REBUTTAL ON "What Think Ye of Rome?"  Part IV

Part Four: The Catholic-Protestant Debate on Papal Infallibility

by Norman L. Geisler and Ralph E. MacKenzie

The Protestant argument is in italics, the Catholic response in bold plain print.


This is not to deny that Peter had a significant role in the early church; he did. He even seems to have been the initial leader of the apostolic band. As already noted, along with James and John he was one of the "pillars" of the early church (Gal. 2:9). For it was he that preached the great sermon at Pentecost when the gift of the Holy Spirit was given, welcoming many Jews into the Christian fold. It was Peter also who spoke when the Spirit of God fell on the Gentiles in Acts 10. From this point on, however, Peter fades into the background and Paul is the dominant apostle, carrying the gospel to the ends of the earth (Acts 13-28), writing some one-half of the New Testament (as compared to Peter's two epistles), and even rebuking Peter for his hypocrisy (Gal. 2:11-14). In short, there is no evidence in Matthew 16 or any other text for the Roman Catholic dogma of the superiority, to say nothing of the infallibility, of Peter. He did, of course, write two infallible books (1 and 2 Peter), as did other apostles.

To say there "is no evidence" to validate the Catholic claim of the office Peter was placed in grasping at straws.
Again we return to St. Francis DeSales (p249-250): "Our adversaries are so  angry at our proposing to them the chair of St. Peter as a holy touchstone by which we may test the meanings, imaginations and fancies they put into the Scriptures, that they overthrow heaven and earth to wrest out of the hands the express words of Our lord, by which having said to St. Peter that he would build his Church upon him, in order that we might know more particularly what he meant he continues in these words: 'And to thee I will give the keys to the kingdom of heaven.'  one could not speak more plainly.  He has said: 'Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood , etc.  And I say to thee that thou art Peter, . . . and to thee will I give, & etc.'  This 'to thee' refers to the very person to whom he said: 'and I say to thee,'  it is then to St. peter.  But the ministers try as hard as they can to disturb the clear fountain of the Gospel, so that St. Peter mat not be able to find his keys therein, and that we may turn disgusted from the water of holy obedience which we owe to the vicar of Our Lord."
    And what do we make of Luke 22:31: " "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren."  Luke 22:31-32 (RSV)  here very clearly Jesus gives Peter the appointment to strenghten his brothers, the other Apostle's, faith.  What is it to be the strengthener and confirmer, than to be their leader?  All are tempted, but only one is prayed for.  "Truly one could not give St. Peter the command to confirm the Apostle's without charging him to have care of them.  And how would he put this command in practice without paying regard to the weakness or the strength of the others in order to confirm them?  Is this not again to call him the foundation of the Church?  If he supports, secures, strenthens the very foundation stones, how shall he not confirm the rest?  If he has the charge of supporting the columns of the Church, how shall he not support the rest of the building?" (The Catholic Controversy, p258)

John 21:15ff. In John 21:15ff. Jesus says to Peter, "Feed my lambs" and "Tend my sheep" and "Feed my sheep" (vv. 15, 16, 17). Roman Catholic scholars believe this shows that Christ made Peter the supreme pastor of the church. This means he must protect the church from error, they say, and to do so he must necessarily be infallible. But this is a serious overclaim for the passage.

First, whether this text is taken of Peter alone or of all the disciples, there is absolutely no reference to any infallible authority. Jesus' concern here is simply a matter of pastoral care. Feeding is a God-given pastoral function that even nonapostles have in the New Testament (cf. Acts 20:28; Eph. 4:11-12; 1 Pet. 5:1-2). One does not have to be an infallible shepherd in order to feed one's flock properly.

It is true that 'to feed the sheep' is all our responsiblilty, but why does Holy Scripture expressly state here that Peter was given this commission directly by the Lord of All?  Everyone else recieved this commission as part of their call as Christians, but here St. Peter directly.  "Each must feed the sheep which is under him, as St. Peter says (1 Pet 5:2) or that which the Holy Spirit has placed him, according to St. Paul (Acts 20:28).  But, 'to which of the others,' says St. Bernard (De Consid. 2,8) 'were ever the sheep so absolutely, so universally committeed: 'feed my sheep?'" (The Catholic Controversy, p260)
    "Now that to feed the sheep includes the charge of them appears clearly.  For what is it to have the charge of feeding the sheep, but to pastor and shepherd; and shepherds have full charge of the sheep, and not only to lead them to pasture, but bring them back, fold them, guide them, rule them, keep them in fear, chastise them, and gaurd them.  In Scripture to rule and to feed the people is taken as the same thing, which is easy to see in Ezeckiel 34; in 2 Kings (5:2); and in several places in the Psalms, where according to the original there is to feed, and we have to rule: and in fact, between ruling and pasturing the sheep with an iron crook there is no difference." (The Catholic Controversy, p261)

Second, if Peter had infallibility (the ability not to mislead), then why did he mislead believers and have to be rebuked by the apostle Paul for so doing? The infallible Scriptures, accepted by Roman Catholics, declared of Peter on one occasion, "He clearly was wrong" and "stood condemned."[18] Peter and others "acted hypocritically...with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy." And hypocrisy here is defined by the Catholic Bible (NAB) as "pretense, play-acting; moral insincerity." It seems difficult to exonerate Peter from the charge that he led believers astray. And this failing is hard to reconcile with the Roman Catholic claim that, as the infallible pastor of the church, he could never do so! The Catholic response -- that Peter was not infallible in his actions, only his ex cathedra words -- rings hollow when we remember that "actions speak louder than words." By his actions he was teaching other believers a false doctrine concerning the need for Jewish believers to separate themselves from Gentile believers. The fact is that Peter cannot be both an infallible guide for faith and morals and also at the same time mislead other believers on the important matter of faith and morals of which Galatians speaks.

    To respond here properly, we need to go back to the definition of infallibilty as quoted by these authors in Part III.  Do you remember the requirements:
1) in fulfillment of his office as supreme pastor and teacher of all Christians;
(2) in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, i.e., as successor of Peter;
(3) determining a doctrine of faith and morals, i.e., a doctrine expressing divine revelation;
(4) imposing a doctrine to be held definitively by all.

    Now, how many of the requirements does this episode fit?  I say possibly only #3, and that would be stretching it a bit (because he wasn't 'determining' doctrine).  If the authors want to include ALL the actions of the pope to be included in the definition of infallibilty, then they are making their own rules as they go.  This is something the Church has never taught, and never will teach.  The fact that this incident brought forward by the authors does not 'fit the bill' required for an infallible declaration shows how they try to 'strain the gnat and swallow the camel.'  Since it does not come under this topic it needs to be dismissed immediately.
    And where did this 'actions speak louder than words' come from.  You who preach Scripture must interpret Scripture, now come up with a human axiom to aid your cause.

Third, in view of the New Testament terminology used of Peter it is clear that he would never have accepted the titles used of the Roman Catholic pope today: "Holy Father" (cf. Matt. 23:9), "Supreme Pontiff," or "Vicar of Christ." The only vicar (representative) of Christ on earth today is the blessed Holy Spirit (John 14:16, 26). As noted earlier, Peter referred to himself in much more humble terms as "an apostle," not the apostle (1 Pet. 1:1, emphasis added) and "fellow-presbyter [elder]" (1 Pet. 5:1, emphasis added), not the supreme bishop, the pope, or the Holy Father.

Whether Peter would accept these titles or not is of little consequence as they are merely descriptions of the authority Christ placed in this office.  And again we have the rehash of how Peter described himself.  Why?  Don't the authors think we believed them the first time?  As I stated before (my own rehash) our pesent pope addresses himself in the same manner.   Remember Christ's command:  "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them.  It shall not be so among you;"
(Matt 20:26)  For the pope to come out and say 'I'm your pope, you will listen' would be in direct contradiction to this command.  Jesus goes on to say: "but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave"  (Matt 20:27).  So there
is one to be 'great' among the Apostle's.  This is why one of the titles that is most dear to our present pontiff is "Servant of the Servants of God."

John 11:49-52. In John 11:49-52 Caiaphas, the High Priest, in his official capacity as High Priest, made an unwitting prophecy about Christ dying for the nation of Israel so that they would not perish. Some Catholics maintain that in the Old Testament the High Priest had an official revelatory function connected with his office, and therefore we should expect an equivalent (namely, the pope) in the New Testament. However, this argument is seriously flawed. First, this is merely an argument from analogy and is not based on any New Testament declaration that it is so.

Excuse me, but isn't 'analogy' one of the ways St. Paul used to interpret the Old Testment (see Gal 4:24, 1 Cor 10 as examples)?  If  St. Paul used the Old Testament Scriptures in this way, shouldn't we follow in suit?

Second, the New Testament affirmations made about the Old Testament priesthood reject that analogy, for they say explicitly that the Old Testament priesthood has been abolished. The writer to the Hebrews declared that "there is a change of priesthood" from that of Aaron (Heb. 7:12). The Aaronic priesthood has been fulfilled in Christ who is a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek (Heb. 7:15-17).

There is a change, not an elimination of the priesthood.  Yes, Christ is our high-priest.  But you'll remember in the Old Testament, underneath the High Priest was a ministerial priesthood, so it is in the New Testament.  We have no time to get into the proofs of it's existence, for it is out of the scope of this rebuttal,  but read Jude "Woe to them! For they walk in the way of Cain, and abandon themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam's error, and perish in Korah's rebellion."  (Jude 1:11)  What was Korah's rebellion?  He thought all people were equal in priestly power since we are a 'kingdom of priests,'  and what right did Moses have to lead them?  Sound familiar?

Third, even Catholics acknowledge that there is no new revelation after the time of the New Testament function. So no one (popes included) after the first century can have a revelatory function in the proper sense of giving new revelations.

Who said anything about 'new revelation?'  The High priest simply prophesied about Jesus dying for the people, something the prophets of the Old Testament already taught.  Caiphas opened up the meaning (unwittingly) of the Old Testament prophets to his present situation.

Finally, there is a New Testament revelatory function like that of the Old, but it is in the New Testament "apostles and prophets" (cf. Eph. 2:20; 3:5), which revelation ceased when they died. To assume a revelatory (or even infallible defining) function was passed on after them and is resident in the bishop of Rome is to beg the question.

Why is it begging the question?  No one is assuming anything.  The Scriptures clearly teach that when an office becomes vacant it needs filled (see Isaiah 22:20, Acts 2).  the office of Apostle is described as an office in the Church.  Nowhere is it said that this office will cease.  Pope St. Clement, writing at the end of the first century, possibly before St. John died, said this: "Our apostles knew through our Lord Jesus Christ that there would be strife for the office of bishop. For this reason, therefore, having received perfect foreknowledge, they appointed those who have already been mentioned and afterwards added the further provision that, if they should die, other approved men should succeed to their ministry." (Letter to the Corinthians 42:4-5, 44:1-3 [A.D. 80]).

In addition to a total lack of support from the Scriptures, there are many other arguments against papal infallibility. We will divide them into theological and historical arguments.

We have shown that there is no such 'total lack of support from the Scriptures.'

Theological Problems

There are serious theological problems with papal infallibility. One is the question of heresy being taught by an infallible pope.

The Problem of Heretical Popes. Pope Honorius I (A.D. 625-638) was condemned by the Sixth General Council for teaching the monothelite heresy (that there was only one will in Christ[19]). Even Roman Catholic expert, Ludwig Ott, admits that "Pope Leo II (682-683) confirmed his anathematization..."[20] This being the case, we are left with the incredible situation of an infallible pope teaching a fallible, indeed heretical, doctrine. If the papal teaching office is infallible -- if it cannot mislead on doctrine and ethics -- then how could a papal teaching be heretical? This is misleading in doctrine in the most serious manner.

To claim that the pope was not infallible on this occasion is only to further undermine the doctrine of infallibility. How can one know just when his doctrinal pronouncements are infallible and when they are not? There is no infallible list of which are the infallible pronouncements and which are not.[21] But without such a list, how can the Roman Catholic church provide infallible guidance on doctrine and morals? If the pope can be fallible on one doctrine, why cannot he be fallible on another?

Further, Ott's comment that Pope Leo did not condemn Pope Honorius with heresy but with "negligence in the suppression of error" is ineffective as a defense.[22] First, it still raises serious questions as to how Pope Honorius could be an infallible guide in faith and morals, since he taught heresy. And the Catholic response that he was not speaking ex cathedra when he taught this heresy is convenient but inadequate. Indeed, invoking such a distinction only tends to undermine faith in the far more numerous occasions when the pope is speaking with authority but not with infallibility.

Again, the authors need to refer back to the qualifications of an infallible proclamation, which Pope Honorius never made.  He never intended to teach this heresy 'definitively,' that is why the  charge made against him was 'negligence in the suppresion of error.'  Why this defense is inadequate is beyond me.  We were told at the outset, by the same authors, what qualified as an infallible proclamation.  Now, when they find an isolated incident that does not fit the pre-stated criterion, they cry 'foul' and mutter that this is inadequate.

Second, it does not explain the fact that the Sixth General Council did condemn Honorius as a heretic, as even Ott admits.[23] Was this infallible Council in error?

    First,Councils are not usually infallible, so this is a red herring thrown at us by the authors.  Second, let us look at the actual quote by Ott: "There is no doubt that Pope Honorius I (625-638) was personally orthodox.  however, through his prohibition against speaking of two modes of operation he unwittingly favoured the Monothelite error.  The Sixth General Council wrongly condemned him as a heretic.  Pope Leo II (682-683) confirmed his anathematization but not for the reason given by the Council.  He did not reproach him heresy, but with negligence in the suppresion of error."  Now see how these authors have twisted this quote to mislead the readers from what it actually said, to what they wanted their readers to think it said?
    Suppressing error, and teaching it as dogma are two entirely different things.

Finally, by disclaiming the infallibility of the pope in this and like situations, the number of occasions on which infallible pronouncements were made is relatively rare. For example, the pope has officially spoken ex cathedra only one time this whole century (on the Bodily Assumption of Mary)! If infallibility is exercised only this rarely then its value for all practical purposes on almost all occasions is nill. This being the case, since the pope is only speaking with fallible authority on the vast majority of occasions, the Catholic is bound to accept his authority on faith and morals when he may (and sometimes has been) wrong. In short, the alleged infallible guidance the papacy is supposed to provide is negligible at best. Indeed, on the overwhelming number of occasions there is no infallible guidance at all.

Whether or not it is ever used is of little consequence.  If it has been used only once in the history of the Church would suit me fine.  That means I would know for certain that 'x' is true, while all others can only hope it is.  If there are ten boxes of Truth, and we know of only nine, when the pope reveals that tenth box, aren't we all the better off?

The Problem of Revelational Insufficiency. One of the chief reasons given by Catholic authorities as to the need for an infallible teaching magisterium is that we need infallible guidance to understand God's infallible revelation. Otherwise it will be misinterpreted as with the many Protestant sects.

To this the Protestant must respond, How is an infallible interpretation any better than the infallible revelation? Divine revelation is a disclosure or unveiling by God. But to claim, as Catholics do, that God's infallible unveiling in the Bible needs further infallible unveiling by God is to say that it was not unveiled properly to begin with.

To claim that man, with his finite mind can, on his own, come to a perfect understanding of the infinite God is untenable.

To be sure, there is a difference between objective disclosure (revelation) and subjective discovery (understanding). But the central problem in this regard is not in the perception of God's truth. Even His special revelation is "evident" and "able to be understood" (Rom. 1:19-20). Our most significant problem with regard to the truth of God's revelation is reception. Paul declared that "the natural person does not accept [Gk: dekomai, welcome, receive] what pertains to the Spirit of God..." (1 Cor. 2:14). He cannot "know" (ginosko: know by experience) them because he does not receive them into his life, even though he understands them in his mind. So even though there is a difference between objective disclosure and subjective understanding, humans are "without excuse" for failing to understand the objective revelation of God, whether in nature or in Scripture (Rom. 1:20).

This is something the Catholic Church teaches.  But to include ALL truth in this formula is aking a lot.  Besides, if this verse really says what the authors want it to say, then why do we need teachers in the church?  In fact, why did these authors go through the trouble of getting thier college degrees in theology if they are right here?
     All born-again believers should be able to come to the truth with no other help than the Holy Spirit and the Bible, right?  Yet, teacher is one of those offices in the church, why?

In this regard it is interesting that Catholic theology itself maintains that unbelievers should and can understand the truth of natural law apart from the teaching magisterium. Why then should they need an infallible teaching magisterium in order to properly understand the more explicit divine law?

    Are these authors declaring that God and His nature are more easily understood than, say a tree?  Wow!
    As these authors are surely well aware of;  it took the Church 400 years to understand properly the Trinity, the hypostatic union, etc.  Yet, here they state they anyone 'in the spirit' can understand all of God's precepts.  Am I missing something?

It seems singularly inconsistent for Catholic scholars to claim they need another mind to interpret Scripture correctly for them when the mind God gave them is sufficient to interpret everything else, including some things much more difficult than Scripture. Many Catholic scholars, for example, are experts in interpreting classical literature, involving both the moral and religious meaning of those texts. Yet these same educated minds are said to be inadequate to obtain a reliable religious and moral interpretation of the texts of their own Scriptures.

I have to hand it to them, this is an argument I've never heard of before.  But when you analyze it, you realize why nobody uses it.   I doubt that these Catholic scholars spoken of think they are infallible when understanding the 'arts.' Besides, the literature was written by men, with finite minds for people of finite intelligence.  But the Sciptures were written by the Infinite, the Almighty Hand of God and though written for finite creatures, deal with infinite truth.  Are we comparing apples and oranges here?

Furthermore, it does not take an expert to interpret the crucial teachings of the Bible. The New Testament was written in the vernacular of the times, the trade-language of the first century, known as koine Greek. It was a book written in the common, everyday language for the common, everyday person. Likewise, the vast majority of English translations of the Bible are also written in plain English, including Catholic versions. The essential truths of the Bible can be understood by any literate person. In fact, it is an insult to the intelligence of the common people to suggest that they can read and understand the daily news for themselves but need an infallible teaching magisterium in order to understand God's Good News for them in the New Testament.

We are again comparing apples and oranges; the daily news as opposed to Scripture?  The daily news where everyone has some sort of human experience with, as opposed to Divine Law we cannot see, feel, or touch?  Talk about an insult to our intelligence!!!
    We again resort to the fact that those who follow "the Bible Alone" don't agree on all the 'essentials.'  26,000 denominations and counting.  Did they start a new denomination over an unessential?

The Problem of Indecisiveness of the Teaching Magisterium. There is another problem with the Catholic argument for an infallible teaching magisterium: if an infallible teaching magisterium is needed to overcome the conflicting interpretations of Scripture, why is it that even these "infallibly" decisive declarations are also subject to conflicting interpretations? There are many hotly disputed differences among Catholic scholars on just what ex cathedra statements mean, including those on Scripture, tradition, Mary, and justification. Even though there may be future clarifications on some of these, the problem remains for two reasons. First, it shows the indecisive nature of supposedly infallible pronouncements. Second, judging by past experience, even these future declarations will not settle all matters completely. Pronouncements on the inerrancy of Scripture are a case in point. Despite "infallible" statements, there is strong disagreement among Catholics on whether the Bible is really infallible in all matters or only on matters of salvation.

The authors again go back to the 'some Catholics believe' notion.  As I stated at the outset, this rebuttal will defend wat the Catholic Church teaches, not what some of her so-called children believe.
History will show you it is not indecisiveness, but rather careful contemplation on God's plan of salvation.  The history of the Trinity and its definition is a case in point.  It took the Church centuries to uncover the depth of this doctrine, which all cgristians hold so dear today.  Yet, for the longest time, the Church declared only what the Trinity wasn't, as in the Arian heresy, and Nestorian heresies.  Only after long deliberation, did it come to the conclusion we today call the Trinity.
    And these 'indecisive declarations,' are they any different than what Protestants have?  Sure they are, because here you have a firm guide with which to bounce all your Biblical ideas off.  The Protestants only have that 'burning in the bosom'( which the Mormons teach) to test their ideas.  And I would argue that the indecisiveness does not come from the decisions, it comes from individuals who don't necessarily like the decision, so they look for loopholes.

Historical Problems

In addition to biblical and theological problems, there are serious historical problems with the Catholic claim for infallibility. Two are of special note here.

Before we get into this 'historical problem,' note the Church has been around for 2,000 years, note the few 'problems' enemies of the Church have come up with, though they have searched long and hard.  Each problem is answerable.

The Problem of the Antipopes. Haunting the history of Roman Catholicism is the scandalous specter of having more than one infallible pope at the same time -- a pope and an antipope. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church says "there have been about thirty-five antipopes in the history of the Church."[24] How can there be two infallible and opposing popes at the same time? Which is the true pope? Since there is no infallible list of popes or even an infallible way to determine who is the infallible pope, the system has a serious logical problem. Further, this difficulty has had several actual historical manifestations which bring into focus the whole question of an infallible pope.[25]

No system is perfect when human beings are involved.  But there never where 2 'infallible' popes at the same time, as our authors go on to note in the next paragraph.  So why do they say it here?

Catholic apologists claim that there were not really two popes, since only one can be infallible. However, since the faithful have no way to know for sure which one is the pope, which one should they look to for guidance? Each pope can excommunicate the other (and sometimes have). This being the case, claiming that only one is the real pope is at best only a theoretical solution. It does not solve the practical problem of which pope should be followed.

First of all, claiming that only one is the true pope is not theoretical, but a technical issue.  Even today there are those who have set themselves up as pope, but does anyone today believe Pope John Paul II is not the legitimate successor to St. Peter?  I'm sure many were confused in the days gone by when media wasn't what it is today, but that doesn't alter the point that there can only be one pope at a time.  These 'anti-popes' never declared anything of an infallible nature.  Is it possible God protected His Church in that way?

The Problem of Galileo. Perhaps one of the greatest embarrassments to the "infallible" church is its fallible judgment about Galileo Galilei (A.D. 1564-1642), generally known as Galileo. In opposition to Galileo and the Copernican solar-centric theory he adopted, the Catholic church sided with the scientifically outdated Ptolemaic geocentric universe.

I'm glad the authors noted that it was a 'fallible' judgement.  This is another issue where the authors follow their own guidelines insead of those set up by the Church.  This issue does not meet the requirements of an infallible statement that these same authors oted previously.  So all the rest of the issue written here is just blowing smoke.  For a full treatment on the Galileo affair, see Galileo

In A.D. 1616, the Copernican theory was condemned at Rome.[26] Aristotelian scientists, the Jesuits, the Dominicans, and three popes (Paul V, Gregory XV, and Urban VIII), played key roles in the controversy. Galileo was summoned by the Inquisition in 1632, tried, and on June 21, 1633, pronounced "vehemently suspected of heresy." Eventually Pope Urban VIII allowed Galileo to return to his home in Florence, where he remained under house arrest until his death in 1642.

After the church had suffered many centuries of embarrassment for its condemnation of Galileo, on November 10, 1979, Pope John Paul II spoke to the Pontifical Academy of Science. In the address titled, "Faith, Science and the Galileo Case," the pope called for a reexamination of the whole episode.[27] On May 9, 1983, while addressing the subject of the church and science, John Paul II conceded that "Galileo had 'suffered from departments of the church.'"[28] This, of course, is not a clear retraction of the condemnation, nor does it solve the problem of how an infallible pronouncement of the Catholic church could be in error.

Roman Catholic responses to the Galileo episode leave something to be desired. One Catholic authority claims that while both Paul V and Urban VIII were committed anti-Copernicans, their pronouncements were not ex cathedra. The decree of A.D. 1616 "was issued by the Congregation of the Index, which can raise no difficulty in regard of infallibility, this tribunal being absolutely incompetent to make a dogmatic decree."[29] As to the second trial in 1633, which also resulted in a condemnation of Galileo, this sentence is said to be of lesser importance because it "did not receive the Pope's signature."[30] Another Catholic authority states that although the theologians' treatment of Galileo was inappropriate, "the condemnation was the act of a Roman Congregation and in no way involved infallible teaching authority."[31] Still another source observes, "The condemnation of Galileo by the Inquisition had nothing to do with the question of papal infallibility, since no question of faith or morals was papally condemned ex cathedra."[32] And yet another Catholic apologist suggests that, although the decision was a "regrettable" case of "imprudence," there was no error made by the pope, since Galileo was not really condemned of heresy but only strongly suspected of it.

None of these ingenious solutions is very convincing, having all the earmarks of after-the-fact tinkering with the pronouncements that resulted from this episode. Galileo and his opponents would be nonplussed to discover that the serious charges leveled against him were not "ex cathedra" in force. And in view of the strong nature of both the condemnation and the punishment, he would certainly be surprised to hear Catholic apologists claim that he was not really being condemned for false teaching but only that "his 'proof' did not impress even astronomers of that day -- nor would they impress astronomers today"![33]

At any rate, the pope's condemnation of Galileo only leads to undermine the alleged infallibility of the Catholic church. Of course, Catholic apologists can always resort to their apologetic warehouse -- the claim that the pope was not really speaking infallibly on that occasion. As we have already observed, however, constant appeal to this nonverifiable distinction only tends to undermine the very infallibility it purports to defend.


Despite the common creedal and doctrinal heritage of Catholics and Protestants, there are some serious differences.[34] None of these is more basic than the question of authority. Catholics affirm de fide, as an unchangeable part of their faith, the infallible teaching authority of the Roman church as manifested in the present bishop of Rome (the pope). But what Catholics affirm "infallibly" Protestants deny emphatically. This is an impassable roadblock to any ecclesiastical unity between Catholicism and orthodox Protestantism. No talk about "first among equals" or "collegiality" will solve the problem. For the very concept of an infallible teaching magisterium, however composed, is contrary to the basic Protestant principle of sola Scriptura, the Bible alone (see Part Three). Here we must agree to disagree. For while both sides believe the Bible is infallible, Protestants deny that the church or the pope has an infallible interpretation of it.

    As we have discovered in this 4-part rebuttal, these differences aren't easy to deal with.  It is this fact that negates the Protestant understanding of biblical interpretation.  That is, that it is easy on at least the essentials.  Nowhere does Scripture define the essentials.  We have shown that just as John 3 states 'unless a man be born again' is considered an essential, John 6 ,which states 'unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood,' is non-essential.  How can that be when the wording of the two are nearly identical?  It is these types of conflicting interpretations that tell us we need to have an authority to guide us in our understanding of Holy Writ.  Not to 'lord it over us,' but to nurture us along the path to eternal life.
        As Church history attests, some of the doctrines we now readily confess took centuries to formulate and declare.  These Fathers of the Church weren't dense, but immersed in the Word of God.  Yet they had recourse to the Church and her Councils to decide key issues such as the Trinity, Theotokos, The Two Natures of Christ, etc.
    As I stated previously, the early Church taught the Eucharist, Baptism Regeneration, and obedience to the bishop ("Where the bishop is, there is Jesus Christ,"  "Don't let anyone do anything in the Church without the bishop," St. Ignatius of Antioch 110 AD)   These three items are denied by the current authors, who stated earlier that those who were closer to the time of Christ are in a better position to judge what the Scriptures mean.  Why don't they believe these? It fulfills the prophecy of mentioned by Christ "this people pays me lip service, but their heart is far from me," & "they make dogma mere human precepts."  It seems no matter how much evidence is presented, they will continue in a state of denial because the Truth doesn't fit into their pre-concieved notions of what the Gospel is.  For this reason, as you have seen, they mutilate the clear and plain meaning of texts of Holy Scripture to fit their theological box.  May the Holy Spirit fill them to the full and recognize God's Truth in all its glory, Amen!