A Major Ecumenical Problem: Revelation, Tradition and Church -- By: Charles M. Horne

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 12:2 (Spring 1969)
Article: A Major Ecumenical Problem: Revelation, Tradition and Church
Author: Charles M. Horne


A Major Ecumenical Problem:
Revelation, Tradition and Church

Charles M. Horne, Th.D.*

*Assistant Professor of Theology, Wheaton Graduate School, Wheaton, Illinois.

The Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation from Vatican II intends to be not merely a theological document but also a forceful announcement of the gospel. As such it seeks to follow “in the footsteps of the Councils of Trent and of First Vatican.”1

In this paper we shall endeavor first to briefly retrace these footsteps and then secondly, to examine the latest prints laid down by Vatican II. By such means it is hoped that we may profitably evaluate the direction Rome is traveling in the ecumenical path-as this centers on the issue of revelation.

A Look At The Past Footprints

The Council of Trent - The council declared in its fourth session, April 1546, that the truth of the gospel is

Contained in the written books, and the unwritten traditions which, received by the Apostles from the mouth of Christ himself, or from the Apostles themselves, the Holy Ghost dictating, have come down even unto us, transmitted as it were from hand to hand: the Synod following the examples of the orthodox Fathers, receives and venerates with an equal affection of piety and reverence, all the books both of the Old and of the New Testaments-seeing that one God is the author of both-as also the said traditions, as well those appertaining to faith as to morals, as having been dictated, either by Christ’s own word of mouth, or by the Holy Ghost, and preserved in the Catholic Church by a continuous succession.2

The question which we must ask is simply this, Does this decree set forth clearly and unmistakably the concept of two parallel sources of revelation? In endeavoring to answer this question we must note several things. First, the final version which states that supernatural revelation is “contained in the written books, and the unwritten traditions” was preceded by a version which clearly taught a two-source theory of revelation.

The initial draft stated that the truth is contained “partly in written books, partly in unwritten tradition.”

Because of this fact the opponents of the two-source theory argue that when the council deleted the word “partly” and rendered it “in the written books, and the unwritten traditions” they were intending to make a material change-a change which, while not denying that both Scripture and tradition are sources of revelation, nevertheless left the matter of their mutual rela...

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