Sources for theology

Tradition and Scripture are two sources for theology. However, there is some discussion as to the balance of these concepts when it comes to doing theology.

Historically, the Church fathers saw no distinction between the traditions of the Apostles and Scripture. However, as time progressed, traditions became broader and included the idea of extrascriptual tradition. This was one of the causes of the reformation. The reformers did not believe in the idea of Scriptural and extrascriptual tradition.

Contemporary Views

Today, there are three basic views of Scripture and tradition. A quick analysis of those views should give us greater clarity.

First, there is a Tradition II view. This basically says what the Roman Catholic church says: There is authority in both Scriptural and extrascriptual tradition, both from Scripture and from the doctrinal assertions of the church, as the Holy Spirit continues his work of illumination.

Second, there is Tradition 0 which asserts that Bible is the only source for theology. Finally, there is Tradition I which says that both the Bible and tradition are sources for theology, yet that the Bible is the primary source. Tradition is wisdom from men of the past that may or may not assist in theology. Insofar as it agrees with Scripture tradition is accepted.


Tradition II is dangerous because it nearly denies the perspicuity of Scripture and the universal priesthood of the believer with its emphasis on the dual authority of Scripture and the Church.

Tradition 0 needs caution because it nearly denies that catholicity of the church, the Spirit’s guidance of past believers and contains an implicit bias to present thinking.


Tradition I seems to avoid the possible danger noted above with it’s emphasis on balancing tradition with Scripture. The former is man’s word, while the latter is God’s.


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