John Calvin Made Me Catholic


The excerpt below comes from the conversion story of Dr. David Anders, How John Calvin Made Me Catholic at Called to Communion

Calvin shocked me by rejecting key elements of my Evangelical tradition. Born-again spirituality, private interpretation of Scripture, a broad-minded approach to denominations – Calvin opposed them all. I discovered that his concerns were vastly different, more institutional, even more Catholic. Although he rejected the authority of Rome, there were things about the Catholic faith he never thought about leaving. He took for granted that the Church should have an interpretive authority, a sacramental liturgy and a single, unified faith.

These discoveries faced me with important questions. Why should Calvin treat these “Catholic things” with such seriousness? Was he right in thinking them so important? And if so, was he justified in leaving the Catholic Church? What did these discoveries teach me about Protestantism? How could my Church claim Calvin as a founder, and yet stray so far from his views? Was the whole Protestant way of doing theology doomed to confusion and inconsistency?

Understanding the Calvinist Reformation

Calvin was a second-generation Reformer, twenty-six years younger than Martin Luther (1483-1546). This meant that by the time he encountered the Reformation, it had already split into factions. In Calvin’s native France, there was no royal support for Protestantism and no unified leadership. Lawyers, humanists, intellectuals, artisans and craftsman read Luther’s writings, as well as the Scriptures, and adapted whatever they liked.

This variety struck Calvin as a recipe for disaster. He was a lawyer by training, and always hated any kind of social disorder. In 1549, he wrote a short work (Advertissement contre l’astrologie) in which he complained about this Protestant diversity:

Every state [of life] has its own Gospel, which they forge for themselves according to their appetites, so that there is as great a diversity between the Gospel of the court, and the Gospel of the justices and lawyers, and the Gospel of merchants, as there is between coins of different denominations.

I began to grasp the difference between Calvin and his descendants when I discovered his hatred of this theological diversity. Calvin was drawn to Luther’s theology, but he complained about the “crass multitude” and the “vulgar plebs” who turned Luther’s doctrine into an excuse for disorder. He wrote his first major work, The Institutes of the Christian Religion (1536), in part to address this problem.

Calvin got an opportunity to put his plans into action when he moved to Geneva, Switzerland. He first joined the Reformation in Geneva in 1537, when the city had only recently embraced Protestantism. Calvin, who had already begun to write and publish on theology, was unsatisfied with their work. Geneva had abolished the Mass, kicked out the Catholic clergy, and professed loyalty to the Bible, but Calvin wanted to go further. His first request to the city council was to impose a common confession of faith (written by Calvin) and to force all citizens to affirm it.

Calvin’s most important contribution to Geneva was the establishment of the Consistory – a sort of ecclesiastical court- to judge the moral and theological purity of his parishioners. He also persuaded the council to enforce a set of “Ecclesiastical Ordinances” that defined the authority of the Church, stated the religious obligations of the laity, and imposed an official liturgy. Church attendance was mandatory. Contradicting the ministers was outlawed as blasphemy. Calvin’s Institutes would eventually be declared official doctrine.

Calvin’s lifelong goal was to gain the right to excommunicate “unworthy” Church members. The city council finally granted this power in 1555 when French immigration and local scandal tipped the electorate in his favor. Calvin wielded it frequently. According to historian William Monter, one in fifteen citizens was summoned before the Consistory between 1559 and 1569, and up to one in twenty five was actually excommunicated.1 Calvin used this power to enforce his single vision of Christianity and to punish dissent.

A Calvinist Discovers John Calvin

I studied Calvin for years before the real significance of what I was learning began to sink in. But I finally realized that Calvin, with his passion for order and authority, was fundamentally at odds with the individualist spirit of my Evangelical tradition. Nothing brought this home to me with more clarity than his fight with the former Carmelite monk, Jerome Bolsec.

In 1551, Bolsec, a physician and convert to Protestantism, entered Geneva and attended a lecture on theology. The topic was Calvin’s doctrine of predestination, the teaching that God predetermines the eternal fate of every soul. Bolsec, who believed firmly in “Scripture alone” and “faith alone,” did not like what he heard. He thought it made God into a tyrant. When he stood up to challenge Calvin’s views, he was arrested and imprisoned.

What makes Bolsec’s case interesting is that it quickly evolved into a referendum on Church authority and the interpretation of Scripture. Bolsec, just like most Evangelicals today, argued that he was a Christian, that he had the Holy Spirit and that, therefore, he had as much right as Calvin to interpret the Bible. He promised to recant if Calvin would only prove his doctrine from the Scriptures. But Calvin would have none of it. He ridiculed Bolsec as a trouble maker (Bolsec generated a fair amount of public sympathy), rejected his appeal to Scripture, and called on the council to be harsh. He wrote privately to a friend that he wished Bolsec were “rotting in a ditch.”2

What most Evangelicals today don’t realize is that Calvin never endorsed private or lay interpretation of the Bible. While he rejected Rome’s claim to authority, he made striking claims for his own authority. He taught that the “Reformed” pastors were successors to the prophets and apostles, entrusted with the task of authoritative interpretation of the Scriptures. He insisted that laypeople should suspend judgment on difficult matters and “hold unity with the Church.”3

Calvin took very seriously the obligation of the laity to submit and obey. “Contradicting the ministers” was one of the most common reasons to be called before the Consistory and penalties could be severe. One image in particular sticks in my mind. April, 1546. Pierre Ameaux, a citizen of Geneva, was forced to crawl to the door of the Bishop’s residence, with his head uncovered and a torch in his hand. He begged the forgiveness of God, of the ministers and of the city council. His crime? He contradicted the preaching of Calvin. The council, at Calvin’s urging, had decreed Ameaux’s public humiliation as punishment.

Ameaux was not alone. Throughout the 1540s and 1550s, Geneva’s city council repeatedly outlawed speaking against the ministers or their theology. Furthermore, when Calvin gained the right to excommunicate, he did not hesitate to use it against this “blasphemy.” Evangelicals today, unaccustomed to the use of excommunication, may underestimate the severity of the penalty, but Calvin understood it in the most severe terms. He repeatedly taught that the excommunicated were “estranged from the Church, and thus, from Christ.”4

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24 Responses

  1. Much of this read was interesting and I am no fan of Calvin. For someone who claims to have read and studied so much of Calvin I found it disturbing he failed to mention the number one reason for denouncing the man; he was a murderer. This in itself rendered his work questionable. As far as driving people to Catholicism is concerned he failed to make a logical argument. Largely the decision was emotional. The actual reasons for moving away from Catholicism are not rooted in the meanderings of an apoplectic sociopath like Calvin but the Catholic Church’s teachings on Papal infallibility, reliance on extra-biblical sources to expand or create doctrine and it’s insistence that it is the sole repository of eternal truth.

    We cannot place God in a box or presume that people are in any way infallible-regardless of their station. Also assuming all those who are non-catholic are likely heading to he’ll even with tongue-in-cheek is astonishingly arrogant and heretical. God saves through the shed blood of his Son and the positive response of man; not Papal dictate.

    Calvin was a scourge on the Church-not a reformer or a consolidator. He caused more damage than almost anyone else in Church history. He was neither a Luther nor an Augustine.

    • Dear JB,
      Who was a murderer?
      I disagree that Dr. Ander’s conversion to the Cathoilc Church was emotional. His path was similar to mine. We were both taught as Evangelicals that the Reformation restored the Christian Faith to its roots in the Early Church. But once one becomes familiar with Christian History, it becomes clear that the Earliest Christian Church was Catholic in theology and ritual. It was absolutely nothing like modern day Protestantism or Evangelicalism at all.

      So, we wanted to actually get back to the Early Christian Church and that meant becoming Catholic. Especially once it is clearly realized that the Protestant Doctrine of Sola Scriptura is Extra-Biblical. There is not a word to support this doctrine in the Bible. And it was invented by Martin Luther about 500 years ago. So, Sola Scriptura demands that all Christian faith must be found explicitly in Scripture EXCEPT the doctrine of Sola Scriptura.

      As for Papal infalibility, once it is understood correctly it is no more amazing or weird for a man to be infallible as Pope than for the Biblical authors to be infallibe in their writings of Scripture.

      • Calvin was. An unrepentant murderer. By some accounts he instigated or initiated as many as 58 heresy trials that led to various death sentences ranging from burning at the stake to drawing and quartering all preceded by torture. It is interesting to note that his two pet peaves were those who denounced infant baptism and celebration of the Sacraments. He was, in reality, more of a Catholic doctrinally than anything else.
        Of course the Catholic Church was busy torturing and killing as well.

        The point is that one needs to be very careful when ascribing either credit or blame toward any individual or institution especially from that era.

        There is One God, His Son is Jesus Christ and it is God who saves, through the sacrifice of his Son and leading of the Holy Spirit. Everything else is man’s compulsion to compel his fellow men to follow him. The ‘Church’ is the congregation of the Saved through Jesus Christ.

        I was once a Catholic (grew up a Catholic) and was found wandering without a ‘compass’ largely due to the church’s failure to teach or disciple. They were far too conerned with pomp and circumstance, incense, candles and garments than they were the state of the souls of those with whom they were entrusted.

        The argument that the church is fractured on account of Luther and other ‘reformers’ is a distraction. There have been far too many in the Catholic church that have failed as have others in other denominations. Thank God we are not beholding to the mindset and discipline of men. We are in fact held to a far higher standard and do not require the approval of sinning men – only God.

    • John,

      WRT the charge or murderer, Calvin was a civil magistrate, and as such had authority to send people to trial for “heresy”, the results of a successful conviction would be the death penalty. Calvin was not a nice person, but if you’re going to call him a murderer, you’ll have to call pretty much every civil magistrate and king of his time a murderer.

      To understand Calvin, you’ll have to go back a generation. Luther thought the magisterium was corrupt and tried to find some authority other than the magisterium. At first he tried to base it on Ecumenical Councils, but they affirmed things he denied, so he tried to base it on the Church Fathers, but they affirmed the magisterium. Luther was faced with three options, give up the faith, submit to the magisterium in faith without understanding of how so many abuses could happen in God’s Church, or rely on the Bible as his only reliable authority. He chose the last option.

      One generation later, the seeds of Luther’s choice bore fruit. Protestantism was a schism generating belief. Calvin saw this and thought the problem resulted from people reading the Bible outside the tradition of the church and the lack of church authority in punishing dissenters since too much private interpretation of truth cause anarchy.

      Ultimately, Calvin and Luther were conducting a rescue operation so save Christianity. They did not want to believe that God’ Church could have sinners in it and still be infallible in matters of doctrine so they ultimately believed the the Church was a man made institution. As such, one man made institution was as good as another.

      Many cafeteria Catholics hold exactly this view today, due mostly to poor education. I cannot help but wonder if Calvin and Luther were similarly ill informed. After all Luther believed that the Church taught Pelagianism among other things.

      • The point is not nearly as simple as that. Whether he was acting in accordance of his ‘worldy’ office or not, as a Christian, he would have owed his first duty to Jesus Christ who never recommended nor caused any sinner to be put to death – for heresy or any other sin. Using his position as a magistrate to carry out convictions for heresy against, essentially, the words of Jesus is a complete perversion.

        It is easy to look back at a time when men were ‘more evil’ than now but even that is a skewed view of the truth of the evil in men’s hearts. The Bible says that the hearts of men were only evil all the time and that in the last days it will be as in he time of Noah and, there are none righteous, no not one. Calvin doesn’t get a nod because he was surrounded by other cruel men in cruel societies. He will live or die, spiritually based on his own actions as will every one of his contemporaries who behaved in a similar way – regardless of which ‘church’ they belonged to.

        It is important to consider that the Apostles, while of having rugged pasts, were selected by Jesus to preach the Gospel to the whole world. There is indication and especially by Paul that the struggles with the old sin nature was still there, never-the-less were not prone nor did they teach killing heretics or sinners in general. They emulated Jesus and expounded on the virtue of the same.

        Yes all men are sinners and Calvin was seeking that which will not exist on the earth. I believe Luther was a bit more realistic in his studies and his views. Taking the stand that any man, in his position can be infallible however forces one to then assume that his actions and words while in a position, like Pope, are equally infallible, suggesting his words are ‘inspired’ or God breathed. Does it not then follow that his words concerning the Church are equal to Scripture? Would anyone dare to say that – and mean it? Could there be any greater heresy than that?

        There is no justification for the actions of Calvin and especially where he dared do it for the ‘expansion of the Kingdom of God’. His actions were in fact the antithesis of New Testament teaching as were the actions of all of his like-minded peers – whether Catholic or otherwise.

  2. John,
    I agree with you that the mindset towards heresy was very different in that era. But don’t you think that Calvin was convinced that he was reconstituting the TRUE Church and therefore it must be unified. It must be one or else if must be wrong. So, he tried by force to create unity. At some level he knew disunity pointed to error.

    • There are many things that men conjure that aren’t by necessity correct. Unity does not require headship under one man – worldwide. Our unity is with Jesus Christ or else the entire ‘experience’ is fraudulent. This is a chicken and egg discussion and always has been. ‘Membership’ does not constitute salvation; Salvation constitutes membership. The ‘Church’ is the community of people Saved by God’s Grace, through the sacrifice of the Son and cooperation of us.

      Regardless of what Calvin thought he was doing and regardless of how determined and committed he was to ‘Unity’, the fact is he fell off the rail in a very hard way. He was so concerned about what he ‘saw’ he lost sight of what the Church was and in whom the Church is. Whenever we lose site of Jesus Christ by allowing our attention to turn to the temporal, we make the same mistake. If it weren’t for Jesus Christ, there would not be any Saved and therefore, no Church.

      There is ‘Unity’ where there are three or more gathered together in Christ’s name. To put it as someone else once did; it isn’t the name over the door, it’s the name over your heart.

  3. John there is a type of unity but if you dig a little deeper you will find some disunity.

    Really, the problem does revolve around the question of infallibility. Can God cause a man to be infallible when he teaches on faith and morals?

    I believe God can do this and has done it many time throughout time. This does not mean the man is sinless or that everything he says or thinks is infallible. God has protected His Church by preventing our Popes from teaching error. Just like He did with the Prophets, and writers of the books of the Bible. So, even Protestants do believe that God can and has made mere sinful men infallible in specific ways.

    Protestants must decide whether God has protected His Church in this manner or not. If they decide He has not, then they must believe that they, themselves are infallible when they read and interpret God’s word. I know that no Protestant would presume to consider himself infallible but that is what it boils down to. Each one is convinced that he is guided by the Holy Spirit. But we know this is not true b/c seemingly good and sincere men come to very different doctrinal conclusions, “nail their objections to the door” and leave their church to start or join a different one. And one believer may do this over and over and over in his lifetime. Why? Because he is convinced that his interpretation and understanding of Scripture is the true one. And yet we know that God is not a God of confusion. But Protestantism is a confusion of beliefs. And Catholics themselves hold a confusion of beliefs but the Catholic Church is the safe harbour of sanity, unity and clarity. I don’t know how old your are John, but the Catholic Church is coming out of about 50 years of decline. After the rebellion of so many following Vatican II children were not taught the faith. Many priests succumbed to the spirit of the age and also did not teach the meat of truth from the pulpit. But the truth can be found. One must search for it as “a pearl of great price.”

    • “I don’t know how old your are John, but the Catholic Church is coming out of about 50 years of decline. After the rebellion of so many following Vatican II children were not taught the faith. Many priests succumbed to the spirit of the age and also did not teach the meat of truth from the pulpit. But the truth can be found. One must search for it as “a pearl of great price.”

      Actually, I’ll be 57 in June. I left the Catholic church and ‘wandered’ spiritually for many years although never turned to ‘other religions’. The Catholic church did in fact fail miserably back then and it is exclusively due to God’s grace, that I was given a desire to study his word and find the true meaning of Salvation.

      I am not someone to moves from church to church and in fact have been dogged in my determination to stay where I believe God has placed me – regardless of schisms.

      The knee-jerk reactions I witness among some, as you describe, is troubling but typical of men. The ‘safe haven’ of unity and sanity’ you describe exists but in God and his word. There are things the Catholic church teaches I am not likely to ever believe because they run counter to what I know Scripture says about them, but there are those well seasoned teachers within Protestant denominations with whom I have specific issues as well. What we do have, hopefully and collectively, is an understanding of who Jesus Christ is, what Grace is and that we understand what Salvation is. There are many things I would not agree with if I came back to the Catholic church and the problem is, the church would expect or require me to submit ot the teachings of the Catechism even if it ran counter to conscience. That would be tragic and unbiblical.

      The reality is that thee are those things in Scripture that cause divisions through lack of clarity even though there are those who have let their understanding, or belief of their understanding become dogma and upon which they have established entre miinistries. Remaining in such a place and submitting to teachings that run contrary to conscience just isn’t sound.

      My faith is in Jesus Christ, my Hope is in his Salvation, my compass is his word. Guided by fallible men gifted to teach and personally intending to learn his word, we march on. I do not believe a person is saved through membership – Catholic or Protestant but I do beleive we are members of his ‘Church’.

      • Dear John,

        Actually, I’ll be 57 in June…. it is exclusively due to God’s grace, that I was given a desire to study his word and find the true meaning of Salvation.


        BFHU:
        Yep! you are the generation that got the worst of it as am I. Praise God our Lord for you Faith.

        There are things the Catholic church teaches I am not likely to ever believe because they run counter to what I know Scripture says about them,

        BFHU: This is because you are convinced that you, aided by the Holy Spirit, are able to infallibly interpret these scriptures but the Church founded by Jesus Christ, His apostles and their successors are not able to infallible interpret scripture aided by the Holy Spirit. Now why is that?

        but there are those well seasoned teachers within Protestant denominations with whom I have specific issues as well.

        BFHU: Why do you think this is? Which of you have the infallible/correct interpretation of Scripure? You or them and how do you KNOW???

        There are many things I would not agree with if I came back to the Catholic church

        BFHU: How can you KNOW that the Church is wrong and you are right?

        the church would expect or require me to submit ot the teachings of the Catechism even if it ran counter to conscience. That would be tragic and unbiblical.


        BFHU:
        If your conscience is well formed and informed you would not be required to go against conscience. But you would have to be responsible to actually understand why the Church teaches what she teaches. After doing my own investigation I found very solid intellectual and sublime reasons and beauty beyond anything in Protestantism. I was able to say, “I will trust the Church Jesus founded rather than my own mind.”

        The reality is that thee are those things in Scripture that cause divisions through lack of clarity


        BFHU:
        That is very true but it is not Scripture that causes division but men who trust their own interpretation of scripture rather than the interpretations that are 2000 years old and come directly from Christ and His apostles. Scripture was never written or meant to be the sole rule of faith as the doctrine of Luther, Sola Scriptura, dictates, since Scripture nowhere proclaims this foundational doctrine of Protest-antism.

        I do not believe a person is saved through membership – Catholic or Protestant but I do beleive we are members of his ‘Church’.

        BFHU: We are saved through baptism as Peter says. I do not believe we are saved by membership in a Church either. But I would much rather be in the Church that has taught the Faith always and everywhere for 2000 years than Protestant churches which have only been around for 500 years, and that is the oldest of them. Calvary Chapel is only about 50 years old.

  4. “Protestants must decide whether God has protected His Church in the manner or not. If they decide He has not then they must believe that they, themselves are infallible ” Actually that has not been my experience nor is it my belief. I do believe that God has caused men during very specific periods in history and during very specific points in their lives to provide men with his teachings (generally accepted as Scripture). All other men, whether Rabbii’s before Christ or Pastor/Teachers (assuming legitimate gifting by the Spirit), have been so gifted to illuminate what has already been given to men, Scripturally.

    I know the argument for the Catholic church is that other extraneous writings are equal to Scripture but that places all of us on shakey ground. The doctrine of Papal infallibility provides the Catholic church with a form of self-indulgent credibility when arguing this point but it is a dangerous stance.

    1 Cor 3:4 and 1:2 provides some insight into the problems that arise from this, largely that it takes a person’s focus from vertical to horizontal.

    This is not to say that certain gifted men are not sat under but in many places not the least of which is 1 Tim 5, there are admonitions against placing too much emphasis on ‘leaders’ in the church. claiming any one man to be infallible certainly jerks the conversation in the wrong side of that admonition.

    This does not logically or even remotely suggest one sees himself as infallible for making this observation in fact it is exactly the opposite. The point is, none of us are infallible. Yes God can keep men, but to make a broad-stroked observation that certain men in certain positions are kept, places the observer in a position of infallibility by suggesting that view is infallible.

    What it does lead to are personal failures while God uses that to humble men, as he has done many times in history.

    This point we are discussing is not either, or, it is in fact to recognize or not to recognize the legitimacy of Salvation through Jesus Christ and the several Scriptures that declare desire that all be saved as in John 3:16. Defining a specific court of membership as a prerequisite to Salvation, misunderstands the precept and the Sovereign decrees of God in his relation to the individual. Again; Salvation begets, membership – not the other way around.

    I know this is a broad-stroked argument, but it is all seated in the same thing; a vertical rather than a horizontal view.

    When I listen to whomever is the Pastor of my specific church at the time, I recognize that God, through the Holy Spirit has placed him in that position. As such he has declared him to be gifted to teach Biblical truth to me. I do this willingly but remembering I am also told’ to test the Spirit to insure it is of God’. Let’s remember that God has also said we are to ‘work out our own Salvation’ which essentially means we are going to be held responsible for the decisions we make, not the decisions we make because of bad teaching but because we did not take care to insure it was good teaching.

    2 + 2 =4; truth. If a teacher says it is 5, I won’t get credit from anyone by declaring the teacher said so and just because a teacher has been hired and paid as such, does not declare them to be infallible – even if the institution she works for says as much.

    A good question to ask is why the Roman Catholic church chose to refer to itself in this way if in fact it is the solely executed suppository of Biblical truth and institution of legitimate Christian fellowship? Why did it not call itself the Church of Jesus Christ? This is not an invalid question. The many ‘church’s’ or ‘fellowships’ that exist today are retrained by laws and rights to name themselves in a way the Catholic was not. It could have declared itself by naming itself after the one who created the Church, Jesus Christ and yet it chose, rather, to define itself as a body after a man. Again; 1 Cor 1 and 3 provides a strong admonition against declaring oneself a follower of one teacher or another rather than identifying with the one who ransomed our souls.

    My point is that there has been much in the way of false teaching and wrong-headed effort in all quarters – Catholic and Protestant. This legitimizes your statement about the sinfullness of men. I agree with this assessment. But it is also a clarion warning to remember that while God, through the Spirit, gifts men for specific challenges and work within the church, it in no way keeps them from their personal responsibility to remain pure. Infallibility is a term that should never be attributed to men – regardless of their station.

  5. BFHU: “Protestants must decide whether God has protected His Church (through the infallibility of the Pope and Bishops). If they decide He has not then they must believe that they, themselves are infallible.

    Actually that has not been my experience nor is it my belief.

    BFHU: I know that you would never proclaim yourself infallible. And neither would I have done this either. But,as a Protestant, I did think that I was led by the Holy Spirit to understand scripture correctly. I didn’t know why others who seemed devoted to Christ could come to a different conclusion.

    Because I also knew that God is not a God of confusion, I knew that it wasn’t the Holy Spirit who led people to different conclusions, so my only option was to believe that those who differed must have some sort of problem, either secret sin, insincerity, rationalization or something…I was charitable, but I did not trust them. I only trusted myself. I could see but they were somewhat blinded. Unless….I was the one with the problem….but I didn’t really want to think about that.

    I do believe that God has caused men during very specific periods in history and during very specific points in their lives to provide men with his teachings (generally accepted as Scripture). All other men, whether Rabbi’s before Christ or Pastor/Teachers (assuming legitimate gifting by the Spirit), have been so gifted to illuminate what has already been given to men, Scripturally.

    BFHU: OK, so of course God can do this and has done it. Which do you think is most likely for God to do? Guide His Church through the leaders of His Church so that the TRUTH is protected from error or allow a confusion and multiplication of contradictory doctrines to flourish? Which one would Our Enemy prefer?

    I know the argument for the Catholic church is that other extraneous writings are equal to Scripture but that places all of us on shakey ground.

    BFHU: It is not so much that other writings are equal to scripture.But, there are writings and sermons written in the first four centuries, that show us how these earliest Christians did interpret scripture. And these interpretations are Catholic and not Protestant. That is why Protestants are NEVER encouraged to read the writings of the Early Church Fathers. These contain the teachings of the Faith that were left unwritten in the first few decades, from which scripture comes. I double dog dare you to read them. 🙂

    The doctrine of Papal infallibility provides the Catholic church with a form of self-indulgent credibility when arguing this point but it is a dangerous stance.

    BFHU: And, John, is the Protestant idea of individual interpretation not also a form of self-indulgence or pride? Is it not a dangerous stance? Especially when scripture says,

    2 Peter 1:20 But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation

    The point we are discussing is in fact to recognize or not to recognize the legitimacy of Salvation through Jesus Christ and the several Scriptures that declare desire that all be saved as in John 3:16. Defining a specific court of membership as a prerequisite to Salvation, misunderstands the precept and the Sovereign decrees of God in his relation to the individual. Again; Salvation begets, membership – not the other way around.

    BFHU: The Catholic Church does not believe or teach that Salvation is by membership in the Catholic Church. Some have taught this but it is a heresy. God may save anyone He wants to save through the death of His Son. But all those who are saved are saved through Jesus Christ. And this salvation emanates from and is proclaimed and safeguarded by His Church.

    All that Protestantism has in its possession, of Christian Faith, came to it through the Catholic Church who safeguarded it for 1500 years until Martin Luther and John Calvin etc. first became Cafeteria Catholics and then broke away and started their own churches.

    When I listen to whomever is the Pastor of my specific church at the time, I recognize that God, through the Holy Spirit has placed him in that position. As such he has declared him to be gifted to teach Biblical truth to me.

    BFHU: You are trusting but cannot KNOW.

    Infallibility is a term that should never be attributed to men – regardless of their station.

    BFHU: That is only your opinion. There is no scripture to support it. Infallibility merely means that God will protect his leader from teaching ERROR to the whole Church regardless of whether that Pope is a Saint or Evil.

  6. 1. What I believe is that the Holy Spirit empowers us, as believers to read what the Scriptures say. There isn’t very much that requires interpretation although, admittedly, there are areas that have created a stir ie; predestination, election, end times prophecy, the purpose and significance of baptism, the current state of the ecstatic spiritual gifts. Misunderstandings and interpretive differences in these subjects are not ‘deal killers’ for the believer. If you are Saved and know it, these other subjects have more to do with the ‘meat’ of Scripture.
    2. Having witnessed the failures of men and Priests, I am not comfortable with laying the very eternal nature of my soul in the hands of other men. Does this mean I will not make a mistake in understanding certain Scriptures on ocassion; no, but the Bible makes it clear that I stand or fall based on my actions – not the actions of others. You asked how I know that certain Catholic church teachings are wrong and I am right. Of course, the reverse is a good question for you and I don’t believe that relying on a 2000 year history is good enough if, somewhere back thee someone got it wrong – intentionally or otherwise. While the church doctrine of Papal infallibility may give a level of comfort to some and most especially to those who don’t want to work for their knowledge (this is not an indictment on you), the very phrase raises concerns for those of us who have a heart to know God’s heart on these subjects.
    3. The Catholic church is still expecting me to accept the church teaching that the Pope or any man is infallible – in anything. It just isn’t so. Again the reason I say this is because it establishes a precedent that will lead – and probably has led some to believe that whatever the Pope says is immutable and equal to Scripture.
    4. “How can you KNOW that the Church is wrong and you are right?” I could ask you the very same question; but in reverse and what you will tell me is that the church says so but the church is filled with men who are not infallible – even by church measure. By the way; the Bible says we can know and the point isn’t to read it through once and assume you are finished. Study of God’s word is ongoing. Again; by the Catholic church’s plan, I sit in the pew and accept what someone else is telling me but we are commanded to study. Paul’s admonition to Timothy is not exclusively for Pastor/Teachers, in principle it is for all of us.

    I do not expect to have all of the answers to every single question with absolute accuracy today but I will be a lot further with a great deal more conficence having studied and having determined through that study what is God’s intent. It is difficult to say you have a relationship with God or anyone without knowing their mind. If God’s desires a relationship with me, it naturally follows and Scripture makes it clear he wants us to know his word, not just 12 minute messages from the liturgical calendar. It also follows that my prayer life should be a personal conversation with him using the ‘Lord’s Prayer’ as an outline for prayer not a repititious poem.

    By the way; Baptism does not ‘save’ and yes I know the Scripture you are referrncing but there are many, many others that speak of Salvation and Baptism is not part of ‘the ‘equation’. It is something that we all do as believers in faith and in obedience but there is at least one example of one man going to heaven without benefit of Baptism. That argument is alive and well on the Protestant side of the aisle as well. Ephesians 2:8 is an example and the faith spoken of here is in the risen Christ – not his assembly of believers.

    Just to press the issue; I believe the ‘Church’ is the assembly/fellowship/sum total of believers saved by Grace, not a specific named institution. Even if Peter was the Pastor of the Church in Rome, there is no indication of submission to his ‘authority’ by the other Apostles in the New Testament. I am sure the church has extra-biblical ‘proof’ to the contrary and I don’t want to argue with it but doesn’t it seem at all odd that the single most important body of work – God Breathed work, would not be crystal clear about that? When I say clear, I mean that there wouldn’t be several mentions of this? And what of the Epistles or even the Gospels; there is very little offered by the one person the Catholic church declares to be the very first human leader of the ‘Church’. Based on the sheer volume of Scripture in the New Testament, the logical ‘guess’ would be that Paul was the senior leader or spiritual father of the church and yet you and I would agree that isn’t so.

    Even so, I accept the works, teachings and writings of both men as pre-determined by God to be for our benefit. And I have never, ever been told by anyone to disregard extraneous writings just that the final arbitor in any discussion of spiritual matters is Scripture, not external writings. Even had I been told, I would not have taken that as truth, again by men who are not infallible. I am responsible to God for the gift he has given me.

    Another way of looking at this is by taking a look at how the average parishoner responds to both church’s; one Catholic and the other Protestant (my personal experience and as a witness of both): The average Catholic I have known attends Sunday Mass – not all every Sunday but most and most make the Holy Days…then they go home. I personally know of just two who read their Bible regularly, one was my Mother who considered herself a charismatic in the last half of her life and the other is one of my best friends and a fellow United States Marine who would be standing by you in this discussion.

    The average parishoner in my 350 member fellowship, roughly 80% attend services with few misses. About 20 percent serve regularly in one of the ministries, 50% are involved in the Wednesday night attends Sunday and many are involved in a Life Transformation Group which is a sort of Bible study with personal accountability structure. What I have experienced and witnessed since coming over to ‘this side of the aisle’ is a uniform and general comittment to the word of God and his Son Jesus Christ with a yearning to grow, spiritually and in knowledge. The church nurtures and encourages this growth and admonishes the membership to continually test the spirit of those teaching (this does not mean interrupting services, classes etc or even assuming thee is a problem).

  7. Sorry; the last paragraph got away from me; here it is:

    The average parishoner in my 350 member fellowship, roughly 80% attend services with few misses. About 20 percent serve regularly in one of the ministries, 50% are involved in the Wednesday night Bible sstudy/Prayer meeting and many are involved in a Life Transformation Group which is a sort of Bible study with personal accountability structure. What I have experienced and witnessed since coming over to ‘this side of the aisle’ is a uniform and general comittment to the word of God and his Son Jesus Christ with a yearning to grow, spiritually and in knowledge. The church nurtures and encourages this growth and admonishes the membership to continually test the spirit of those teaching (this does not mean interrupting services, classes etc or even assuming thee is a problem).

  8. Hello John:

    Never forget “obedience of faith” (Rom 1:5) which is joyful in humility and surrender to be worthy of Christ. If Christ did establish a visible church and ask his followers to be obedient to her (Mt 18:16), then we risk running afoul of our Lord’s own commandments (“He who hears you, hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me” – Lk 10:16).

    We all have to be constant mindful of the warnings in Mt 7:21: “Not every one who says to me, `Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of the my Father who is in heaven.” What’s even more perplexing is in the next verse: “Did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?” If you ask me, these people sound like very sincere and the most genuine Christians (even doing “might works”) … but they were apparently sincerely wrong. It’s really more than obedience (although it’s the root cause of everything called pride). God has given us all the means (holy communion, confession and all the sacraments, together with all the precepts for holy living) for sanctification through his church. Quite plainly, I think that God knows BEST so to be obstinately in disobedience can seriously jeopardize one’s eternity. Well, you have free will so you decide for yourself. Do you want to be “tossed back and forth and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their craftiness in deceitful wiles” (Eph 4:14) … or believe the bible who declares that it’s the church which is “the pillar and bulwark of the truth” (1 Tim 3:15)? Where is that church with authority today?

    In Christ,

  9. Surkiko;

    Your admonishment is also an assertion that anyone who doesn’t agree with you must be lost because the proof lies in that they don’t agree with you. It is a circular argument and one that is not unique to you, any other Catholic apologists or for that matter Protestants who are convinced the Catholic church is of the Devil. Some Protestants have latched onto some very narrow definitions of specific Scriptures and created dogma (sound familiar?) and then held everyone accountable for not believing as they have concluded (again; familiar?). One of these is the ‘doctrine’ of predestination/election, another is baptism, tongues, membership etc.

    First of all; assuming that my faith in Jesus Christ is less than yours is a pretty arrogant assumption being as you do not know me, my baclground, life experience or my Christian ‘journey’. But have heart; you are in the company of many in the combined membership of the Church – Catholic and Protestant who use the very same Scriptures and the very same tactics. Frankly; it makes for a better high pressure sales tactic than an evangelical outreach tool.

    I am saved and I am saved because of my faith in Jesus Christ and his finished work on the Cross and not because I had a membership ticket punched anywhere and certainly not because my parents, made a conscious decision to have me sprinkled before my age of reason. By virtue of my decision to accept Jesus Christ as Savior and acceptance of his gracious gift, I am saved and as such, a member of the Body of Christ as defined as ‘the Church’. Adherence to an organization’s traditions – be it Catholic or otherwise, will not ‘get me into Heaven’. That is the work of God, through the finished work of his Son and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Anything else is indeed adding to the Gospel and an attempted work which is not condoned Scripturally. The works that follow salvation that the Bible is speaking of are directly related to spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ – not joining, not sitting/standing/kneeling or lighting candles.

    BFHU said in an earlier comment to Constantine; “That has been one of my favorite things about being Catholic. I don’t have to read the Bible and figure it out for myself. My own ego is not bound up in my interpretation of Scripture like that of a Protestant Bible student’s. It is so freeing to trust learned Christians and His apostles who have studied Scripture for 2000 years.” I assume you feel the same way. While I am grateful to God for placing gifted men in the midst of the Church to teach his word, there is still the admonition to Timothy to ‘study to show yourself approved’ and no; it is not for the Teacher alone. If you truly believed that, you would not have as much Biblical knowledge as you have – or BFHU does for that matter. If you were truly obedient to what you believe is a mandate to follow the teachings of Priests, Bishops and the Vatican – without question, you would not be so bold as to tread the pages of the Bible on your own and yet, you do. I commend you for doing so for in this you are obedient to the word of God, not trusting, implicitly, in the teaching of men but testing it against the written word that was left for all of us. BFHU said the Devil could not hope for more than to be able to use a ‘confusion’ in understanding to undermine the church. Isn’t the very reading of Scripture likely to leave you in the same shambles you seem to think I am in? Yet you place yourself at the same risk you condemn me and others of. After all ‘what you take in with your eyes, you take into your heart’. Curiously; my only sin, in your eyes, is not rejoining the Catholic church. What else do you hold against me?

    Ask yourself this; if God did not intend for men to read his word, was not the translation of his word from the Aramaic, Greek and Hebrew into Latin and then into the several other languages it has been translated into an act of arrogance or disobedience in itself? And yet; the Catholic church, reads from English translations and shares but a miniscule portion of it with the laity.

    You stated a concern that I was being ‘tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine’. Not an apt usage in this case for it defines a person being pulled by several false doctrines all contrary to one another. I am not nor have been in that state. Much of what I was taught as a Catholic, I still believe. The things I shed, I shed due to the light of the written word of Scripture. While those things caused me to break fellowship with the church, it was largely due to incredibly poor the discipleship and even worse teaching. Opening the Catechism, during CCD and teaching the traditions of the church or other rote memory tricks is not valid as a teaching method anywhere and is certainly not in keeping with the spirit of the admonitions to study his word in Scripture. Starting with Christ himself, who broke with the traditions of the Israelites and studied the whole of the Pentateuch etc, and even the Apostles, who taught, wrote and admonished to study the word; there is a history and tradition of men doing exactly what you damn as the work of the Devil.

    By the way; Martin Luther was excommunicated for daring to question things that ought to have been questioned. He was as learned a man – and a Monk, as any who had lived before him or maybe even after. His excommunication was by men in the church who did not care to have their ‘authority’ questioned. Not a very sinless or patient act and don’t start quoting 1 Timothy 5 on this because you automatically assume these church leaders were not acting out of self preservation – they were! Calvin on the other hand; was a self-righteous and murderous man. Anyone who holds him up as a ‘savior’ of anything is seriously mistaken.

    Also; your assumption is that the church continued – without break from the first century to the present and without having been infiltrated by men of evil intent. There is ample historical evidence to the contrary. Does this mean God did not secure his word or his Gospel? No! He did; it just means he may have used men outside of what you happen to believe was the church, at the time.

    I will end this by admonishing you; never judge one of God’s children as lost; this is exactly the kind of thing spoken of in Mathew 7:1. Like it or not, there are Christians, Biblically described Christians, who fellowship outside the Catholic church. Instead of assuming this is a judgment against them, you might consider it as a judgment against the Catholic church hierarchy for abuses against the laity through incomplete teaching of his word, and general abuses of authority, power, privilege both past – and present.

    By the way; I am glad you are content in the church God has placed you in; really. Just be sure you are there to accomplish your orders which are the same orders we all have and which are embodied in the Great Commission; Mat 28:19-20 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

    teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. In the end; these are the works God is speaking of; not self inflicted punishment and not defending a specific institution whether it is in violation of specific Scriptures or not.

    • Hello John:

      Thank you for the good reply. First off, I never pretended to know the disposition of your soul. We can agree that only God knows that. Secondly, I never asserted that one “is lost because the proof lies in that they don’t agree with (me)”. What I did say is a general admonition which I included myself (“WE ALL have to be constant mindful of the warnings in Mt 7:21”).

      Well, my position has always been that you be a good practising Christian wherever you think you belong. No one is certainly going to drag or pull you into rejoining the Catholic Church against your will. Unless you are a Calvinist, you enjoy as much free will as all of us think we do.

      Now, you are in Catholic land by visiting here so you shouldn’t be surprised to see an offer of a good dose of Catholic sense. Nevertheless, you did bring up some interesting bits like the trail-of-blood type of Christianity and how you “shed” your Catholicism for some newly discovered bible truths. Maybe you care to elaborate more?

      Regards,

  10. Surkiko;

    Actually I was hoping to hear how you reconcile your belief if is the hierarchy’s job and infallible ability to translate Scripture for the unspiritual hordes with your having obviously studied them yourself? For me; there is a serious conflict between what you deem doctrinal and your behavior. Either you believe all Christians are to study God’s word or you believe we are to follow, without question, the leading of these infallible repositories of God’s truth (Priests and Hierarchy). It can’t be both and if it is for you then you have managed to give yourself a lenience you would deny Scripture gives others.

    Just to re-cap; here is the paragraph I wrote last time:

    “BFHU said in an earlier comment to Constantine; “That has been one of my favorite things about being Catholic. I don’t have to read the Bible and figure it out for myself. My own ego is not bound up in my interpretation of Scripture like that of a Protestant Bible student’s. It is so freeing to trust learned Christians and His apostles who have studied Scripture for 2000 years.” I assume you feel the same way. While I am grateful to God for placing gifted men in the midst of the Church to teach his word, there is still the admonition to Timothy to ‘study to show yourself approved’ and no; it is not for the Teacher alone. If you truly believed that, you would not have as much Biblical knowledge as you have – or BFHU does for that matter. If you were truly obedient to what you believe is a mandate to follow the teachings of Priests, Bishops and the Vatican – without question, you would not be so bold as to tread the pages of the Bible on your own and yet, you do. I commend you for doing so for in this you are obedient to the word of God, not trusting, implicitly, in the teaching of men but testing it against the written word that was left for all of us. BFHU said the Devil could not hope for more than to be able to use a ‘confusion’ in understanding to undermine the church. Isn’t the very reading of Scripture likely to leave you in the same shambles you seem to think I am in? Yet you place yourself at the same risk you condemn me and others of. After all ‘what you take in with your eyes, you take into your heart’. Curiously; my only sin, in your eyes, is not rejoining the Catholic church. What else do you hold against me?”

    • Dear John,
      Not sure if I have said this in our discussion but Protestantism has a peculiar either/or mentality. Things have to be either/or but the Catholic mentality is both/and. You say we EITHER read the Bible OR listen ONLY to the Pope and the Magesterium. But it cannot be both. Why not????

      Because for us Catholics it certainly is BOTH. We read the Sacred Scriptures in UNION with the teachings of the Church (Popes, Magesterium, Doctors, and Fathers).

      That is how we maintain our unity. But, there are always those (even some Catholics) who think their interpretation is better than the ones that have guided the Church for 2000 years.This leads them into heresy.

      During the Reformation/Rebellion and for a time after, the Church did forbid the reading of Scripture by the faithful because of the fevered infection of individual interpretation (which is contrary to scripture) that spread throughout Europe by Luther. This brought about a myriad of chaotic interpretations that even Luther lamented.

      2 Peter 1:20 But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation,

      But we have been encouraged to read scripture for centuries now, especially since Bibles are so cheap and so many people are now able to read.

      Luther’s invention of the doctrine of Sola Scriptura would NEVER have gained any traction before the invention of the Printing Press since one Bible cost a small fortune and most of the laity could not read.

      Until some time after the invention of the printing press, the Bible, was an extremely costly book. At today’s minimum wages of $8.00/hr and only counting the time for one monk to write the whole Bible, it would take 10 months at a cost of $16,000. But that doesn’t count the second monk who checked the pages for accuracy, which would raise the cost of one Bible in today’s US Dollars to $21,424 And that still does not include the cost of materials, or for the time for another monk to decorate the pages and for someone else to bind the pages together and put on a cover.

      Sola Scriptura?

      It is still an impossibility for 20% of the world population today, who cannot read.

      So, what is a Protestant, who can’t read, to do????

    • Hello John:

      I’ve to go to Mass this morning and also then spend some time with family. I will return to write a fuller reply later.

      Briefly, I want to say that I have gone back to read all the exchanges between you and Pam (BFHU). I think that Pam has had done a superb job in providing you with some very clear and sensible answers. I also suspect that there is still this old Catholic boy in you who is inquisitive enough to wonder why converts like Pam, obviously just as “on-fire” for the Lord like yourself, has had done the opposite by swimming across the Tiber. You must also know that this is not just the proverbial church hopping, but many converts like Pam (and I know that I am writing in the third person here) have had to face great adversity of family disenfranchisement and loss of friendship, job and professional reputation for the sake of the “Roman” church (which by the way, according to St. Irenaeus of Lyons in the early second century: “With this church, on account of of its more primordial authority – propter potentiorem principalitatem – all other churches must agree, that is, all the faithful in the whole world, and it is in her that the faithful everywhere have maintained the apostolic tradition”).

      All this is not to minimalize your spirituality and conversion experience, John. In fact, I have to say that I greatly admire your honesty and integrity. You know that the Church will never ask you to go against your conscience. But like Pam suggested, conscience also needs to be well formed too. I’m quite sure that you’re aware of how St. Thomas More was with you when he replied Norfolk (in Robert Bolt play, “A Man for All Seasons”): “‘And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship?”

      When I return, I will share with you how I “reconcile” my belief with some of your very well-reasoned objections …

      Regards,

  11. Surkiko;

    Conversations like this are valuable. You should l know that I have spent a significant amount of time debugging incorrect perceptions of Catholicism within the Protestant ranks as I have done the other way around also. I believe there is common faith in Jesus Christ and the Gospel but differences in ministry.

    Do not think I possess an all encompassing either or attitude about all doctrinal issues. The fact is I cherish all sound teaching from learned, spiritually led, Christian me. I also cherish the availability of Scripture for myself and family. My question for you was one of reconciliation with concerns both you and Pam had raised. The issue raised was that of accepting the teaching of the teachers/priests in the church as absolutely true and, in essence, negating the need for personal study. My point was that once you crack that book there will be many things once learned that will not lend themselves to the strict interpretation of the Catholic church. My question had to do with understanding your intent or willingness to continue to believe what the church teaches when you happen across one of those issues. Pam had gone a bit further by declaring she felt rest in not having to be troubled with understanding because others had done the studying and determining for her-and all Catholics.

    You see for me, being a Christian is an either/or consideration only as it pertains to the free will agency and the decision to accept Christ or deny him. All Believers, regardless of the side of the ‘aisle’ they sit on are my Brothers in Christ. There certainly certain Doctrines and details in Scripture that not all Catholics agree with much less all men from other fellowships. Augustine’s view of predestination is certainly closer to ‘Calvin’s’ than Catholic teaching of the doctrine. While it will tKe a lot of work to convince me that Calvin was indeed saved (being as he died unrepentant of the sin of multiple murders), his writings on election certainly caused a wave of unrest inthe entire Body.

    My personal experiences in the Catholic church were less than ‘inspiring’ in the 60’s and early 70’s for several reasons we can discuss later but as I became more keenly aware of my own mortality and questionable eternal state, I also realized that going back to the Catholic church would mean more of the same and the fruit of that was a life I did not want to continue in; sin and alienation from God.

    It wasn’t until I was witnessed to about Christ by Christians outside the Catholic church that I began to study and fully understand the basic things I had been taught early in life. It is critical for you to understand that never once, in the 12 years I was without a church was I approached by any Catholic concerned about the state of my soul or my position in Christ. I have had a Catholic friend try to get me back across the aisle but it has more to do with castigating the belief of fellow Believers and winning back a ‘member’ than it does a firmly understood salvation doctrinal issue.

    When I speak to unbelievers or backsliders, my first concern is for the state of their eternal soul. Until that is right, membership in any ‘church’ is physical-not eternal. A person does not belong to the Church until they are saved in Jesus Christ.

    • test

      • Hello John,

        It seems that one of your main objections to Catholicism is the dogma of Infallibility as it relates to an individual Christian’s ability to read scripture for him- or herself in order that one may “test the spirits to see whether they are of God” (1 Jn 4:1). You view them as contradictory options. Since the Church certainly encourages popular bible reading, the perceived difficulty is likely because of misinformation and misconceptions.

        Let’s deal with the tradition of the “open bible”. Here, we immediately encounter several problems like the authenticating the “Bible Alone” doctrine as being biblical itself and private interpretation. Since I sense that you don’t necessary ascribe to a strict Sola Scriptura, let’s concentrate on the latter. The concern here is not so much reading, exploring and applying Scripture, but of pitting private judgments against the mind of the Church. Can we agree that there is no room for a maverick or an undisciplined believer in Christ? Even Paul, after receiving a “direct” commission, would go to see Cephas (Peter) and then later to meet with the senior apostles in Jerusalem to insure that his teaching was in line with the Church “lest somehow I should be running, or had run in vain’ (Gal 2:1-2). In Matt 18:16, we find specific deference to the Church as the final arbiter and to suffer ex-communication for a recalcitrant person. There is no biblical support for the favorite Protestant pastime of comparing scripture verses and then to break fellowship and go church hopping or forming another “bible-believing church”. I think that the Protestant experiment of substituting the Bible for the Church as ultimate authority was/is a total disaster … with its myriad of diagonally opposing core doctrines amongst the various denominations (all claiming to be inspired by the same Holy Spirit of course) and the continued divisiveness and fragmentation. To attribute all this chaos to a providential design of God will be very troublesome.

        I also have a strong feeling that you also don’t necessary detest authority. You just don’t see how a particular person or institution can demand “absolute” obedience. As a Protestant, your only “reliable” authority is Scripture. But by whose authority have you put your trust that the bible in your possession is indeed God-breathed and dependable? Unless you like circular arguments, I think we can at least agree that there was an external authority which approved the canon of Scripture back in time. That institution was undeniably the Catholic Church. The question now is that if the Church was good enough to give you the Bible, why is she suddenly not good enough for anything? Where is the moral certitude that one can safely depart from “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” of the apostolic Church for an agnostic-type of religiosity?

        This will be an opportune time to introduce the dogma of Infallibility. In a nutshell, God is infallible, Christ is infallible, and on the promises of Christ, there’s an assurance that his Church will teach his Truth with the supernatural prerogative of the Holy Spirit. Let me explain. Christ commanded us to submit to the authority of the Church: “He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me” (Lk 10:16). Again, Christ said to the apostles,”Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven”. Here, Christ is promising a divine ratification of the Church’s actions on earth. God will surely not allow his Church to be led into errors, much less allow heaven to be bound by it! Papal infallibility is a personal charima which Christ revealed by the founding of the church upon Peter with the promise of security and permanence of the foundation (Matt16:18-19). Peter was also given the “key of the kingdom of heaven” to be followed by Christ’s further assurance that his (Peter’s) faith would not fail (Lk 22:32) and by the designating of Peter as the new Good Shepherd (Jn 21:15-17).

        Thus, you may be distressing over the dogma of Infallibility for nought. If you are unaware, papal infallibility does not mean papal impeccability and is restricted only to ex-cathedra teachings on faith and morals only. Concerning the bible, there are actually only about fifteen biblical texts (e.g., Jn 3:5 to mean the necessity of water baptism) which have had been infallibly interpreted by the Church over the course of her 2000 years of history. While the Church has authoritatively declared that a given sense must be attributed to a particular text, it is not to be taken to mean that the prescribed interpretation exhausts the whole of its meaning. It is just that private judgment or interpretation is not unbridled freedom and it cannot contradict what has been defined as an article of faith by church of God. After all, it is the Church (that is, not Scripture) which is called “the pillar and bulwark of truth” (1 Tim 3:15). The compelling case for Infallibility can also be scrutinized by how all the popes, from St. Peter to Benedict XVI, have had never taught heresy in the entire history of Christianity. Christ has kept his promise.

        Regards,

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