Scriptures were more important than tradition to Apostolic Fathers.
Irenaeus discusses how tradition of the most ancient churches should be respected. He uses Rome as an example of a church whose tradition should be followed. But Irenaeus says more than Roman Catholics might like to hear. Irenaeus says that the foundation of the church at Rome, is not solely Peter, as Roman Catholics teach, but both Peter and Paul! Equal credit and authority is granted Peter and Paul as regarding the church at Rome. Irenaeus himself said:
"Since, however, it would be very tedious, in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the Churches, we do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by an evil self-pleasing, by vainglory, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorized meetings; [we do this, I say, ] by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also [by pointing out] the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its pre-eminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the apostolical tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere. The blessed apostles, then, having founded and built up the Church, committed into the hands of Linus the office of the episcopate. Of this Linus, Paul makes mention in the Epistles to Timothy. [2 Tim 4:21]" (Irenaeus, book 3, Chapter III.-A Refutation of the Heretics, from the Fact That, in the Various Churches, a Perpetual Succession of Bishops Was Kept Up.)
Most importantly is what Irenaeus says next in the following chapter. Here Irenaeus discusses ancient tradition of the apostles vs. the present possession of the scriptures. He says that since we have the writings of the apostles, we need not rely upon tradition. This is most unsettling to Roman Catholics who fight "sola scriptura" (using the Bible only). Irenaeus said:
"Since therefore we have such proofs, it is not necessary to seek the truth among others which it is easy to obtain from the Church; since the apostles, like a rich man [depositing his money] in a bank, lodged in her hands most copiously all things pertaining to the truth: so that every man, whosoever will, can draw from her the water of life. For she is the entrance to life; all others are thieves and robbers. On this account are we bound to avoid them, but to make choice of the thing pertaining to the Church with the utmost diligence, and to lay hold of the tradition of the truth. For how stands the case? Suppose there arise a dispute relative to some important question among us, should we not have recourse to the most ancient Churches with which the apostles held constant intercourse, and learn from them what is certain and clear in regard to the present question? For how should it be if the apostles themselves had not left us writings? Would it not be necessary, [in that case,] to follow the course of the tradition which they handed down to those to whom they did commit the Churches?" (Irenaeus, book 3, Chapter IV.-The Truth is to Be Found Nowhere Else But in the Catholic Church, the Sole Depository of Apostolical Doctrine. Heresies are of Recent Formation, and Cannot Trace Their Origin Up to the Apostles)
Augustine also taught that every Christian in the pews how to study the scriptures. This is not what the leaders as Roman Catholics would expect to hear. They would have expected Augustine to have the young bible students merely listen to the interpretation of the priests. see, Augustine, Book 2, Chapter 9.-How We Should Proceed in Studying Scripture
B. James Bernstein, Orthodox leader, gives a silly defense of man-made church tradition:
C. James Bernstein, Orthodox leader, tells us why he joined the Orthodox church.
"I needed to humble myself and come into union with the Church that produced the New Testament, and let her guide me into a proper understanding of Holy Scripture. After carefully exploring various church bodies, I finally realized that, contrary to the beliefs of many modern Christians, the Church which produced the Bible is not dead. The Orthodox Church today has direct and clear historical continuity with the Church of the Apostles, and it preserves intact both the Scriptures and the Holy Tradition which enables us to interpret them properly. Once I understood this, I converted to Orthodoxy and began to experience the fullness of Christianity in a way I never had before." (Which Came First: The Church or the New Testament?, Fr. James Bernstein, Orthodox churchman, 1994, p 21)
Refutation of James Bernstein (Orthodox):
D. Raymond L. Zell, Orthodox churchman, makes a shocking and outrageous statement:
Discussing how doctrine varies from church to church Zell says: "The Bible says once someone accepts Christ, he can never lose his salvation. ... The Bible says it is possible to fall away from grace." "The Bible says homosexuality is a perversion. ... The Bible says homosexuality is morally acceptable." "The Bible says Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God. ... The Bible says Jesus Christ is a created being." "The Bible says . . . Wait a minute!" "How can so many contradictory statements be based on the teachings of one book? How can intelligent and sensible people read basically the same Old and New Testament text, yet arrive at such opposite conclusions? Is there any other book, ancient or modern, which has prompted such a vast and often incompatible array of interpretations and dogmas? Why can't anyone agree on what the Bible really teaches?" (Scripture and Tradition, Raymond L. Zell, Orthodox churchman, 1995, p 1)
Refutation of Raymond L. Zell (Orthodox):
"Wait a minute! How can so many contradictory statements be based on the teachings of the Bible?" Zell
"Wait a minute! How can so many contradictory statements be based upon apostolic tradition?" Christians
"Wait a minute! How can intelligent and sensible people read basically the same Bible, yet arrive at such opposite conclusions?" Zell
"Wait a minute! How can intelligent and sensible people claim to be the apostolic church, yet arrive at such opposite conclusions?" Christians
I just laugh when Roman Catholics and Orthodox both claim their church has the authority to determine doctrine and that the Protestants are divided into many factions. Of course, the Orthodox claim they, not the Roman Catholic church are the one true apostolic church and depict the Roman Catholics "falling away" in 1054 AD. Roman Catholics use the same chart but have the Orthodox "falling away" from them. But the point remains, that Roman Catholics claim they are the apostolic church based upon tradition and Orthodox claim they are the apostolic church based upon tradition. Let me quote an Orthodox Father named Raymond L. Zell, in his booklet called, "Scripture and tradition." Pg. 2: "Wait a minute! How can so many contradictory statements be based upon" apostolic tradition? "How can intelligent and sensible people" claim to be the apostolic church, "yet arrive at such opposite conclusions?" What utter deception! The only source of unity is the Bible.
"Tradition? Isn't that something the Catholics came up with to impose a system of non-biblical, authoritarian dogmas upon people so that they wouldn't read the Bible for themselves?" (Scripture and Tradition, Raymond L. Zell, Orthodox churchman, 1995, p 7)
Undoubtedly some of the most harsh language in all Scripture directed toward this aspect of tradition can be found coming from the mouth of Jesus Christ Himself in Matthew 15:3-9. He calls the Pharisees "hypocrites" for nullifying the commandments of God through their phony traditions, and then goes on to castigate them by quoting Isaiah's prophecy, "These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men." What Christian in his or her right mind would want to be involved with something that received such harsh treatment from our Lord Himself! (Scripture and Tradition, Raymond L. Zell, Orthodox churchman, 1995, p 8)
1 Corinthians 11:2
2 Thessalonians 2:15
2 Thessalonians 3:6
2 Timothy 2:2
Christians actually agree that we must maintain the oral tradition of the apostles. We are not opposed to apostolic tradition of the first century church. But that is where the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches are in big trouble. The vast majority of their "church traditions" began long after the apostles died. Mariolatry, Christmas, Easter, celibacy of bishops directly contradicts 1 Tim 3, sprinkling in place of immersion contradicts the very meaning of the Greek word Baptism, which means immersion and the example of Jesus and the Eunuch in Acts 8 being immersed. (Steve Rudd)
After listing several of the heretics of the first 300 years after the apostles, Zell makes a statement that displays his dismal understanding of the subject he talks about: "do you know one thing they all had in common? Just like the Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses of our day, they all claimed adamantly that these misbegotten views were the true teaching of Scripture!" (Scripture and Tradition, Raymond L. Zell, Orthodox churchman, 1995, p 13) Neither Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses claim to use the Bible alone. Mormons hate the Bible and openly claiming it is corrupt and that the book of Mormon is the only true guide. JW's like Roman Catholics and Orthodox believes in salvation by church organization and that the common Jehovah's Witness cannot understand the Bible without the organization interpreting the Bible for them. Zell doesn't know that Orthodox and Jehovah's Witnesses both view the Bible the same way. Further, Roman Catholics, Orthodox and JW's all have creeds that replace the Bible in authority. It is irrefutable that the JW's are a replica of Catholic and Orthodox churches. In the case of JW's it is the Watchtower magazine, which they believe is inspired by the Holy Spirit. This kind of incredible error would go undetected by most of his people in the pews, but to informed Christians, it underscores that Zell has no idea what he is talking about. In fact these kind of outrageously wrong statements are made by both Roman Catholic and Orthodox leaders all the time.
Saint Jerome wrote that "ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ." Saint Athanasius called those who neglect the Scriptures "worthy of utmost condemnation And Saint John Chrysostom said that not knowing the Scriptures is "the cause of all evils."
"Councils and Creeds. As the Church grew and matured, the need often arose for local, regional, and even ecumenical-universal-gatherings of orthodox pastors, bishops, theologians, and godly leaders, to establish true biblical and historical doctrine in answer to heretical claims of the day. They gathered to decide, again with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, what the Bible really taught about those issues. And to make sure that their decisions were really biblical, they made extreme efforts to follow the consistent teaching of the godly faithful who had gone before. (Scripture and Tradition, Raymond L. Zell, Orthodox churchman, 1995, p 16)
When you stop to think about it, isn't it not only logical, but even a matter of piety, to believe that the same Holy Spirit who guided the writers of Scripture should also guide the Church in the development of her worship? The Church's liturgical and prayer life is a powerful element of Holy Tradition. (Scripture and Tradition, Raymond L. Zell, Orthodox churchman, 1995, p 17)
G. K. Chesterton defined tradition as "giving your ancestors a vote." (Scripture and Tradition, Raymond L. Zell, Orthodox churchman, 1995, p 18)
Continuing Tradition. Also included under the banner of tradition could be mentioned, with varying degrees of importance and universality: the decisions of later councils, canon law, and finally the iconographic tradition of the Church. In fact, one of the most exciting things about tradition is that it never stops or remains static. Tradition is the continuing presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church. We do not simply observe tradition, we enter into it, are swept up by it, and in the process become a part of its ebb and flow. (Scripture and Tradition, Raymond L. Zell, Orthodox churchman, 1995, p 18)
For early Christians, there was no false dichotomy such as we see today between the Bible and Holy Tradition. (Scripture and Tradition, Raymond L. Zell, Orthodox churchman, 1995, p 19)
It was never an "either/or" option. Both Scripture and Holy Tradition were received as having been given to the Church by God Himself, the source of all wisdom, through the direct operation of the Holy Spirit. (Scripture and Tradition, Raymond L. Zell, Orthodox churchman, 1995, p 19)
Thank God, there is still time for a return to the balanced and Spirit-filled understanding of the Holy Scriptures, as guided by the light of Holy Tradition. (Scripture and Tradition, Raymond L. Zell, Orthodox churchman, 1995, p 20)
By Steve Rudd
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