The Relationship Between Scripture And Tradition In Contemporary Roman Catholic Theology -- By: Robert B. Strimple

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 40:1 (Fall 1977)
Article: The Relationship Between Scripture And Tradition In Contemporary Roman Catholic Theology
Author: Robert B. Strimple


The Relationship Between Scripture And Tradition In Contemporary Roman Catholic Theology*

Robert B. Strimple

Many Protestants have viewed the theological developments taking place in the Roman Catholic Church in recent years as quite encouraging, as giving hope that the doctrinal barriers that have separated Catholicism from Protestantism are breaking down. Most particularly this has been thought to be true with respect to the great distinctives of the Protestant Reformation, sola scriptura and sola fide—the so-called formal and material principles of the Reformation. The Canadian Presbyterian theologian, David Hay of Knox College, has written: “The astonishing thing is that these two principles, which enshrine the whole meaning and necessity of the Reformation, can no longer be said to divide Protestants from the Church of Rome.”1 With respect to the so-called formal principle specifically, Jean Daniélou has said that “a more accurate understanding on the part of Catholics of the agreement between Scripture and tradition does away with the principal Protestant objection to the Catholic position.”2 From the Protestant perspective, G. C. Berkouwer is an example of one who has been greatly encouraged by the direction Roman Catholic thinking regarding tradition has taken.3

The key figure in the Roman Catholic debate during the past

* An address presented as the third of three lectures on the theme, “Contemporary Roman Catholic Theology,” at the 1977 Christian Reformed Ministers Institute held at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

two decades regarding the relationship between Scripture and tradition has been Josef Rupert Geiselmann, since it is he who has challenged in a definitive way (though he would appeal to others who saw the primary point clearly before him, particularly among his predecessors at the University of Tübingen) the so-called “two-source” view of revelation which is the “traditional” view in the Roman Catholic Church of the relationship between Scripture and tradition.

The question which has been at issue in the Roman Catholic debate is usually put in this form: is there a constitutive tradition? To understand the force of the different answers to that question among Roman Catholic theologians we must understand the meaning of the question. A helpful guide to us here is Gabriel Moran’s book, Scripture and Tradition.4 In good scholastic fashion, Moran divides the vague concept of “tradition”...

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