Last semester I had the chance to research and reflect on the Reformation’s reliance on tradition in its return to Scripture as the primary authority within the church, the sole basis on which doctrine may be founded. Much of this came in the face of a significant challenge by some to the legitimacy of the Reformation in light of claims by Eastern Orthodoxy. I wrote a paper specifically arguing for the Reformation’s desire to reintegrate a tradition which emphasized the primacy and uniqueness of Scripture back into the church while denying a secondary, extra-scriptural tradition which had crept in over time through the papacy. Heiko Oberman was essential to much of my work on that point. While not addressing Eastern Orthodoxy specifically, his work is absolutely brilliant in tracing medieval developments from the time and influence of Basil the Great and Augustine through to the Reformation. I am re-reading some of his work The Harvest of Medieval Theology: Gabriel Biel and Late Medieval Nominalism (Harvard University Press, 1963) in which the following quote is an absolute goldmine when thinking through the Reformation and its effort to restore the Western Church rather than innovate a new form of ecclesiology.
As regards the pre-Augustinian Church, there is in our time a striking convergence of scholarly opinion that Scripture and Tradition are for the early Church in no sense mutually exclusive: kerygma, Scripture and Tradition coincide entirely. The Church preaches the kerygma which is to be found in toto in written form in the canonical books.
The Tradition is not understood as an addition to the kerygma contained in Scripture but as the handing down of that same kerygma in living form: in other words everything is to be found in Scripture and at the same time everything is in the living Tradition.
It is in the living, visible Body of Christ, inspired and vivified by the operation of the Holy Spirit, that Scripture and Tradition coinhere. This is not merely to be understood in the one-level sense of the coinherence of source and interpretation. That is certainly the case. But this coinherence is first of all the result of the understanding that both Scripture and Tradition issue from the same source: the Word of God, Revelation. They find their common basis therefore in the operation of the Holy Spirit. Through the Holy Spirit the content of the Christian faith, and the act of participation, translation, and thus interpretation by the apostolic Church, the fides quae creditur and the fides qua creditur, are held together. Scripture and Tradition are substantially - as regards fides et veritas - coextensive.
From the chapter “Holy Writ and Holy Church,” pp. 366–37.
If you have never had existential crises over the role of Tradition and Scripture, let me tell you those words bring great comfort and joy.
My own paper can also be found here (Dropbox download). Read at your own risk 😄