There’s Nothing Wrong With Tradition
One of the things that Catholics misunderstand about sola scriptura is that it shuns tradition. Nothing could be further from the truth. Sola scriptura requires tradition to make accurate interpretations of Scripture. If my interpretation of a passage, say Genesis 38:6-11, is off kilter with traditional interpretations, then perhaps I’m wrong and I need to adjust what I believe about that passage.
Or, it could be that the passage has been interpreted a certain way for years, even centuries, and that interpretation was wrong. Joshua 10:12-14 had been used to prove that the earth was the center of the solar system and that the sun revolved around it. Once the Copernican model for the solar system was accepted, that passage had to be re-evaluated.
So it is with Genesis 38:6-11. Long used by Roman Catholics as a prohibition against birth control, it has been re-evaluated in modern times as refering to a violation of the Mosaic Law, specifically that dealing with levirate marriage. TurretinFan has a good treatment of this topic here.
Matthew Bellisario uses that verse to attack sola scriptura, saying that it is really the Protestant’s own interpretation of Scripture that counts. But is that true?
Scripture is used to check tradition. Period. But in the Roman Catholic system, Sacred Tradition is on par with Scripture, so one cannot be used to check the other, since they are both at the same level. But what happens there? Neither can be questioned, since they both represent God’s Truth. What happens if one contradicts the other?
For example, paragraph 1366 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church says that the Eucharist re-presents (makes present) the sacrifice of the Cross. Paragraph 1367 expounds:
The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice: “The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different.” “And since in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and is offered in an unbloody manner. . . this sacrifice is truly propitiatory.”
And, as James White is fond of quoting, John O’Brien in The Faith of Millions states the Catholic Tradition thus:
When the priest announces the tremendous words of consecration, he reaches up into the heavens, brings Christ down from His throne, and places Him upon our altar to be offered up again as the Victim for the sins of man. It is a power greater than that of saints and angels, greater than that of Seraphim and Cherubim.
Indeed it is greater even than the power of the Virgin Mary. While the Blessed Virgin was the human agency by which Christ became incarnate a single time, the priest brings Christ down from heaven, and renders Him present on our altar as the eternal Victim for the sins of mannot once but a thousand times! The priest speaks and lo! Christ, the eternal and omnipotent God, bows his head in humble obedience to the priests command.
Of what sublime dignity is the office of the Christian priest who is thus privileged to act as the ambassador and the vice-gerent of Christ on earth! He continues the essential ministry of Christ: he teaches the faithful with the authority of Christ, he pardons the penitent sinner with the power of Christ, he offers up again the same sacrifice of adoration and atonement which Christ offered on Calvary. No wonder that the name which spiritual writers are especially fond of applying to the priest is that of alter Christus. For the priest is and should be another Christ.
What’s my point, you ask? Only this: Scripture paints a different picture of the Eucharist. We are to do this in memory of Christ, according to the words of our Savior himself. And the book of Hebrews says this of Christ’s sacrifice:
For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,
“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.'”
When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. (Heb 10:1-14)
Note the repeated theme of offering the sacrifice once for all in this chapter form the book of Hebrews. So, which is it? Are we to offer Christ many times on altars all over the world, or did he offer himself once for all? Scripture and Sacred Tradition conflict on this point.
Now, the Protestant has the answer: Scripture must be correct, since that is the full and final revelation of God. But the Catholic has some work to do. Scripture and Tradition must coexist, even on points like this. What’s the answer, Catholics? Is Tradition wrong, is Scripture wrong, or am I missing something?