Several months ago, I wrote a post about one of my memories of growing up within Catholicism. When I was in grammar school, the nuns would periodically go to the blackboard and draw a three-legged stool as a symbol of the Catholic church. The idea was that the church was extremely well-supported by its three pillars of guidance and authority: Holy Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and the magisterium (the pope and the bishops as teachers). All three legs were taught to be equal in authority. It was pointed out by the sisters that, in contrast, the poor Protestants had only one leg, Holy Scripture, supporting their stool, which of course made for a laughable and completely untrustworthy seating device.
In that previous post, I commented on how pope Francis’ controversial lifting of the ban on communion for remarried divorcees has exposed the baselessness of the claims regarding the divinely-led teaching authority of the papacy. See here.
In this post, I would like to focus briefly on the other non-Biblical leg of Catholic authority; Sacred Tradition. Catholicism defines “sacred tradition” as “the oral teachings of Jesus Christ given to His apostles, not recorded in Scripture, that were faithfully handed down within the church from one generation to the next.” One would think that BY NOW, Catholicism would have published a book that collects all of these alleged oral teachings, but that is NOT the case. If you go to a nearby Catholic bookstore, you won’t find a book titled, “The Compendium of Sacred Tradition.” Why not? It turns out that Sacred Tradition is Catholicism’s convenient “wild card.”
Wild card definition: A playing card whose value can vary as determined by its holder.
As the early Christian church became increasingly institutionalized, it began absorbing and adapting many pagan beliefs and practices. These doctrines could not be traced to any explicit teachings in Scripture. In many cases, there wasn’t even an implicit basis. In all such cases, Rome invoked its wild card, Sacred Tradition. A doctrine may not have had any explicit or even implicit basis in Scripture, but the church was able to claim the teaching had its origin in the unrecorded oral teachings of Christ and His apostles and was therefore beyond criticism and examination. One example, among literally hundreds if not thousands, would be the teaching of the efficacy of praying to Mary and the “saints.” Nowhere in either the Old or New Testaments are there examples of believers praying to anyone other than God. There is no explicit or implicit basis in Scripture for such a practice. In contrast, Scripture expressly forbids communicating with the dead and teaches that God alone is to be prayed to and worshiped and that Jesus Christ alone is the Mediator between God and men. But Catholicism absorbed and adapted the pagan belief in multiple patron deities (see here) into the intercession of Mary and the “saints” and was able to invoke its mysterious and unverifiable “sacred tradition” as the basis of such doctrines.
As I said, you will not find a book detailing all of Catholicism’s sacred traditions, but the category is conveniently used as a wild card to justify any Catholic teaching that is not found in the Bible.
“Sacred tradition: A body of oral tradition, supposed to have been handed down from generation to generation in unbroken succession, either from the Lord Himself or from the apostles enlightened by the Holy Spirit. Rome has been challenged to disclose what that body of tradition is, and what are its contents beyond what has already been announced by the papacy, but she has never made it known. It can only be concluded that she prefers to have its substance secret; that she may draw further upon its hidden store as later circumstances require. It reminds one of the hat out of which the conjuror produces his rabbits one after another.” – from “Roman Catholicism In the Light of Scripture” by F.C.H. Dreyer and E. Weller, Kindle position 494.
Untethered to Scriptural Truth, Rome has granted itself the ability to create a multitude of doctrines that are either un-Biblical or anti-Biblical, all under the murky, untestable guise of “Sacred Tradition.”
“This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” – Matthew 15:8-9
Catholicism revels in its “superior” three-legged teaching authority, but by supplanting God’s Word, it has led its followers into spiritual darkness and death.