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The Sole Rule Of Faith?

July 23, 2021 Frontpage No Comments


One day when she was scarcely five years old, St. Jane de Chantal (1572-1641) was playing in her father’s study while a discussion was going on between her father (Royalist President Fremyot) and a Protestant nobleman who had come to visit him. The Protestant remarked that what pleased him most in the reformed religion was the denial of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament. Hearing him say this, the child couldn’t restrain herself. She went to the nobleman and looking at him indignantly said, “My lord, you must believe that Jesus Christ is in the Blessed Sacrament, because He said it. If you don’t believe, you make Him a liar.”
Astonished by the child’s tone, the nobleman began to dispute the question with her. Her answers were both surprising and uncomfortable, so he offered her some candy to end the discussion. Jane took the candy in her apron without touching it, ran to the fireplace and threw it into the fire. Then she turned to the nobleman and said, “See, my lord, how heretics will burn in the fire of hell, because they do not believe what Jesus Christ has said.”
On another day the same nobleman was again discussing the reformed religion in the President’s parlor when the child approached him and said, “My lord, if you had blamed the king for telling a lie, my father would have you hanged.” Then pointing to statues of Saints Peter and Paul, she continued, “But since you have blamed our Savior of telling a lie, these presidents will have you hanged.”
When Protestantism first began in 1517, we did indeed refer to them as heretics, because they most certainly were — that was the evil of the Protestant Revolt. They knew they were denying the truths of the Holy Catholic Church, as passed down to us by Jesus Christ and the apostles. Today, however, we don’t consider them heretics, because the vast majority of them not only don’t know the truths handed down by Christ, but they don’t even know the origins of their individual denominations. In order to be a heretic, one must know that one is denying the truths established and proclaimed by Jesus Christ and the apostles He taught and charged with teaching them to the world.
There are over 42,000 individual Christian religions today, just in the United States. No two agree on everything. If they did, there would be no reason for their existence. But there is one thing they all agree on universally, and that is that the Bible is the sole rule of faith. This is yet another heresy brought about by Martin Luther called sola Scriptura, and it was condemned officially by the Council of Trent and reaffirmed by the Councils of Vatican I and Vatican II. Sola Scriptura is the claim that all truth is found in Sacred Scripture and nowhere else — that everything one needs to have the fullness of truth and find the road to Heaven is in the Bible.
The Bible itself denies it is the sole source of divine Revelation. John tells us that everything Jesus taught was not committed to writing (John 21:25). The Apostle Paul tells Bishop Timothy that what he has heard from Paul is to be passed on to others who are in turn to teach it faithfully (2 Tim. 2:2). St. Paul also tells the Thessalonians to hold what they have been taught “by word of mouth or by letter” (2 Thess. 2:15).
St. Luke tells us the first Christians “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching” that they heard through preaching (Acts 2:42). And why was the truth transmitted by the apostles orally? Because Jesus commanded them to preach the Gospel (Mark 16:15), not commit it all to writing. St. Paul clearly understood that he and the other apostles were to teach Jesus’ divine Revelation in this way, and that Christians were to accept it (Romans 10:17).
We might ask, if the Bible is the sole rule of faith, what did the Christians do in the early centuries? Not a word of the New Testament was even written until at least twenty years after Jesus returned to the Father, and the New Testament only came into existence by decree of the Council of Carthage in AD 397. In essence, then, all of Christ’s teachings were handed down by word of mouth until 397.
Handing down the sacred truths by word of mouth is called sacred Tradition. Tradition, in this sense, has nothing to do with customs, such as how we address the bishop or priestly attire, but rather the transmission of our beliefs that are not committed to the writings found in the Bible. Tradition was nothing new to the Jews, who made up the totality of the Church’s earliest body of believers. St. Matthew, who was a Jew before he answered Christ’s call, demonstrates to us his own acceptance of Tradition.
In telling us about Jesus’ infancy, Matthew writes: “And he went and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled. ‘He shall be called a Nazarene’” (Matt. 2:23). There are two interesting points to be made from this passage, one building on the next.
The first point is that an exhaustive search of the Old Testament won’t yield a single prophet who tells that the Messiah would be called a Nazarene. It’s simply not there.
The second point is a key word in Matthew’s phrase concerning the prophet. He said it was spoken by the prophet, not written. Every time the Gospels speak of prophecies regarding Christ, the writers tell us it is written by a prophet. This lone passage in Matthew is the only exception. So there are only two possibilities that exist here. The one possibility is that Matthew lied about the prophecy. If he lied, then all of the New Testament is called into question as a lie, and we find ourselves guilty of worshipping a dead Jewish carpenter.
The other possibility is that the Jews also had many of the truths of their religion passed down by word of mouth, not committed to the writings of the Old Testament. It’s obvious that Matthew, as well as the Jews as a whole, believed in what we today call sacred Tradition.
This sacred Tradition (also called Apostolic Tradition) is the Word of God entrusted by Christ and the Holy Spirit to the apostles. The apostles, in turn, handed those sacred truths down to their successors (the Pope and the bishops) in the fullness of purity (cf. John 21:25; 2 Tim. 1:13-14; 2:2; 2 Thess. 2:15). The Fathers of Vatican II explained it more clearly when they wrote:
“Hence there exist a close connection and communication between sacred Tradition and sacred Scripture. For both of them, flowing from the same divine wellspring, in a certain way merge into a unity and tend toward the same end. For sacred Scripture is the word of God inasmuch as it is consigned to writing under the inspiration of the divine Spirit. To the successors of the apostles, sacred Tradition hands on in its full purity God’s word, which was entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit. Thus, by the light of the Spirit of truth, these successors can in their preaching preserve this word of God faithfully, explain it, and make it more widely known. Consequently it is not from sacred Scripture alone that the Church draws her certainty about everything which has been revealed. Therefore both sacred Scripture and sacred Tradition are to be accepted and venerated with the same devotion and reverence” (Dei Verbum, n. 9).
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