Today, we will continue with our responses to Dave Armstrong and his book, “The Catholic Verses,” in which the Catholic apologist presents ninety-five Bible verses or passages that allegedly validate Catholicism and are claimed to “confound” Protestants.
With the four verses below, Armstrong argues for the authority of oral tradition:
#4) Follow the pattern of the sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus; guard the truth that has been entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us. – 2 Timothy 1:13-14
#5) And what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. – 2 Timothy 2:2
#6) Beloved, being very eager to write to you of our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. – Jude 3
#7) And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. – Acts 2:42
Directly beneath these verses, Armstrong writes, “Catholics believe that these verses clearly set forth a notion of binding oral tradition that has as much authority as the written word of Scripture.” – p. 12.
Catholicism readily acknowledges that the Bible is God’s Word and is an inspired authority for faith and conduct, however it also claims that its “sacred oral traditions” and its teaching “magisterium” (i.e., the pope and his bishops) are equally authoritative.
It’s true that the Lord Jesus did not commit His teachings to writing during His earthly ministry. He communicated His teachings orally to His apostles and disciples. The apostles and disciples then committed the Gospel accounts of Christ’s ministry and His teachings to writing through the divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit over a span of about forty years, beginning in the late 40s or early 50s and ending in the early 90s. The infant church absolutely depended on the oral teachings of Paul and the other apostles, but as the inspired Gospels and apostolic epistles were written and circulated throughout the church, apostolic oral teaching ended with the deaths of the apostles. God’s Word is the sole authority for Christians and all that we need.
“All Scripture is breathed out 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 Timothy 3:16
Catholicism claims that it has preserved many of the mysterious, unwritten, extra-Biblical oral teachings of Jesus and the apostles down through the centuries, but how was that done? By word of mouth? One would think that, by now, all of those oral teachings would have been collected and published, but you won’t find a “Compendium of the Oral Teachings/Sacred Traditions of Jesus Christ and the Apostles” at your local Catholic bookstore.
However, appeals to “sacred tradition” have served an extremely useful purpose for the Roman Catholic church over the centuries. Every time that a doctrine was formulated that had no basis in Scripture, the Catholic hierarchy was able to invoke its sacred tradition “wild card.” Incredulous Catholics were unable to object because the proof allegedly rested upon undocumented and unverifiable oral traditions known only to a privileged few. From this dark hole came such doctrines as purgatory, indulgences, the immaculate conception and assumption of Mary, praying to canonized saints, the pope, the seven sacraments, etc., etc.
Untethered from the sole authority of God’s Word, Catholicism has been able to propagate one un-Biblical teaching after another. In contrast, throughout God’s Word, believers are exhorted to adhere to the sure teachings of Scripture. Yes, there are examples in Scripture when believers were encouraged to obey doctrines that were taught orally, but that was always in connection to teachings that came directly from Paul and the other apostles, not handed down mysteriously over many centuries and made manifest out of the clear blue.
While Armstrong presents 2 Timothy 2:2, Jude 3, and Acts 2:42 as irrefutable “Catholic verses,” which validate “sacred oral tradition,” an objective analysis reveals the fallaciousness of this self-serving and dangerous “wild card.”
“And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘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.’ You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” – Mark 7:6-8
Catholic apologists like Armstrong are currently in a pickle having to explain how the current pope, Francis, is able to overturn church traditions previously taught to be infallible, like the ban on communion for remarried divorcees and the ban on intercommunion with Protestants.
For more information, see the articles below:
Should Catholic tradition have equal or greater authority than the Bible?
Questions for Catholics on Sacred Tradition