I. Koinonia and the Word of God
the focus of our dialogue was Church as koinonia, the question
of Scripture and Tradition kept surfacing in all our discussions.
We found that much of the agreement and also the disagreement
stemmed from the similarities and differences in our understandings
of the ultimate bases on which doctrine and practice of the
Church should rest. Even though we discussed the topic of Scripture
and Tradition more extensively in previous phases of the dialogue,4
we offer the following brief summary of our respective views
on Scripture and Tradition because of its link to the topic
of this particular dialogue.
Jesus Christ the Perfect Word of God
Written Word o f God
After speaking in many places and in a variety of ways through
the prophets, God has now "in these last days... spoken
to us by a Son" (Heb 1:1-2). He sent his Son, the Eternal
Word of God, who became flesh (cf. Jn 1:14).
Together we believe that our Lord Jesus Christ revealed God
in a perfect way through his whole ministry: through his words
and deeds, his signs and wonders, but especially through his
death and glorious resurrection from the dead, and finally by
sending the Spirit of truth (cf. John 15:26; 16:7,12).
Jesus Christ is the ultimate and permanent Word of God. The
Christian dispensation, as the new and definitive covenant,
will never pass away, and we now await no further revelation
before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ (1
Tim 6:14; Titus 2:13).
We believe together that the books of both the Old and New Testaments
have been written, in their entirety, under the inspiration
of the Holy Spirit (cf. John 20:31, 2 Tim 3:16; 2 Pet
1:19,21; 3:15-16). Scripture is the Word of God written in human
words in history.
Without suppressing the humanity of the biblical writers, God
used them to express God's perfect will to God's people. The
Scripture teaches faithfully and without error that truth which
God wanted put into the sacred writings for our salvation (cf.
2 Tim 3:16).
We disagree on the limits of the canon of Scriptures. Roman
Catholics and Orthodox have the same canon. Pentecostals agree
with the Reformation churches in their view of the canon as
limited to the sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments.
While Pentecostals do not deny that the books which Roman Catholics
treat as deutero-canonical are valuable for the edification
of God's people, they do not consider them as normative for
faith and practice.
Catholics argue that it is significant that the Church precedes
chronologically the writings of the New Testament. These writings
collectively bring together the message transmitted orally by
the early apostolic Christian community, filled with the Holy
Spirit, and constitute also the witness and response of the
people of God to the truth of the Gospel.
Roman Catholic Church sees in the texts of the New Testamentwhose
authors were inspiredthe normative expression of revelation
which closed with the death of the last apostle. The writings
of the New Testament thus express, in a normative fashion, the
Apostolic Tradition. The determination of the canon of Scripture
by the Church is also an act of that Tradition. The proper interpretation
of Scripture has to be made in the communion of the believers,
within the living Tradition which is guided by the Holy Spirit.
The same Spirit who inspired the Scriptures also opens the sense
of the Scripture to the People of God, so that it nourishes
Roman Catholics and Pentecostals recognize that the chosen vessels
of God who wrote the New Testament belonged to the Church, and
they stress that the New Testament biblical authors had a unique
place in the history of revelation. Since the Church inherited
the Scripture from the Old Testament People of God, Israel,
and from Jesus himself, and since the Church rose out of the
proclamation of Christ's chosen apostles, it must be considered
the creation of the Word of God. The Church can live in accordance
with the will of God only as it submits itself to the prophetic
and apostolic testimony contained in the Scriptures. By accepting
the books of the New Testament into the canon of Scriptures,
the Church recognized the New Testament writings as the
Word of God addressed to humanity.
believe that some traditions express correctly the saving truth
to which Scripture testifies (e.g., Apostles' and Nicene Creeds),
but they seek to evaluate all traditions in the light of the
Word of God in Scripture, the ultimate norm of faith and practice
in the Church.
Pentecostals and Roman Catholics agree that Scripture, inspired
by the Spirit, can be properly interpreted only with the help
of the Holy Spirit. "So also no one comprehends the thoughts
of God except the Spirit of God" because spiritual things
"are spiritually discerned" (1 Cor 2:11,14).
is, however, a significant divergence as to the nature of interpretation
which is necessary to understand Scripture accurately. In Roman
Catholicism the interpretation of the Scripture goes on daily
in the lives of the faithful at many levels, such as in the
family, in the pulpit, and in the classroom. The whole body
of the faithful who have an anointing that comes from the Holy
One cannot err in matters of belief (cf. 1 Jn 2:20,27).
This characteristic is shown in the supernatural appreciation
of the faith (sensus fidei) of the whole people, when
"from the bishops to the last of the faithful" they
manifest a universal consent in matters of faith and morals"
(Second Vatican Council, Lumen gentium, §12).5
Roman Catholics hold that the teaching office of the Church
"is not above the Word of God, but serves it, teaching
only what has been handed on, listening to it devoutly, guarding
it scrupulously, and explaining it faithfully by divine commission
and with the help of the Holy Spirit" (Dei verbum,
appreciate the work of interpretation of Scripture going on
in the Catholic Church; however they look with skepticism on
any claim that the whole body of faithful cannot err in matters
of belief. Pentecostals also believe that God has given special
gifts of teaching to the believing community (1 Cor 12:28; Eph
4:12). But, because Pentecostals hold that Scripture is clear
in all essential points, they believe that each Christian can
interpret Scripture under the guidance of the Spirit and with
the help of the discerning Christian community. Thus, Christians
can make responsible judgments for themselves in matters of
faith and practice through their use of Scripture.
Catholics encourage Pentecostals to develop greater contact
with the wider Christian community's historical interpretation
and biblical hermeneutics. Both Roman Catholics and Pentecostals
are together growing in respect for the exegetical endeavor
and its enriching findings.
the beginning of this century Roman Catholics have been according
a greater place to Scripture in preaching, liturgy, personal
reading and prayer. Pentecostals in recent years have come to
appreciate the importance of the faithful teachers of the Word
of God through church history. The aspiration of all parties
in the dialogue is that, under the guidance of the one Holy
Spirit, there will be an increasingly common insight into the
meaning of Scripture, which would help overcome the divisions
(1972-1976) paras., 28-30; Final Report (19771982) paras.,
18-21; 49-57. These reports are published in Information
Service. Secretariat For Promoting Christian Unity Vatican
City, N°. 32 (1976/111) pp. 32-37 and N°. 55 (1984/11-111)
pp. 72-80. The 1977-1982 reports are also published in Kilian
McDonnell, ed. Presence, Power, Praise (Collegeville,
MN: Liturgical Press, 1980) 3:373-395 and in Arnold Bittlinger,
Papst und Pfingstler, Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang,
1978. For the report of the 1977-1982 discussions, see Jerry
L. Sandidge, Roman Catholic Pentecostal Dialogue (1977-1982):
A Study in Developing Ecumenism, Frankfurt am Main:
Peter Lang, 1987.
from the Second Vatican Council are from Walter M. Abbott,
ed. The Documents of Vatican Il, New York: Guild Press,
America Press, Association Press, 1966.