Out From Under the Umbrella

playing in the rain

Church Tradition or God’s Holy Word?

22 Comments

The Nicene Creed

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.

Who, for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.

And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.

And I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.[1]

For those who have not come from the Catholic tradition nor any sort of liturgical tradition, like myself, it can be difficult to understand when someone speaks about holding “oral tradition” or the “tradition of the church” as elevated along with scripture.    It is also difficult when folks of those traditions speak of the writings of the church fathers as having equal weight with scripture.  Sometimes they use these as examples of reasons why we shouldn’t worship the Bible.

Having read the Nicene Creed I see nothing that contradicts scripture.  In fact, quite the opposite. The early church fathers upheld the scriptures as the means to come to salvation.  Not only as the means to come to salvation, though.  They considered obedience to the scriptures, and not just the red letters, to be the means to “work out your salvation with trembling”.  The mere confession of Christ as Lord of Lords cannot be all there is to salvation.  No, it is belief unto repentance.[2]  Repentance of what?  Sin.  How do we know what sin is?  It is in the Bible.  If we can decide for ourselves which commands to follow and which ones not to are we following the Lord or are we following our own desires?  Scripture tells us the heart of man is deceitful above all.  We can fool ourselves.

Why do we have a canonized Bible?  What does it mean for scripture to be canonized? The basic factor for recognizing a book’s canonicity for the New Testament was divine inspiration, and the chief test for this was apostolicity. The term apostolic as used for the test of canonicity does not necessarily mean apostolic authorship or derivation, but rather apostolic authority. Apostolic authority is never detached from the authority of the Lord.[3]

It appears to me that oral tradition, tradition of the church and authority of the scriptures work together.  Nowhere is it suggested by any of the early church fathers that oral tradition or church tradition should replace the authority of scripture.  While man’s interpretation of scripture may be fallacious, the early church fathers affirm the infallibility of scripture.   To deny the authority of scripture is to deny the authority of Christ. That is not worshiping the Bible, that is taking the authority of Jesus seriously.  I’ve come to a place where it is difficult for me to accept the authority of scripture thereby eschewing the authority of Jesus as the Christ.

Do you deny divine inspiration?  Do you deny apostolic authority?  Why are the writings of the early church fathers not in the canon? 
________________________________________________________________________________
[1] Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics

[2] Luke 3:8, 2 Corinthians 7:10, Luke 24:47, Acts 11:18

[3] New World Encyclopedia (http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Biblical_canon)

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22 thoughts on “Church Tradition or God’s Holy Word?

  1. Good questions. I think you could guess a couple of my answers. 😉Do you deny divine inspiration? Yes, in all classic senses. In the more liberal sense of divine inspiration of authors writing "this is my perception of what God has done," that's a little more sticky.Do you deny apostolic authority? Yes for the Gospels as they are. The things which are similar are too similar, while the things that are different are too different for this to have been written by four actual apostles. The Epistles are, again, a stickier topic. Quite frankly, I don't know enough yet to make even a halfway good judgement there.Why are the writings of the early church fathers not in the canon? I think that in the second and third centuries when they were parsing out canon, they were trying to keep as close to what they thought came from eye-witnesses sources as possible.There may be another side as well: It may be that the early church fathers simply lacked the miraculous wonders and/or direct-divine-interface recorded in those pieces selected as canon, and so they were more fitting for packaging as a different set of writings. Obviously, that's purely a guess.How deep are you going to get? I'm enjoying it.

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  2. I think this does all work together. In TEC we feel that our faith is informed by both Scripture, the tradition of the church, and human reason. But, I would challenge whether someone who questions the authority of all of Scripture, or better put, especially the interpretation of the Bible, and how this relates in their life is eschewing the authority of Jesus as the Christ.I personally question all the time, and as I've shared I definitely think portions of the teaching of Scripture are culturally bound, and not even given to be interpreted in a literal sense, and yet, my heart is for God. I confess Jesus Christ as my Savior, and Lord.I do think trust in Christ as Lord involves a turning from sin, so to speak, a desire to want to follow Him in love. That would certainly involve not wanting to do anything that might harm ourselves, or others, be destructive of the creation.Becky.

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  3. TWF,I'm not sure how deep I'm going. I guess I'm staying true to the title and subtitle of the blog here. I don't know, I'll go where it takes me. :-)Becky,It is clear to me that Scripture supports the tradition of the church and that the tradition of the church supports scripture. They go hand in hand. Now about reason: when human reason contradicts scripture and church tradition the reasoning is flawed. Like it or not there are some ugly parts of scripture. Trying to reason them out of scripture simply doesn't work.That is why I say that denying the authority of scripture = eschewing the authority of Christ.

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  4. I wouldn't eschew human reason, but I do think that reason is limited, and fallen. There are sometimes when we have to be honest when coming to a difficulty in the Scripture, and simply say that we don't know.I'm ok with that.And, it's definitely true as the catechism says that by human reason, and strength alone we can't know Jesus Christ or come to Him..He first calls to us.Becky.

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  5. Becky,Are we talking in circles? I'm not suggesting that you eschew human reason. "I don't know" is a perfectly good answer. At least it's an honest answer.I still don't understand your answers to my questions. Are you denying the authority of scripture? If you don't agree with the interpretation of scripture are you denying the interpretation? Would you agree that if human reason contradicts scripture that the reasoning is flawed?

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  6. I don't see the connection between eschewing divine inspiration meaning you deny Christ's authority. Christ's authority is certainly independent of what any humans determine to be a canon. The scriptures, in their individual "books" are human attempts to explain the events they either witnessed or are oral tradition within the believing community. I think you are attempting to tie the baby to the bath water. Infallibility or inerrancy are not tied to the Christ event. There are many systems: scripture alone (fundamentalist) which does however depend on a second prong of human interpretation.Scripture, tradition, reason (mainline Protestant mostly) Catholics add the Magisterium . A comment is to limited to explain these in depth.

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  7. Sherry,If you didn't have the bath water would you know about the baby?

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  8. Sherry,If I'm understanding correctly, please correct me if I'm wrong, the Magisterium is the Catholic church's interpretation of the scriptures. It is the church's teachings. So then I don't think I'm tying anything together. The church, whether fundamentalist, mainline Protestant, or Catholic have tied them together. Do not the scripture, tradition, reason, and Magisterium all work together, dependent on one another?

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  9. It is my experience that babies come independently of bathwater :)If the authority of Jesus were not dependent on tradition, writings, and reinterpretations of doctrine, then I would expect it to occur independently of these things. Since many people who have near death experiences in India have visions of Hindu gods and not Jesus, I suspect his universality.When you study the history of the making of creeds and doctrines, politics is a major player. So is reconciling scientific discoveries. For example, when the ovum was discovered, then the idea of Jesus being untainted by human sin in conception was called into question. Previously women were thought to be a passive vessel so the Holy Spirit could have dropped little Jesus in without any contribution beyond a warm nest from Mary. One of the Catholic church's solutions to the problem of women's providing (at least) half of the potential human: give Mary an immaculate conception too!I've read a few of the early church writings and have my own theories of why they weren't included in the canon. I think you may find this podcast helpful. It includes several interviews of a pastor who lost his faith, a pastor who didn't, and a researcher. The interviewer is a former-Catholic, former-fundy spiritual seeker. There is a lot of respect and compassion here.http://www.cbc.ca/tapestry/episode/2011/02/27/preachers-who-dont-believe-in-god/prairienymph

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  10. Exrelayman"1)Do you deny divine inspiration? 2)Do you deny apostolic authority? 3)Why are the writings of the early church fathers not in the canon?"1) Yes. A little bit of why. A) A divine book should be clear and convincing. It should be so clear and powerful that just reading it would convince any reader of its truth and of the one correct understanding of it. The Bible is a mass of contadicting and incoherent materials. Different readers get different messages from it. Each thinks they have divided the word correctly and that others have not. B) For the gospels, Papias first mentions some memoirs of Matthew about 150 AD. Iranaeus acknowledges the 4 gospels by name about 180 AD. No one before this mentions the existence of any gospel. C) The church has been dishonest in representing these gospels as products of of apostles, etc, using the designations 'according to' when in fact the late date of their appearance and the fact that they are written in Greek belies that possibility. D) Mark makes egregious geographical mistakes, which the later Matthew corrects. Ditto for Marks errors in understanding elements of Jewish tradition. This is most simply explained by recognizing that the writer of Mark was writing from a distant locality and had not been to the places or interacted with the people that the supposed apostolic Mark would have. E) The Jesus story grows more miraculous as you progress from early to late gospel. F) The gospels are clearly written for the purpose of persuasion, and as such are not unbiased. We have no contemporary unbiased accounts about Jesus. Independent history is totally silent. G) There is no record of there ever being a place called Arimathea, where Joseph who supposedly buried Jesus supposedly came from. Too blatant an error for a divinely inspired book. H) None of the important elements of the Biblical account (God, Jesus, heaven, hell, soul, sin) are detectable to my senses or any intruments that I know about. What is the difference between the undetectable and the non-existent? Now no one of these items would suffice to destroy my faith in divine inspiration, but when taken together too much slippery apologetic work has to be done to satisfy me.2) Yes. They merely transmit what they have received, not what they have witnessed. They also differed about the canon, some accepting what is now non canonical, and some rejecting what is now canonical. If God had a hand in this, why so many spurious forged gospels that are not canonical? Given that so many were forged, what makes us or the early fathers so sure the current 4 were not?3)Because the canon is a product of men, not a God. It was determined by vote. The long history of divisive councils did not end until after the invention of the printing press made it too difficult to mess with since so many copies of the accepted canon would be in the hands of the laity. Even so, the Catholic Bible has 6 more canonical books than the protestant Bible. Marcion seems to be the one that got the idea of a canon started, but to him Jehova was very evil (I can see why) and he just rejected all of the old testament and was deemed heretic.

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  11. D'Ma, I got here from Evangelically Incorrect's sidebar. I'm a former fundy/Bible banger who ended up Eastern Orthodox after 35 years of banging my head against the Bible (well, fundy's interpretations of it). I used to do a live radio program where we took on Hank Hanagraff (The Bible Answer Man) and the whole sola scriptura concept which included all the issues you bring up in your post. Forgive my shameless linking here but the podcasts have more information than I could possibly put in a combox without hijacking your blog. You are bookmarked now. Thanks.http://audio.ancientfaith.com/ourlife/solascriptura1_041705.mp3http://audio.ancientfaith.com/ourlife/solascriptura2_042405.mp3http://audio.ancientfaith.com/ourlife/solascriptura3_051505.mp3http://audio.ancientfaith.com/ourlife/solascriptura4_052905.mp3

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  12. Thank you, s-p. I'll take a listen to those. This blog is supposed to be a place where there is no shame, religiously speaking, that is.

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  13. exrelayman,On your points:1) I'm just getting started here so I'm not as advanced in my thought process as I hope to be. A) These are my thoughts as well. Not only are protestant denominations clearly divided on the issue, but it seems to me the more I research that Catholics are just as divided. They are supposed to be the Mother Church under one authority, but I'm learning that they are splintered as well.2) I would only add that a la Bart Ehrman and other serious scholars there is obvious interpolation at the very least in the current 4 gospels as well as question as to their authorship. This makes it very difficult to rely on them as trustworthy.3) The writings of the early church fathers were not included in the gospels seemingly because they didn't meet the criteria for "divine inspiration". Does this mean they have no value? No, but they also should not be elevated to the level of scripture. You are correct. The councils that determined the canon were quite divided as to which books belonged in the canon and which did not. Even they had a hard time, under the Holy Spirit's guidance, figuring out which books were divinely inspired.

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  14. I recently have learned some things about the NT authors that was new to me. (How does someone like myself, 50 years in Christendom not know this stuff??)1) Matthew and Mark make no explicit or implicit claim to authorship. What's up with that???2) Luke and John make implicit claims to authorship, but not explicit.3) Even if we take it that Luke is the author of Luke and Acts, he is not a first hand witness! He is gathering information from others!4) Paul (who wrote most of what is not the gospels or acts) did not know Jesus when he was on earth. He claims supernatural revelation of Jesus. So… my point being… HUGE portions of the gospels, acts, and the epistles were clearly written by people who were NOT eye-witnesses, and most of the rest are uncertain. What happened to my belief that the NT is comprised of written, eye-witness accounts of what happened when Jesus was here?sigh…

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  15. ei,I recently learned all of that, too. And that Paul authored most of not all of his epistles before the gospels were penned. The inerrantists explanations for all of those things you listed are not very satisfying either.

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  16. Oh, and that portions of the gospels are interpolations. I forgot that one.

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  17. If in all my higher education I had learned what inerpolations means, i might comment about it. Where was that cracker jack box again???

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  18. D'Ma, I got here from Evangelically Incorrect's sidebar. I'm a former fundy/Bible banger who ended up Eastern Orthodox after 35 years of banging my head against the Bible (well, fundy's interpretations of it). I used to do a live radio program where we took on Hank Hanagraff (The Bible Answer Man) and the whole sola scriptura concept which included all the issues you bring up in your post. Forgive my shameless linking here but the podcasts have more information than I could possibly put in a combox without hijacking your blog. You are bookmarked now. Thanks.http://audio.ancientfaith.com/ourlife/solascriptura1_041705.mp3http://audio.ancientfaith.com/ourlife/solascriptura2_042405.mp3http://audio.ancientfaith.com/ourlife/solascriptura3_051505.mp3http://audio.ancientfaith.com/ourlife/solascriptura4_052905.mp3

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  19. Exrelayman"1)Do you deny divine inspiration? 2)Do you deny apostolic authority? 3)Why are the writings of the early church fathers not in the canon?"1) Yes. A little bit of why. A) A divine book should be clear and convincing. It should be so clear and powerful that just reading it would convince any reader of its truth and of the one correct understanding of it. The Bible is a mass of contadicting and incoherent materials. Different readers get different messages from it. Each thinks they have divided the word correctly and that others have not. B) For the gospels, Papias first mentions some memoirs of Matthew about 150 AD. Iranaeus acknowledges the 4 gospels by name about 180 AD. No one before this mentions the existence of any gospel. C) The church has been dishonest in representing these gospels as products of of apostles, etc, using the designations 'according to' when in fact the late date of their appearance and the fact that they are written in Greek belies that possibility. D) Mark makes egregious geographical mistakes, which the later Matthew corrects. Ditto for Marks errors in understanding elements of Jewish tradition. This is most simply explained by recognizing that the writer of Mark was writing from a distant locality and had not been to the places or interacted with the people that the supposed apostolic Mark would have. E) The Jesus story grows more miraculous as you progress from early to late gospel. F) The gospels are clearly written for the purpose of persuasion, and as such are not unbiased. We have no contemporary unbiased accounts about Jesus. Independent history is totally silent. G) There is no record of there ever being a place called Arimathea, where Joseph who supposedly buried Jesus supposedly came from. Too blatant an error for a divinely inspired book. H) None of the important elements of the Biblical account (God, Jesus, heaven, hell, soul, sin) are detectable to my senses or any intruments that I know about. What is the difference between the undetectable and the non-existent? Now no one of these items would suffice to destroy my faith in divine inspiration, but when taken together too much slippery apologetic work has to be done to satisfy me.2) Yes. They merely transmit what they have received, not what they have witnessed. They also differed about the canon, some accepting what is now non canonical, and some rejecting what is now canonical. If God had a hand in this, why so many spurious forged gospels that are not canonical? Given that so many were forged, what makes us or the early fathers so sure the current 4 were not?3)Because the canon is a product of men, not a God. It was determined by vote. The long history of divisive councils did not end until after the invention of the printing press made it too difficult to mess with since so many copies of the accepted canon would be in the hands of the laity. Even so, the Catholic Bible has 6 more canonical books than the protestant Bible. Marcion seems to be the one that got the idea of a canon started, but to him Jehova was very evil (I can see why) and he just rejected all of the old testament and was deemed heretic.

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  20. exrelayman,On your points:1) I'm just getting started here so I'm not as advanced in my thought process as I hope to be. A) These are my thoughts as well. Not only are protestant denominations clearly divided on the issue, but it seems to me the more I research that Catholics are just as divided. They are supposed to be the Mother Church under one authority, but I'm learning that they are splintered as well.2) I would only add that a la Bart Ehrman and other serious scholars there is obvious interpolation at the very least in the current 4 gospels as well as question as to their authorship. This makes it very difficult to rely on them as trustworthy.3) The writings of the early church fathers were not included in the gospels seemingly because they didn't meet the criteria for "divine inspiration". Does this mean they have no value? No, but they also should not be elevated to the level of scripture. You are correct. The councils that determined the canon were quite divided as to which books belonged in the canon and which did not. Even they had a hard time, under the Holy Spirit's guidance, figuring out which books were divinely inspired.

    Like

  21. It is my experience that babies come independently of bathwater :)If the authority of Jesus were not dependent on tradition, writings, and reinterpretations of doctrine, then I would expect it to occur independently of these things. Since many people who have near death experiences in India have visions of Hindu gods and not Jesus, I suspect his universality.When you study the history of the making of creeds and doctrines, politics is a major player. So is reconciling scientific discoveries. For example, when the ovum was discovered, then the idea of Jesus being untainted by human sin in conception was called into question. Previously women were thought to be a passive vessel so the Holy Spirit could have dropped little Jesus in without any contribution beyond a warm nest from Mary. One of the Catholic church's solutions to the problem of women's providing (at least) half of the potential human: give Mary an immaculate conception too!I've read a few of the early church writings and have my own theories of why they weren't included in the canon. I think you may find this podcast helpful. It includes several interviews of a pastor who lost his faith, a pastor who didn't, and a researcher. The interviewer is a former-Catholic, former-fundy spiritual seeker. There is a lot of respect and compassion here.http://www.cbc.ca/tapestry/episode/2011/02/27/preachers-who-dont-believe-in-god/prairienymph

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  22. I don't see the connection between eschewing divine inspiration meaning you deny Christ's authority. Christ's authority is certainly independent of what any humans determine to be a canon. The scriptures, in their individual "books" are human attempts to explain the events they either witnessed or are oral tradition within the believing community. I think you are attempting to tie the baby to the bath water. Infallibility or inerrancy are not tied to the Christ event. There are many systems: scripture alone (fundamentalist) which does however depend on a second prong of human interpretation.Scripture, tradition, reason (mainline Protestant mostly) Catholics add the Magisterium . A comment is to limited to explain these in depth.

    Like

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