the Bible - IS IT Alone Sufficient for Spiritual Truth?
According to Roman Catholicism, Sacred
Tradition and the Bible together provide the foundation of spiritual
From this combination the Catholic church has produced many
doctrines which it says are true and biblical. Protestantism,
however, rejects Roman Catholic Sacred Tradition and holds fast to
the call "Sola Scriptura," or, "Scripture Alone." Catholics then
challenge, "Is Sola Scriptura biblical?"
The Bible does not say "Do not use tradition" or "Scripture
alone is sufficient." But the Bible does not say "The Trinity is
three persons in one God," either, yet it is a fundamental doctrine
2 Tim. 3:16
says that scripture is inspired and profitable for correction and
teaching. Scripture states that Scripture is what is good for
correction and teaching, not tradition.
However, in its comments on tradition, the Bible says both to listen
to tradition as well as warning about tradition nullifying the
gospel -- which we will look at below.
In discussing the issue of the Bible alone being sufficient,
several points should be made:
The method of the New Testament authors (and
Jesus as well)
was to appeal to the Scriptures as the final rule of authority.
Take, for example, the temptation of Christ in Matthew 4. The Devil
tempts Jesus, yet Jesus used the authority of scripture, not
tradition, nor even His own divine power, as the source of authority
and refutation. To Jesus, the Scriptures were enough and
sufficient. If there is any place in the New Testament where the
idea of extra-biblical revelation or tradition could have been used,
Jesus' temptation would have been a great place to present it.
But Jesus does no such thing.
His practice was to appeal to scripture. Should we do any less
having seen His example?
The New Testament writers constantly appealed to the scriptures
as their base of authority in declaring
what was and was not true biblical teaching:
1 Cor. 15:3-4;
1 Peter 1:10-12;
2 Peter 1:17-19,
Of course, Paul in
says, "Now these were more noble-minded than those in
Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness,
examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were
Paul commends those who examine God's word for the test of truth,
not for the traditions of men. Therefore, we can see that the
biblical means of determining spiritual truth is by appealing to
scripture, not tradition.
In fact, it is the scriptures that refute the traditions of men in
Many doctrines in the
Bible are not clearly stated,
yet they are believed and taught by the church
For example, there is no statement in the Bible that says
there is a
Jesus has two
natures (God and man), or that the
is the third person in the Godhead. Yet, each of the statements is
considered true doctrine within Christianity, being derived from
biblical references. Therefore, it is not required of Scripture to
have a statement to the effect, "The Bible alone is to be used for
all spiritual truth," in order for the statement to be true. So,
for the Catholic to require the Protestant to supply chapter and
verse to prove Sola Scriptura is valid, is not necessarily
consistent with biblical exegetical principles.
Godís word does not say that Sacred Tradition is inerrant or
In appealing to the Bible for authentication of Inerrant Sacred
Tradition, the Catholics have shown that the Bible is superior to
Sacred Tradition--for the lesser is blessed by the greater (Heb.
7:7). You see, if the Bible said
do not trust tradition, then Sacred Tradition would be instantly and
obviously invalid. If the Bible said to trust Sacred Tradition, then
the Bible is authenticating it. In either case, the Scriptures hold
the place of final authority and by that position, are shown to be
superior to Sacred Tradition. If Sacred Tradition were really
inerrant as it is said to be, then it would be equal with the Bible.
But, Godís word does not say that Sacred Tradition is inerrant or
inspired as it does say about itself (2
To merely claim that Sacred Tradition is equal and in agreement with
the Bible does not make it so. Furthermore, to assert that Sacred
Tradition is equal to Scripture is to effectively leave the canon
wide open to doctrinal addition. Since the traditions of men
change, to use tradition as a determiner of spiritual truth would
mean that over time new doctrines that are not in the Bible would be
added and that is exactly what has happened in Catholicism with
doctrines such as purgatory, praying to Mary, indulgences,
etc. Furthermore, if they can use Sacred Tradition as a source for
doctrines not explicit in the Bible, then why would the Mormons then
be wrong for having additional revelation as well?
Bible is what is inspired, not tradition
If the Bible is not used to verify Sacred Tradition, then Sacred
Tradition is functionally independent to the Word of God. If it is
independent of Scripture, then it has no right to exist as an
authoritative spiritual source since the Bible is what is inspired,
Sacred Tradition is
invalidated automatically if it contradicts the Bible
And it does. Of course, the Catholic will say that it does not.
But, Catholic teachings such as purgatory, penance, indulgences,
are not in the Bible.
A natural reading of the Bible does not lend itself to such beliefs
Instead, the Catholic Church has used Sacred Tradition to add to
God's revealed word and then extracted out of the Bible whatever
verses that might be construed to support their doctrines of Sacred
The Catholic apologist will state that
both the Bible and Sacred tradition are equal in authority and
inspiration and to put one above another is a false comparison. But,
by what authority does the Catholic say this? Is it because it
claims to be the true church, descended from the original apostles?
In response, claims do not make it true. Second, even if it were
true, and I do not grant that it is, there is no guarantee that the
succession of church leaders is immune to error.
We saw it creep in with Peter in Acts. Are the Catholic church
leaders better than Peter?
To continue, is it from tradition that the Catholic Church
authenticates its Sacred Tradition? If so, then there is no check
upon it. Is it from quotes of some of the church Fathers who say to
follow Tradition? If so, then the church fathers are given the place
of authority comparable to scripture. Is it from the Bible? If so,
then Sacred Tradition holds a lesser position than the Bible because
the Bible is used as the authority in validating Tradition. Is it
because the Catholic Church claims to be the means by which God
communicates His truth? Then, the Catholic Church has placed itself
above the Scriptures.
Finally, one of the mistakes made by Catholics is to assume
that the Bible is derived from Sacred Tradition. This is false.
The Church simply recognized the inspired writings of the Bible.
They were in and of themselves authoritative. Various "traditions"
in the Church served only to recognize what was from God.
Also, to say the Bible is derived from Sacred Tradition is to make
the Bible lesser than the Tradition as is stated in
Heb. 7:7 that
the lesser is blessed by the greater.
Since the Bible is the final authority, we should look to it as
the final authenticating and inerrant source of all spiritual truth.
If it says Sacred Tradition is valid, fine. But if it doesnít, then
I will trust the Bible alone.
Since the Bible does not approve of the Catholic Church's Sacred
Tradition, then neither should Christians.
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