What is the Rule Book of Faith



What is the rule book of faith? Should we rely on tradition as a rule of faith?

This is very important because it is very often the source of many doctrinal differences between the Catholic and Protestant. Take for example the issue of whether there is purgatory. Catholics believe there is and quote 2 Machabees 12:45­46 as proof. This presents a problem to the Protestant as his Bible does not even contain this book. This is one of the seven books that are not regarded as authentic by Protestants but is included in the Catholic Bible. Secondly the Catholic can point to the tradition of the Roman Catholic Church which clearly talks about the existence. This is also a problem to the Protestant as he believes that the Bible should be the only rule book of faith. Therefore we see that the answer to the question of what is our rule book of faith gets to the source of many Catholic-Protestant conflict.

Roman Catholics believe that the Bible is not a sufficient rule of faith, but God’s revelation is also contained in the tradition. Tradition refers to beliefs and practices passed down from past generations. According to them, the biblical basis for this is as follows.

Firstly, not everything Jesus taught is in the Bible.

John 21:25 Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written. (NIV)

Secondly, it can be proven that oral tradition form the basis for the belief of early Christians.

2 Thes 2:15 So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. (NIV)

While only some of these oral traditions were later put into the writings, which constitute the New Testament, those which are unwritten did not lose their authority.

Protestants believe that tradition should not be relied on as a rule of faith for several reasons.

The Bible is a sufficient rule of faith

The Bible declares that it is a sufficient rule of faith. It can equip us for “every good work”.

2 Tim 3:16­-17 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (NIV) *

While it must be admitted that not everything Jesus and His apostles said and did were recorded (John 21:25), the important fact is that God has ensured that everything that is necessary for the Christians has been recorded for us as Scripture.

Only the apostles had the authority to reveal Scripture

It is true that the New Testament talks about following the traditions or teachings of the apostles, whether oral or written (2 Thess 2:15). This is because the apostles were living authorities set up by Christ.

(Eph 2:19-20 NIV)  Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, {20} built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.

Acts 2:42- And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.

Note that doctrines are from the APOSTLES, and not just any church leader. 

When the apostles died there was no longer a living apostolic authority since only those who were eyewitnesses of Christ could have apostolic authority.

(Acts 1:21-22 NIV)  Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, {22} beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.”

(1 Cor 9:1 NIV)  Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not the result of my work in the Lord? *

Dangers of relying on tradition

Relying on tradition is dangerous as tradition can circulate a falsehood. We have a remarkable example of this in the Bible.

John 21:22­23 22 Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” 23 Because of this, the rumour spread among the brothers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?” (NIV)

Tradition is not consistent, unlike the Bible, which is consistent in all major areas of doctrine. Popes have contradicted other Popes and Councils have contradicted Councils. (A Council is a group of church officials who assemble to stipulate doctrinal matters pertaining to the church.) The Roman Catholic Church often had two Popes and once there were three rival Popes at one time. The Councils of Constance, Pisa and Basel declared that a Council was above a Pope but the Council of Florence and the Fifth Council of Lateran declared against that doctrine.

Urban VI 1378-1389

Boniface IX 1389-1404

Innocent VII 1404-1406

Gregory XII 1406-1415s

Clement VII 1378-1394

Benedict XIII 1394-1423

Alexander V 1409-1410

John XXIII 1410-1415

It can be seen that in the years 1410-1515, there were as many as 3 rival popes, Pope Gregory XII, Pope Benedict XIII and Pope John XXIII.

Should the Apocryphal be included in the Bible?

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