Friday, January 13, 2017

Countering the Protestant claim that "Oral Tradition" was invented to justify unbiblical teachings.

Protestants are understandably concerned when Catholics appeal to "Tradition" when justifying certain teachings. There is a certain objectivity, and thus safety, about having a written document like the Scriptures. Indeed, that's one of the reasons why Catholics believe God gave us the Scriptures in the first place. Too often, appeals to Tradition are framed in terms of "Catholics cannot justify this teaching from Scripture, so they must turn elsewhere," and that "elsewhere" is seen as some secrete list of teachings passed on orally, from one bishop to another, even though nobody knows when or where. If this is what "Tradition" refers to, then this should be troubling to any Catholic. But fortunately, that's not the case, and in fact the answer is deceptively simple: Oral Tradition within historical Christianity is basically synonymous with the Liturgical Life, that is how the Sacraments are celebrated, the Liturgical Calendar, etc. These are very 'public' sources to consult, and more or less objective as well, so there is no hiding things and then randomly appealing to some unwritten unverifiable "tradition" when need be. 

One of the most lacking areas of Catholic apologetics when dealing with Protestantism is discussions of the Liturgy. It's almost as if Catholics approach the issue thinking Protestant worship is good in itself but simply missing out on something better, namely the Eucharist. But that's a completely wrong (and Protestant) way of looking at it. As I've noted in the past, Liturgy is everything when it comes to Christianity. In fact, I think as the word continues to spread that Protestants don't really follow the Bible at all when it comes to worship, and thus are engaging in a form of (unintentional) idolatry by making up their own liturgy, this will be a big turning point in many future convert's lives. We will even start to hear more about it online and programs like the Journey Home. More converts will testify that "You know, I got to thinking about what I was doing on Sunday, mostly sitting and hearing a man preach on the Bible, wasn't even something the Bible tells us to do!" 

The Liturgical Life is what being Christian is all about, and there's no other way to say it. By attacking the Liturgical Life, Protestants (particularly the Calvinst and Evangelical types), basically took man out of a life of prayer and reduced Christianity to a purely academic exercise. This is why the typical Protestant Liturgy is essentially a glorified Bible Study, with the minster often being a "Dr." who specialized in some field of Biblical research. This is very different from "Fr.", which is a daddy role as well as the role of a priest. The Liturgical Life gives you seasons and cycles, wherein we live out Christ's life in our own way. There's a reason we live by a Calendar, both secular and religious, and there's a reason why even the secular calendar everyone follows was instituted by the Catholic Church. The very term "A.D." refers to the advent of Christ on earth 2,017 years ago.

The way a Christian celebrates the Sacraments says a lot! For example, for those who baptize infants, this indicates that Baptism actually does something to the person, namely introduce them into the Divine Life, making them members of Christ's Body. Otherwise, if baptism is merely symbolic, there's no point in baptizing an infant, hence why Evangelicals see infant baptism as ridiculous. Augustine's primary example against the Pelagians was infant baptism, showing the infant was "saved" by baptism apart from any work on their part. Isn't it ironic how many Protestants are anti-Pelagian and yet also anti-infant-baptism? Another example is the Eucharist, wherein those who hold a higher view of the Eucharist tend to celebrate the Eucharist more frequently, whereas those who hold it to be more of a symbol tend to celebrate it less frequently. As the Eucharist gets more and more downplayed, the focus on the Liturgy being seen as a Bible Study lecture led by a college professor tends to increase. And while Protestants can sit an protest (sitting wasn't originally part of any Christian liturgy, it was invented mostly by Protestants), the fact is their sitting for a Bible study on Sunday isn't found anywhere in the Bible, making any of their objections purely hypocritical. And why would you have Sacraments like Confession if you believed in Once Saved Always Saved and Imputation? You wouldn't, hence the loss of the seriousness of sin within so much of Protestantism.

Now with most Catholic doctrines found easily in Scripture, and with the quality of Catholic apologetics improving greatly these past years due to the internet, Protestants are more and more forced to go after the Blessed Virgin Mary as their "hope" (the opposite way Mary is the "hope" for Catholics). As you become better in your apologetics, one sure way you know you've "won" a debate (though it's not all about winning) is when the Protestant brings up Mary. This is because it's really the easiest target and easiest way to change the subject. When I see a Protestant bring up Mary, I smile, because I know I sufficiently refuted them on all the other areas which really matter. The fact is, Mary isn't that important in the Catholic-Protestant debate, and rather Justification, Authority, and Liturgy are. But even among these things, the Liturgy is also our best defense of the Blessed Virgin, because it is in Liturgy where we see Mary honored, where we see Christians praying to her, and where Her Heavenly assistance is affirmed. In Liturgy, we testify that the saints are alive in Heaven. When it came to the Immaculate Conception, even though Christians didn't have all the details worked out, one of the chief proofs that Thomas Aquinas looked to was the fact that there is a holiday in which we celebrate the Nativity of Mary. Aquinas responds that in every other case of a saint, we celebrate (only) their death, since they ended life holy. But, in the case of Jesus, John the Baptist, and Mary, there is a Liturgical day each year for their birthdays, indicating they were born holy. 

Protestants say they love Augustine, and they appeal to his Confessions as a "safe" Christian Classic of literature, but in reality they should hate Augustine for all his Catholic Liturgical "heresies" in the Confessions alone, wherein he affirms purgatory, baptismal regeneration, veneration of relics in a basilica, veneration of saints, saintly intercession, sacrifice of the mass, and others. Now, tell me, would any Protestant dare to say what Augustine says about his mother? In Chapter IX, Augustine says: "My God, inspire Your servants my brethren, who with voice and heart and writings I serve, that so many of them as shall read these confessions may at Your altar remember Monica, Your handmaid." Augustine dedicated his Confessions to his mother, particularly in the Liturgical context of calling to mind his mother at the Sacrificial Altar. 

It really is all about Liturgy.

1 comment:

Mark Thimesch said...

Excellent timing, Nick! I hear this argument all the time. Great job!