On another thread PRmerger asked me “what teaching do you object to?” in reference to the Catholic Church. The question was sort of off topic, but I did want to provide an answer so I started this thread.
Off the top of my head, I told PRmerger that I disagree with papal infallibility and the exclusivist claims of the CC. He then responded:
We agree that the writers of Scripture were protected from error under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Though, I would not say that they were always and at every moment protected from error, though they definitely were inspired when writing scripture.
As a Pentecostal, I continue to believe that God continues to speak to and inspire people. John 16:13 says, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.” While the canon is closed, revelation continues because the need to be guided into all truth did not end with the closing of the canon. Some Christians have the unfortunate habit of limiting what the Spirit can speak to the church today. They basically reduce the Holy Spirit to repeating the Bible and in the process they unintentionally raise the Bible above the Spirit who inspired it. But the Spirit existed before the Bible, and the proper hierarchy is Spirit, Scripture, Church. All that the Spirit speaks will be scriptural, but it will not always be in scripture.
The problem comes when we want to know how to test revelation. For Pentecostals, we discern what the Spirit is saying to the Church by referring to what the Spirit has always been saying to the Church as contained in Holy Scripture. There is no warrant in Scripture for ascribing infallibility to any office. I have no doubt that the Lord has used many Popes, and I’m sure that at times they have spoken prophetically to the benefit of their flock.
However, I find it odd that when some of the less reputable Popes in history are brought up, Catholics say things like “Yes, this person was immoral and corrupt but the office of the Pope is divinely protected so anything they said ex cathedra can be trusted.” How can anyone make such blanket statements like that? So, one issue I have is the assigning of infallibility to an office irrespective of the spiritual state of the person holding that office.
The other problem I have is the lack of accountability. The Scriptures say that the spirits should be tested. When Popes make definitive rulings on matters of faith and claim that they are divinely protected from error where is the accountability and the discernment? And how should accountability be measured? By Scripture or a vague and undefined sacred tradition?