Chapter 3: Who's the Boss?: Scripture and Tradition {Lawn Chair Catechism}


Welcome to this summer’s Lawn Chair Catechism! We’re reading Joe Paprocki’s best-selling book, A Well-Built Faith: A Catholic’s Guide to Knowing and Sharing What We Believe. We’re taking it one chapter at a time all summer long.

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When we seek guidance from God’s Word, we can turn to Sacred Scripture and Church Tradition.

If someone claims to have authority to perform a very important task, we want to know that we can trust that individual. If someone pounds on your door and says, “Open up! Police!” you certainly want to verify that they have a badge before you let them in. Authority and trust go hand in hand.

We place our trust in God because God has full authority—God is, after all, the author of life! God, in turn, has given full authority to his Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus himself said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” (Matthew 28:18, RSV).

Jesus, in turn, gave full authority to Peter and the Apostles when he told Peter that he would build his church upon him and gave him the keys to the king- dom. (Matthew 16:18–19). This means that we are called to place our trust in Church leadership, which speaks and acts with the authority that comes from God through Jesus Christ and the Apostles.

We face many challenges today that the Bible did not explicitly speak to. For example, if we are looking for guidance in the area of medical ethics and genetic engineering, we are exploring a challenge that did not exist in biblical times. To rely on Scripture alone to guide us in such an area severely limits us. The Magisterium, which is part of the Church’s Tradition, can provide us with the guidance we need to make informed decisions that are grounded in God’s revealed Word.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion:

  1. What is your understanding of Church Tradition, as opposed to Church traditions?
  2. What advantage does having a Magisterium—an official teaching office—give to the Catholic Church?
  3. If the Bible is not an “answer book” to all of life’s challenges, just what is it? What is the purpose of the Bible?
  4. What is your personal experience with Scripture? How familiar are you with the Bible? What is your biggest obstacle when it comes to deepening your familiarity with the Bible?
  5. What does it mean to you to say that everything in the Bible is true but not necessarily fact?

Feel free to comment on your own thoughts from this week’s reading, your impressions and reflections, and/or your answers to these questions. You can also share your blog post by linking up below.

Next week, we’ll cover Chapter 4: Using Brand-Name Equipment: The Trinity. For the complete reading schedule and information about this summer’s Lawn Chair Catechism, visit the Lawn Chair Catechism page.


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Copyright 2014 Sarah Reinhard


About Author

When she’s not chasing kids, chugging coffee, or juggling work, Sarah Reinhard’s usually trying to stay up read just one…more…chapter. She writes and works in the midst of rural farm life with little ones underfoot. She is part of the team for the award-winning Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion, as well as the author of a number of books. You can join her for a weekday take on Catholic life by subscribing to Three Shots and follow her writing at Snoring Scholar.


  1. Sarah, I wish I knew how this “Lawn Chair Catechism” worked! It sounds so interesting, and the questions at the end are very thought-provoking (kind of a welcome reprieve from the past few weeks of stress in our household).

  2. Hi Jeannie —

    I’m not Sarah or “the” Lisa, but I couldn’t resist responding since I had the same question last summer and allowed it to make me shy away from LCC. It really is as simple as it sounds. We’re all focusing on the same stuff (that’s the technical term 😉 at the same time. I bought the book and am reading it week-by-week, one chapter at a time (often at the last minute) so that I formulate my own thoughts. Then, I check in here to read the posted material.

    If you want to read the book, it’s easy to catch up. The chapters are short and straightforward. If you don’t want to do that, just check in here each week. The summary does a nice job of hitting the key points, and the questions extend thinking whether you’ve read the chapter or not. If you’re doing that, guess what? You’re doing Lawn Chair Catechism!

  3. #1 I think a good example of Tradition would be the Mass. No where in the Bible do we actually see the word Mass But if you want to see the Mass in the Bible read Luke 24:13 – 35 The Road to Emmaus. Here is a very good article on it…..

    #2 The advantage of the Magisterium is not having confusion, no guess work. One only need to look at the many protestant communities that have women ordination, accept homosexual marriage, contraception and even abortion, never mind the many interpretations of God’s Word to see the result of that.

    #3 The Bible is a collection of books that reveal God’s Word in written form. Any decent Catholic Bible study will have the Catechism of the Catholic Church close at hand.

    #4 I really enjoy saying the Scriptual Rosary. I have done quite a few Catholic Bible studies with the help of this website. Highly recommended…..

    #5 It means that I listen to the Church that Jesus founded, the Catholic Church, for guidance when it comes to Scripture.

  4. A little ecumenical humility would be good to have. The Historical Critical method and the modern day variants of it that were so essential to opening up the Catholic Church to modern biblical scholarship were employed first by our Protestant brethren, not to mention the midrash experience of Judaism.
    I know from my own experience that my time spent in Protestant seminaries is what made me a much better biblical scholar and exegete and much more “catholic” as in universal. Sometimes our awe at the Magisterium becomes a short circuit that what we need is The Bible and The Catechism overlooking the worldly and diverse wealth of human experience that was wrought for such texts to exists and have the life that they do.
    After all, in the end, it is through the Spirit that they even have the Life and very Breath of God.
    If anything, I would humbly recommend a few moments time to parse over DEI VERBUM (on Divine Revelation), which is one of the shortest Papal Documents from Vatican II and yet is indeed the most moving and breath-taking.
    Here is the link:

  5. Jose M Torres on

    I work in the pharmaceutical industry and it is a MUST having standard procedures to execute our job. But those procedures alone are not enough. Experience from subject matter experts are also needed to execute our jobs. We just learned that it is the same for us, those looking to “well-built our faith”. God’s authority has being moved from Him to Jesus and from Jesus to the Church (Peter). So our procedures (Bible) AND the subject matter experts (Bishops) provide us with the guidance to be a better Catholic. It is an important fact that Tradition was passed and later transcribed into the Bible. Which means for me that everything started with acts of love, actions of kindness, and then, the words. So, we are following the “Boss” when we combine Scripture WITH Tradition.
    “Dear God, you call us to be contributors of the Evangelization. Help us to follow our Church Tradition and the Scriptures to assure we are following Your command, a command of love and service. Amen”.

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