“How come you Catholics reject the Bible and follow man-made traditions? Why do you ignore Jesus, who condemned the Pharisees as hypocrites, and said, ‘You nullify the Word of God for the sake of your tradition!’? Don’t you understand that the Bible is divinely inspired, and the BIBLE ALONE is how God communicates with us? You Catholics insult Jesus by following the Vatican’s man-made traditions. That’s why you’re not real Christians!"
Wow, have you ever been confronted with these questions by a friend or co-worker or, most zealous of all, a family member who USED to be Catholic? How do you respond? Is it really true that we Catholics reject the Bible and instead follow man-made traditions?
Well, once again a major problem is that the issue is often framed with “either-or” language: we follow either the Bible or traditions. However, it’s really more of a “both-and” situation: we follow both the Bible and what we call Sacred Tradition, or Apostolic Tradition.
When the above quote by Jesus is viewed in isolation, it may seem that tradition is a dirty word. But was Jesus condemning ALL tradition, or only some particular traditions the Pharisees embraced? Check out these biblical quotations:
“I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the traditions just as I passed them on to you” (1 Cor. 11:2).
“Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle” (2 Thess. 2:15).
Boy, it doesn’t sound like St. Paul, the author of those two Bible quotes, had a problem with tradition, as long as it taught the truth about God.
And regarding the popular doctrine of BIBLE ALONE, if it’s true that the Bible is our sole authority, then that doctrine surely must be taught in the Bible. It probably appears multiple times, right?
Well, by far the most popular verse cited as proof of the “Bible Alone” doctrine is this: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).
However, St. Paul said “all,” he didn’t say “only.” And if St. Paul was thinking “only scripture” (which he wasn’t), then he was referring to the Old Testament only, because the New Testament didn’t exist yet. (How could it? As Paul was writing the word “all,” his letter to Timothy wasn’t even finished, let alone many other New Testament writings.)
But surely St. Paul understood that sacred Scripture was the pillar and foundation of our faith, right? In 1 Timothy 3:15 Paul wrote, “…you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.”
See? Paul knew that the Bible is — Wait. What?! Paul said the foundation of truth is the church! Oh my, talk about a Catch-22. If someone believes the “Bible alone” is the foundation of truth, then he has to follow Paul’s biblical instructions, which say the church is the foundation of truth. Whoa. Head, meet explosion.
One last thought: Who exactly decided which of the many religious texts should be included in the Bible? Well, it was—wait for it—the Catholic Church! At two different Church Councils in the 4th century, the Catholic Church, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, determined exactly which writings belong in the Bible. So the Bible is a Catholic book. The Bible was given to the world by the Catholic Church! Pretty wild, huh?
So it’s not that complicated. We believe God revealed Himself to the world through both the Bible and Sacred Tradition. Catholics don’t reject the Bible. We love it and cherish it, but we also love and cherish the Apostolic Traditions handed down to us by the Lord Himself.
Oh, and one last thing, in case you’re not sure: Catholics definitely ARE real Christians.