Here I respond to a charge that Catholic traditions are unbiblical. This is a common charge, and what I examine here is reflective of the weakness of the many charges against Christ’s Church. One will often get lists of supposedly Unbiblical traditions. Here is my response, item by item. The anti-Catholic charge is in green.
I affirm emphatically that the Catholic oral traditions are nothing more than human traditions. Their whole effort in trying to defeat the Bible as the only authority is nothing more than an endeavor to justify their own human traditions. How else would they justify them? They want to discredit the Bible as the only authority because it plainly and forcefully condemns their human traditions. For example: (1) It condemns clerical dress (Matt. 23:4-5). (2) It teaches against the adoration of Mary (Luke 11:27-28). (3) It shows that all Christians are priests (1 Pet. 2:5,9). (4) It condemns the observance of special days (Gal. 4:9-11). (5) It teaches that all Christians are saints (1 Cor. 1:2). (6) It teaches that baptism is immersion instead of pouring (Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12). (7) It forbids us to address religious leaders as "father" (Matt. 23:9). (8) It opposes unmarried bishops (1 Tim. 3:2-5). (9) It addresses only God Himself as the "Holy Father" (John 17:11). (10) It shows that the great apostasy would forbid marriage and command to abstain from foods (1 Tim. 4:1-3). (11) It reveals that the great apostasy would have one who claimed to take the place of God (2 Thess. 3:3-4). In view of the above passages, one can easily see why the Catholic Church seeks to destroy the Bible as the only source of authority.
(1) It condemns clerical dress (Matt. 23:4-5).
If God condemned clerical dress, per se, he would be contradictory. If you look at the passage, what Jesus is condemning is the Pharisees attitude of their pretentiousness, and their total lack of humility (v. 4-13). It is obvious that they used clerical dress in such a self-exalting way, and using it in that way obviously is sinful. However clerical dress in and of itself is not sinful. Otherwise God would have commanded sin in the Old Testament. He commanded Aaron to wear special garments in the Old Covenant. These garments are even considered holy!!!:
Exodus 29:1-3: "Then bring near to you Aaron your brother, and his sons with him, from among the people of Israel, to serve me as priests--Aaron and Aaron's sons, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar. 2 And “YOU SHALL MAKE HOLY GARMENTS FOR AARON YOUR BROTHER, for glory and for beauty.” “3 And you shall speak to all who have ability, whom I have endowed with an able mind, that they make Aaron's garments to consecrate him for my priesthood.
He made priests wear special garments in their priestly duties, that are full of glory and beauty, Exodus 28:39-41:
39 "And you shall weave the coat in checker work of fine linen, and you shall make a turban of fine linen, and you shall make a girdle embroidered with needlework.
40 "And for Aaron's sons you shall make coats and girdles and caps; you shall make them for glory and beauty. 41 And you shall put them upon Aaron your brother, and upon his sons with him, and shall anoint them and ordain them and consecrate them, that they may serve me as priests. 42 And you shall make for them linen breeches to cover their naked flesh; from the loins to the thighs they shall reach; 43 and they shall be upon Aaron, and upon his sons, when they go into the tent of meeting, or when they come near the altar to minister in the holy place.
Thus, God commanded special priestly clothes that are holy and beautiful, to be made. God condemns ostentatiousness, not the clothes themselves.
(2) It teaches against the adoration of Mary (Luke 11:27-28).
Actually, the passage says nothing about the issue of adoration. Take a look at it. But let us say that the passage teaches against the adoration of Mary. Of course, Roman Catholicism teaches against the adoration of Mary as well. So I don’t know how that shows that Catholicism is wrong, since we agree with Luke, that no one except God is to be adored. We do not worship Mary, as well documented in the Catechism, and all throughout history. The Church teaches unequivocally that only God is to be adored.
The Catechism says in its condemnation of idolatry to never divinize what is only human in its section on Idolatry (CCC 2112-2114):
2112 The first commandment condemns polytheism. It requires man neither to believe in, nor to venerate, other divinities than the one true God. “2113 Idolatry not only refers to false pagan worship. It remains a constant temptation to faith. “Idolatry consists in divinizing what is not God. “Man commits idolatry whenever he honors and reveres a creature in place of God, whether this be gods or demons (for example, Satanism), power, pleasure, race, ancestors, the state, money, etc. Jesus says, "You cannot serve God and mammon. Idolatry rejects the unique Lordship of God; it is therefore incompatible with communion with God. 2114 Human life finds its unity in the adoration of the one God. The commandment to worship the Lord alone integrates man and saves him from an endless disintegration. Idolatry is a perversion of man's innate religious sense. An idolater is someone who "transfers his indestructible notion of God to anything other than God."
What does Luke 11:27-28 say about Mary? Does it downplay her role? I will let a Protestant, Margaret Thrall, a Protestant scholar, explains what Jesus means:
“What you have said is true as far as it goes. But the blessedness of Mary does not consist simply in the fact of her relationship towards myself, but (menoun) in the fact that she shares in the blessedness of those who hear the word of God and keep it, and it is in this that true blessedness,”.(Margaret Thrall, Greek Particles in the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1962), 35.”
She is the woman who Jesus came through, for our own salvation. Jesus chose to come down through her. She said yes. By her saying yes, to the redeemer coming, our salvation (and her own salvation) is made possible. It is precisely because of his grace, that she was sinless, as the Orthodox Christians proclaim along with us. That is why she is full of grace, language used of no other person in the Bible (Kecharitomene), Luke 1:28.
That is why Elizabeth was so happy to see the Mother of God, when she said.
42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord." 46 And Mary said, "My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed;
The Church teaches unambiguously that only God shall be adored. Mary, however, is the mother of God, and Scripture does declare that all generations shall call her blessed.
(3) It shows that all Christians are priests (1 Pet. 2:5,9).
Catholicism likewise teaches that all Christians are priests. There is a universal priesthood of believers. This is the same as in the Old Testament. In the Old Testament, there was as well, a universal priesthood of believers. This very language is taken from (1 Pet. 2:9, cf. Ex. 19:6) the Old Testament which shows that. The very fact that Peter is taking this from the Old Testament, shows that the fact that there is a universal priesthood does not exclude the fact of there being a Ministerial priesthood (See Ex. 19:22). They also had a Ministerial priesthood. Jesus commissioned the apostles to forgive sins (John 20:22-23). Jesus commissioned the apostles to celebrate the Eucharist the Body and blood of Our Lord (Mk. 14:24, 1 Cor. 11:23-29). He told them to continue to celebrate it. The Elders also anoint with oil, another sacrament, known in the Catholic Church as the anointing of the Sick. (James 5:14). These are priestly duties. Paul mentions that he has ministerial priestly duties, as distinct from the universal priesthood in the New Covenant when he writes: Romans 15:15-16: “15 But on some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God 16 to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” If St. Paul considers himself to be a priest, anyone who DENIES that "Christian" ministry is a priestly ministry has rebuked and disowned St. Paul!
As former Protestant James Akin writes:
The origin of the word In Greek, the word for elder is presbuteros. That word was transliterated into Latin as presbyter, which then in English became shortened to priest. That's why you never hear about "Catholic elders." It is because Catholic priests are Catholics elders. That's what the word "priest" means; it is simply a shortened English form of presbuteros. You can check any dictionary you want to confirm this. So obviously we can say that there is some kind of priesthood today because there are elders today.
For a detailed validation of the Biblical proof of the Ministerial priesthood, see the following link:
The Bible and the Priesthood, James Akin
(4) It condemns the observance of special days (Gal. 4:9-11).
It is obvious that in the context Paul is condemning the use of special Jewish laws, of Old Sabbaths. The new Covenant supplants the Old, and that is why the Old ones are no longer in effect. However, it can not be condemning the observance of special days, in and of itself. The Jewish law does not save. We must live a life of sonship, as God’s adopted sons (Gal. 4:5-7, cf., 1-11). In fact no law saves. It is purely his grace. (For a look at the issue of law and grace, please see this: Galatians 3, Works, Law, and Grace. Nevertheless, God did command the Old Testament Jews to keep the Passover, for example (Exodus 12:1-24, esp. v. 24). In fact that is what Jesus did in the Last Supper. It was in fact at the Passover, which Jesus showed that there was a New Covenant, in which his blood was to be shed for the salvation of many. He told the apostles to do this. By telling them to do this, he was telling them to observe this supper, the Eucharist, the true flesh and blood of Jesus (1 Cor. 11:27, John 6:51-58, Mk. 14:22-24). And the Church exactly did this in the New Covenant. See Acts 20:7. See 1 Cor. 11:23-29. He in no way would practice something that was condemned. In the Old Covenant, one was required to keep the Sabbath, and it would have been a sin not to, being one of the commandments. So observing special days, in and of itself is not sinful, otherwise God would have been commanding sin. Now in the New Covenant, he gave his Church the authority to bind and loose (Mt. 16:19, Mt. 18:18).
(5) It teaches that all Christians are saints (1 Cor. 1:2).
The following that I get from James Akin’s site: What is a Saint?
Because of its unique development, during which the French-speaking Normans conquered the Germanic language speaking inhabitants of England, the English language has two different complexes of terms expressing this concept, the Germanic-derived "holy-" complex (giving us "holy," "holiness," etc.) and the Latin-derived "saint-" complex (giving us "saint," "sacred," "sainted," "sanctify," "sanctified," "sanctification," etc.), but the biblical languages (like almost all other languages) have only one complex of terms for these concepts. They are only different in English.
Thus the basic meaning of "saint" is "holy one." Anyone is a saint if he is in some sense holy or has in some sense been made holy (sanctified). Because of this, the term "saint" has a very broad usage in the Bible, even though this is sometimes masked in English translations which often translate the Greek or Hebrew terms for "saint" (hagios and qadosh, respectively) as "holy one."
In Scripture, angels are referred to as saints (Dan. 4:13, 23), Jews as a people are referred to as saints (Eph. 2:19; cf. 2:12), and Christians are referred to as saints (2 Cor. 1:1, Eph. 1:1, Phil. 1:1, Col. 1:2). Jesus is referred to as a saint ("the Holy One of God" or "the Saint of God," Mark 1:24, Luke 4:34, John 6:69), and even God the Father himself is ("the Holy One of Israel" or "the Saint of Israel," Ps. 71:22, 78:41, 89:18, Is. 1:4, Jer. 50:29).
The sense in which one may be called a saint varies with the amount of holiness or sanctification/sacredness a person has. Thus a Jew who does not follow God would be a saint in a minimal sense, in that he is a member of God's holy people, but he is not as much of a saint as if he were a Jew who devoutly followed God and possessed a greater degree of sanctification. In the same way, Christians here on earth are saints in that they have been partially sanctified already, but they are not saints in the same full sense as those who are in heaven, whose sanctification ("saintification") is now complete. Thus the term "saint" is used in the Bible both for Christians who are on earth (Col. 1:2) and in heaven (Rev. 18:20).
(6) It teaches that baptism is immersion instead of pouring (Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12).
Actually, the Catholic Church does not teach against immersion, and that is obviously a valid way for baptism. That said, neither of those passages say in order for a baptism to be valid, it must be done only in immersion. Actually, the Bible speaks quite clearly that other ways of baptism are valid as well. For example, when Ezekiel specifically speaks of the New Covenant, God says, Eze. 36:25-27:
25 I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances.
Notice that in the new covenant, the water that is sprinkled brings the Holy Spirit. Obviously, it can not be limited to immersion. Another example, in Acts 16, when the jailer is baptized with his whole household (Acts 16:30-34). Paul goes with the jailer to his home, and baptizes the household there, in the middle of the night. There was no lake where they were immersed. In the houses back then, there were no facilities anywhere in a house, where they could get immersed. It is obviously that either sprinkling (as written by Ezekiel) or pouring could be the only way that the jailer and his family could get baptized. For a more detailed look at the issue, see the following: Baptism: Immersion Only?
(7) It forbids us to address religious leaders as "father" (Matt. 23:9).
If this is to be taken literally, Jesus says Call ‘no man’ Father. He doesn’t specifically say, Call no ‘religious leader’ Father. What does the anti-Catholic call his mother’s husband? According to this narrow interpretation, if he called his mother’s husband a Father, or if he has any children, does he lets them call him Father? Would that not be violating Mt. 23:9? Or what about Mt. 23:8, where Jesus says to call no one teacher? If calling anybody a Father is forbidden, then on the same grounds no one should be called a teacher. See Mt. 23:8. I wonder if anyone calls him a teacher, and if he does, does he immediately correct the person, and quote Mt. 23:8, saying ‘Call no man teacher’. I wonder what you call the person who teaches anything? You can’t call anyone a teacher? This kind of interpretation, when one thinks about it is ridiculous, and anybody who holds literally to this is caught in a pile of contradictions.
What is Jesus actually condemning here? He is condemning the treating of one as a ‘father’ in the same sense that God is a Father. Or to regard a teacher in the same way as God. However, he of course does not prohibit calling people father. After all, one of the commandments is to honor your Father. The Bible is in fact quite clear that there are spiritual Fathers, and it is quite biblical to call such a one a Father (as long as one does not treat them as though, they are God, which Jesus rightly condemns). This goes back to the Old Testament, where a physical Father considers his son, actually to be a Spiritual Father, and in fact calls him Father (Judges 18:17-19), v. 19 - 19 And they said to him, "Keep quiet, put your hand upon your mouth, and come with us, and be to us a father and a priest. Is it better for you to be priest to the house of one man, or to be priest to a tribe and family in Israel?".
The spiritual Fathers, in no way, are meant to replace God the Father, in Catholicism. In Acts 7, Stephen numerous times refers to Spiritual Fathers. Obviously, if he is on the verge of martyrdom, he is not contradicting Our Lord. However, they are Spiritual Fathers, who bring us the body and blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 11:27). They nourish us in the faith. In his 1st epistle, John constantly refers to the people who he writes to as ‘my children’ (1 John 2:1, 12, 18). Well, if they are his children, then John obviously is their spiritual Father, and refers to himself as their Father. He calls not only himself, but others as spiritual Fathers as well. As we saw in the debate, Paul calls Timothy his spiritual son, (2 Tim. 2:1-2). If he calls Timothy his spiritual son, he is thus calling himself a spiritual Father. We see this even more directly in 1 Corinthians 4:14-15 – I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you. 15 For though you have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you have not many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you.
(8) It opposes unmarried bishops (1 Tim. 3:2-5).
The context of that statement must be looked at in the the culture at the time. Polygamy was practiced rampantly in the area, and so Paul’s statement was that one could only have one wife. In fact, the statement that one could only have one wife does not mandate that one must have one wife to be a bishop. The Catholic Church teaching on celibacy is a practice, not a doctrine. It is true that in the Latin rite of the Church, there is a mandate that one is celibate, though it does allow exceptions. In the Eastern rite, which coexists within the Catholic Church, priests are allowed to marry. If Paul opposes unmarried bishops, he would obviously oppose himself. The following is from Art Sippo’s writing on the issue found here: New Testament Ministerial Priesthood
Let's see what St Paul also says:
1Cor7: 7 I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own special gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. 8 To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain single as I do. 9 But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion.
St Paul says nothing about celibacy being "optional." He says that he wants every unmarried person to STAY unmarried like him. It is almost as if he were COUNSELLING people that it is better to be unmarried than married and that marriage is a concession made to WEAK brethren, not to those who are strong in the Lord. Where did St Paul get this idea? Matthew 19:29 And every one who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life. Luke 14: 26 "If any one comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple." Luke 18:29 And he said to them, "Truly, I say to you, there is no man who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God,30 who will not receive manifold more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life."
So I guess JESUS was the one who INSISTED on such single minded devotion. It is true that not all Christians are called to celibacy but only those who in Jesus' words are willing to "make themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of God." (Matthew 19:12)
(9) It addresses only God Himself as the "Holy Father" (John 17:11).
In regards to the term ‘Father’, please see my answer to Question #7. But to focus on the Holy Father issue, Matthew 16:18-19 is a good start. I know we all know it, but let me show what it points to, that is relevant to the question:
18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
Focus on v. 19, which no one doubts is spoken to Peter, and no one else. No other apostle in the New Testament is given the keys. The keys show authority. And notice, in the context of authority, and the only key holder, whatever he binds on earth is bound in heaven. So Jesus gives him authority. Jesus establishes an office. Whatever Jesus establishes is holy. Next, look at important text that gives us more light, and is in fact what Jesus draws from, Isaiah 22:15-22.
Isaiah says, 22:15-22:
15 Thus says the Lord GOD of hosts, "Come, go to this steward, to Shebna, who is over the household, and say to him: 16 What have you to do here and whom have you here, that you
have hewn here a tomb for yourself, you who hew a tomb on the height, and carve a habitation for yourself in the rock? 17 Behold, the LORD will hurl you away violently, O you strong man. He will seize firm hold on you,... 18 and whirl you round and round, and throw you like a ball into
a wide land; there you shall die, and there shall be your splendid chariots, you shame of your master's house. 19 I will thrust you from your office, and you will be cast down from your station.
20 I will call my servant Eli'akim the son of Hilki'ah, 21 and I WILL CLOTHE HIM WITH YOUR ROBE, AND WILL BIND YOUR GIRDLE ON HIM, AND WILL COMMIT YOUR AUTHORITY TO HIS HAND; AND HE SHALL BE A FATHER TO THE INHABITANTS OF JERUSALEM AND TO THE HOUSE OF JUDAH. 22 AND I WILL PLACE ON HIS SHOULDER THE KEY OF THE HOUSE OF DAVID; HE SHALL OPEN AND NONE SHALL SHUT; AND HE SHALL SHUT, AND NONE SHALL OPEN.
Notice God gives authority to Eliakim, over the household. He mentions that he is given the key, and in effect whatever he binds on earth is bound in heaven (He shall shut, and none shall open), etc. However, look at v. 21, he is called a FATHER. This text actually shows succession of
an office, and the leader is a Father (This is written hundreds of years after the succession of David). There is a king, with a prime minister in the text of Isaiah. Just like Jesus is the king with the prime minister of Peter and his successor. The successor is a Father.
Honest Protestants admit that one can not get a full grasp of Mt. 16:18-19 without seeing the parallel text of Isaiah 22. For example, Oscar Cullmann, a Lutheran biblical scholar makes the
connection between Isaiah 22:22 and Mt. 16:19.
"In Matthew 16:19 it is presupposed that Christ is the master of the house, who has the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven, wit which to open to those who come in. Just as in Isaiah 22:22 the Lord lays the keys of the house of David on the shoulders of his servant Eliakim, so Jesus commits to Peter the keys of his house, the Kingdom of Heaven, and thereby installs
him as administrator of the house." Oscar Cullman, Peter: Disciple, Apostle, Martyr, trans. Floyd V. Filson, (Philadelphia : Westminster, p. 203.)
Thus, remember v. 21 of this same passage calls this administrator, or prime minister as FATHER. Since Jesus established an office that is Holy, and the person is called a Father, why would one not call the holder of the office Holy Father?
(10) It shows that the great apostasy would forbid marriage and command to abstain from foods. (1 Tim. 4:1-3).
Absolutely no one in the Catholic Church is forbidden marriage. If one wants to imitate Jesus, John the Baptist, and Paul, who never married and at Jesus behest (Mt. 19:12) decides to voluntarily choose to follow to commit themselves to the service of the people of God in becoming a priest, then in the Latin rite, they will not get married. In regards to abstaining from food, as shown in the debate, the Church had the power to make people abstaining from certain foods. Acts 15:29 shows the apostles mandating that one could not eat certain foods. Did the apostles take part in a great apostasy? The mere mention of that idea is ridiculous. A more detailed rebuttal of this charge Can be found here
(11) It reveals that the great apostasy would have one who claimed to take the place of God (2 Thess. 3:3-4).
The Catholic Church nowhere claims that the Church or its leaders would take the place of God. Did Moses and Aaron take the place of God when they dispensed God’s truth to the Israelites? Did Moses replace God, when through God’s power he led the people out of Egypt? The people were bound to follow Moses and Aaron, as they were given God’s authority to rule, and when they rebelled against them it was not Moses and Aaron who were castigated, as ‘taking God’s place’, but the people who refused to follow God’s established authority. When David was given God’s authority to rule, did he ‘take God’s place’? Or was not David the one who God established as the earthly king over his people. All the prophets, including Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Amos, etc. all had the authority to speak for God, and those who did not listen to them would suffer dire consequences. God was not scared of giving his authority to people on earth to accomplish his purposes.
When God gave authority to the Apostles, they had God given authority. The apostles did not ‘take the place’ of God, but like Moses, David and all the prophets before them, the apostles had God’s authority to preach the gospel and found Churches. Jesus told Peter, “Upon This Rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail. I give to you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, whatsoever you
Loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Only Peter was given these keys, and as we have seen, those keys shows he had a unique authority to rule (See Also Jn. 21:15-17, Lk. 22:32). The apostles also had the authority to bind and loose, yet they were not taking the place of God. As shown in the debate, this authority was passed on to those who followed the apostles. Those in authority do not take the place of God, but are his representatives. And as Jesus said, this authority is so strong that could say, “He who hears you, hears me, he who rejects you, rejects me.” Lk. 10:16, and as we saw earlier what the apostles bound on earth are bound in heaven (Mt. 18:18, Mt. 16:19). This authority was passed on. God would never bind himself to falsehood, and thus, those with God’s authority, can be sure that they are in truth. That is why in the Catholic Church, due to Christ’s promise’s we have sure authority, and sure truth. If this charge of apostasy could be labeled against the Church on these grounds, then they must be used against the apostles, which of course is ridiculous.
Actually, it could also then be labeled against those who ultimately get to decide for themselves, what Scripture actually means. That is what Sola Scriptura promotes – anarchy. Yes, Sola Scriptura will not deny that there should be some kind of authority in the church, but in the long run, it is the individual will only obey as long as he thinks that the leader is interpreting Scripture in the way that he thinks is proper. If he believes that the leader is mistaken, he is duty bound, according to Sola Scriptura theory, to disregard him. Ultimately it is only Scripture, and what one thinks Scripture says. That is why authority is in effect, null and void, and leads to anarchy. Everybody is one’s own Pope. Christ did not leave it that way for us. He set up a Church so we can be sure of what is true.
© 1998 Are Catholic Traditions Unbiblical? An Examination
....By Matt1618. This text may be downloaded or printed out for private reading, but it may not be uploaded to another Internet site or published, electronically or otherwise, without express written permission from the author.