The Bible Verses Catholic Tradition
Who is Trustworthy?
I imagine that just about everyone reading here is aware that, as far as the Roman Catholic Church is concerned, the Word of God includes both the Sacred Scriptures and Tradition, as interpreted by the Teaching Authority of the Church.
The RCC claims Tradition originates with God and, in fact, some certainly may. However, it does seem that a great deal of Rome’s Tradition – with a capital “T” – wells up out of the minds of men. Surely, it can be easily demonstrated that the men, the church fathers, so frequently referenced by modern Catholic apologists and wannabe apologists took different views of issues at different times in their careers.
To this day, Romish apologists can be shown to be influenced by their own prejudices in matters of foundational importance. One example might be drawn from the response of a well-respected RCC apologist, writing in Catholic Digest, to a question concerning Jesus’ siblings.
Just a single paragraph lifted from a longer study, yet so many errors and so many untruths. I do not accuse Monsignor Conway of deliberately lying, though I do believe him to have accepted as true many lies that originated in the infallible Teaching Authority of the RCC. Let us examine in detail a few points made by Conway.
“But it is a remarkable thing that none of the early Fathers or writers of the Church – except possibly Tertullian… ever thought of considering these brethren as children of Mary.” That is patently not true, as I demonstrated in some detail in my article Mary – Eternally Virgin? . In that article, the reader will discover that Saint Jerome, Doctor of the Church and an early writer of the Church, apparently indeed did have such thoughts:
The Clement Jerome refers to – who addressed his own narrative to James the Lord’s Brother – was a Bishop of Rome, a pope, if you will. Surely his writings, while not infallible in this case, merit some consideration.
Moving right along, I offer the words of another early Church Father, writer and Doctor of the Church, Cyril of Jerusalem, who also appears to have given some thought to the subject:
Did you notice Cyril's clear statement, "He was seen of James, HIS OWN BROTHER?" Can any words be more clear? Can there be any legitimate understanding of these words other than what they plainly say? From Cyril’s words alone, one can argue that some of the early Church Fathers not only gave the thought some consideration but actually believed it to be true.
Leo the Great, another early Church Father, writer, pope and Doctor of the Church, penned these words, thereby manifesting that he not only had considered the idea but also believed it to be true:
Well, the foregoing sources were but men and, as even a Catholic apologist will admit, fallible. How about an ecumenical council of the Church? These words from one such council clearly show that, as late as A.D. 695, there was a strong body of belief that Jesus of Nazareth had at least one sibling:
There are other proofs that Monsignor Conway was talking through his hat when he claims that NONE of the early Church Fathers or writers, except perhaps Tertullian, ever considered that Christ had siblings, but interested readers can read their words on the linked page.
Conway lays a label on Tertullian, whom he called a heretic. Well, history certainly records that Tertullian was the most important of the converts to Montanism.
In as much as Tertullian held to Montanism, Conway’s assertion that the man was a heretic clearly holds water. Yet other Catholic writers, including Pope John Paul II, are not put off from using Tertullian’s teachings to support their doctrinal arguments. In the encyclical Fides et Ratio, John Paul II uses Tertullian’s words to support his arguments concerning the distinction between theology and philosophy. And isn’t this something we often see with Catholic theologians and apologists? A source is a heretic or mighty man of God, depending upon how his words are to be used. This is one of the major failings of reliance on Tradition for dogma and doctrine.
After discounting Tertullian’s opinions as those of a heretic, Monsignor Conway then calls upon another Doctor of the Church, early church father and writer – Saint Basil – to support the doctrine of Mary’s perpetual virginity. Interestingly, Conway also points to Origin to lend strength to the dogma of Mary’s unrelenting virginity. This calling upon the work of Origen is particularly interesting when one considers Conway’s scathing use of the label HERETIC in reference to Tertullian (whose position on the issue apparently ran contrary to that of the Monsignor). Tertullian was not excommunicated, but Origen was in fact anathematized by a Church council.
An ecumenical council anthematized Origen and his writings, yet Conway – and any number of other Catholic theologians and apologists draw support for their positions from his writings. Once again, proof that a figure, ancient or modern, can be either a dog or a goat, depending upon the purpose of the Catholic writer. This is Tradition. And it is utterly unreliable as a source of doctrinal truth.
One final comment on Conway’s words quoted above. The opening sentence carries very heavy elitist overtones. The inference is that “anyone without doctrinal background and awareness of Christian tradition” is unequipped to understand or grasp biblical truth. Yet, as I have shown, Conway – an apologist who surely must have had both a doctrinal background and an awareness of Christian (read Catholic) tradition – manifested his own inability, or unwillingness, to understand biblical truth.
God’s truth is in the Sacred Scriptures. Look for it there, not in the self-serving utterances of men with axes to grind. When presented with doctrinal statements or issues of a theological nature – even on this board – I urge the reader not to accept them at face value. Rather, open the Scriptures and prayerfully search to see what the Lord God had to say on the issue at hand.
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