DOES TRADITION HAVE THE ROLE OF BEING THE SOLE AUTHORISED INTERPRETER OF THE BIBLE?

The Bible more than any book is abused by people interpreting it who have no skills in doing so.  They would not carry on like that with the any other ancient work.  It is because the book claims to be God's word and have moral authority. So some use it against others.  Others twist it to make it fit their idea of what morality should be.  Not surprisingly there are many sects which arose over controversies about what the Bible actually means.

The Catholic answer to this chaos is that tradition and the Bible complement each other and both are the word of God.

TRADITION – THE INTERPRETER?

Vatican 2 declared that scripture and Tradition are the sources of divinely inspired doctrine and that both are to be revered with the same devotion and respect (On Revelation, Chapter 2:9). The Church has not made up its mind if Tradition adds to scripture or not (Lion Concise Book of Christian Thought, page 217). It is claimed that the Council of Trent taught that it did but that is disputed. The Traditions that Trent said were entitled to as much veneration as scripture seem to have been ones for practice like Sunday worship and the baptism of infants which were allegedly practiced since the apostles governed the Church (ibid 160). Therefore, it seems the decree cannot apply to traditions that cannot be traced back to the apostles or to unwritten doctrines. This means that the Church need not make the other traditions equal to the Bible and indeed should not and also that when the Catholic Church has gone on so long without tradition that is made equal to scripture it should use the Bible alone. But if Trent meant what the disputers say it meant then why didn’t it make this clear? The way it talks about tradition implies that it meant all the tradition and the fact remains that most Catholic doctrine that is regarded as infallible does not come from the Bible in any shape or fashion. The decree says that the Church is infallibly right when it “receives and venerates with an equal feeling of piety and reverence all the books of the Old and New Testament and also the traditions relating as well to faith as to morals” (page 63, Roman Catholic Claims). By implication this condemns birth-control as well and makes all the tradition that Trent had in mind infallible dogma. You see that the decree is a lot clearer than the critics would have you believe.

The authority of Tradition presupposes the Church having the power to be infallible not some of the time but all the time. That is the only way Tradition can be safe so the pope and the infallible councils are superior to both. The pope is now superior to the councils for he must summon them and decide who attends them. It makes one wonder about the councils that were never convened by popes at all.


THE BIBLE ON TRADITION

Unlike Protestantism, Roman Catholicism does not derive its doctrines from the Bible alone but from Tradition as well. Tradition with a capital T is the word of God.

The Catholic argument that since the Bible sometimes speaks well of tradition and treats it as authoritive, tradition must be an additional authority to the Bible is untenable because the Bible never says tradition is the other authority. Those traditions might have been divinely inspired and might have been incorporated into and enshrined in scripture alone is they were. The Bible started off as inspired traditions which were written down.

And it may be true that there are inspired traditions outside the Bible but that does not mean that we have to rely on them or are meant to. The Bible never tells us to listen to tradition outside its teaching. It was different to take tradition as the word of God during the apostles’ day for they infallibly discerned the infallible ones but it is too risky to do so now. The Bible is complete so there is no need to.

If a lot of important answers are left out of the Bible does that prove that tradition is needed and complements the Bible? It does not when the Bible does not tell us who has the accurate tradition.

Jesus’ condemnation of tradition only forbids non-inspired tradition (Matthew 15) so it is not proof that the Bible alone must be heeded. It does not prove that Catholic tradition is bad or fraudulent either. But the Bible warns that most people will tend towards apostasy and Jesus and the apostles warned about heretics implying that even if tradition was accepted as a parallel authority to the Bible it could not be depended on once the overseers, the apostles, were gone. So the context of Jesus’ condemnation strongly suggests that only tradition that ends up as scripture should be followed.

Catholics suppose that Isaiah 59:21 in which God says his word will be in the mouths of his people forever is a prediction about the Catholic Church which teaches by word of mouth and not only by a book. Tradition is what is handed down by word of mouth and this verse is supposed to teach the Catholic doctrine. But if the word were to be in a book alone Isaiah would still have written these words.

1 Peter 1:25 is supposed to prove that the Church will preach infallible tradition, that is not in scripture, forever. It is reasoned that it says that the word of God endures forever and must be the preaching meaning the oral tradition of the Church for the New Testament was far from finished. But if the Church follows the Bible and this book is the only inspired authority used the Church can still preach the word of God that endures forever. This verse gives no grounds for the notion of tradition as endorsed in the Catholic Church. And if some of the New Testament had been written and since there was an Old Testament there is no need for imagining it means the Church teaching at all.

John 21:23 gives an example of a tradition that thrived in the early Church that was wrong. The tradition promised that an apostle would live forever on earth and be the oracle of God to the Church and so late in the first century John had to attack it. This was a very serious blunder – at least it proves that the early Church did not have a pope to correct error especially when Peter had died long before – and shows that tradition is dangerous and the Church is not safe from nonsensical traditions.

The apostle Paul declared that what would become the great apostasy had started (2 Thessalonians 2) so how could we trust tradition? Tradition was the only excuse the apostates would have had for altering the faith. The apostles claimed to have given the final revelation.

The Bible predicts that most of the people calling themselves Christians would abandon the faith one day and speaks of the awesome power of Satan to delude (2 Thessalonians 2:3 – it speaks of a “great falling away” or apostasy). It says that false teachings and fabricated apostolic traditions were already being concocted while the apostles were alive under the guidance of Satan (2 Thessalonians 2:1, 2). Obviously, even if a tradition could be traced back to the lifetime of the apostles it does not mean that it is a revelation of God. Catholicism illogically assumes the reverse. The Devil might have created the traditions Catholics speak of and the papacy.
 
In Matthew 12 Jesus said that when demons are cast out and can find no home for there is nobody left to possess they will go back to the man they have left and if he is open to their influence they will take worse demons than themselves with them to possess him and that will happen to Jesus’ evil generation. Generation is a general word that certainly indicates that most or nearly all if not all will be taken over by evil. This implies firstly that oral tradition or what isn’t in writing is dangerous and the demons have the knowledge and power to pull off a seemingly foolproof deception and it implies that the New Testament could well be a demonic fabrication and that only books you are 100% sure of can be considered to be God’s word. But no such books exist and Jesus really shot himself in the foot.

When the Bible warns of a great apostasy and makes it clear that the world will be generally involved – meaning the vast majority so it is practically the whole world so even most Christians will be traitors though they might continue to infest the Church. Church traditions are most likely to be diabolical or fraudulent in origin and we have to avoid them.