Holy Scripture, then, is not an objectified ‘source’ of Christian truth and revelation, like the ‘theoretical’ texts which outline the impersonal and objective principles of an ideology. Nor are their two sources of objective authority, Scripture and Tradition, as Roman Catholic rationalism would have it. Prior to any written formulation, Christian faith and truth is a fact, the fact of God’s incarnation and man’s deification. It is the unceasing realization and manifestation of this fact, its tangible embodiment in history–in other words, it is the Church
This order of precedence is a fundamental precondition for approaching the ethics of the Gospel–and, for that matter, the whole teaching of Scripture. The Gospel finds its manifestation in the fact of the Church; and if we overlook this fact, we are left with nothing but a disembodied teaching whose significance may be exceptional, but is bound to be relative. (As we know, Scripture formed the basis for all the heretical distortions of the event of salvation, and many who reject Christianity have devoted serious study to the text of Scripture without abnegating their rejection.)
Prior to any written formulation, the historical reality of the Church is the ‘gospel,’ the ‘good news’–the news of incarnate truth and salvation. For this reason, we cannot think of the Bible as the ‘founding charter’ of the Church, containing theoretical ‘statutes’ for the Christian faith and a code of ‘commandments’ for Christian ethics. Christianity is not made up of ‘metaphysical’ convictions and moral directives which always require a priori intellectual acceptance. The Gospel of the Church is the manifestation of her life and her experience: and this experience was set down by the eyewitnesses of the resurrection, of the beginning of man’s salvation: ‘…even as they delivered unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the Word’ (Lk 1:2).