Mark Shea just provided an excellent example of the dividing line between those who “hear” God’s words and obey, and those who refuse to do so, and insist upon substitutions (sacred tradition, prophets, popes, other Scriptures, etc.). He begins:

The basic rule of thumb to understand in Catholic/Protestant conversations is that it is not the case the Catholics rely on Sacred Tradition and Protestants don’t. Rather, Catholics rely on Sacred Tradition and know they do, while Protestant rely on (parts) of Sacred Tradition and don’t know they do.

There is no question that many non-Catholics depend upon their traditions without knowing they are doing so. Witness my frequent criticism of Dave Hunt on this point. But it does not follow that the rest of us who are self-consciously seeking to give Scripture its proper place, and to test all traditions by the Word of God (as we are commanded to do so by example of the Lord Jesus Himself in Matthew 15) are incapable of distinguishing between ultimate authorities and secondary ones. But even here, Shea’s real purpose is more dangerous: he, like Keating and those before him, seeks to rob the Scriptures of their ability to speak to the most basic, foundational issues of the faith. Note this vicious attack upon revealed Writ:

So, for instance, nowhere in the text of Scripture is it made clear that Christian marriage *must* be monogamous or that the Holy Spirit is a person, much less the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, consubstantial with the Father and the Son.

Yes, I consider this a vicious attack, for it is in essence saying that what God has inspired is insufficient to reveal to us the most sacred truths of God’s very existence: we are dependent, evidently, upon some kind of extra-biblical sources to know these things (though, of course, as was demonstrated long ago, Shea is incapable of defending that positive claim about tradition). I will allow the reader to compare the sound, biblical presentations on the personhood and deity of the Spirit found in Reformed theological works with the man-centered chatter of Rome’s proponents today. Shea then goes on to magnify the marriage issue, speaking far more with the spirit of modern atheists who manhandle the Scriptures than that of anyone who bows before them in reverence, and concludes saying,

The fact is, the Bible says “Marriage is good” but gives us not one word of instruction on how to do it. And yet, of course, Protestant all over the world get married, believe in God the Holy Spirit, and have but one spouse because, as James Dobson say, God’s plan is one man and one woman. How do they do this when Scripture is so unclear? They accept Sacred Tradition percolated to them from the Catholic Church through the Protestant tradition.

Just as Shea and his compatriots cannot meaningfully answer the question I have asked so often about how the believing Jew knew Isaiah and 2 Chronicles were Scripture fifty years before Jesus was born, so too Shea here assumes what he has never proven. Does anyone seriously think that monogamy is a Roman Catholic “tradition” that is clear in the realm of Rome’s teachings but unclear in Scripture? Let’s allow the “unclear” Scriptures to speak to the issue:

3 Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?”
4 And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE,
6 “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”
7 They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE AND SEND her AWAY?”
8 He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way.
9 “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
(Mat 19:3-9 NASB)

Let Mr. Shea rail away at the “lack of clarity” of God’s Word here. The child of God knows better.

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