I'd like to introduce this topic for broader discussion first by highlighting a couple of thoughts Rich and I have traded already in the comments of a previous post:
[Jailer] At best, as you imply, tradition may represent the collective wisdom of godly people throughout ages past, and there may be much good to be drawn from it. A wholesale abrogation of its traditions may leave the church unnecessarily adrift. For example, the doctrine of the Trinity was not fully developed within the New Testament timeframe, though it is clearly drawn from New Testament Scriptures. But the work of the early saints, the Council of Nicea, etc. are important to this day in giving the church an expression of that Scriptural truth that has stood many tests throughout the centuries. At worst, however, the pitfalls of tradition are nothing short of catastrophic. The Pharisees are an example, as was the Roman Catholic church itself throughout the Middle Ages. The effective exaltation of Divine Tradition over Scripture, together with the unfortunate union of spiritual and temporal authority in Rome, brought about the horrible corruption that made the Reformation so very necessary. Okay, well to quote Mr. Potatohead from Toy Story II, "Oh, you had to bring THAT up!" So let's dwell on more present realities. I can agree and attest that the alphabet soup which is present-day Protestantism leaves much to be desired insofar as its squishy and polyglot doctrinal foundations, and this is, in part, due to its disdain for tradition as being of any value whatsoever. This is also tragic, and leaves much of the church unable to wrestle with a variety of false and silly teachings as they slosh through our pulpits and Christian book stores and media outlets. On the other hand, I would argue that Catholicism, though certainly in a better place now than in much of its history, continues to struggle with some basic theological problems that its tradition has frozen into place. I would especially list among these the problems of other mediators between God and man besides Jesus Christ (1 Tim 2:5)--or shall I say, other mediators between man and Christ--and ultimately the overlay of human tradition as supplemental to (and therefore displacing of) the authority of Scripture. Yes, Scripture does--and will always--suffer from various human interpretations. By necessity, some of those must be incorrect. Some of them are even irredeemably heretical. But I will take that authority over the exaltation of our very fallible human tradition.Please note that though Rich and I are naturally theologically opposed on some important issues, I am fully persuaded of his sincere faith in our Lord Jesus, and rejoice to confidently call him my brother in Christ. He maintains his own blog devoted to equipping Catholics to understand the Scriptures.
[Rich] Jailer, it might surprise you that I agree with virtually everythig you said. My only disagreement might center on your comment about mediators. Let me explain. Yes, absolutely and positively, there is only one mediator between God and man . . . Christ Jesus. And it causes me a great deal of consternation when my fellow Catholics elevate, (de facto, if not de jure), others -- including the Blessed Virgin -- to a place reserved only for Messiah Jesus. However, the Catechism and other Catholic Church documents instruct the laity against doing so, quite clearly. Problem is, the laity either don't fully comprehend Church teaching, or they go beyond that teaching due to their own will. What the Church DOES teach (and of necessity I simplify here) is that because those who have died in Christ (for example, the Saints) . . . because they are not dead (for "all live unto God"), they are in that "great cloud of witnesses" and in a position to pray for us who are on this side of the grave, in much the same way as I might ask you for prayer. The Catholic (and Orthodox) Church teaches we all have the privilege to ask saints such as St. Monica, or St. Thomas, et. al. to pray for us. The OT (as well as the NT) is replete with examples of holy men who prayed (mediated) for others (e.g. Moses, Elijah, Jeremiah, Peter, Paul . . .) So the term "mediator" as used in that sense is not at all extrabiblical. Unfortunately, there is often a distance between an official position of a Church and how the sheep interpret (or are taught) that position. Hence, the significant need for being "instant in season and out of season [to] reprove, rebuke, exhort" others in God's word (and, in my case, Church teaching).
To dig further into this issue of Evangelical Cathoicism, I'd like to take an extract from a Catholic priest's blog (emphasis mine):
One former Presbyterian minister told me the story of how he was received into the Catholic church, and how one of his first Catholic pastors welcomed him and wanted him to help make the liturgy more relevant. The Catholic priest thought this convert clergyman could help out. The former presbyterian pastor was shocked and dismayed. He said, "This is exactly what I do not want. For ten years as a presbyterian pastor I tried to make up my own services, preach on what I wanted and devise some sort of 'liturgy' or 'worship experience' for my people. I became a Catholic because that just won't do. I want the Cathechism. I want the liturgy. I want the lectionary. I want the Liturgy of the Hours. I want the spirituality of the saints. I want the Church. Most of all I want the Eucharist."There are several lines of discussion here, but what I'd like to focus on is what drives people from their Protestant churches back "home" to Catholicism. One theme comes out for me in both Rich's comments and the unnamed minister: a desire for something more doctrinally solid and methodologically consistent than much of the fluffy feel-goodism that poses as postmodern Evangelicalism.
I ask for your thoughts below as we develop this further ...