church even provide us with a simple, unchangeable, and meaningful definition of what constitutes "Tradition"? How can we accept such a nebulous body of divine revelation? In light of this, it is equally possible for the "missing materials" to be from other writings in 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.
                    -John 20:30 and John 21:25 simply mean that there was too may miracles and sayings of Jesus to record. They do not say any thing about heeding to a body of allegedly infallible, extra-biblical oral traditions of any sort.
                  -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 the people's comfort and joy. Any sort of information that may not have gotten inscribed into the canon was most likely of little importance to our salvation.   
  •  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 trustworthy source of spiritual information? Why is it wrong to mimic the perfect example of Jesus by searching the Scriptures for the sake of discernment? 
              -". . .the person who wishes to follow the example of Christ will hold such traditions up to the light of Scripture, knowing how fearful it is to be found guilty of nullifying the Word of God for the sake of mere human traditions. The Lord Jesus subjugated even this allegedly “divine tradition” to the supreme authority, the Scriptures. This is vitally important, for the most common response to the citation of this passage with reference to Roman tradition is, “Well, the passage refers to testing human traditions, not divine traditions.” Yet, when it comes to authority, any tradition, no matter what its alleged pedigree, is to be tested by the known standard, the Holy Scriptures" (James R. White, The Roman Catholic Controversy, [Bethany House Publishers, 1996], p. 69).
  • Logical Proof Of Sola Scriptura:
         -If the Bible cannot be the sufficient rule of faith or the final standard of authority for Christians, then how can we know what oral traditions or any teachings in general are right or wrong? If the answer to this problem is that we are supposed to submit to "the infallible church", then who is Christ's divinely appointed organization on earth? How could we possibly join the correct church when so many others out there make identical claims to divine inspiration, yet contradict each other repeatedly? How could we even figure out if any of our religious views are correct? The only solution is to turn to the universal standard upon which Christianity stands or falls, the Holy Bible. 
  • The Burden Of Proof:
         -Although opponents of Sola Scriptura claim that we need extra-biblical oral tradition, they cannot even come up with even one phrase of what Jesus Christ of the apostles said, that is not recorded in 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) or impeccability would include Scientology and the Moonies. Just dedicate some time to investigating some of 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 Church of Rome is literally the new-age mirror reflection of the pompous Jewish leaders who lived back when Jesus Christ walked here on earth.