Scripture AND Tradition

Growing up as a Protestant I believed in the idea of Sola Scriptura—by Scripture alone. That means the Bible provides the source for Christian teaching, information necessary to live the Christian life, and is the only authority. Pastors and theologians can give teaching and counsel, but Scripture is the deciding word.

Throughout my childhood and young adolescence, I didn’t see any problems with Sola Scriptura. It wasn’t until my college years that it presented questions. I attended a Christian university where the students and faculty’s views ranging widely on moral and theological issues, each one assured of their grounding in Scripture. I was baffled.

If Scripture is the only authority, and all these conflicting views were supported by it, whose interpretation was correct?

As I ventured to examine Catholicism, the blend of Scripture and Tradition increasingly made sense. Instead of viewing this blend as the Church’s attempt to brainwash me or prevent me from studying Scripture on my own, I felt relieved! It made sense to me to follow a teaching authority that can clear up all the conflicts that naturally arise when a diverse body of humans delve into sacred Scripture.

Today’s First Reading shows us the early Christians deferring to the authority of the Church. A disagreement arose as to whether or not Christians should observe the Mosaic Law (our Old Testament). Saints Paul and Barnabas packed up and headed out to Jerusalem to bring the matter to the Church leaders, not out of laziness or a desire to follow blindly. They submitted to Church authority with complete trust.

You might be asking, “Why should I submit to the Magisterium? (The teaching authority of the Church.) After all, Church leaders are fallible humans too.” It is true that our priests, bishops, and the Pope are all human beings and can make mistakes. But when it comes to the Church’s official teachings, we believe the Holy Spirit uses the Magisterium to carry on Jesus’ teachings. “Christ endowed the Church’s shepherds with the charism of infallibility in matters of faith and morals.” (CCC 890)

We trust the Church because we believe Jesus is guiding Her. Scripture is divinely inspired by the Holy Spirit, and that same Spirit is guiding and directing the Church today. Jesus says in today’s Gospel, “Remain in me, as I remain in you.” Let us remain in Him by placing our loving trust in His body, the Church.

Let us remain in Him by placing our loving trust in His body, the Church.

Anna Coyne is a Saint Paul native, wife, mother, and convert to the Catholic faith. When not chasing after her two young children you can probably find her teaching piano lessons, knitting, tripping over wooden train sets, or writing. Find out more about her here.


  • Reply
    Colleen Thompson
    May 17, 2017 at 7:10 am

    Hi Anne, thank you for this nice post. Could you give some examples of:

    “If Scripture is the only authority, and all these conflicting views were supported by it, whose interpretation was correct?”

    I am interested in the conflicting views that you encountered during your college years. Could you give one or two examples, please? For example, one person interpreted Sacred Scripture verse aaaa as xxxxx, and someone else interpreted that same verse as yyyyy. Thank you!!

  • Reply
    May 17, 2017 at 1:47 pm

    How about people who use scripture to argue different sides of the argument for the protection of life from conception to natural death? That’s a big one. Also, the interpretation of Mary as just another regular lady or a woman blameless and “full of grace”? Or how about Christians who believe James was Jesus’ actual brother bc he turned to him on the cross and said “this is your mother?”

  • Reply
    May 21, 2017 at 11:47 pm

    This is confusing to me.. didn’t Jesus condemn the self righteous, religious Pharisees? Also, weren’t gentiles allowed to remain uncircumcised as a result of the council of Jerusalem in Acts 15? Thus they did not submit to the Church…? This decision to allow Gentiles to remain uncircumcised is one of the most important, because it essentially opens the Gospel to all cultures of the world… not just the Jews. Would love to hear your interpretation.

  • Leave a Reply