The proper relationship between the authority of Christian Scripture and authority of Christian Tradition avails itself to no easy answers. From a historical viewpoint, much of the early development of both remains hotly debated. From a theological perspective, centuries (and sometimes millennia) old debates continue to shape thinking and lead toward answers long before any explicit consideration of this relationship comes into focus.
Yet there seem to be boundaries—a “highway of orthodoxy” if you will—which suggest (or perhaps demand?) a certain perspective on the Christian understanding of the interplay between Scripture and Tradition, a stance which holds a) Scripture as inspired and authoritative (overly precise definitions aside); b) Tradition as important for properly interpreting Scripture (or, if you prefer more Protestant phrasings, “interpreting within the community” or even “Scripture interpreting Scripture”); and c) both Scripture and Tradition as necessarily in conversation with one another (i.e., neither allowed to dominate the other). Continue reading
Biographies are intensely personal affairs, filled with the often mundane details purporting to tell the life story of some person of alleged importance. Occasionally, however, a figure of true influence will come along and change the world. In the American context, such figures have often been religious or political leaders, those two realms of discourse which seem to influence all others. Indeed, few can deny that Washington, Lincoln, King, and Graham do not continue to play important roles in shaping our context. Yet few characters of history have simultaneously transformed both religion and politics. One such person was the late Father Richard John Neuhaus, whose public advocacy—for both political left and right and for Christian faith in the public square—continues to influence our world. Continue reading
This article originally appeared at Conciliar Post.
If you drive through any appreciable stretch of the United States, you are bound to come across churches. In some sparse locales, these places of worship are few and far between, much like the dwellings of those who attend them. In other places, churches abound, with nearly every street seeming to possess its own house of God. When my wife and I lived in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, one of our favorite pastimes was driving through the rolling forests that lay between our city and the Appalachian Mountains. On these drives, we grew to appreciate the term Bible Belt, as we would pass countless small, country churches on every drive. On one stretch of road no more than five miles long, we encountered some ten different churches, at least five of which included “Baptist” in their title. Likewise in Saint Louis, where we now live, church steeples dot the cityscape with peaceful regularity, directing commuter’s eyes heavenward. Continue reading
St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City
The nineteenth century posed a number of unique challenges to the Roman Catholic Church, among them the continued rise of Protestantism, the increasing influence of modernism, the development of historical and biblical criticisms, and the rise in understanding of numerous world religions. Roman Catholicism developed a number of responses to these challenges, most notably through Pope Pius IX’s Syllabus of Errors and the canons of the First Vatican Council. In these writings, Rome affirmed the veracity of the tradition of the Church in opposition to the world, dogmatically affirming the accuracy and infallibility of the teachings of the Church and Pope. Continue reading
Dorothy Day’s autobiography, The Long Loneliness, offers numerous insights into the life story of one of the 20th century’s greatest American Catholics and the experiences and thinking behind her journalistic and social work. While Day stood outside the traditional bounds of American Catholicism, her commitment to journalistic excellence and learning, social poverty, and a re-thought Christian message made her one of the most influential religious figures in 20th century American Christianity. The Long Loneliness recounts Day’s story as many autobiographies do, with numerous references to the broader scope of human existence and relationships formed therein, demonstrating that Day’s commitment to social action stemmed from her broad range of experiences and desire to affirm the message of Jesus Christ within the context of 20th century America. Continue reading