Category Archives: Sola Ecclesia

How to resolve an historical paradox

Escher's Drawing Hands
Escher’s Drawing Hands is illustrative of Rome’s self-validating Tradition.

M. C. Escher’s Drawing Hands shows two drawn hands drawing each other, each hand getting its power to draw from the other. True to Escher’s style, a paradox is presented to the eye of the beholder, and the paradox is never resolved—the eye must continually move from one object to the other. Each time the eye settles on an apparently solid 3-dimensional object that can make sense of the rest of the picture, the paradox reappears. The search for the original, “authoritative” hand never ends.

We believe this is a good illustration of Roman Catholicism’s view of Tradition because Tradition is based on what Rome teaches, and what Rome teaches is based on Tradition. We gave an example of this in our recent post, All the Way Back. In that post, Roman priest and Marian devotee, Fr. Thomas Livius, showed the origins of Marian doctrines from the Fathers of the first six centuries. When he arrived at the teachings of Origen, Basil and Cyril—that the sword that pierced Mary’s soul (Luke 2:35) was the sword of doubt and unbelief—rather than accept that the early church understood that Mary was sinful, Livius spends his next three pages correcting Origen, as well as Basil and Cyril who agreed with him.

This raises the obvious question: Continue reading How to resolve an historical paradox

“Truth” received on no authority at all

Cracked Foundation
Cardinal Newman taught that sincerely believing a well-crafted fabrication is as good as believing the truth.

The sincere Roman Catholic will no doubt bristle at our summary of Tradition in our previous post:

The pattern for Rome is this: “we already know this to be true, so there is no error in creating evidence to support it.” This is why I call ‘Tradition’ the historical revisionism that it clearly is.

It is nonetheless a true, and verifiable statement. John Henry Cardinal Newman, one of the most famous converts to Rome from the Church of England, was a prolific writer and, after his conversion, a staunch apologist for Rome. He provides one of the best examples in recent memory of an apologist who was committed to the circularity of Roman epistemology: “we already know this to be true, so there is no error in creating evidence to support it.” When commenting on A Legend of St. Gundleus, Newman not only allows for adding fictional dialogues to the gospel narrative—he insists that it is necessary. Continue reading “Truth” received on no authority at all

All the Way Back

St. Paul icon
St. Paul still holds out the written Word of God to His people.

The Roman Catholic Church believes that the Word of God is transmitted to the Church by Tradition, the Scriptures and the Magisterium (i.e., popes, councils, etc…). According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (81),

Tradition transmits in its entirety the Word of God which has been entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit. It transmits it to the successors of the apostles so that, enlightened by the Spirit of truth, they may faithfully preserve, expound and spread it abroad by their preaching.

Christians hold to Sola Scriptura (the written Word of God alone) while Roman Catholics hold to Sola Verbum Dei (the Word of God alone), as transmitted by Tradition, etc… Roman Catholic apologist, Scott Hahn, makes this point nicely in his book, Rome Sweet Home (p. 74). The Roman Catholic Church sees “Tradition” as part of the Word of God, and thus, it makes little sense (to Roman Catholics) when Christians say that Rome’s “Tradition” goes against “the Word of God.” Tradition, to them, is the Word of God.

Therefore, to the Roman apologist, there is no tension when Tradition includes doctrines not explicitly included in the Bible. Tradition merely helps us understand what Scripture means. This leads to some interesting arguments, like this one from Roman apologist Robert Sungenis, who says, if Roman Catholic teachings are in the Bible, then I should be able to find them somewhere else. Continue reading All the Way Back