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      Well, They Can't Both Be Right...
      (Charles Hodge)

      Tuesday, January 8, 2008



      Protestants object to tradition as part of the
      rule of faith, because it is not adapted to that
      purpose. A rule of faith to the people must be
      something which they can apply; a standard by
      which they can judge. But this unwritten revelation
      is not contained in any one volume accessible to
      the people, and intelligible by them. It is
      scattered through the ecclesiastical records of
      eighteen centuries. It is absolutely impossible for
      the people to learn what it teaches. How can they
      tell whether the Church in all ages has taught
      the doctrine of transubstantiation, the sacrifice of the Mass, or
      any other popish doctrine. They must take all such doctrines
      upon trust, i.e., on the faith of the extant Church. But this is to
      deny that to them tradition is a rule of faith. They are required to
      believe, on the peril of their souls, doctrines, the pretended evidence
      of which it is impossible for them to ascertain or appreciate.

      Romanists argue that such is the obscurity of the Scriptures, that
      not only the people, but the Church itself needs the aid of tradition
      in order to their being properly understood. But if the Bible, a
      comparatively plain book, in one portable volume, needs to be thus
      explained, What is to explain the hundreds of folios in which these
      traditions are recorded? Surely a guide to the interpretation of the
      latter must be far more needed than one for the Scriptures.

      Tradition destroys the Authority of the Scriptures.

      Making tradition a part of the rule of faith subverts the authority
      of the Scriptures. This follows as a natural and unavoidable
      consequence. If there be two standards of doctrine of equal authority,
      the one the explanatory, and infallible interpreter of the other, it is
      of necessity the interpretation which determines the faith of the
      people. Instead, therefore, of our faith resting on the testimony of
      God as recorded in his Word, it rests on what poor, fallible, often
      fanciful, prejudiced, benighted men, tell us is the meaning of that
      word. Man and his authority take the place of God. As this is the
      logical consequence of making tradition a rule of faith, so it is an
      historical fact that the Scriptures have been made of no account
      wherever the authority of tradition has been admitted. Our Lord said,
      that the Scribes and Pharisees made the word of God of no effect by
      their traditions; that they taught for doctrines the commandments of
      men. This is no less historically true of the Church of Rome. A great
      mass of doctrines, rites, ordinances, and institutions, of which the
      Scriptures know nothing, has been imposed on the reason, conscience,
      and life of the people. The Roman Catholic religion of our day, with
      its hierarchy, ritual, image and saint worship; with its absolutions,
      indulgences, and its despotic power over the conscience and the life of
      the individual, is as little like the religion of the New Testament, as
      the present religion of the Hindus with its myriad of deities, its
      cruelties, and abominations, is like the simple religion of their
      ancient Vedas. In both cases similar causes have produced similar
      effects. In both there has been a provision for giving divine authority
      to the rapidly accumulating errors and corruptions of succeeding ages.

      Tradition teaches error, and therefore cannot be divinely controlled
      so as to be a rule of faith. The issue is between Scripture and
      tradition. Both cannot be true. The one contradicts the other. One or
      the other must be given up. Of this it least no true Protestant has any
      doubt. All the doctrines peculiar to Romanism, and for which Romanists
      plead the authority of Scripture, Protestants believe to be
      anti-scriptural; and therefore they need no other evidence to prove
      that tradition is not to be trusted either in matters of faith or
      practice.


      - Charles Hodge
      (From "Systematic Theology")

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