Did you know that nowhere does the Bible itself say that only the Bible is to be believed? Protestants came up with this myth and successfully trick many Catholics into believing something that isn’t true and into leaving the true faith. Let’s see what the Bible does teach:
“…continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” 2 Tim 3:14-17 (RSV)
Scripture highly praises itself (actually, it was the authorities of the Magisterium praising Scripture–as they have continued to do throughouth the centuries). Truly it is good to stay rooted in Scripture. But notice first this passage references not a text, but someone who is a teacher and then it brings up having a text. Further, notice that in the expansion talking about having such a resource, it doesn’t say “only.” It says “all.” Scripture can instruct, it can be used profitably, that much we agree upon. But where does this passage declare that a Sacred Tradition, elders with the responsibility of guiding the community and interpreting such texts, is somehow excluded?
Maybe such a passage is elsewhere–what about Jesus’ harsh criticism of such a tradition, maybe that disproves its existence and reliability? Let’s look at a particularly good passage:
“Then said Jesus to the crowds and to his disciples, ‘The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice. They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by men; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues, and salutations in the market places, and being called rabbi by men.’ ” Matthew 23:1-7 (RSV)
The rest of this chapter in Matthew has Jesus issuing seven “woes,” condemnation of the Pharisees, but it is hard to miss that he sets the proper context for his remarks first so no one could mistake him. Up until his death and resurrection, there was no period where Scripture “alone” was preached. There was a Divinely established authority among God’s people, even if a corrupt one.
After the Resurrection, Jesus received full authority from the Father and did transfer the responsibility of guiding men and women to salvation from the Pharisees to the Apostles:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:18-20 (RSV)
Hmm, again no reference to using the Bible as an all-encompassing textbook. No command even to write such a textbook later. And no instructions for the faithful to abandon such an authority as he was establishing if it too needed reproaches similar to what the Pharisees merited. Too bad the 16th century “reformers” of corruption in the Catholic Church didn’t follow the model of Christ–or his instructions in this passage–they invented new doctrine to deal with the problem instead of behaving like our beloved saints of this same time period who worked with the Magisterium to end the corruption.
How can seemingly good, honest people be fooled into believing the first passage is a categorical exclusion of anything non-scriptural? Perhaps the Bible also has an explanation for this:
“…our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, speaking of this as he does in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, beware lest you be carried away with the error of lawless men and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 3:15-18 (RSV)
Ah, now it becomes a bit more clear. So while some accuse Catholics of following mere “human traditions,” according to Jesus’ words in Mark 7:1-23 and Paul’s words in Colossians 2:8, it is they themselves who have distorted the meaning of Scripture with their own “human” (not Divinely revealed) “tradition.”
“But answer the question!” you say? “Is there any Divinely revealed tradition at all, then?” Yes, the Bible itself does affirm this:
“…we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God chose you from the beginning to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.” 2 Thessalonians 2:13-15 (RSV)
So then, there are two authorities among the people of God: Scripture and Tradition. Further, it seems that the matter of believing things that are not in the Bible comes down to asking the question: Who teaches this authentic Tradition, which Scripture itself affirms in this last passage? This new question can be left for another time, but I’ll give you a hint: you should rule out the sources who try to teach you the falsehood I have now identified.