All Christians give credence to each of these three, but in different order and understanding.
The people I hang with would be considered evangelical Protestants. We believe that the Bible is the ultimate authority. We will argue over which translation is best and what the Greek or Hebrew actually means but we believe that there is truth and meaning in the Word. Nothing can trump it. Period.
We still have traditions. We look back to historical figures such as Calvin, Luther and Wesley. At times I feel like Calvinists put the teaching of Calvin above scripture, but that is because I disagree with Calvin. His followers would still say the Bible is supreme. We have denominations and local churches that have something to say about the correct understanding of the Bible. To an outsider it would seem that they have more authority than the word itself, but that is not the way we see it. We see the church and its traditions as a way of balancing the third leg of the stool, reason.
We believe in reason. God gave us minds and expected us to use them. This is why we are Protestants. We think our personal opinion is better than our church leaders. When we disagree we split off and form another church. We take our cookies and walk. This can cause all kinds of problems. It can allow all kinds of foolishness but we believe that the Holy Spirit is still speaking to us and teaching us. We do not believe that a church official has the final word.
At the other end you have believers who are part of the Roman Catholic tradition. I am one of those who accept that there will be Catholics in heaven. Sorry guys. I asked a serious Catholic I know if he could accept Ephesians 2:8.
(Ephesians 2:8 KJV) For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:He thought a moment and said, “Yes.” He may understand grace differently but he still believes that we are saved by the power of God and the Blood.
But, and it is a big “but,” he has been taught that the final arbitrator is the church, not the Word. The church would say it’s doctrines are based on the word but the tradition and authority of the church is the final hammer. When the pope speaks ex cathedra he is the official voice of God. As Al Gore likes to say about global warming, “the discussion is over.” But Al is not really the pope, he just thinks he is. Unlike Al Gore, the popes usually exercise great care in speaking for God. They do not do it every day. They think about it and seek counsel. But the pope still has the final word on the Word.
Reason still exists, but again the reason of the church drowns out the reason of the laity.
The differences between these groups is not acknowledging the three legs of the spiritual stool, it is a disagreement over which one has priority.
Next I will look at the groups outside the fold of the Christian faith.
homo unius libri