Ok…I have been investigating Catholicism and virtually every other denomination for a very long time…I am a passionate Christian and would gladly come back to the Catholic Church if I could only accept this one doctrine: church infallibility. All other issues I have with the Church rest on this one point.
So I am asking, in all sincerity, please help me understand…Why should I believe in Church infallibility?
How could the Church *not *be infallible? God loves us. He wants us to know his revelation completely and without error, and with the assurance that there isn’t even the possibility of error in what we are taught. If God did not protect the Church from teaching error, we could not know for sure that anything the Church teaches is true.
Do you believe in the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible? If so, why? You believe them because you were taught. The Bible cannot authenticate itself. As a matter of fact, we cannot know for sure that the Bible is inspired and inerrant unless an infallible teacher tells us so.
Neither can we believe in inspiration without believing in inspired persons. The Bible did not come out of nowhere; it was written down by human authors under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. Why cannot the Church’s teachings be taught, developed, and expounded by the successors of the Apostles, under the guidance of the Holy Ghost? If they cannot, then we cannot know what the Bible means.
But this isn’t just a theory which stands to reason; Our Lord Himself said it–He who hears you hears Me (Lk 10:16), etc.
First, I understand your position, but simply saying that it’s not possible for the Church to teach error as evidence of the Church not teaching error is not evidence at all. Just because it doesn’t make sense to you for God to put a fallible body in charge doesn’t mean that didn’t happen. I don’t think either of us can question God’s motives for doing anything at all.
Second, I believe the EVIDENCE says the Bible is inspired, yes. But, like all things in life, I make the decision to believe that based on the evidence before me and because of faith brought to me by the grace of God…That’s it. To say I must have an infallible body of people tell me something is infallibly true in order for it to be believed is misguided. Think about it…You make decisions every single day without knowing infallible truths. You make choices based on the weight of the evidence before you, however little that may be in some cases.
Further, you say the Bible cannot “authenticate” itself. To some extent you are right…but the Bible, like all historical documents, is an eye-witness account of God’s interactions with man. So in that sense, the Bible is itself evidence, yes. Why should I believe the Bible is valid evidence? Because other evidence suggests it is trustworthy and because, by the grace of God, I have been given faith. That’s it.
Finally, I agree that having an authority in charge to make decisions about various issues would be very helpful…But Church authority is NOT the same as Church infallibility. One can believe someone has authority without agreeing the authority is correct.
I respectfully disagree. If a scientist studies how grass grows and explains the process to you…a very FALLIBLE source successful made a process knowable without the gift of infallibility. Court systems couldn’t exist under the premise you have set forth here.
Are there any specific teachings of Christianity that you believe are 100% true without any possibility of error?
What about these?
There is a God.
Jesus is God.
Jesus rose from the dead.
The Holy Spirit is God.
The Father is God.
The Bible is the word of God, is holy and inspired.
The 27 books of the NT are the only books that belong in the NT.
Do you believe these statements contain any error? And why do you believe that?
I believe all of those things to be true, because I believe the evidence suggests it and because I have been blessed with faith thanks to the grace of God. However, is it possible I am wrong? Yes. It’s possible. No one acts in any area of life with dependence on absolute certainty. No one…and not in any situation. I believe what I do and I trust in God for that belief…but only God knows for certain if anything is true.
This presupposes you can ever be certain there is a God. Your personal worldview has nothing concrete in it. You can never actually KNOW anything.
But that’s not the case. God is love, and He will never leave us alone. We are His sheep, and He is the Good Shepherd. That is why He built His Church, to guide us sheep on the straight and narrow path to Heaven.
If the Church could be wrong about a teaching on faith and morals, then she can be wrong on ANY teaching on faith and morals. Even the teaching that God exists.
Because any church is led by fallible human beings, any church is subject to error. My worldview accepts the truth that God does exist, but this is due to faith, which presupposes the possibility of being wrong. Without the possibility of an incorrect answer, faith cannot exist. It’s simply something you know, like your age or eye color. I don’t have any problem at all saying my beliefs are based in faith and the available evidence.
By the way, I have absolutely no problem with the position that the Church is generally being guided by the Holy Spirit…or that if the Church does teach an error, it will eventually be corrected. The gates of hell won’t prevail against the Church, but that doesn’t mean it won’t stumble a bit over the centuries.
The Devil is the master of lies and deception. Christ told us that the Gates of Hell shall never prevail against the Church. To me, that sounds like the Church will be preserved from teaching falsehood.
Does that mean the members (laity, clergy, even the Pope) are free from sin? Unable to be wrong? Know all the answers? Certainly not. What it means is that the Holy Spirit guides the Church so that the teachings of the Church are the true and correct applications of God’s Word and God’s Love.
If your faith has carried you to accept teachings of the Church (such as the contents of the NT) for which you have no firm ‘evidence’ of, I will pray that it will continue to carry you over this hurdle as well. And I could provide you with examples that support it (such as the timing of the IC dogma and the name told to St. Bernadette by Our Lady), but I don’t know if your heart will be open to accept instances where revelation confirms Church teaching after the fact.
Before we can ‘convince’ you of something, I think it’s important to understand exactly what it is that you think you need convincing about. The statement above is pretty vague; perhaps you could point to a Church teaching – for instance, something that’s in the Catechism or in a magisterial document – and ask us to explain how that statement might be true.
I suspect that it’s not a matter of convincing you of a Church teaching that you fully understand; rather, I suspect that your understanding of a doctrine of the Church might need a bit of fleshing out or clarification…
I appreciate your prayers; they are always helpful!
Again, however, just because the gates of hell won’t prevail against the church does NOT mean that no errors will be taught. That is your interpretation of that passage…but it is by no means the only reasonable interpretation.
I appreciate that…I think for most people who object to infallibility, this is probably the case. For me, however, the issue really is, pure and simple, church/papal infallibility. I understand the doctrines quite well I think. I have read Gasser’s The Gift of Infallibility and have spent quite a bit of time over the years reading the popular Catholic apologists of the day. However, I have yet to be convinced on these points. I am open though to the possibility that I am wrong because of the way I am looking at the issues or perhaps some point of historical value I haven’t seen or understood properly, etc. I admit fully I could be wrong! I genuinely would like to be wrong…but I don’t think I am.