Notes. All page references are using the Ignatius edition paperback.


Page IX:

“Some Catholic theologians, perceiving this insufficiency in the accepted Catholic theology of tradition, began to grope for a more open and dynamic concept.”

  • This basically entirely explains the need for Sola Scriptura and how Magisterial/Papal infallibility seems entirely untenable for Protestant Christians.
  • This also greatly highlights the intense trouble with declaring “Tradition” as infallible in and of itself. In what way can something undefined and malleable be declared to have its consequences declared infallible before the concept has even been established which everything else derives from?


Page 2:

“A sociologist defined it accurately: ‘Tradition, in the true sense of the word, implies a spontaneous assimilation of the past in understanding the present without a break in the continuity of the society’s life, and without considering the past as outmoded.'”

  • I agree but I do not believe this is what “tradition” means. I think this is equivocation. There are living traditions in the Catholic Faith, to be sure, but there are also propositional representations of “The Faith” which are attempting to distill the living down to the proposition and these are binding and so worded as to be empirically available to scrutiny.
  • a good example of the distinction between “living” and “propositional” traditions would be:
    • Living: CCC 1830 “The moral life of Christians is sustained by the gifts of the Holy Spirit…” This is a living and breathing declaration, not a matter of material or historical empiricism (although i believe we can experientially test this in lots of ways but not with precision).
    • Propositional: CCC 966 Assumption of Mary is a historical claim of an event

Page 4:

“The Catholic lives on something else besides, even at those times and in those acts when he lives on the holy Scriptures. This something else is the Church, it is tradition…”

  • When reading this, I was truly nearly moved to tears because I know this will never land for so many Catholics. They are incapable of seeing this, but all Christians who partake in the confession of Christ as our Lord and Savior honor the unbroken traditions of the past. We are beholden to them and they are authoritative over us. I wish I could hug you (anyone reading this) to impart the burden and pain of my soul like Christ weeping over Jerusalem or being moved with the Rich Young Ruler. We are beholden to tradition insofar as it corresponds to the truth but no further.

Chapter 1: Tradition and Traditions

Page 15:

“…St Basil, who put forward some profound ideas on the nature of tradition, said that it is agraphos, ‘unwritten’;”

  • What is interesting about this particular component is that I find it to be plain that what Jesus did throughout His ministry was to affirm, consistently, the Scriptures while directly and explicitly rejecting the “authoritative interpretations” (perception at the time) of those passages in question. In every conceivable manner, this seems to directly parallel modern “tradition” and to grant Scriptural authority over them as such for me . This is a common point raised, but the weight of it is often casually dismissed despite it having force, from my perspective.

Page 17:

“St Paul…he always speaks of the ministries of the word…The Jewish idea of discipleship…it included the imitation of the master’s life and habits.”

  • The sentiment that things were essentially oral tradition and imitative here is obviously valid because it is simply an acceptable version of historical events, even though it is not provable so far as I can tell. It has all the hallmarks of reasonable inference rather than definitive fact, but it should not be dismissed on those grounds. That being said, what should be very plain is that, whether purely circumstantial, intentional, or Providential, there was sizable value in the production of writings which increase the preservability and integrity of the message the Apostles were intending to leave behind.
  • I think that this couldn’t be more plainly stated than in letters such as the one to the Corinthians (1:11) where Paul states: 11 “For I have been informed concerning you, my brothers, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you.” Or worse: Galatians 1:6 “I marvel that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ for a different gospel…” One of the downsides of tradition is that there is no “rule” by which everything can be measured actively. Paul writes specifically with this in mind, although to be fair he would prefer to be there in person to settle the disputes augmenting through his presence. I find it undeniable that for the sake of order and measurability, the written mode is superior, and anyone who knows how leading and preaching works, nothing can surpass physical presence and direct communication. However, only where adherence to the Truth exists does the presence have any value, for no amount of consolation and communion can be worth anything wherever it is untrue or devoid of proper virtue.

Page 18:

“Immediately after pentecost…and during the next thirty years, the Christians celebrated the Breaking of Bread, although no written text on the matter existed.”

  • I despise when people pervert general internal consensus for the sake of trying to win an argument. Do we really want to pretend that NO written texts even framing the Gospel(s) or the Lord’s Supper existed for 30 years?! Until basically after Paul and Peter were already martyred? I find that preposterous. I’ve heard compelling arguments for why it is at least reasonable and plausible to believe that Mark, or its prototype, was written as early as 40 AD. Granted, this would not be the consensus of general scholarship on the topic, but in the “in-house” perspective of Christians, I have at least found it to be an acceptable possibility only hindered due to the desire for non-believing scholars to push the date of the autographs as far away from the events as possible while Christians try to charitably acquiesce in order to gain favor in the debates. This kind of assertion strikes me as spineless when convenient, but maybe I’m ignorant on actual general Christian dating scholarship (excluding the charitable allowances and preferring “in-house” opinions).

Page 19:

“This is the position of O Cullmann.”

  • I’ve never heard this fringe view, but to knock down the most radical, unattested opinion feels like a worthless cheap victory. To defeater low-brow arguments that are basically the weakest forms of intellectual participation should be scoffed at. This paragraph misses the entirety of the original Reformation intention which was only to renew the traditions that were in error, not to invalidate and abolish tradition as such. To knock this argument down is cheap and lame and fundamentally paints Protestantism in an intentionally weak light to win a cheap point. We should all be ashamed of these kinds of arguments, including that Protestants do actually have to claim “O Cullmann” and his terrible argument.

Page 20:

“But when we speak of communication by some means other than writing, we think less of an oral transmission of an unwritten teaching than of transmission of the very substance of the Christian faith, which surpasses any written statement.”

  • Man I love this and entirely agree! To reduce anything living down to a proposition is to fundamentally…not degrade…but limit it and caricature it in a sense. I think this is undeniably true, however, i still believe it is obviously possible that the living can be subject to and restricted by the propositional (or written) when in living it deviates from the life the proposition contains or represents appropriately. This seems to be what the Protestants had in mind originally, although tons have dramatically departed from this understanding in modern times, which is terrible.

Page 22:

“Tradition…is the communication of the entire heritage of the apostles…it was by means of the concrete experience of life and of the familiar everyday realities of existence.”

  • I think this is something worthy of consideration because I know this is at least a fundamental perspective within Protestantism even if it’s not fundamental to it, per se. If those who received leadership roles were potentially unworthy of imitation, even ever so slightly, those imperfections can compound as many-to-one pupil relationships are yielded from that fallible source. Not only is this possible, but I believe it to be the demonstrable manner in which history truly played out and is a fundamental reason the Reformation was good and necessary. The imitation of discipleship is only valid insofar as it accurately imitates that which it is supposed to imitate: Christ, not the individual they learned from except where that person accurately imitates Christ.
  • This sentiment needs desperately to be carried throughout all the notes: “A little bit of leaven, leavens the whole loaf.” — This is the fundamental concern and principle undergirding the entire Protestant position. When we become certain leaven has entered, how do you evaluate what is and is not leaven itself or contaminated by it?

Page 24:

“How poor and uncertain would be our communion with God, in Jesus Christ, if we were forced to establish it by ourselves, starting from ourselves and God alone, without the Church’s maternal initiation, without the Christian community, without the communion of saints!”

  • We would be like Abraham who didn’t have communion or the written word. Only God and His promises. Sounds glorious to me. Poetic rhetoric is only worthwhile insofar as it actualizes Truth. Most of this book is intended to rend the heart, move the soul, and compel reverence, but here is the rub: if Jehovah’s Witnesses wrote a poetic piece with incredible language, moving themes, but had the substance of their faith, would it move you? Should it move you?
  • I can see how this would stir the heart of a devote Catholic, but everything in it is true for Protestantism if you look at Protestantism not as a departure from catholicity but as a renewal and purification of it, which is of course the subject directly in question.

Page 26:

“it also escapes external justification of a historical and critical nature…the exegetical problem was placed before Catholic opinion as a choice between the traditional dogmatic pronouncements and textual criticism of the Scriptures…”

  • Like any untruth there is always, or at least usually, a large quantity of real truth within. While aspects of the Church are outside of the justification of a historical and critical nature given that the Entity is a living organism, not all aspects are outside of those means, or at least should not be. But this is an entailment of infallibility. It must be so that all untruths are true by default. Something infallible is immune to reform, renewal, or correction of error on anything which is infallible. So, to be extremely clear the Protestant claim is: teachings which are deemed to have been infallible have been, and can be, demonstrated to be fallible. It is not that the Church is immune to reform, renewal, correction of error in any capacity, but that it has erred in potentially fatal ways and is immune to correction on those counts.
  • I think a simple demonstration in which the textual criticism and historicity of Catholic doctrine collide is something like Romans 5:12 where textual criticism has demonstrated that the guilt of Adam (original sin in the Catholic/Orthodox sense) is not what the original texts said and the doctrines formulated on the bad Latin translation are at minimum suspect. That passage cannot be used as proof text, which it was, although the doctrine could be attempted to be proved otherwise. Protestants are grateful for the ability to correct error wherever we err, and I understand the scariness of that arena but there is the freedom of Christ in it, I believe.

Pages 27-28:

“The Blondel definition of ‘tradition’ quote”

  • This is beautiful and entirely true. I don’t read anything within it I disagree with even though I know I can’t rightfully claim the intent without the sentiment from the author likely feeling I am appropriating it.

Page 29:

“The faith–we could even say Christian life–is something interior and personal; it is definitely not an individual principle of life, but a corporate and communal one, something we receive and in which we are incorporated and take part.”

  • Again: beautiful. So beautiful and entirely true. Same sentiment as above but agreed and lovely nonetheless.

Page 31:

“The Christian, born of the Spirit and of water administered with a a verbal formula… was not subsequently left alone with the text of the Scriptures…”

  • Again: beautiful. No one should “win” a convert and then leave them to their own with none of the Body to support them. I would say, purely for anecdote and thought, that the Eunuch Phillip baptized does seem to be quite literally converted and then left with the Scriptures though. I think it’s fair to infer he was able to join The Church after, but just something interesting to consider given the language.

Page 33:

“It is the heritage of the Catholic communion, a heritage that is truly ‘catholic’ and total, which greatly surpasses the part that is recorded…”

  • This is a great portion of this chapter. Man, I love these last several pages. Sincerely awakens and stirs my soul. It will give the sentiment of appropriation again, but Protestant “catholicity” is more “universal”, though that doesn’t grant its form the important attribute of “True”. But this moves my soul from a Protestant perspective because I view the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Baptist, Lutheran, etc Eucharistic communions as valid and therefore our participation in the living tradition beautiful, binding, participatory, and wonderful.

Page 33:

“…the Bible itself does not claim to be the exclusive rule of faith.”

  • Straw-man. “Infallible rule of faith.” Not “the only rule of faith”. That nuance matters and is substantial. For all the Catholic demand for nuance and submissive, humble listening and obedience, their people surely do not seem to possess a desire of this quality. The rest of anything following and built upon an incorrect foundation is invalid so long as it is logically connected to that foundation and only correct insofar as it accidentally derives by means of unintended non-sequiturs. Scripture, in no place, declares anything but the Word of God infallible. God alone is perfect and we only do anything even correctly when carried by His Spirit (not in the Calvinistic sense, by the way).
  • And to the direct contrary: Tradition is directly, specifically, and emphatically declared fallible exclusively in the Scriptures. To intimate that Sola Scriptura is rebutted in the Scriptures while affirming infallible tradition is taught, or even hinted at, by the Scriptures could demonstrate no greater double standard than is possible while also providing a knockdown defeater for infallible tradition as such using the same argumentation.
  • It would be wise to view Sola Scriptura as the auditing mechanism of tradition, not the source requirement for all tradition. Abuses, falsehoods, etc should be measured against that which we are certain is infallible: The Word of God. To declare all tradition as infallible, as a result to the channel of tradition in and of itself, creates a tautological and tyrannical piece of philosophical nonsense. It is definitionally incoherent by all measures.

Page 35:

“The existence of unwritten apostolic traditions is therefore a certainty.”

  • While this is true, I think this is to equivocate. To assume this implies “Tradition”, especially in the modern Roman Catholic sense, is to beg the question. Besides that, it does not follow that because Paul wrote this in 1st Corinthians, which is deemed one of his earlier letters in the scholarship if I’m not mistaken, that he didn’t subsequently impart all of the Church’s most important traditions and teachings following this letter. While I think this is likely not true, to speak with such triumphalism about a non-sequitur is unhelpful. If it said, “at this point in Church history, it was a fact that writings did not possess all the traditions of the Church’s teaching,” I think that would be a fair derivative from this passage. But to assert this as definitive as if the rest of history didn’t unfold afterwards is frankly silly.

Page 35:

“Protestants admit these two points, at least in theory, but they infer nothing from them. In fact they consider that such unwritten apostolic traditions have become too uncertain with the passage of time, too greatly adulterated with other elements, too difficult to locate and isolate, to be able still to act as rules that impose themselves on the Church.”

  • The primary issue of things is not that Traditions are rejected and invalid, but with the impossible impasse of infallibility being irreconcilable with historical truth. The modern Catholic definition of “Tradition” as infallible, continuous customs of the Church which are either directly apostolic or organic, valid derivatives from apostolic tradition is simply untenable. So what does one do with that? If that which errs is irreformable, then all one can do is to try to retrieve what is definitively demonstrable based on what one is certain is trustworthy and right.
  • I think if one believes that the tradition on anathemas haven’t fundamentally changed, rather than organically “developed”, I think that person is mistaken. If one thinks that Marian assumption is authentic, apostolic tradition dating back to the 1st century, I think that one is patently mistaken. If one thinks that Papal Supremacy and Infallibility as defined in Vatican I are “the constant custom of the Church” dating back to apostolic times, I think that one is patently mistaken. And that doesn’t even get into core things like justification, indulgences, economy of salvation, etc.

Page 36:

“This is why all the churches of the third, fourth and fifth centuries, while claiming to hold the doctrine of the apostles, speak of their traditions.” (citing Tertullian, De Corona)

  • I own this text through Logos and read the passages. I may be mistaken, but I am virtually certain that Tertullian is not an infallible source of Doctrine. It also looks like he was at one point excommunicated as well, though I can’t find any definitive teaching on his end-state.
  • Should we affirm his canon because he taught and believed in a different set of books? (Enoch as an example) To go further than this, what Tertullian is offering in these passages is a defense of assuming Tradition is right and proper, accepting what is passed on down to you as a default position. I agree with this, however, if this were to be the constant and exclusive disposition, all of Christianity could be subjected to a cult. Discernment and testability are a requirement. The question in dispute is that traditions which are in error, like in Jesus’ day, are present in the previous and now modern age. Tertullian actually acknowledges that if something is forbidden by Scripture or contrary to it, it should be rejected. In fact, he goes even further to say that generally you should refrain from anything not explicitly permitted. While I think this is likely untenable, the point of Protestantism is not that traditions don’t exist, don’t have value, are not to be revered, but that certain traditions have in actuality become a yoke of burden, sin, and in certain times and instances, destructive to the Gospel message itself.
  • Finally, if tradition is not testable or open to true and full inquiry and validation, anything and everything may become a tradition of apostolic authority. Without question the Roman Catholic Church will state that whatever it affirms is assuredly apostolic and binding, but what is a claim without demonstrability? God does not work and has never worked this way. He states emphatically throughout redemptive history what He will do, how He will do it, and then fulfills and demonstrates it, typically methodically and incrementally. He does this in timing which is demonstrable in short order, further out, and then finally in its fulfillment, so that the prophetic word can be confirmed from state-to-state in a sort of diagonal, directly connected chain of custody for maximal demonstrability.

Page 37:

“These precious comments of the Fathers prevent us from imagining oral apostolic tradition as the transmission of secret doctrines whispered from mouth to mouth from one generation to the next.”

  • The spirit of this is lovely, but this is only a partial truth. While I would grant, gladly, that the majority of culture and practice are not of this kind of “secrete doctrines whispered”, the reality is that at least some and ever increasing are in fact of that exact kind. It is demonstrable that the assumption of Mary is not apostolic tradition. It is demonstrable that her sinlessness is not of apostolic tradition. It is demonstrable that her immaculate conception is not of apostolic tradition. It is demonstrable that the traditions of the treasury of merit, the economy of salvation, and the vast majority of Papal claims are all explicitly of this exact kind of “secret doctrines whispered” because history demonstrates them as false, at least in the manner they are presented (constant customs).

Page 43:

“…which has been corroborated by powerful intellects, including qualified historians.”

  • I do not understand this appeal in light of the quote I referenced from page 26. I would not dare say that it is logically necessary that to escape “external justification of a historical and critical nature” requires that things “can’t” be historically justified, but if something need not be justified, what is the purpose in doing so? None of this is a matter of demonstrability but of infallible declaration. Either tradition is subject to external empirical and historical justifications or to appeal to such is only to create an illusion of care for these things for the purposes of placation or appeasement.