Faith, Tradition, And Scripture
Lewis played an integral part in spreading the Christian faith in the 20th century. His numerous works have explored the ideas of Faith, Tradition, and Scripture and helped identify what it means to be a Christian. And yet the Church has always taught according to Sacred Faith and Sacred Tradition — these two being the guiding lights of the Magisterium. Even the has stated, “Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture form one sacred deposit of the word of God, committed to the Church” (Dei Verbum). Faith, Tradition, and Scripture, therefore, play an integral role in the formation of Christian identity and culture. This paper will analyze the Faith, Tradition, Scripture formula and show how it has developed through the centuries.
The Deposit of Faith
Vernon Staley (1894) states that “it is upon the authority of the Church, and upon that alone, that we know what is Scripture, and what is not” (p. 320). The meaning of this statement is bound up the Church’s formula of Faith, Tradition, and Scripture — for as some Protestants make Scripture their rule of Faith, the Church has never done so: Staley quotes Dr. Pusey, who says, “We acknowledge that Holy Scripture is the source of all saving truth; but it does not therefore follow that everyone, unguided, is to draw for himself the truth out of that living well” (p. 322). The deposit of Faith was passed down from Christ both through Scripture and Tradition: “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen” (John 21:25). Thus, while the Church Fathers gathered the books of Scripture together, they also passed on through Tradition the deposit of Faith to which all Christians should adhere.
Likewise, the authors of the pages of Scripture make mention of the act of passing on: St. Paul says, “For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you” (1 Cor. 11:23). And it is St. Paul who disputes with Peter the correct way to approach both Jews and Gentiles in order to convert them. Thus, while even the Apostles of Our Lord contended among themselves, the Spirit of the Church has always been protected by the Holy Ghost, which guides the Church in Her pronouncements concerning that which is necessary for salvation (matters of faith and morals).
Authority and Revelation
As C.S. Lewis (2001) notes, “The us the tune we have to play: our instincts are merely the keys” (p. 10). Lewis here asserts the reality of nature that is the moral code — however, because nature can be corrupted or perverted, we require more than our human instincts to divine that moral law: Here is where the Church, established by Christ, steps in with the true keys the moral law and correct interpretation of the Faith — which supplies the supernatural grace that enables us to build on nature and climb toward sanctification through the use of Scripture and Tradition.
Staley also propounds upon this doctrine by asserting the providential relationship between Church, Faith, and Scripture:
Holy Scripture and Catholic tradition are joint and of the faith. The faith was delivered to the Saints and given to the Church, before the New Testament was written; yet the whole faith so given was, by God’s providence, afterwards contained in Scripture. The Church received her faith before she received her Scriptures, yet the whole of the faith so received can be proved by Scripture. (Staley, 1894, p. 118).
Thus, Divine Revelation was granted to the Church — Scripture is the Divine Word of God, but it is not solely the source of Divine Revelation, for it followed from it, not vice versa. To the Church was granted the authority to gather Holy Writ into one Book and to pronounce an authoritative interpretation of that same Holy Writ. Nonetheless, the interpretation of the Church is far less rigid than many Protestants would have us believe — for the Church, in Her wisdom, does not demand irrational or arbitrary assent: the Church’s reconciliation of faith and reason was displayed through the scholastic works of rational men like St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Anselm, and St. Augustine. In this manner and through de fide pronouncements, the Church has exercised its authority over Revelation. After all, it is through the Church that Revelation has been handed down to us in the first place. As Staley asserts, “When the Christian revelation was written down and accepted by the Church, the Church became its interpreter, being constituted by God for this purpose, and being aided by the Holy Spirit in fulfilling it” (p. 118).
In conclusion, the Church has always recommended the formula of Faith, Tradition, and Scripture in passing on the doctrine of Christ for the sanctification of souls. From the Apostles themselves to the early Church Fathers on through to the Middle Ages and even till now, the Church’s mission has never changed: to protect and disseminate the deposit of Faith left by Christ. Through the Traditions of the Church and the authoritative interpretation of Scripture, the Christian Faith has been passed down to us through the centuries — the same Faith to which St. Paul himself adhered.
Lewis, C.S. (2001). Mere Christianity. New York, NY: HarperCollins.
New Revised Standard Version Bible. (2009). New York, NY: HarperCollins.
Staley, V. (1894). The Catholic Religion. London, UK: Mowbray.