What is the difference between the inspiration that caused the Bible canon to be written and the inspiration behind things like Papal encyclicals and the Catechism? I assume the latter two are also “inspired” but perhaps less so than Scripture which is by definition infallible. Encyclicals and the Catechism are not infallible so could contain error; but this seems at odds with divine inspiration.
Both the Scriptures (when correctly interpreted) and the Pope (when speaking ex cathedra) are infallible. “Inspiration” is a technical theological term to designate Scriptural infallibility. It’s - insofar as I’ve read - only been applied to the Scriptures and to nothing else outside of it.
The term is derived from Paul in the 2 Tim 3:16. He uses the word θεόπνευστος (theopneustos). It’s comprised from the Greek words θεός (theos) “God” and πνεῦμα (pneuma) “breath” or “wind”: the resultant meaning is literally “God-breathed”. Jerome rendered it as divinitus inspirata “breathed into by God”, and the Latin verb inspirare entered into English via French as inspire.
The kind of inspiration in the Scriptures is God’s revelation about Himself and His plan for our salvation. This revelation is also found in the oral Tradition handed down from the Apostles. This revelation ended with the death of the last Apostle.
The Church is tasked with handing on this revelation in all its purity and integrity. God has sent the Holy Spirit to ensure this is done so that every generation has access to this saving truth. That is the charism of infallibility given to the Church (of which the Pope’s is part), not to give a new doctrine, but to preserve what was once and for all delivered.
I think the first thing we need to do, is get an understanding of the language used.
Well, the Catholic Church declared the Scriptures, inerrant. Without error.
The Catholic Church also declares the Church and her Doctrines, infallible. Will never fall or fail.
Protestants are the ones who claim the Scriptures are “infallible”. I go along with that jargon with the assumption that they mean “inerrant”. But, I think there is a subtle
difference between the two.
Encyclicals and the Catechism are not infallible so could contain error; but this seems at odds with divine inspiration.
The Catechism is not infallible.
Encyclicals may be infallible, if explicitly stated.
As to the difference between the one sort of inspiration and the other. One is said to be positive inspiration (that of the Scriptures) and one is negative (protection from error, that of the Church and her Doctrines.
So, if we go back to the fact that the Catholic Church declares the Scriptures without error, we can say that by the use of negative inspiration, the Catholic Church declares the Scriptures positively inspired.
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