The Bible & Catholic Tradition = Problems for INC Theology
In an article titled "The Bible or Tradition?" by Pedrito B. Palacio: God's Message Oct-Dec 1995, INC writes another expose' to reveal the "evils" of the Catholic Church. As always, INC resort to quoting the Bible and their interpretation thereof to prove their point. Palacio goes on to quote a Catholic priest at the start of his article:
"At the onset, there is never a record that our Lord ordered his apostles to write. He did command them to TEACH and PREACH. This is clear from the scriptural passage 'Go ye, therefore, and TEACH all nations....' (Mt 28:19). Our Lord didn't say 'Go ye therefore and write Bibles'!(Read also Rom 10,17)" Manila Bullitin,Jan 19, 1989).
Palacio then calls the priest ignorant and forgetful based on the Priests' comment of the Bible. He then puts words in the Priests' mouth by saying he doesn't have "respect" for the Scriptures. Palacio is intitled to his comments, but the poor Priest cannot even defend himself against such slanderous attacks. So, in defense of the poor Priest, let's see who is the true ignoranamus with a little explaination of what Catholic Tradition is and its importance, even in INC's world, and how it relates to the Church and Scripture. Also, we'll examine some of the points that INC asserts in their article.
God Inspired Writing the Bible
Palacio gives a little history of how God commissioned Moses to write the first 5 books of the Bible. He goes on about other OT writers who seem to be commissioned to also write. That's fine. The Catholics believe that all Scripture is from God. The real question is, INC must tell me WHAT SCRIPTURE IS..............FROM THE BIBLE. INC can say all they want about the evil of Apostolic Tradition, but the cannot escape the fact that they must also believe in it too.
INC believes that everything that is needed for salvation are contained between the covers of the Bible. If a Church goes beyond what is written, it "would be to go against God's words, the consequences of which will lead one to the lake of fire on God's appointed day of reckoning." p.23
But what is the Bible? The Bible, as we know it, didn't fall out of the sky nicely bound will Bible Commentary and a free book mark with purchase. It was perserved and assembled by the authority of the Catholic Church. Materially, It is a collection of ancient books and letters that were put together, over a period of 400 years after the death of Christ. The most of the original manuscripts were long gone before the Bible was assembled. The best the Church had back then were copies of copies. Not only that, there were over 150 letters and works claiming to be written by one of the apostles within 200 years after the death Christ. Many of the books that are in the New Testement were of unknown authorship and even the inspired ones were hotly contested. Here is a quick sysnopsis of what we know:
* Only a few New Testament documents reveal their author (Paul's epistles, James [which one?], Peter, Jude, and the Revelation of John [which John?]). Both letters to Thessalonians purport to be written by Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy. Others purport to be co-written by Sosthenes, Timothy, and Tertius. (I add "purport" to make a point, not to doubt the authorship.) The authorship of the "unsigned" documents is determined in most cases by Church tradition and speculation based on internal evidence, e.g. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, and the Epistles of John.
* A few claim apostolic authorship (Paul's [though he was not one of the Twelve Jesus commissioned and we don't have all his writings], Peter, James possibly, and with many challenges in the past, Revelation), but a claim can be challenged and it has been, especially in regards to the Revelation.
Others are written by Apostles, assumed on the basis of Church tradition (e.g., Matthew, John).
Some are clearly not written by an apostle or one who knew Christ (Mark, Luke, Acts, Jude [Jude 17], and Hebrews (Heb 2:3), and maybe others.
* The authorship of others is uncertain and still challenged by scholars, just as they were questioned in the first centuries (2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Hebrews, and others).
History shows that the Canon of the Bible was a development. It did not happen overnight. Weather INC likes it or not, it was by the authority of the Catholic Church that we have the Bible today.
Not only did the Church assemble the Bible, She had to draw from a source other than the written word of these books. There were many missing pieces of information regarding the books of the Bible that the Catholic Church had to figure out Through Apostolic Tradition, the same tradition INC condems, those missing pieces have been 'added' to the Bible. INC wholeheartedly accepts these these Catholic 'additions' to the Bible. Can INC tell us from the Bible, answers to these questions without going to the Catholic Church and thier Tradition?
* How do we know who wrote the books that we call Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Hebrews, and 1, 2, and 3 John? These books were of unknown authorship. Only by Church Tradition and Authority were theses books attributed to the said authors.
* Where in the Bible do we find an inspired and infallible list of books that should belong in the Bible? There was no table of contents for a person to assemble the Bible. It was all tested and authenticated through Apostolic Tradition.
* On what authority, or on what principle, would we accept as Scripture books that we know were not written by one of the twelve apostles?
* If the books of the New Testament are "self-authenticating" then why was there confusion in the early Church over which books were inspired, with some books being rejected by the majority?
* How do we know, from the Bible alone, that the individual books of the New Testament are inspired, even when they make no claim to be inspired?
* How do we know, from the Bible alone, that the letters of St. Paul, who wrote to first-century congregations and individuals, are meant to be read by us 2000 years later as Scripture?
* Where does the Bible claim to be the sole authority for Christians in matters of faith and morals?
* Most of the books of the New Testament were written to address very specific problems in the early Church, and none of them are a systematic presentation of Christian faith and theology. On what biblical basis does INC think that everything that the apostles taught is captured in the New Testament writings?
* How did the early Church evangelize and overthrow the Roman Empire, survive and prosper almost 350 years, without knowing for sure which books belong in the canon of Scripture?
* Who in the Church had the authority to determine which books belonged in the New Testament canon and to make this decision binding on all Christians? If nobody has this authority, then can I remove or add books to the canon on my own authority?
* Why does INC recognize the early Church councils at Hippo and Carthage as the first instances in which the New Testament canon was officially ratified, but ignore the fact that those same councils ratified the Old Testament canon used by the Catholic Church today but abandoned by Protestants at the Reformation?
* Why does INC follow post-apostolic Jewish decisions on the boundaries of the Old Testament canon, rather than the decision of the Church founded by Jesus Christ?
* How were the bishops at Hippo and Carthage able to determine the correct canon of Scripture, in spite of the fact that they believed all the distinctively Catholic doctrines such as the apostolic succession of bishops, the sacrifice of the Mass, Infant Baptism, Christ's Real Presence in the Eucharist, etc?
* If Christianity is a "book religion," how did it flourish during the first 1500 years of Church history when the vast majority of people were illiterate?
* How could the Apostle Thomas establish the church in India that survives to this day (and is now in communion with the Catholic Church) without leaving them with one word of New Testament Scripture?
It doesn't stop there, the questions below are impossible for INC to answer, since no verse or combination of verses in Scripture provides the required information. Though INC interprets Scripture in a different way, Catholic and INC hold a common set of beliefs about the faith, beliefs which Catholics know to be true because of the testimony of living Sacred Tradition, but which INC simply accept on faith, sometimes with no real Scriptural support at all. The topics presented below are of this variety - they are held to be true by INC yet INC can't demonstrate from Scripture why they believe such a thing, since no verse or combination of verses in Scripture teaches the belief.
Ex nihilo Creation:
All Christians know that God created the world out of nothing, but the Protestant Scriptures do not say this anywhere. Some of the Bible commentaries on Genesis 1:1-2 assert that the Hebrew phrase, "the earth was a formless waste and darkness was on the face of the deep," was a Hebrew metaphor for ex nihilo creation, but the evidence in support of this assertion is not particularly compelling. Indeed, before the canon of Scripture was established, the earliest fathers of the Church had to make this point through reason alone to their pagan opponents. Clement (ca. 150-215 A.D.) appears to have been the first person to state and give a proof from reason for ex nihilo creation, while Tertullian (ca. 160-225 A.D.) conceded that creation out of nothing was not explicitly stated anywhere in the Bible, but argued from the silence of Scripture to say this manner of creation had to be the case. Both Christian apologists realized that God and matter could not be co-eternal - God's existence had to precede the existence of matter or His omnipotence could be called into question. It was only with the definition of the canon of Scripture, established between 382 and 419 A.D., that any book of Scripture taught the doctrine explicitly: "I beseech you, my child, to look at the heaven and the earth and see everything that is in them, and recognize that God did not make them out of things that existed" 2 Maccabees 7:28.
The revelation of Jesus Christ ended with the death of the last Apostle:
The question is quite simple: is Scripture closed? For example, would God inspire the writing of any more sacred books today? While not all Christian denominations agree, most recognize that no inspiration coming to us after the death of the last apostle could qualify as Scripture. However, this idea of the closing of the canon of Scripture is not found anywhere within Scripture itself. It is an apostolic teaching borne down through the ages in the body of Sacred Tradition guarded by the teaching authority of the Catholic Church, the Magisterium.
Provide the name of the "beloved disciple":
Remarkable, but true. The only reason we know the beloved disciple was John, the author of the Gospel, is through Sacred Tradition and the Magisterium. It is to be found nowhere in Sacred Scripture.
Provide the names of the authors of Matthew's Gospel, Mark's Gospel, Luke's Gospel, John's Gospel, or the Acts of the Apostles:
Again, Scripture doesn't tell us that the Gospel of Matthew, for instance, was written by Matthew. The titles to the Gospels are known to us only through Sacred Tradition - Scripture doesn't say who wrote any of these listed works. Likewise, the chapter and verse divisions are traditions of men, chapter divisions being added in 1206 A.D. by Stephen Langton, a professor at the University of Paris and subsequently Archibshop of Canterbury and a cardinal, while the verse numbering was added in the sixteenth century in order to assist in mechanically printing the text. The final form of the verse numbering scheme was set by Robert Etienne, also called Stephenus, in 1551 A.D.
Scripture is the sole authority:
While numerous passages of Scripture state that Scripture is an authority, none state that it is the sole authority. The closest verse in support of the statement is 2 Tim 3:16: "Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, reproof, correction and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work." Supposedly, this implies Scripture must be sufficient in and of itself, or the man of God could not be made complete by using it. Unfortunately for the sola scriptura thesis, James 1:4 states that "steadfastness" makes a person "perfect and complete, lacking in nothing," while 2 Tim 2:21 asserts that anyone who "purifies himself from what is ignoble... will be a vessel for noble use, consecrated and useful to the master of the house, ready for any good work." So, which is it, Scripture, steadfastness, or self-purification, that completes? It would seem that all are necessary, but none are sufficient by themselves.
List the Old Testament canonical books or lists the New Testament canonical books:
While we know what books are in Scripture, it is not because Scripture tells us, but because the councils and popes of the Church told us. The first three centuries of the Church saw a wide-ranging dispute over the contents of both the Old and the New Testament, with books in both Testaments being contested as false. For the Old Testament, Tobias, Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, 1 and 2 Maccabees, parts of Esther (chapters 11-16, or A-F), and parts of Daniel (3:24-90 and 13, 14) were disputed, for the New Testament, Hebrews, James, Jude, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Revelation, parts of Mark (16:9-20), parts of Luke (22:43-44) and parts of John (5:4 and 8:1-11) were all called into question.
The complete canon of Scripture was first recognized by the Roman Synod convoked by Pope Damasus in 382 A. D., which produced the Roman Code. The Code contained the list of Holy Scripture. Pope Damasus confirmed the Synod and Code. The Council of Hippo (393 A.D.) and the First Council of Carthage (397 A.D.) provided identical lists of Scripture. Pope Innocent I confirmed the list again in 405 A.D. when the Gallican bishop Exsuperius of Toulouse asked him what books should be considered Scripture, and the replied by Pope sending him a letter containing a list identical to every definition so far given. The Second Council of Carthage (419 A.D.) confirmed the list yet again. All five definitions were identical to the Council of Trent's. In fact, every council between 393 A.D. and 1965 A.D. (Vatican II) which pronounced on the matter gave an identical list.
As these examples readily show, the Bible Only doesn't work as pleasantly as INC would like to believe. Scripture is an inspired book, it is God-breathed, and Catholics are called by the fathers of the Second Vatican Council to venerate Sacred Scripture as we venerate the Body of Christ. However, just as we can only learn what the Eucharist means by being taught, so we can only learn what Scripture really means by sitting at the feet of the Teacher and His Bride, the Church, whose authors together wrote it for our education. Jesus Christ is head of the Church and head of His Bride, the Body of Christ. We who are the children of God need the gentle home-schooling of our Mother, who instructs with Jesus' authority, if we are to learn the full truth of what the Father has to teach us.
So what do we make of INC's claims that the Tradition of the Catholic Church is going against God's command when, it fact, it is the same Tradition that INC condemns that gave them the Bible they use to prove their existance? Let us grant that this INC writer has no intention to deceive but was only carried away by ignorance or anger against the truth of the Catholic Church and Tradition.
What we make is INC taking a collection that tradition (the Catholic Church) has placed in its hands and then preaches that the same Church that gave them this book is an Apostate Church from the 1st century onward. If the Bible was canonized in the 4th century, how can a fallable, Apostate Church give INC and the world an Infallable Book? That logic does not fit. Did Jesus promise an infallable book or infallable Church?
1 Tim 3:15
if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God's household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.
And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not overcome it.
Paul and Jesus attest in that the Church is infallable. It is the "pillar and foundation of truth" and "Hell will not overcome it". Hence She has the devine authority to assemble the Canon of the Bible, contrary to what INC teaches about Apostasy.
If Jesus had stood in front of the believers in the fourth century and said, "These books are the final collection of what you are to obey as infallible and authoritative scriptures," where would the final criterion lie, in Jesus or the Book? The Book of component parts cannot be its own criterion for infallibility.
The Catholic sees another source of criterion-Christ still working through his body on earth through the Holy Spirit. Peter, being invested with the office of Royal Steward or Prime Minister (cp. Matt. 16 and Is. 22) was given the keys of the kingdom of heaven that accompany that office. The person (Peter) may die, but the office doesn't. The keys (delegated royal authority) are assigned to the office holder (Is 22:15)22), and then passed on to the successor of the office. Offices are permanent, dynastic, and the keys don't disappear but are passed on. This is the way the Church understood herself from the first century until the radical and substantive break of the Reformation.
The Reformers then had to come up with new criteria for the canon and for infallibility. They discarded the first criterion and were forced to establish a new one that put them in the vicious cycle of circular reasoning.
So what is this Catholic Tradition that INC so vigorously attacks. Unfortunately, in his article, Palacio failed to give proper representation of Catholic Tradition. Instead, he built a straw man and knocked it down with his foray of Biblical quotes that seem to prove that the Bible is the Sole Authority for Christianity. Lets take a look at what the Catholic ApostolicTradition really is.
The New Testament is also "Scripture" (I Tim. 5:18; 2 Peter 3:16).
Therefore, the New Testament is inspired.13
Taking it a little farther, 1 Timothy 3:16 says nothing about the New Testament documents. The question is not whether all Scripture is inspired-we know it is. Paul is not trying to convince Timothy that the sacred writings he was raised on were inspired. Jews knew that already. What is in question here for us is what is considered as Scripture. It does not tell us. Paul is, in context, referring to the "Law and the Prophets". Contextually and historically it does not include the New Testament. It can mean this, but only in principle and by extrapolation. If used as a proof, it actually proves too much, namely, that only Old Testament writings are inspired.
INC must face the facts in regard to the origins of the Bible. and how the books such as the Gospels and epistles were assembled under one cover, then labeled the Bible. , these are the real questions that demand real answers. It seems that all these Christian denominations, after hundreds years, forgot the who - what - where - why and hows of the Bible; essentially the same Bible use to prove the very existance of their church. One of those churches is INC.
INC believes that everything that is needed for salvation are contained between the front and back covers of the Bible. If a Church goes beyond what is written, it "would be to go against God's words, the consequences of which will lead one to the lake of fire on God's appointed day of reckoning." p.23
With such consequences of that, why would anyone want to go against
The Catholic Church INC often claim that they prove their church "w
1. THE CANON PRINCIPLE
How do we do that? The answer is that we recognize apostolic tradition the same way we recognized apostolic scripture. Today we are confronted with a variety of traditions, some apostolic and some merely human. In the same way the early Church was confronted with a body of scriptures, some apostolic and some merely human.
The early Church had to sort through these documents and figure out which were authentically apostolic writings -- those by an apostle or an associate of an apostle -- and which were merely human writings -- those merely claiming to be by an apostle. The way they did this was by applying certain tests.
2. IS THE WORD OF GOD SELF-ATTESTING?
Some anti-Catholics, such as James White, are fond of claiming that the writer of Psalm 119 knew what God's word was even though the Catholic Church wasn't around to tell him what it was. But unless he was a prophet or had access to a prophet, the Psalmist did not have an infallibly known canon in his day. The canon was not yet finished, much less settled.
Anti-Catholics such as White claim that God's word is self-authenticating, that it needs no witness. This claim is simply unbiblical. In scripture people regularly had to test revelation to see if it conveyed the word of God. This was not always obvious, even to the people to whom the revelation was given.
For example, in 1 Samuel 3, when God first spoke to Samuel, the boy prophet did not recognize the word of God. He thought it was the old priest Eli calling him, so he got up, went to where Eli was resting, and said, "Here I am, for you called me!" But Eli said, "I did not call; go and lie down again." This happens three times: God calls Samuel and the young prophet, thinking it is Eli, hops up and rushes to see what he wants. Finally it dawns on the wicked old priest that God calling to the boy, so he tells him what to do the next time the voice addresses him. It turns out the young prophet was not able to recognize God's voice, and the wicked priest Eli had to help him recognize the word of God. Obviously, God's word was not self-attesting to Samuel!
Similarly, in 1 Kings 13 a man of God is sent from Judah to Bethel to prophecy. God tells him not to eat or drink until he gets back. But as he returns, an old prophet of God tells him the Lord has rescinded the command about eating and drinking. The man of God then goes home with the old prophet to have dinner. But while they are eating, a revelation comes that the order not to eat or drink is still in effect; the old prophet had been lying. This shows another instance where a prophet is not instantly able to discern between the voice of God and the voice of error. The man God sent to Bethel did not detect the fact that what the old prophet told him wasn't God's word. This purported revelation was not self-attesting as a fake word of God.
In Deuteronomy 13 and 18, God gives two tests to know whether a prophet is speaking the word of God. If the prophet makes a false prediction or says to worship other gods, he is not speaking for the Lord. The fact God gives these tests shows revelations must be tested because it is not always obvious what is and is not God's word.
This is why Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21, "Stop despising prophesyings! Test all things and hold fast to that which is good!" The Bible thus explicitly tells us that we must test what is the word of God and what is not, just as 1 John 4:1 says, "test the spirits to see whether they are from God."
So the word of God is not self-authenticating in the way some Protestant apologists allege. God invites and commands us to test any revelation purported to come from him. This includes scripture. If someone offers a book that purports to be scripture, it has to be tested to see if it is apostolic writing or merely human writing.
3. THE KEY TO CANONICITY
How do we know which books belong in the Bible? The early Church's answer was: Those books which are apostolic belong in the canon of scripture. If a book had been handed down by the apostles as scripture (like the books of the Old Testament) of if it was written by one of the apostles or their associates (like the books of the New Testament), it belonged in the Bible. Apostolicity was thus the test for canonicity.
Protestant early Church historian J. N. D. Kelly writes:
"Unless a book could be shown to come from the pen of an apostle, or at least to have the authority of an apostle behind it, it was peremptorily rejected, however edifying or popular with the faithful it might be" (Early Christian Doctrines, 60).
But how could one know which books were apostolic? Certainly not by a book's claim to be apostolic, since there were many false gospels and epistles circulating under the names of apostles. Neither did the Holy Spirit promise a revelation to each individual Christian of what books belonged in the Bible.
But how was the test for apostolicity carried out in the early Church? Basically, there were two tests, both of them involving tradition.
First, those books were reckoned as apostolic which agreed with the teachings the apostles handed on to the Church. Gnostic scriptures and other writings which did not agree with the apostolic tradition were rejected out of hand. This is something Evangelical scholars admit.
Protestant scripture scholar F. F. Bruce writes that,
"[The early Fathers] had recourse to the criterion of orthodoxy.... This appeal to the testimony of the churches of apostolic foundation was developed especially by Irenaeus.... When previously unknown Gospels or Acts began to circulate... the most important question to ask about any one of them was: What does it teach about the person and work of Christ? Does it maintain the apostolic witness to him...?" (The Canon of Scripture, 260).
Second, those books were regarded as apostolic which were preached in the various churches as being from the pen of an apostle or the associate of an apostle -- not just its doctrines, but the book itself. If a given work was not regarded as apostolic and was not preached as such in the churches, then it was rejected. This was also an appeal to tradition because it looked to the tradition of the churches as a guide for apostolicity. If the tradition of the Churches did not recognize a book as apostolic, it was not canonized.
The fact that this was also used by the early Church to establish apostolicity is also something admitted by Protestant scholars. F. F. Bruce writes:
"It is remarkable, when one comes to think of it, that the four canonical Gospsels are anonymous, whereas the 'Gospels' which proliferated in the late second century and afterwards claim to have been written by apostles and other eyewitnesses. Catholic churchmen found it necessary, therefore, to defend the apostolic authenticity of the Gospels.... The apostolic authorship of Matthew and John as well established in tradition. But what of Mark and Luke? Their authorship was also well established in tradition" (ibid., 257).
But of course not all of the Churches agreed. Some Protestant apologists are fond of pointing out that the Muratorian fragment, an early canon list dating from the A.D. 170s, includes most of the New Testament. But they fail to point out that the Muratorian fragment also omitted certain works from its canon. It did not include Hebrews, 1 and 2 Peter, and 3 John. Furthermore, it included works that the Protestant apologists would not regard as canonical: the Apocalypse of Peter and the Wisdom of Solomon. So there was obvious disagreement on the extent of the canon.
Eventually, the New Testament canon was settled at the Council of Rome in the year 382 under Pope Damasus I. Up to this point, its specific books were not firmly settled.
Now a Protestant apologist will either have to agree that the men at the Council of Rome included all of the right books and only the right books in the canon or he has to disagree. If he disagrees, then he is going to have to disagree with the New Testament canon in the very Bible he uses, because it was the Council of Rome that established that canon.
But if he agrees that the Council of Rome included all the right books and only the right books in the New Testament canon then he is going to have to say that the early Church made an infallible decision (infallible because they included all the right and only the right books, thus making an inerrant decision under God's providential guidance -- which is infallible guidance). They made this infallible decision three hundred years after the death of the last apostle. But if Church councils are capable of arriving at infallible decisions three hundred years after the death of the last apostle, the Protestant apologist has no reason to claim they are incapable of this later on in Church history.
4. THE CANON OF TRADITION
The fact that when the Church made its decision it did so hundreds of years after the death of the last apostle is significant, but no less significant is the fact that when it made the decision it did so on the basis of tradition.
As we noted, the Church was confronted by conflicting traditions concerning which books should be included in scripture. Some traditions, for example, said that the book of Hebrews belonged in the canon; others said it did not. One of these traditions (the one indicating inclusion in the canon) was apostolic, the other (the one indicating exclusion) was merely human. In order to decide whether the book of Hebrews belongs in scripture, the Church had to decide in favor of one tradition over the other. Thus in order to settle the apostolicity of a scripture, it had to settle the apostolicity of a tradition.
As a result, the Church can not only make rulings of what is apostolic and what is not hundred of years after the death of the last apostle, it can also rule on which traditions are apostolic and which are not -- and do so centuries into the Church age.
Therefore, the Church can rule on the canon of tradition the same way it ruled on the canon of scripture. The Church is the living Bride of Christ, and she recognizes the voice of her husband. She is able to point at proposed scriptures and say, "That one is apostolic; that one is not." And she is able to point at proposed traditions and say, "That one is apostolic; that one is not. In this one I recognize the voice of my husband; in that one I do not."
The mechanism by which we establish the canon of tradition is thus the same as the way we established the canon of scripture. The same principle works in both contexts. The Church is the witnesses to both canons.
5. TESTS FOR THE CANON OF TRADITION
Of course the Church has tests she uses to figure out what traditions are apostolic, just as she had tests to establish what scriptures were apostolic.
One test is whether a given tradition contradicts what has previously been revealed. As anti-Catholics often point out, proposed traditions must be tested against scripture. If a proposed tradition contradicts something God has said in scripture (or something said in already known apostolic tradition) then that shows it is merely a tradition of men and may be disregarded. The Church is thus more than happy to test proposed traditions against scripture.
Of course the Church also applied the flip-side of this test: In the early centuries any proposed scripture that did not match up with apostolic tradition was rejected from the canon of scripture. Thus when, in the second and third centuries, the writings of the Gnostics taught that Jesus was not God or that the God of the Old Testament was not the God of Jesus Christ, these books were summarily rejected on the basis of not matching up to the apostolic tradition.
Naturally, once a scripture has been tested and found to be canonical it is no longer subject to testing. Once a scripture has been shown to belong to the canon of scripture, it is no longer up for debate. Similarly, once a tradition has been tested and found to be canonical it is no longer subject up for debate either. Once a tradition has been shown to belong to the canon of tradition, it is no longer up subject to testing.
A Protestant apologist would not question whether a given book of the New Testament belongs in the canon based on whether it makes a statement that is difficult to reconcile with something said in another book. Once it has been found to be canonical, we can have confidence that it is God's infallible word and any apparent difficulties arising between it any what God has said elsewhere can be solved. In the same way, once a tradition has been tested and found canonical, we can have confidence that it is God's inerrant word and that any apparent difficulty arising between it and anything God has said elsewhere has a solution. If we can have confidence at superficial disharmonies in the canon of scripture, we can with the canon of tradition as well.
We know that when God speaks in scripture there are apparent difficulties which arise. Liberals use these to attack the inerrancy of scripture, and so conservatives produce books showing why these supposed discrepancies are nothing of the kind. But if God speaks in scripture in such a way that apparent discrepancies arise then we should expect the same thing to happen when God speaks elsewhere as well. That gives us no cause for alarm.
6. THE CANON PROBLEM
But the Protestant apologist has an even more fundamental problem because in order to justify his principle of sola scriptura or the "Bible only theory," he would have to claim that we know what books belong in the Bible without acknowledging the authoritative role of apostolic tradition and the Church in finding this out. If, as on the Protestant theory, we must prove everything from scripture alone then we must be able to show what belongs in the canon of scripture from scripture alone.
In fact, we cannot even begin to use sola scriptura before we have identified what the scriptures are. If one claims to know what the scriptures are then one is making a claim of propositional knowledge, and which could only be revealed by God since we are talking about a supernatural subject, meaning he is making a claim to propositional revelation. But if all propositional revelation must be found in the Bible, then the list of the canon must itself be contained in the scriptures. The Protestant apologist must therefore show, from scripture alone, what books belong in the Bible.
But this is something he cannot do. There is no canon list contained in scripture. Many books of the Bible (in fact, virtually all of the books of the New Testament) are not quoted by other books of the Bible, much less explicitly quoted "as scripture" (something on which Protestant apologists, as a matter of necessity, are very big). And the Bible gives us no set of tests by which we can infallibly prove which exact books belong in it. The fact is that there is no "inspired contents page" in the Bible to tell us what belongs within its covers.
The Protestant apologist is in a fix. In order to use sola scriptura he is going to have to identify what the scriptures are, and since he is unable to do this from scripture alone, he is going to have to appeal to things outside of scripture to make his case, meaning that in the very act of doing this he undermines this case. There is no way for him to escape the canon of tradition.
Apostolic Tradition was the key to the canon in two ways -- by telling us what doctrines apostolic books must teach (or not teach) and by telling us which books themselves were written by the apostles and their associates.
Ironically Protestants, who normally scoff at tradition in favor of the Bible, themselves are using a Bible based on tradition. In fact, most honest Protestants would admit that they hold to the books they do because when they first became Christians someone handed them ("traditioned" or "handed on") copies of the Bible that contained those books!