Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Quick Primer on Infallibility

Although the Lord commissioned weak and sinful beings to spread the Gospel, He did not leave the apostles to their own autonomy. He invisibly "clothed them with power from on high" (Luke 24:49) to guide them "into all truth" (John 16:13) of the "one Lord, one faith, one baptism" (Eph 4:5). Why? Jesus was fulfilling His own promise that “the gates of hell would not prevail” (Matt 16:18) against His Church. In this promise, God is assuring that the Catholic Church will not lose one iota of the Gospel because of the works of hell.

Always being heavily assaulted by hell with heresy, schism, apostasy, scandal, sin and death -- present in the times of the apostles (2 Cor 11:3-4; Gal 1:6-9; Col 2:4-8, 18; 2 Thess 2:1-17; 1 Tim 1:3-4; 2 Tim 2:18) and of their successors “when people will not tolerate sound doctrine” (2 Tim 4:4; 1 Tim 4:1-3) -- the Catholic Church is simply unable to corporately fail at proclaiming the Gospel. She will preserve it until the "end of the age" (Matt 28:20).

This divine protection is called infallibility.

Peter acting as supreme pastor at the Council of Jerusalem
Starting with the premiere Church council at Jerusalem (Acts 15), Peter and the apostles invoked their teaching authority to definitively resolve disputes about the faith. But the apostles, not able to live forever and continue teaching, made provisions for the Church to preserve the Gospel for all future generations. They bequeathed their “apostolic ministry” (Acts 1:25) to the office of bishop and passed down their authority to legitimate successors, who were established in the faith taught (Col 2:6) and crowned by the imposition of hands (1 Tim 4:14). Henceforth, those bishops who kept watch over the first-generation flock, have in turned passed down their teaching authority to the second generation, and so forth and so on unto this present day.

The promise continues! In every generation, the infallibility of the Catholic Church, which is Christ's own infallibility lived out through authoritative teachings, preserves the "Gospel to be preached to all nations" (Mark 13:10). Did you also know that the Catholic Church is the oldest surviving institution on earth? Think about Christ's promise. So many nations have come and gone over two millennial, but "Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever" (Heb 13:8).

11/9/11 Update: Read more in my new post about infallibility. It picks up where this leaves off and addresses some common misconceptions.