#3 Tradition More Authoritative than Scripture
The Reformation occurred based primarily on the issue of authority. Who has the final say in interpreting the Scriptures? The rallying cry of the Reformers was Sola Scriptura, meaning that Scriptures alone has the final say on its interpretation. The Roman church had acquired vast amounts of power and property during its thousand year reign of darkness and deceit which it was not going to give up. To accept the verdict that the Bible is all sufficient and lacked nothing in its ability to enlighten mankind would inflict a wound of which there is no recovery; this they could not allow to happen.
Before the advent of the printing press authority in the matter of interpretation was not as great as it became afterwards? Of course the reason is obvious. With the printing press the Dark Ages of ignorance was illuminated with the light of truth reflecting from the newly printed pages of Scripture, now in the hands of man. Now the text of the Bible was available for all to read and to understand, apart from the mandatory understanding forced on the laity by their Roman task masters.
With this awakened knowledge of truth it became necessary to be more creative in their control of those who once voluntarily bowed the knee to the Rome. The thundering advance of the Reformation demanded that the Church take a defensive stance, or otherwise suffer an unbearable fall.
In all practicality the Bible had become an enemy to the Catholic Church. A thousand years of darkness was witness to the fact that the once virgin Church had now become the “home of every foul and unclean bird,” and was now separated from the truth by an infinite distance; there was no vestige of truth remaining, only a false profession. Catholicism could not defend itself from a straight-up approach to the Bible; after all, it was the Bible which was causing all of her problems in the first place. The Bible would be kept as a sort of trademark, but relegated to an article of support for the superstructure of a manmade organization propagating a different gospel identified with such heretical teachings as purgatory, the priesthood, the mass, transubstantiation, prayers for the dead, indulgences, penance, worship of the Virgin Mary, the use of images in worship, holy water, rosary beads, celibacy of priest and nuns, the papacy, and many other things founded on – not Scripture – but tradition.
Is Sola Scriptura Sustainable
Protestantism and Roman Catholicism agree that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. But they differ widely in regard to the place that it is to have in the life of the church. Protestantism holds that the Bible alone is the authoritative and sufficient rule of faith and practice. But Romanism holds that the Bible must be supplemented by a great body of tradition consisting of 14 or 15 apocryphal books or portions of books equivalent to about two thirds the volume of the New Testament, the voluminous writings of the Greek and Latin church fathers, and a huge collection of church council pronouncements and papal decrees as of equal value and authority—a veritable library in itself.
The Catholic Church says:
“The task of interpreting the Word of God authentically has been entrusted solely to the Magisterium of the Church, that is, to the Pope and to the bishops in communion with him.” CCC100
The Bible says:
John 16:13 – Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come.
John 14:26 – But the Comforter, [which is] the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
2 Timothy 2:15 – Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
2 Timothy Chapter 3:16-17 – All scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.
Galatians Chapter 1:8-9 – But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any [man] preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.
These are but a small sampling of the many verses denying the very things the Roman Church affirms.
The Test of Time
What can be more prideful and a sure sign of devilish influence than to state absolutely that a mere man, a mere man, can act in the place of God; or to absolutely state in a manmade council that the word of God is contained both in the Bible and in tradition, that the two are of equal authority, and that it is the duty of every Christian to accord them equal veneration and respect. These acts of Satan were, and are, the ultimate power grab of the unseen evil spiritual world.
One would rationally think that the true Christian Church would be that one which most resembled that Church revealed in the pages of the New Testament.
In a confrontation with the Gnostics (distinguished by the conviction that matter is evil and that emancipation comes through gnosis i.e. knowledge) of his day, Tertullian (160-230), a gifted Christian writer and apologist, defended his claim of the true Gospel this way,
“I say that my Gospel is the true one; Marcion, that his is. I affirm that Marcion’s Gospel is adulterated; Marcion, that mine is. Now what is to settle the point for us, except it be that principle of time, which rules that the authority lies with that which shall be found to be more ancient; and assumes as an elemental truth, that corruption (of doctrine) belongs to the side which shall be convicted of comparative lateness in its origin. For, inasmuch as error is falsification of truth, it must needs be that truth therefore precede error. A thing must exist prior to its suffering any casualty; and an object must precede all rivalry to itself. Else how absurd it would be, that, when we have proved our position to be the older one, and Marcion’s the later, ours should yet appear to be the false one, before it had even received from truth its objective existence….”
The result of this deception, and consequently the ignorance of Biblical truth, is that the most prominent doctrines and practices of the Roman Catholic Church, such as purgatory, the priesthood, the mass, transubstantiation, prayers for the dead, indulgences, penance, worship of the Virgin Mary, the use of images in worship, holy water, rosary beads, celibacy of priest and nuns, the papacy itself, and numerous others, are of “comparative lateness” to the authentic articles, and are founded solely on tradition and the fertile soil of corrupted minds. It is on this faulty foundation that the Roman Catholic Church has sought to establish herself as “the only true church.”
The Bible has not said without reason that “the whole world lies in darkness” and that Satan is the “deceiver of the whole world.” Ignorance is such a derogatory word, but there is no better term that gets our attention as quickly or that so aptly describes those who have blindly fallen for the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, especially in the light of the overwhelming amount of documented evidence revealing it gross corruption. To state one example: the Bible has not one thing to say about the pope or the papacy; and it is emphatic and uncompromising in its command against the use of images or idols in worship. It is natural that the Roman Catholic Church does not want to give up tradition. It cannot! If it were to give up tradition the whole system would fall to the ground; so much of its doctrine and practices has no other foundation. The mystery of evil is illuminated by the fact that supposedly enlightened men deliberately rejected the supernaturally revealed and inspired words of the Creator God for the confused, conflicting, and corrupted words and decrees of men, who only claim through lies and deceit, lacking any authentic confirmation from God, to speak for God. The whole institution of the Roman Catholic Church is an object lesson of what the Bible insists the Church is NOT supposed to become, yet this evil mystery flourishes in the face of the facts. The Lord is once again vindicated and evil exposed.
Historically and Biblically there have been three popular avenues to the corruption of truth: reason, emotion, and tradition. As each of these are played out by being given undue prominence in man’s efforts to both grasp and maintain power over other men or in honest, but misguided, attempts to understand the Bible, three spiritual illnesses have developed. Where “reason” has been promoted we get rationalism; where “emotion” is promoted we get mysticism; and where “tradition” is allowed we get clericalism, or more appropriately, ecclesiastical dictatorship. History has shown that whenever any other source of authority is placed alongside Scripture as equally important, Scripture eventually recedes into the background and relegated to a secondary nature only to support the primary manmade structure. In each case the Bible is still given lip service, but is effectually marginalized.
During the Dark Ages the truth of Scripture was easily hid because of the widespread and imposed ignorance of the common people. With the advent of the printing press Martin Luther effectively, and almost immediately, brought the true doctrines of Scripture clearly before men’s minds, stripped of tradition. Now everyone, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit could interpret the Bible. Ironically, today could be called the New Dark Ages. Even though the printing press has over-abundantly supplied us with vast amounts of documented evidence that the Roman Catholic Church is not the true Church described in the New Testament, but in actual fact portrays the “Whore” spoken and illustrated for all to see in the book of Revelation chapter 17. The darkness of this present time is a deliberate darkness of people who have chosen to ignore the facts and remain in darkness, because as the Bible states, “they love the darkness more than the light.”
A Parallel with the Life of Israel
The development of tradition in the Roman Catholic Church has an almost exact parallel in the life of Israel. Israel had the inspired prophets, but through deliberate ignorance preferred the sweetened words of the false prophets, and consequently over time developed their own set of traditions which in time took the place of the true teaching of the prophets. Encompassed in the false teachings were all the things they wanted to hear that instilled a false sense of security and purpose. The example of Israel is given as a warning. Just as the Israelites found what they wanted in the teachings of the false prophets so likewise a very great number have found in the traditions of the Roman Catholic Church the things which appeal to their selfish and prideful natures and do it all under the cover of religion.
As with the Pharisees of Jesus’ day so with the Roman Catholic Church of today, Jesus makes it clear in Matthews 22:29 that the fault is with them when He states, “Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures.”
In the Roman Catholic Church we have the perfect illustration of the attitude which characterized the Pharisees and the scribes who substituted human teaching and elevated them as equal to and even superior to the word of God. It was this traditionalism of the Pharisees that rewarded the Messiah, whom they all awaited, with death by crucifixion.
The offer, which was refused by Jesus, to rule the kingdoms of the world, if He would only bow the knee and worship the Prince of darkness, was accepted by the Roman Catholic Church, and explains the mystery of their success. True believers do not have to remain in darkness. The truth has been revealed and we are commanded to believe the inspired word from God without any of the embellishments of men. Those who refuse to believe will share in the fate of their master, and this is so sad considering it is all so plain to those who exercise faith and chose to rest in the finished work of Christ.
From the cross Jesus said, “It is finished.” With these words the seal of completion was applied to His work on earth, no additions and no subtractions. The revealed truth remains today as it did on that day, FINISHED.