Some denominations (Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic) teach different Traditions that contradict each other. An obvious example of this is the papacy (RC says correct. EO says incorrect.). Both groups claim to be apostolic. They may even say each other is apostolic. Both claim their Traditions to be correct and traceable to God. How can this be?

Examples of different Tradition.

  • Nature of bread at Pascha
  • Filioque
  • Papacy
  • Nature of Sin
  • Nature of Man
  • Contents of Canon
  • Nature of authority (council or pope)

See here and here for more details of the differences.

PS. I'm not asking which of the various Traditions are true. I'm only asking for an explanation of how those two denominations come up with their Traditions, given that each say their Traditions source to God.

  • "Nature of bread at Pascha" I don't think anything other than unleavened bread was used at the Feast of Unleavened Bread (i.e. Passover). Maybe you mean the nature of the bread to be used for the Eucharist? Commented Feb 13, 2018 at 16:38
  • EO use only leavened bread based on their Tradition. RC used to use unleavened only based on their Tradition. This was one, if not the, key to the Great Schism cause. Recently, however, the eastern rites of RC are allowed to use either one.
    – SLM
    Commented Feb 13, 2018 at 19:32
  • 1
    Yes, so you mean for the Eucharist. Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, didn't use leavened bread. Commented Feb 13, 2018 at 21:10
  • This question is beyond too broad. It more or less asks in a single question what the entirety of the history of Christianity, and its various schisms, is based upon. Commented Feb 26, 2018 at 14:49
  • @SML But dogmaticaly speaking, the CC recognizes the EO's Eucharist as valid, regardless of the type of bread used in consecration. The CC has never and will never declare the tradition of unleavened bread as "inspired".
    – aska123
    Commented Feb 26, 2018 at 22:06

3 Answers 3


It seems the implicit logic of your question is the following:

  • Premise 1: group A claim to be infallible
  • Premise 2: group B claim to be infallible
  • Premise 3: doctrine of group A and B contradict each other
  • Conclusion: neither group A nor group B is infallible

As you can see, this is a non sequitur. The proper conclusion is:

  • Conclusion: group A or group B cannot be infallible at the same time.

This conclusion still allows either group to be infallible.

So, for the sake of the argumentation, let us assume group A is indeed infallible, but group B is not. How is it possible that group B declares itself to be infallible, without being so?

The answer is evident if we rephrase the question. Is it possible for group B to declare false doctrine? Of course! The alternative - no group can declare false doctrine - is nonsense! In a world were God gives human being liberty, the possibility of error (and heresy) must be allowed. What kind of faith is this if not?

In fact, the non sequitur you are implicitly assuming destroys every single religious faith in the world. The fact that there are so many different Christian (and Muslim and Jewish, and etc) denominations cannot per se imply that they are all wrong.

Ask yourself:

Different Protestant churches derive different (salvific) interpretations from the same Scripture. How do they explain this?

  • The problem is Group A and Group B would never agree that they teach (declare) false doctrine. To be clear, you might be right, but EO and RC believe they themselves only teach the truth, though that truth contradicts as examples show. Now it may be a question of semantics (you misunderstood my wording) and that path is one that they tread. But things like Papacy and Filioque etc seem impossible to smooth over without a huge oops I had it wrong the last 1700 years. Forgive me. I repent.
    – SLM
    Commented Feb 25, 2018 at 18:59
  • 1
    @SLM "The problem is Group A and Group B would never agree that they teach (declare) false doctrine." And the Mormons, JW, Luterans, Methodists, you name-it, would they ever agree that they teach false doctrine? Would the Sunni and Shia ever agree that one of them is actually wrong? Would Liberal and Ultra-Orthodox Jews ever agreed upon that? No. You are missing the point. "EO and RC believe they themselves only teach the truth" Who does not? If you are not for that, you are in the wrong business.
    – luchonacho
    Commented Feb 25, 2018 at 19:50
  • Well, it appears that you are proposing "relative truth" applicable to only some group, rather than an "absolute truth". At least however one explanation for LDS and JW is they use other books as on par to scripture. Call those equivalent to Tradition and there's one explanation (another source besides apostolic writing that leads to contradiction of Truth so-called). At least for Methodist, Baptist, Protestant generally, the issue seems more one of interpretation, rather than more books. With the latter group, there may be reconciliation, but not so with EO and RC and Protestant.
    – SLM
    Commented Feb 25, 2018 at 23:57
  • 1
    @SLM I am full for absolute Truth. No creed would ever say "well, actually we believe some of our beliefs are false". Shias will not say "well, we actually believe Abu Bakr was the rightful successor of Mohamed"; Catholics will not say "well, we actually think Filioque is wrong". In any case, what kind of answer are you looking for? It seems you might only be satisfied with something like "yes, EO and RC contradict each other a lot, therefore they are both wrong." As my answer says, that is a logical fallacy. If you are looking for the ultimate proof against Tradition, it is not here.
    – luchonacho
    Commented Feb 26, 2018 at 9:43
  • 1
    @SLM Well, the history of the East-West Schism was a multidimensional and long process. An important political difference was that Constantinople became a much more important city (and capital of the Byzantine Empire) than Rome, and sought its equal religious status that Rome. E.g. before Chalcedon (451), only Rome could ordain bishops. Canon 28 of the council gave Constantinople equal status than Rome, allowing bishops ordination. Rome rejected this canon.
    – luchonacho
    Commented Feb 26, 2018 at 20:00

There is a diversity in ecclesiastical traditions (e.g., the various Catholic rites and churches or religious orders approved by the Church).

Tradition (from traditio or a "passing on" or "handing down", like a baton) is either divine or ecclesiastical. Msgr. Agius's Tradition and the Church ch 1, §3, says:

Traditions are Divine or Ecclesiastical, as they originate either from God or from the Church.

I. Divine traditions belong generally to the Faith; Ecclesiastical, to discipline.

II. Ecclesiastical Traditions are those that were introduced by the Apostles themselves, or in post-Apostolic times. Hence, some are called Simply-Apostolic; others Ecclesiastical.

  • 4
    If I understand the question, it's asking how it would be possible for two traditions to directly conflict with one another while still being true. Your answer shows that traditions can have different origins, but doesn't comment on the truthfulness aspect of the question.
    – user32540
    Commented Feb 13, 2018 at 19:52
  • @4castle Which would appear to make the question a "truth" question and those off topic. Commented Feb 26, 2018 at 14:45

Not every tradition is of a doctrinal issue. Only doctrine is infallible, and even among doctrines there are some that never pretended to be infallible, as some of them apply to changeable circumstances. The infallibility of the Church means that what the Pope states as doctrine may be and must be accepted as the will of God. But this does not include what he says in a simple conversation for example. It's not difficult to know what is infallible doctrine and what can change with time or circumstances, such as different cultures.

  • Right. And it helps to keep those distinctions in mind between tradition and Tradition. My question is about Tradition. It is claimed to be divine, authoritative, apostolic, binding, but yet contradictory to other groups who claim to have divine, authoritative, spostolic, binding Tradition. I guess the answer is simply each is right sometimes and each is wrong sometimes.
    – SLM
    Commented Feb 26, 2018 at 14:31
  • Technically, only dogma is infallible. What the Pope states as a dogma is what is infallible, per Vatican I, when it addresses Faith and Morals. Your answer needs a little tweak, and a couple of sources. (I'd use the CCC to support your point on what is or isn't fallible). Commented Feb 26, 2018 at 14:42
  • @SML The use of unleavened bread as necessary for valid a Eucharist has never and will never be dogmaticaly binding with the CC.
    – aska123
    Commented Feb 26, 2018 at 22:11
  • @aska123 The type of bread used is a long and interesting history.
    – SLM
    Commented Feb 27, 2018 at 2:08
  • @SLM "I guess the answer is simply each is right sometimes and each is wrong sometimes." OR, "one of the is right all the time, and another is wrong all the time". Remember the logical fallacy. You cannot discriminate among them based on the fact of contradictory Tradition alone.
    – luchonacho
    Commented Feb 27, 2018 at 15:51

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