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Papal Infallibility

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
October 18, 2022 12:01 am

Papal Infallibility

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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October 18, 2022 12:01 am

Where did the Roman Catholic papacy come from? Today, R.C. Sproul looks at the historical developments that have contributed to the rise of the succession of popes and their influence.

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Today on Renewing Your Mind... As you watch the news, you realize the pope's influence extends far beyond the Church. But this fairly new notion of the pope's infallibility is a claim that we need to examine, and R.C.

Sproul does that today. This is part of a series in which he carefully and respectfully looks at the doctrines at the heart of the Roman Catholic Protestant divide. Today we're going to continue our series of lectures on Roman Catholic theology and the theme of our concern in this session will be the doctrine of papal infallibility. Let's proceed then with our examination of the question of papal infallibility after we open with prayer. Our Father, we come into Your presence with praise and adoration, knowing that in Thee there is indeed infallibility, and in Thy Son, and in Thy Spirit, and also in Thy Word. We thank Thee, Father, that in the midst of confusion, in the midst of error, in the midst of mistake, that there is a solid ground of truth that is rooted in Thee. Be with us now, we beseech Thee in the power and presence of Thy Spirit as we consider this very crucial notion of the infallibility of the Church and of the papacy. For we ask these things in the name of Christ.

Amen. Papal infallibility as an official doctrine of the Church, a doctrine that became of the status called De Fide, that is to be embraced by all true and faithful Catholic people, was declared on July the 18th, 1870, by Vatican Council No. 1. Vatican Council No. 1, or the first Vatican Council, had as its presiding pope Pope Pius IX. Pius IX and Vatican Council No. 1 declared the doctrine of papal infallibility July 18th, 1870, by a vote, incidentally, of 533, 4 and 2 against.

The vote was not unanimous, but it certainly was overwhelming, 533 to 2. Now, it's interesting, I think, for Protestants to understand that the notion, the doctrine of papal infallibility is of recent definition. It's only a little over a hundred years old since the Roman Catholic Church has declared papal infallibility. Also, I want you to understand that this concept of papal infallibility is a post-Reformation definition.

That is, with all of the controversies involved between the Reformers and the papacy during the 16th century, at that period of Church history, papal infallibility, though it was espoused by many and believed by many and assumed by even still more, nevertheless had not become the official declared doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church. However, it's important for us to remember as well that even though the doctrine's definition is only a little over a hundred years old, the concept and indeed the working conviction has its roots very, very early in Church history. So before we look at the actual decrees of Vatican I and their significance and later formulations and developments, I'd like to spend a few moments this morning on historical background leading up to Vatican I. The notion of the monarchical episcopacy, that is the idea of a reigning primate of the Church, as I mentioned a moment ago, has its roots in very early developments in Church history. The Church at Rome, the fellowship of Christian people in the city of Rome, has been prominent in the history of Christendom since the very first century, indeed since apostolic days. We notice that the epistle to the Romans in the New Testament is of great weight and of great significance.

And tradition has it, and this is one tradition that most evidence that we do have, at least extra biblically, would tend to confirm, is that both the Apostle Peter and the Apostle Paul were martyred in the city of Rome in the year 65 A.D. during those persecutions of the Church under the leadership of the Emperor Nero. Again, in terms of extra biblical literature, one of the most important documents that survives from the first century is the Epistle of Clement, which is dated usually from 93 to 97, and for general purposes we sort of say around the year 95. The Epistle of Clement, written at the end of the first century by one who is identified as the Bishop of Rome, indicates something of the very early strength of the position of the Bishop of Rome in the Christian church. How many of you have read the Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians, written around 95 A.D.? Anyone here in this room read 1 Clement? A long time ago. A long time ago.

All right, well, let me just give you a little background on that. First of all, Clement is usually thought to be by the Roman church the third Bishop of Rome or in their order of papal succession, consequently, the third pope, Peter being first, I believe Sosimus was second, and then Clement. But the interesting thing about Clement's letter to the Corinthians was that it follows two epistles by the Apostle Paul. There are at least two epistles that Paul wrote to this troublesome congregation in Corinth, 1 and 2 Corinthians, and I think we often are left with bated breath after reading the Corinthian correspondence in the New Testament to see how the Corinthian community responded to the apostolic admonitions and rebuke and censure that came in those two epistles. Well, if we read 1 Clement, the indication would be is that the Corinthian church did not do too well after their admonition from the Apostle Paul because it became necessary 30 or 40 or 50 years later for the Bishop of Rome to intervene in a local situational problem in the Corinthian church. And there was a problem of ecclesiastical organization and presumably a revolt that had taken place in the church between those who were in a new charismatic orientation who believed that they were gifted immediately and directed by God with certain gifts who wanted to overthrow the ordinary, normal, regular officers of the church. And so the Bishop of Rome writes a letter beseeching these people who were carried away in their religious zeal to acts of anarchy in the church. He beseeches them to get their act in order and calls attention back to the apostolic admonition that they had received from Paul. One church historian in analyzing 1 Clement says that the letter is written in the spirit of brotherly love and admonition, which indeed it is, rather than the spirit of an autocratic, tyrannical, bossy syndrome.

But the historian says though it's written in a brotherly motif, it is a big brotherly mood of the letter. And I think that's a very excellent description of the tone of the Epistle of Clement. Clement does not sound like a 20th century pope giving an ultimatum or an encyclical commanding on the strength of his own office that the Corinthian people repent. But he does justify his own pastoral concern for the local situation in Corinth through a more or less pastoral shepherding type of a mood.

But it is interesting that we have this incidence of the Bishop of Rome giving pastoral admonition to the church at Corinth, which would be out of his immediate geographical jurisdiction. Then we see, after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD and consequent further catastrophic developments within Palestine in terms of their revolt against the Roman government at the beginning of the second century, that the diminished importance of Jerusalem is obvious. The book of Acts begins with the church concentrated in Jerusalem. It ends with Paul going to Rome.

The first century Christian church begins with its focal point in Jerusalem. It ends with its focal point in Rome. So there are historical reasons why the development of the Roman church moved in the way that it did.

For example, Hans Kung, being critical of some arguments that the church has used to declare papal infallibility, argues that the primary reason why the Roman Catholic church developed in the direction of a monarchial episcopate, in the direction of papal primacy, was it was carried along on the coattails of the developing Roman legal system and being the church entrenched in the power structure of the ancient world, Rome, and adopting very many of the political structures and juridical structures of the Roman legal organization, that church, along with the nation of Rome, emerged as the center of Christendom. We have to stand in awe at the ability of the Roman center of religion to survive as long as it has. That's one of the most incredible dimensions of Roman Catholic history, that there has been a Christian church functioning in Rome, in that city, from the very first century. And that there has been a succession of bishops in that city from the first century no Protestant can deny. And that's an interesting phenomenon in terms of the development of church history, where all of the rest of the churches that we hear about being established in the New Testament do not survive to this day. Where is the church of Corinth?

Where is the Ephesian community? Where is the church at Philippi now? Where is the church of Thessalonica, or at Pergamum, or Thyatara, or the seven churches, you see, of the apocalypse?

Where are they? The church of Philadelphia. It's not 10th Street down there in the city of brotherly love. But the church of Rome is still there, or at least a church is still there. So that phenomenon has also something to do with the increasing significance that is attached over the years to the Roman Sea, not to mention the crisis of the Germanic invasions where Rome was able to survive the hordes of barbarians that descended upon the Western world, ravishing them. And we remember Attila the Hun coming to the very gates of Rome. And what was it that prevented Attila from stacking and destroying the city? He was met at the gates of the city by who?

By Leo I. And Leo I's ability to withstand this barbaric Hun, Attila, has become a moment of great glory in the history of the papacy. Now over the centuries, there was a gradual consolidation of power and authority connected with the Roman Sea. The controversies of the 4th century, for example, that involved Augustine and issues taking place in North Africa were solved at one point when the church appealed for a decision to the bishop of Rome. And that issue in the 4th century served to increase the accepted power and primacy of the Roman bishop. But again, there is a gradual process of development towards the authority and primacy of the Roman bishop in the church. The real first great crisis of primacy, that is the preeminence given to the bishop of Rome, took place in the 11th century in the year 1054 when the Roman bishop was seen and declared to be of preeminence over the Eastern bishops. And this was one of the most significant contributing factors to the so-called Great Seism, the division of the Eastern church, Eastern Orthodoxy, and the Western church in 1054. And then through on the century, we have again a very interesting history of the ups and downs of the papacy, which I'm not going to give any kind of overview of the medieval problems that emerged.

But I want to set the immediate historical context for Vatican Council number one, namely the events of the 19th century that were crucial in producing this council. First of all, there were two isms that were part of the political and the cultural situation of 19th century Europe that I think are important to understand as background for Vatican I. First of all, there was the phenomenon of Gallicanism. Anybody tell me what Gallicanism was? It has to do with France, and really Gallicanism began in 13th century France. But the movement reached its peak in the 19th century, and by the time the 19th century came, Gallicanism incorporated a lot more than France.

But we think of Gaul in connection with France. It was a resistance of French Christians to Roman intervention and Roman rule. The Gallican church, the church of Gaul, the church of France wanted to be able to have their own ultimate power and authority for self-government rather than taking their orders from the Roman sea. That effort failed initially in France, but Gallicanism as an ism began through the ages to take on momentum and apply to countries far beyond the boundaries of France.

So the Gallicanism by the 19th century meant really an attempt of nationalistic home rule without papal intervention. This had political and ecclesiastical ramifications. So along with the whole 19th century spirit of nationalism growing out of the French Revolution, there was an increasing spirit of independence from Italian Roman political and ecclesiastical dominion in the churches. And as I said, this was not merely an ecclesiastical power struggle, but it was an ecclesiastical political power struggle because in many of the nations there was no separation of church and state.

And at this time still the papacy had considerable political power as well as ecclesiastical power in Europe. Then the forces of Gallicanism who were really the 19th century liberals politically, socially, theologically were in conflict with the so-called ultramontanists, the ultramontanists. Are you familiar with ultramontanism? Ultramontanism means literally on the other side of the mountain, looking at it from the perspective of Northern Europe, that ultramontanism is the opposite of Gallicanism. So the ultramontanist movement was a movement that preferred the authority to come from the other side of the mountains, from Rome. So ultramontanism favored a strong centralized ecclesiastical government in the Catholic Church emanating out of Rome.

So we have this constant struggle through the ages that reaches a peak in the 19th century between the forces of Gallicanism on the one hand and the ultramontanists of the other. Ultramontanism stood in clear opposition to the nationalistic tendencies of Roman Catholic countries, and they championed the cause of papal supremacy. Now, prior to Vatican I, in 1846, Pius IX was elevated as pope. It's interesting that in 1846, Pius IX came to papal power as one who was thought to be somewhat liberal and certainly not thoroughly ultramontanist. But during the early years of his papacy, several of the programs of reform that he tried to institute failed, and he went through, I don't know, a personal crisis and certainly an intellectual crisis and became a total reactionary to his earlier thinking and to the Gallicanist movement and became very, very strong in his attempt to consolidate the strength of the papacy, almost to the point, if not to the point, of hysteria.

The immediate crisis was the threatened loss of the papal states, that is, those lands that were governed, owned, and controlled by the papacy. In 1854, Pius IX unilaterally, without consultation with the College of Cardinals or of the bishops, declared by way of papal encyclical the Immaculate Conception of Mary and declared this a matter of De Fide doctrine. Now, we'll look at the significance of that encyclical later on in the week as we consider Mariology. Virtually all of the encyclicals that elevate Mary to positions of doctrinal content that are non-negotiable items with Protestantism, incidentally, have also taken place since the Reformation and, in fact, within the last hundred, hundred and fifty years. But anyway, this is really the beginning of it with, in 1846, Pius IX. In 1864, again a very reactionary movement, Pius IX had published the Syllabus of Errors, which condemned just about every ism there was in the world. It condemned naturalism and evolutionism and liberalism and separation of church and state, and a host of things were on this syllable of errors, and the Protestants were considered to be the basic cause for all the modern heresies.

And it was a scathing denunciation of Protestantism as well as these other isms. In 1870, the Council was called, but also in the same year, in 1870, Victor Emmanuel captured the city of Rome, and at that point he conquered the papacy in a military way and took away from the pope all of the papal states. And all that he left, the pope, was the Vatican and a couple of other very minor geographical holdings.

Victor Emmanuel was promptly greeted by the pope with a bull of excommunication for having done that, but Victor Emmanuel just took the bull and the land and that was it. But that crisis had an interesting effect on the papacy even though there was enormous loss of holdings, of financial worth, of military worth, of political worth. This defeat of the pope somehow, in addition to his own personality, sparked an enormous movement of popular sympathy for the poor pope who has just lost all of these great states.

And financial campaigns were established. Public donations were given so that by the time it was all done, the pope had more finances than he had before he lost the papal states. It's an incredible chapter in church history. But the significant thing was the popular support and kind of a cultic movement of veneration of the Holy Father swept the Catholic nations at this point.

And I'd like to read a very revealing paragraph that Hans Kung writes, being a Catholic scholar and being somewhat critical of the papacy. Here's what he says, and I quote, Although Pius IX in this way – he's talking about other matters – brought the Italian Catholics into unnecessary, severe conflicts of conscience, he won tremendous sympathy for his person and his office in the role of a man persecuted by unchristian powers. The dogmatic bond of Catholics to the pope now acquired a sentimental touch. A completely new phenomenon arose, a highly emotional veneration of the pope, which was considerably strengthened by the now customary papal audiences and mass pilgrimages to Rome. Pius IX, a philanthropic, very eloquent, strongly radiant personality, but dangerously emotional, superficially trained in theology and completely unfamiliar with modern scientific methods, badly advised moreover by zealous but mediocre unrealistic and dogmatically minded associates, saw the crisis of the papal saints simply as an episode in the universal history of the struggle between God and Satan and hoped to overcome it with an almost mystical confidence in the victory of divine providence.

This is the atmosphere. This is the mood of the Roman situation at the time of Vatican I. Studying the history of the papal office reveals political intrigue, ecumenical infighting, and seasons of great corruption. Those who were careful students of the Bible were concerned about all of that, and by the 16th century, the Protestant Reformation was born.

Why are we still concerned about this, about the doctrinal differences between Roman Catholics and Protestants? Well, simply put, the gospel itself is at stake, and that's why we want you to be able to continue your study on this important topic. So we're making available a large number of resources. For a donation of any amount today, we will send you the Reformation Resource Drive, a USB drive that contains six e-books, seven full audio teaching series, and several digital editions of Table Talk magazine. Plus, we'll provide a digital download of the series that we're hearing this week. You can make your request and give your gift when you call us at 800-435-4343.

You can also do that online, if you prefer, at Well, few men are as familiar with this subject as Leonardo DiCarrico. He is the pastor of an evangelical church in Rome, just steps away from the Vatican, which of course is the center of the Roman Catholic universe. Pastor DiCarrico spoke at one of our national conferences, and I had the privilege to interview him, and I asked him to assess this divide between Roman Catholics and Protestants. Especially over the last 50 years, there has been a decreasing ability by evangelicals to discern what is and what was at stake with the Church of Rome and what is at stake with it in our contemporary world. And so there has been an erosion of the ability to articulate a clear assessment, and therefore lines have been blurred and distinctives have been confused to the point of, in people's minds, there is a big gray area there. There is no longer a clear-cut difference. Well, that's discouraging to hear, isn't it?

But it's why we consider this series so important. It's a series that's on this special Reformation resource drive, along with six others, including God alone, justified by faith alone, and what is Reformed theology. We hope you'll request this resource with your donation of any amount.

Our phone number again is 800-435-4343, and our online address is Well, at the heart of this issue is what Roman Catholics believe about salvation. What do they claim it takes to get into heaven? It is just as necessary for salvation to occur in the life of a person that they be concretely, really and visibly within the membership of the Roman Catholic Church as it was concretely necessary for people to be in the ark in order to be rescued from the flood. R.C. will critique that errant view tomorrow, and we hope you'll join us for the Wednesday edition of Renewing Your Mind. .
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-12-03 05:25:17 / 2022-12-03 05:33:57 / 9

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