Tagged: Scripture

Scripture alone, a tradition of men

Scripture says:
Mark 7:8 For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men,

A tradition of men, such as the one mentioned in Scripture, would be the doctrine of Scripture alone, which gives all individuals the right to interpret Scripture any way they want. Thus, invalidating the God given rule that one must obey those He has put in charge of our souls, in the Church.

Hebrews 13:17 Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.

Those who follow the erroneous doctrine of Scripture alone, replace God’s authority with their own and make Scripture say what they want it to say, rather than what God wills. Therefore, they claim that attending the Mass is unnecessary. Whereas, Scripture says that missing the Mass intentionally makes one God’s enemy:

Hebrews 10:25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
26 For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,
27 But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.
28 He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses:
29 Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?
30 For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people.
31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

And that is just one of the traditions of men, or should I call them, errors of men, that Protestants follow and whereby they replace God’s Commandment with their tradition.

Did St. James contradict St. Paul?

Hi Jason,

Since my perspective is a bit different than the one’s already expressed, I’ll start from your opening article.

You said:

In this series we have been exploring the issue of soteriological paradigms, and I have been arguing that the kinds of things that Jesus and the New Testament writers said about the gospel in general, and about justification in particular, may be able to be squeezed into the Reformed paradigm with sufficient exegetical gymnastics, but they certainly would never have arisen from it.


If ever there were an example of this, it is the second chapter of the epistle of St. James (you know, the epistle that Luther wanted expunged from the canon because it failed to agree with him). We read in 2:14-26,
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.
Some things to note:
(1). The entire pericope is soteriological in nature and stems from the question of whether faith can “save” the man who has no works. Thus there is more in view here than merely whether or not the man with faith but no works is vindicated in the eyes of men.
(2). James’s appeal to exemplify justification by faith and works is to the aqeda, the binding of Isaac (which took place both many years after Abraham was initially justified, as well as in a secluded place with no human witnesses before whom Abraham could be “vindicated”).

Agreed. That is why he says, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works ….

(3) James uses “save” and “justify” interchangeably, and insists that faith without works accomplishes neither.

(4) James’s example of a needy person is perfectly parallel with Jesus’ teaching on the final judgment, according to which those who care for the poor are granted entrance into the eternal kingdom.


(5) James’s appeal to Genesis 15:6 mirrors Paul’s appeal to the very same passage when discussing Abraham’s justification, strongly indicating that the two men are speaking of the same idea.

Not exactly.

a. I don’t believe that St. Paul and St. James contradict each other.
b. But that doesn’t mean that St. James did not set out to contradict St. Paul. More on that below.

(6) The conclusion that “a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone” makes no sense if what James has in view is vindication rather than justification. If James were indeed speaking of vindication, he would have simply said, “a man is vindicated by works” without the addendum “and not by faith alone.” James is clearly seeking to correct an error,

Exactly! And I believe the perceived error which he wanted to correct, is this:
Romans 3:28
Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.

In my opinion, Luther and St. James both understood that St. Paul was teaching that works have nothing whatsoever to do with justification. Luther and St. James are making the same mistake here. (I’m speaking shorthand here, because St. James may be addressing someone’s understanding of St. Paul’s teaching.)
I believe St. James sets out to contradict that teaching.

and there is no evidence that anyone in his day was teaching that men are vindicated by faith alone.

True. But, as noted elsewhere, many other Catholics have added the word “alone” behind “faith” in Rom 3:28. But they understood St. Paul correctly.

In my opinion, you can add “alone” to St. Paul’s teaching if you understand that he is making reference to the justification which occurs in the Sacraments. The Sacraments are the work of God. It is God who washes us of sin in the Sacraments. Especially in the Sacrament of Baptism.

St. James, however, is not speaking of the Sacraments. But of the justification which will be adjudicated by God on the Last Day (Rev 22:12-15). This is the basis of all justification.

We are justified in the Sacraments. But even those who are justified in the Sacraments will stand before the Just Judge on the Last Day.
Romans 14:10
But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.

(7) That James is not speaking of the vindication of someone who is already a believer is  further clarified by his appeal to Rahab who, he says, was justified “in the same way” as Abraham. The harlot was “justified,” not vindicated, when she sent the spies in the wrong direction (just as Abraham was “justified” in both Gen. 15 and Gen. 22, despite his having been initially justified many years earlier in Gen. 12).


(8) The illustration of the body without a spirit is the final nail in the coffin for the Reformed position, for it demonstrates that James is not comparing one kind  of faith with another — so-called “saving faith” versus mere “ordinary faith. In his illustration, the body is a true body whether or not it is animated by a spirit, and likewise, faith is faith whether or not it is animated by works. Thus the corollary to the dead and spirit-less corpse is not the wrong kind of faith, but faith alone. The illustration makes no sense otherwise.

I’ve heard that argument. I’m not sure I agree that both are not true.
a. I first heard that argument expressed by J. Martignone. (I hope I spelled that right.) I think its a good argument and I believe it is true. But I don’t think it is true to the exclusion of the other.
b. I believe St. James makes a comparison to the Demons, who “believe” and yet tremble. Belief is frequently equated to faith. In this case, he means belief without trust, without obedience and without righteous works to support and confirm that belief. Obviously, the so-called “faith” of a demon could hardly be called “faith” at all.

This is what google brought back when I asked for a definition of faith.

1. Complete trust or confidence in someone or something.
2. Strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.

belief – trust – confidence – credence – credit

Therefore, St. James is referring to some sort of “dead” faith which is not animated by works. It is a different sort of faith. St. Paul calls it “weak” faith. A faith which doesn’t perform:

Romans 4:
19 And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah’s womb: 20 He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; 21 And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. 22 And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness.
Abraham did not have this sort of faith.
Therefore, I believe both arguments are true and teach against faith alone. It is hard for me to distinguish between the two.

The teaching of James, when all of this is taken into account, is completely inconsistent with the Reformed view that justification is by faith alone without works, and that James is speaking about a different kind of justification than Paul was when he spoke of the same OT character (Abraham) and cited the same OT passage (Gen. 15:6). And moreover, even if this pericope could be forced into a Reformed rubric, any honest exegete should admit that if James had been operating from that rubric, he simply wouldn’t have said things in the way that he did.

In a word, Luther was right to have seen James as a serious threat to his gospel. But rather than wishing he could “throw Jimmy in the stove,” he would have been wiser to rethink his views in the light of this writer who, like it or not, was canonical and completely in line with Jesus and Paul.


How do the islanders determine which of these individuals has the true gospel?

  • ROBERT June 8, 2013 at 5:54 am
    Jason et al,
    One of the major problems with your analogy is its limited, if not impossible, applicability to contexts where the gospel has not been heard. Eric’s point alludes to it a bit (though I don’t know if that was intentional).
    For example:
    There is an island in the middle of the Pacific ocean where the people are fully literate but the gospel has never been proclaimed.
    A Roman Catholic missionary, Eastern Orthodox monk, Presbyterian evangelist, Mormon missionary, Witness from the Watchtower Bible and Tract society, sedevancanist Roman Catholic, liberal Protestant well-builder, and Benny Hinn come to the island.
    Because all these groups have some sort of allegiance, professed or real, to the Bible, the islanders come to believe that the Bible is revelation from God.
    After hearing from all of them for a few months, they realize that these different individuals are all teaching things that are very, very different while all of them claim to be Christian.
    How do the islanders determine which of these individuals has the true gospel?

    Several ways Robert.
    1st. It is by the grace of God that anyone comes to the Father through Christ. Participating in the Divine life of God is the foundation for salvation.
    Philippians 2:11-13
    King James Version (KJV)
    11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 12 Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. 13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

    2nd. They compare the preaching to the Bible. For instance, Sola Scriptura. They can look for it in the Bible and notice that it contradicts Scripture.

    Faith alone and all the rest of the alones as well, are either absent from Scripture or contradict Scripture.

    3rd. Some will be brought into the faith by their parents.

    Perhaps this will help you understand how people come to believe in the Gospel:
    Mark 4
    King James Version (KJV)
    4 And he began again to teach by the sea side: and there was gathered unto him a great multitude, so that he entered into a ship, and sat in the sea; and the whole multitude was by the sea on the land. 2 And he taught them many things by parables, and said unto them in his doctrine, 3 Hearken; Behold, there went out a sower to sow: 4 And it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up. 5 And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth: 6 But when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away. 7 And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit. 8 And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred. 9 And he said unto them, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. 10 And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable. 11 And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: 12 That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them. 13 And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables? 14 The sower soweth the word.
    15 And these are they by the way side, where the word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts.16 And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness; 17 And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended.18 And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word, 19 And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful. 20 And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred.


    De Maria

Fundamental difference in how we read the Bible

Catholics approach the Word of God (that includes the Bible) in a manner fundamentally different than Protestants. We approach the Word of God in the manner which Scripture recommends. We learn the Word of God from our teachers (Heb 13:7). We learn the Word of God in Sacred Tradition and in the Sacred Writings (2Thess 2:15). When we do focus upon the Scriptures, we don’t neglect the spiritual meaning of the Word (2 Cor 3:6).

And most importantly, as Catholics, we understand that we are fallible. We also believe that God has established an infallible Teacher of His Wisdom (Eph 3:10). Therefore, we don’t go around re-interpreting what the Church has already explained. Since it is the Church which is called the Pillar and Foundation of the Truth (1 Tim 3:15), when it comes to Scripture, we believe the Church.

Protestants, on the other hand, discover the Word of God every time the open the Bible. That’s why they come up with so many innovations. That’s why they come up with so many errors.

Pair o’dimes Catholic and Protestant

Way back in 2012, Jason Stellman said,

….As I began to take the Church’s claims seriously, however, I started to discover more and more passages in the New Testament that failed to fit the Reformed paradigm well. Now, I want to be clear about something here: I am not saying that there were NT passages that I would read as a Protestant and think, “I don’t believe this” or “I have no idea how to fit this into my existing theology.” Indeed, I believed all the NT had to say, and I could explain each passage in the light of my larger theological paradigm.
But this isn’t really the issue. After all, any Bible-believing Christian can make any verse fit into his theology, that’s easy. For example, Baptists, Presbyterians, and Catholics all have differing positions on what baptism accomplishes, but that doesn’t change the fact that they can all read Romans 6 or Acts 2 and say, “I believe those words and can fit them into my system” (despite the fact that their respective systems are incompatible with each other).
The thing we have to remember is that the earliest Christians didn’t figure out what baptism accomplishes by consulting verses like “As many as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death” or “Repent and be baptized for the remission of sins,” since the Church existed long before those words were penned and then recognized as canonical. No, the early Church had an apostolic doctrine of baptism that gave rise to,  rather than being the result of,  the relevant NT texts.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.

Jesus Christ did not write the New Testament.  Jesus Christ established a Church and taught that Church His Doctrines.  He, then commanded that Church to continue Teaching His Doctrines to the whole world until the end of time.

The Church wrote the New Testament based upon those Doctrines which the Apostles learned from Jesus Christ.  Those Doctrines are we call Sacred Tradition.  Those Doctrines gave rise to the New Testament Scriptures.

83 The Tradition here in question comes from the apostles and hands on what they received from Jesus’ teaching and example and what they learned from the Holy Spirit. The first generation of Christians did not yet have a written New Testament, and the New Testament itself demonstrates the process of living Tradition.

Can I get an, “Amen!”

On private interpretation

 2 Peter 1:20 … no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation

On the GreenBaggins blog,  he asks,

“I do want to ask formally this question: if the RCC has a monopoly on the interpretation of the Bible, how come they have not come out with an inerrant commentary on the Bible? “

My answer is this:

The New Testament is the inerrant commentary on the Doctrines of Jesus Christ.

Here’s the thing, you look at salvation history differently than do we. You put an emphasis on Scripture because you, apparently, think that Jesus Christ wrote the Bible and therefore, you set aside the Church and follow your own interpretation. Or someone’s whom you prefer (2 Tim 4:3).

We understand that Jesus established an infallible Church, and commanded her to teach His Doctrines. The Church then wrote the New Testament based upon those Doctrines. Therefore, in order to understand Scripture, we look to the Teaching of the infallible Church which Jesus established. Because we understand that this is what the New Testament is expounding.

We are more concerned with the infallible interpretation of the Word of God because that includes Sacred Tradition and Scripture.  And because the Holy Spirit will guide the Church into all truth, there will be no definitive interpretation until God says so. In the meantime, the Church will continue to get a deeper and fuller understanding of the Deposit of faith passed down by Jesus Christ through the Church.

That is why, Catholics approach the Word of God (that includes the Bible) in a manner fundamentally different than Protestants. We approach the Word of God in the manner which Scripture recommends. We learn the Word of God from our teachers (Heb 13:7). We learn the Word of God in Sacred Tradition and in the Sacred Writings (2Thess 2:15). When we do focus upon the Scriptures, we don’t neglect the spiritual meaning of the Word (2 Cor 3:6).

And most importantly, as Catholics, we understand that we are fallible. We also believe that God has established an infallible Teacher of His Wisdom (Eph 3:10). Therefore, we don’t go around re-interpreting what the Church has already explained. Since it is the Church which is called the Pillar and Foundation of the Truth (1 Tim 3:15), when it comes to Scripture, we believe the Church.

Bible Study Questions

On Pilgrim blog,  he says,

I just wanted to share in a post a great resource I stumbled across last week. On the Ignatius Press website I found that they have Bible study questions for most of the New Testament books. You can download a zipped collection of them here. This is ideal for people out there leading Bible study.