Whenever a Catholic debates the Faith with a non-Catholic — Christian or atheist — the very first argument that often gets brought up is that Catholic teaching contradicts the Scriptures.
“Catholics believe (X), but (X) isn’t in the Bible”
First off, let me put this out there and get it over with — Catholics do not believe in the doctrine of Sola Scriptura, which translates to “Scripture alone.” Unlike many Protestant beliefs, Catholics do not accept the Bible as the highest authority on doctrine. This may sound like a heresy to some, but it isn’t. The Church isn’t derived from the Bible. In fact it’s quite the opposite. It is precisely because of the Catholic Church that the Bible even exists
Think about it. Where did the Bible come from? How did it get into the form that it is today? It didn’t just fall from the sky. It was the early Christians, the Catholics, who compiled the Bible in the first place. Using apostolic tradition and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Catholic priests and bishops carefully selected the writings that best reflected God’s will and Christ’s teachings. This process took many years and many council meetings, finally culminating (roughly) in the year 400. We all have to understand that after hundreds of years, Catholic beliefs, sacraments and doctrine were the Rock on which Peter (the first Pope) built the Church.
So that begs the question: Since Catholics were the ones who put the Bible together, why would they choose a collection of writings that contradicted their own practices and belief?
Real Presence in the Eucharist, confession, good works, priests, and devotion to Mary are just a few of the traditions practiced daily long before the Bible was canonized. (Ironically, these are some of the most vehemently criticized aspects of the Catholic faith.) These apostolic traditions were passed onto the early Church fathers who passed them on to the next generation and so forth into the present day.
It’s important to understand that even though the Bible isn’t our sole source of authority, we still view it as an incredibly sacred and holy gift from our Lord. For Catholics, the Bible is a conduit from which God reveals to us Himself and His will. It is God’s word through human words. It is a brilliant and mystical collection of divinely inspired writings that allow us to see and relate to the struggles and glory of submitting our lives to the Father. It directs us, gives us knowledge, and enriches our spiritual lives.
So, when someone asserts that Catholic Tradition contradicts the Scripture, we know this is impossible. The Bible was born out of Tradition as a reflection of our faith. They were meant to support one another.
Now, this is an expansive topic, which is why many have devoted entire books to exploring it instead of just one blog. I’ve dealt with scripture backing tradition in a few blogs, which you can read here, here, and here. However, if you want to dive deeper into this topic, I recommend Mark Shea’s By What Authority? An Evangelical Discovers Catholic Tradition. I’ve also provided some links at the bottom for further reading.
In Sacred Scripture, the Church constantly finds her nourishment and her strength, for she welcomes it not as a human word, “but as what it really is, the word of God”.67 “In the sacred books, the Father who is in heaven comes lovingly to meet his children, and talks with them.”