There Are No Bible-Alone Churches

Some Christians criticize Catholic doctrine for being a combination of Scripture and tradition.  The thinking is that the Bible alone should be where doctrine comes from.  Tradition is thought to be “bad” since Jesus criticized the traditions of the Pharisees.  However, the fact that the Pharisees had bad traditions does not automatically mean that all tradition is bad.  The Apostles taught traditions.

There really is no such thing as a “Bible alone” church.  Every church has doctrines that are a result of someone interpreting the Bible.  It’s not as if the Bible stands behind the pulpit and preaches all alone.  What is taught is either the interpretation of the individual preacher or the interpretation that someone else has taught the preacher.  Such teachings become the traditions of that particular church.

If one bypasses the preacher and goes straight to the Bible, the doctrines that one formulates are either individual interpretations or some variations of doctrines already learned from others.  So, even then, it is not the Bible alone but the-Bible-plus-someone.

The key, then, is not to find a good “Bible alone” church, for no such church exists.  Every church has traditions handed down by people.  The key is finding the Church with the proper interpretation of Scripture as well as proper Sacred Tradition.  The Apostles had Traditions that they passed on to Christian believers.  We are told in 2Thessalonians 2:15 to “…hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.”  Therefore, one must find the Church that has preserved the fullness of both the oral and the written Traditions of the Apostles.  In other words, one must find the Church that has the Bible plus the proper interpretation of the Bible and the proper, apostolic, oral teaching of doctrine.

It was the apostolic authority and Tradition of the Catholic Church that gave us the Bible.  In other words, the Bible, and its formation, is actually part of the Sacred Tradition of the Catholic Church.  So, if you say that Catholic Tradition is bad, you are condemning the Bible.  Other churches were formed by men taking the Bible and the apostolic authority for themselves and creating new traditions.  What we now have is a plethora of Bible-plus-new-tradition combos rather than one, Bible-plus-apostolic-tradition Church.

So, again, there is no such thing as a “Bible only” church.  It really comes down to which tradition you want to rely on.  Do you want the apostolic tradition that gave you the Bible to begin with, or a tradition started centuries later by someone other than Jesus Christ and his Apostles?  If you choose the later, you must determine from where the authority of that tradition comes if not from Jesus Christ and his Apostles.  If you say, “My authority comes from the Bible,” then you are appealing to Catholic Church authority and Tradition, and you might as well be a Catholic.

10 thoughts on “There Are No Bible-Alone Churches

    1. Thomas Post author

      Simply that God only forbids idol worship, not necessarily the creation of statues. God even commanded the creation of some statues such as those that were on the Ark of the Covenant and the serpent on the staff that healed the people who looked upon it. Making a statue of any famous person such as a king or a politician does not turn that person or the statue into a god.

      Reply
  1. Outlaw Monk

    Good post.

    I’m a member of a “Sola Scriptura” church. From our point of view there is nothing wrong with tradition as long as it has base in the Scripture. The Catholic liturgy, for example, is based on events in the New Testament so we still use it. I think the main point of contention is doctrine/dogma that was created long after the Church Fathers that has no basis in Scripture. The celibacy of priests is one example off the top of my head but I’m sure there are many others.

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    1. Thomas Post author

      Yes, some non-Catholics have more complaints about tradition than others. What I did not do in this post is point out the distinction between Tradition (upper case) and tradition (lower case). The celibacy of priests is a tradition or a discipline which is not a part of Sacred Tradition (the deposit of faith) and could be changed if the Church decides to. Nevertheless, it does have Scriptual basis as it models Paul’s words on celibacy (1Cor 7:7).

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  2. Outlaw Monk

    I agree that the extreme versions of “Sola Scriptura” are unrealistic and dangerous. I recently had a similar conversation about extreme views of “Sola Fide” that discount good works and piety. However, I feel obligated to mention that Paul contradicts himself in (1 Tim 3:2) and it is apparent that Peter was married in (Mat 8:14) but that’s dogma not doctrine so the argument may be moot.

    I agree with you; any time one takes man-made philosophy to the extreme, bad things are bound to happen.

    Reply
    1. Thomas Post author

      Extremes do tend to go badly. Yes, Peter had a mother-in-law. The Catholic Church does have some priests that are married. One might hear Paul saying that a bishop must be married, or that a bishop must not be a polygamist (which would include a divorced and remarried bishop). I have seen that very debate go back and forth between non-Catholics. When the debate is “taken to the Church,” as Scripture says, the issue is settled. It is a good example of why the authority of the Church is necessary.

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