Papal InfallibilityQUESTION: Papal infallibility - Is it biblical?ANSWER:
Is papal infallibility biblical? Papal infallibility is one of the major differences between Catholicism and Protestantism. Priests who do not believe in the Pope's infallibility are called heretics -- said to be found among Protestants only. Not everyone realizes the serious implications of this Catholic dogma.
The First Vatican Council has defined as "divinely revealed dogma" that "the Roman Pontiff, when he speaks ex cathedra
-- that is, in the exercise of his office as pastor and teacher of all Christians he defines, by virtue of his supreme Apostolic authority, a doctrine of faith or morals to be held by the whole Church -- is, by reason of the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, possessed of that infallibility with which the divine Redeemer wished His Church to be endowed in defining doctrines of faith and morals; and consequently that such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are irreformable of their own nature and not by reason of the Church's consent" [Catholic Encyclopedia 1913
To the Roman Catholic, "ex cathedra" (Latin for 'from the seat') statements are as infallible as the Bible. This infallibility rests on the Pope's supreme authority as St. Peter's successor. Here are three of the "infallible" declarations which exercised the "ex cathedra" and were placed alongside the authority of the Bible:
- "There is but one universal Church of the faithful, outside of which no one at all can be saved" (Pope Innocent III, Fourth Lateran Council, 1215).
- "We declare, say, define, and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff (Pope Boniface VIII, the Bull Unan Snactam, 1302).
- "[The Holy Roman Church] firmly believes, professes, and teaches that those who are not within the Catholic Church, not only Pagans, but Jews, heretics, and schismatics, can never be partakers of eternal life, but are to go into eternal fire 'prepared for the devil and his angels', unless before the close of their lives they shall have entered into that Church" [Pope Eugene IV, The Bull Cantate Domino, 1441).
Neither submission to the Pope nor belief in papal infallibility imparts salvation or eternal life. Salvation rests upon our exclusive trust in the person of Jesus Christ and in His redemptive work through the cross. "Salvation is found in no one else: for there is no other name under heaven given to men, by which we must be saved"
(Acts 4:12). Having been filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter was able to share the true source of salvation. Papal infallibility considers Peter to be the first Pope of Rome, with every Pope his successor. The epistle to the Colossians was written about A.D. 64 , during the very time that Peter was supposed to be Pope (A.D. 29-67), yet Paul makes no mention of Peter as head of the church at Rome (Colossians 4:7-11).
Is papal infallibility biblical? To err is human, to be infallible is divine (Romans 3:23). Peter deserted Christ in His passion, and did not assist Him in Golgotha. Peter described himself as an elder, witness and partaker, servant, and apostle (1 and 2 Peter) but never the first Pope, Prince of the apostles, or Head of the Church. Jesus Christ, not mortal and sinful man, is the only head of His Church (Ephesians 1:22-23; Colossians.1:18).
The unique authority of the Bible must never be diminished. Jesus Christ, not Peter, is the only foundation of the Church upon which believers must build (1 Corinthians 3:11; Ephesians 2:20-22). Any modified plan of salvation is dangerous and is another gospel. "But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!"