"Traditions as essential as the Bible?"
Letter to the Editor:
PASUGO, April 1996, P.2
PASUGO, April 1996, P.2
AS A CATHOLIC, I believe that it is not only the Bible but also the Apostolic traditions that must be upheld. We Catholic adhere to traditions as much as to the bible because they are also Christ's words and deeds which do not contradict but only supplement the Scriptures. Just because Catholic traditions are not recorded in the bible doesn't mean that they are not necessary. As far as Christ's salvific mission is concerned, we are bound to believe. And if traditions were really unnecessary Apostle Paul would not have admonished to hold on to these, as he exhorted in II Thessalonians 2:15: "Therefore. brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle." (New King James Version)
That Catholics adhere to traditions, aside from believing in the bible, is an indisputable fact that needs no further elaboration. But what do Catholics exactly mean by tradition? A Catholic bishop defines it, thus:
"By divine tradition is meant the revealed truths taught by Christ and His Apostles, which were given to the Church only by word of mouth and not through the Bible, though they were put in writing principally by the Fathers of the Church." (My Catholic Faith, Louis LaRavoire Morrow, p.18)
Traditions, then, are the teachings that "were given to the [Catholic] Church only by word of mouth and not through the Bible." Why do Catholics believe in traditions? The same author maintains that the Bible cannot be the sole guide to salvation because
"The Bible does not contain all the truths necessary for eternal salvation." (Ibid, p.21)
Thus, Catholics uphold traditions because they believe the Bible is incomplete and hence, it needs to be supplemented. To supplement means to add something to, especially so as to make up for a lack or deficiency.
Does the Bible need to be supplemented? No. Apostle John was very clear on this matter, thus:
"Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name." (Jn. 20:30-31, New International Version)
The Bible, by itself, is sufficient to guide man towards salvation. Hence, it does not need any supplement or addition. Those who add to God's word as well as those who subtract from His truths written in the bible will not be saved (cf. Dt. 12:32;Rev.22:18-19).
What about the supposed admonition of Apostle Paul to hold fast to traditions? Did Apostle Paul really exhort the Christians to uphold traditions? Notice what he said:
".....stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word OR OUR EPISTLE" (New King James Version, emphasis ours).
The traditions mentioned by Apostle Paul in II Thessalonians 2:15, do not refer to Catholic traditions which have been handled down by WORD OF MOUTH only ---NOT through epistles or letters. Then, what is the real meaning of Apostle Paul's pronouncement in the said verse? In the New International Version, this is what is written:
"So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter."
What are these teachings which every Christian ought to uphold? The same verse as rendered in the Today's English Version says:
"So then, our brothers, stand firm and hold on to those truths which we taught you, both in our preaching and in our letter."
Apostle Paul advises us to hold to the truth and stand firm in it.
What is the truth? The truth is God's words which are written in the Bible and which will sanctify and guide man toward salvation (cf. John 17:17; II Timothy 3:15-17). Apostle Paul warned against people who insist that human traditions are necessary in serving the Lord, thus:
"Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ." (Col. 2:8, NKJV)
Why did the apostles warn the observers of traditions? Because followers of traditions are all too ready to transgress God's laws in order to comply with their handed-down beliefs as the Scriptures attest:
"For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men---the washing of the pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do. And He said to them, 'All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition'." (Mark 7:8-9,Ibid)
For man to be able to keep God's words faithfully, he must always bear in mind Apostle Paul's admonition not to go beyond what is written (cf. I Cor. 4:6). Thus, although our Lord Jesus Christ did many works which were not recorded in the Scriptures, it is the written or recorded ones that will be the basis of our salvation. □