In opposing Tradition to Holy Scripture as two sources of Revelation, the polemicists of the Counter-Reformation put themselves from the start on the same ground as their Protestant adversaries, having tacitly recognised in Tradition a reality other than that of Scripture. Instead of being the u`póqesiv itself of the sacred books, their fundamental coherence due to the living breath passing through them, transforming their letter into “a unique body of truth”, Tradition would appear as something added, as an external principle in relation to Scripture. Henceforth, the patristic texts which attributed a character of “pleroma” to the Holy Scripture became incomprehensible, whilst the Protestant doctrine of the “sufficiency of Scripture” received a negative meaning, by the exclusion of all that is “Tradition”. The defenders of Tradition saw themselves obliged to prove the necessity of union between two juxtaposed realities, each of which remained insufficient alone. Hence a series of false problems like that of the primacy of Scripture or of Tradition, of their respective authority, of the total or partial difference of their content, etc. … How is the necessity of knowing the Scripture in the Tradition to be proved, how is their unity which was ignored in separating them to be found again? If the two are “fullness”, there could be no question of two “pleromas” opposed to one another, but of two modalities of one and the same fullness of the Revelation communicated to the Church.

Vladimir Lossky, “Tradition and Traditions” in V. Lossky and L. Ouspensky, The Meaning of Icons (St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1982). 11.                                                                                            

Father Louth’s discussion of this essay by Vladimir Lossky resulted in me looking it up again. I don’t have time to comment much on it, but may post a quote or two. It’s worth noting, though, that the possibility of recognising Scripture and Tradition as two rival sources of authority was already present in late medieval theology, as was the suggestion of an “invisible” Church. It is becoming increasingly apparent to me that many of the false alternatives that the Western Church faces today have their roots in deep-seated shifts in this period, although I still need to get a much better understanding of many of the dynamics involved!

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