The Roman Catholic belief is that tradition
is equally valid with the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments but the
Protestant position is that only writings inspired by God are valid as
authority in matters of faith and religion. What is your position?
In an attempt to prove that tradition has
authority, it is common for Roman Catholics to quote II Thessalonians 2:15:
“Therefore brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught,
either by word or our epistle.” This
text is supposed to support the authority for oral tradition (“by word”) and
written tradition (“an epistle from us”). These churches had received
instruction both orally and in written form from the apostles and they
recognized, as we also recognize today, that this instruction was inspired of
God and had divine authority. Peter refers to the writings of Paul as inspired
Scripture (II Peter 3:15, 16) and the rule of the early church was that if the
writing was from an apostle then it had divine authority and was part of Scripture.
But if the writing was not from an apostle, then it did not have divine
authority and was not part of Scripture. The only question then and the only
question now is, Is this epistle or book from an
apostle of Jesus Christ or not?
Today, it is impossible to know for sure
whether what is called “apostolic tradition” is actually from the apostles or
whether it is a product that has been corrupted during the last 1900 years.
This same problem existed in Jesus’ day. There was a multitude of ancient tradition
that was held to be authoritative, but Jesus did not espouse the use of any
tradition as authoritative in religious matters. This is why New Testament
Protestant Christians today do not espouse the use of any tradition as
authoritative—because there is no proof of divine source. In Jesus’ day, the
method used to show that a writing was divinely
inspired was to attach the name of a prophet as the author, or attach the
writing to a book of the Bible, just as later it became a practice to claim
that some tradition or written document had an apostolic source.
Jesus had the following to say about these
traditions: “This people draweth nigh unto me with
their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but
their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for
doctrines the commandments of men.” Matthew 15:8, 9.
Paul taught that following tradition could
deprive one of eternal life (see Colossians 2:8). All traditions, customs and
teachings from any source must be tested by the inspired word of God.