Yesterday, I had a conversation on Youtube, mainly on Catholicism. I had done some brief reading of the basics, but I never really dove in. Here’s the debate for anyone who is interested.
In Roman Catholicism, I think there is only one question you need to answer: it’s what is more important, scripture or tradition. If our walk with Jesus is personal, I don’t see how years of tradition could improve that relationship. I’m not saying that the traditions of the church are wrong; I am simply saying that they are not necessarily true. I accept scripture as being the Word of God. And while tradition may have given us scripture, there is tradition that followed scripture. And while there is dispute between Catholics and protestants over whether to accept the apocryphal writings, I think we all accept the validity of scripture itself.
What I think Protestants and Catholics should certainly be able to agree on is the words of Jesus. That’s why I would take a careful look at Jesus’ words to the Pharisees in Mark 7.
The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.)
So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?”
He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:
“‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules.’
You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”
And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’and, ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God)— then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother. Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”
Jesus says plainly that we are to value the word of God over human tradition. The question is why?
The more people that play the game of telephone, the worse the final message is. I don’t see how we could expect thousands of years of church tradition not to stray from the truth. Let’s take this approach for the history of science. Imagine if everything accepted by science, you believed. This is obviously not possible, because there are too many contradictions to count. The earth cannot be flat and round at the same time. The earth is either the center of the universe, or it’s not.
For that reason, I think that the catholic church could be taking us further away from the truth of Jesus. It’s as simple as this: we have one story, followed by thousands of years of tradition. If the story saved those that came after, why do those that follow need the tradition?
If the Holy Spirit works in us through the word of God, what use is the tradition of the Catholic Church?
There is only one truth. And Jesus claimed to be it. I think the Gospel is as close as we can get to this truth. But the continued evolution of tradition seems to be a flawed way of getting closer to the truth. If we have the word of God and the Holy Spirit, both alive in this universe, why not just go directly to the source? Would you trust your information about something more if you watched a live video of it happening, or if you talked to someone who talked to a police officer who watched the video?
That’s why I’m not a Catholic: Jesus said plainly that scripture was more important than human tradition. And if truth is the goal, and we consider Jesus the truth, you can see how centuries of tradition could take us away from that.