In the year 2000 I joined the Catholic church. I became a somewhat conservative Catholic, one who submitted with his intellect to the magisterium of the church. However, in the past few years, I have rethought much of that submission. Don’t misunderstand me- I remain Catholic in many of my core beliefs- that the Mass is the sacrifice of Calvary, that the Eucharist is the body and blood of Christ, traditional Catholic Christology, etc. I go to Mass, try to go to daily Mass, say the rosary, go to a priest for spiritual direction and confession, believe that abortion should be illegal, I believe strongly in Catholic spirituality, loving to read St. Bernard, or either of the two St. Theresas. I believe strongly in sacramental theology, especially as developed by the scholastics. I believe Jesus rose from the dead, and everything in the Nicene Creed. I remain in the Catholic church.
According to Vatican II, the three pillars of the faith are Scripture, Tradition, and Magisterium. What is a good example of Tradition? Most Catholics would point to the Marian dogmas. I do not question the first Marian dogma, that Mary is the Mother of God. This is really a point of sound Christology as much as it is Mariology. But I highly doubt the other three dogmas. They have no basis in Scripture or sound philosophy.
If there are Catholic extraBiblical traditions, the perpetual virginity of Mary has a claim to be such a tradition if anything does. This was notably defined by the Church in approving the doctrine of St Jerome in his debate with Jovinian. But I believe St. Jerome was wrong. Scripture clearly says that Jesus had brothers and sisters, which basic logic would conclude were the children of Mary and Joseph after the birth of Jesus. The perpetual virginity of Mary was really tied to a misinterpretation of 1st Corinthian’s supposed teaching that virginity is superior to marriage. But as Joseph Fitzmyer points out in his commentary on First Corinthians, Paul says that virginity or marriage has more to do with vocation than one way of life supposedly being superior to another.
Do I believe in Sola Scriptura, since tradition is clearly wrong about at least one thing? Just because tradition is wrong about the perpetual virginity of Mary doesn’t mean it couldn’t be right about almost everything else. The problem with Sola Scriptura is that the Bible nowhere teaches it. I am not sure if that makes it self-referentially incoherent. Jesus in Matthew’s gospel clearly seems to reject the Pharisee’s claim to have an oral tradition going back to Moses- his rejection of the korban rule which is such a tradition- so it seems unbiblical to suppose that there is such tradition in Christianity. But is the authority of Scripture without tradition sola scriptura? It might be. Another problem is that the canon of Scripture itself comes from tradition- or at least did historically. I am highly skeptical of “I get a burning in the bosom when I read Romans, but not First Clement,” as a basis for the canon. But could the canon be a point of faith which needs no historical proof? Sort of a properly basic belief? It could, but for too many reasons to mention in this already long blog, I am not fond of reformed epistemology, but not sure how else one would flesh out such an idea.
Can the idea of Biblical tradition be retained, a sort of fleshing out what is contained implicitly in Scripture? Are the Christological dogmas an example of such fleshing out? What else would be?