Many a Catholic believer is of the opinion that the traditions of the Catholic church is infallible. The Catechism declares, “[a]s a result the [Catholic—MP] Church, to whom the transmission and interpretation of Revelation is entrusted, ‘does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence’” Catechism of the Catholic Church (1994), (Mahwah, NY: Paulist Press).
Other Catholic authorities have also declared: “It is an article of faith from a decree of the Vatican Council that Tradition is a source of theological teaching distinct from Scripture, and that it is infallible. It is therefore to be received with the same internal assent as Scripture for it is the word of God” Attwater, Donald, ed. (1961), A Catholic Dictionary (New York: Macmillan).
But according to the Bible, church traditions must be subjected to the “litmus test” of the inspired Word of God. If church traditions contradict the scripture, it must be rejected. The Bible says, “To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:20). Isaiah here directs men to the Word of God as the standard of truth and the guide to right living because “the scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35).
The placing of traditions on an equal level with Scripture or making it superior to Scripture clearly undermines the Bible’s authority and inspiration. Jesus affirmed that His words “are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63). The apostle Paul declared, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3:16). And the apostle Peter confirmed that, “Prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 1:21).
All through history, men tried to exalt their traditions above the Word of God. Jesus Himself had to face this from the Jewish leaders of His day. He accused the Pharisees of transgressing the commandment of God to keep their own traditions (Matthew 15:3-9; Mark 7:6-13)—traditions that disobeyed (Matthew 15:3), opposed (Matthew 15:5-6; Mark 7:11-12), annulled (Matthew 15:6; Mark 7:9,13), and profaned (Matthew 15:8-9; Mark 7:6-7) the commandments of God.
Catholic traditions clearly oppose the teachings of God as revealed in His Word (Matthew 15:9). The Catholic canon of the Old Testament has 46 books instead of 39. The Council of Trent (1546) recognized as canonical seven books that originally were rejected as part of the Old Testament. These seven, among other apocryphal books, do not fully agree with the inspired word of God. Therefore, these books should not be considered as the Word of God.
Christ’s apostles and New Testament prophets were guided to all truth (John 16:13). And Jesus warned His disciples of the coming of ungodly men who would deceive, “if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24). Therefore, although the writings of the church fathers may have some historical value, it should not be accepted as the infallible Word of God (1 Timothy 4:1-3). Christians should not follow anything other than the revealed will of God in the Bible (Galatians 1:6-10).
In His service,