Sola Scriptura

Sola Scriptura

Cedric Wright

I have been reading Patrick Madrid's absorbing new book, Scripture and Tradition in the Church, with great interest. He makes a most convincing case for the essential nature of Catholic tradition in support of the Scriptures, with three main, irrefutable, arguments:

1. The One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church came into full being at Our Lord's behest, nine days after his Ascension, when the Holy Spirit descended on Mary and the Apostles at Pentecost - decades before the first Gospels were written. In truth, the Church predated the Scriptures.

2. In spending three years in Our Lord's company - "rubbing shoulders" with him, as it were - the Apostles and disciples absorbed his actions and "body language" which gave life to his teachings, enabling them to pass this close association down in Tradition.

3. The Catholic Church is a living organism, not merely a repetition of words penned two millennia ago.

Although Madrid is not always specific on this subject, we all know what he means: both Our Lord and His Mother have repeatedly appeared to saints and other devout Catholics with messages of encouragement and amplification.

In other words, the Catholic Church remains in full and joyful communion with its Founder.

These three facts, alone, make nonsense of the creed of "Sola Scriptura" propagated by Luther, Calvin and their followers - the quaint belief that Scripture alone must be the basis of the Christian worship.

There is no denying that Holy Scripture fills a vital role in recording Our Lord's teachings and providing the ground rules of the Faith, but the Protestant approach is bleak and soulless - it lacks a living force. Only the original Church founded by Jesus Christ is able to properly interpret the bare words of the Gospels.

Patrick Madrid is an eminent and much-loved Catholic writer who has done much to enrich our faith; but in the reading, I was left wondering whether he really needed 130 pages, and something like 4,000 words, to tell these three self-evident truths.

At times, he seems to be engaging in theological battle with the Protestant Reformers, and - like the post-Vatican II Church - to be "drowning in theology", as it were.

Theology is vitally important in preparing our priests for teaching, but theology for theology's sake can be overdone. For instance, Our Lord honoured priests, but scorned the theologians of his day - the Scribes and Pharisees - in the strongest terms, while embracing sinners, the suffering, and young children.

In doing so, did he not emphasise (as I believe) that the most important things are love, penance and simple faith?

In working through Patrick Madrid's verbose (and sometimes repetitive) arguments, I could not help but recall the memorable words of Omar Khayyam in the Rubaiyat:

"Myself when young did eagerly frequent
Doctor and Saint, and heard great Argument
About it and about, but evermore came out
By the same Door as in I went."

Martin Luther and John Calvin were distinguished theologians in their own right, but in clinging to "Sola Scriptura" they will always be wrong!

Mt Warren, Qld

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