Wednesday, March 29, 2006


Following a link from one of Ponty's recent posts to an older one, I came across the following remarkable statement:
(Perry Robinson)

This is why Protestants say that everyone is in the same boat and they are just honest enough to admit it. For them, the Church just is a merely human organization of like-minded individuals. For them, the humanity of Christ is never truely united to his divine person. If it were, if it were deified by the energies of his divine person, then as a consequence it is easy to see the Church as having those same energies or properties. This supposed “honest recognition” by Protestants is a restatement of their Nestorian presuppositions—the church can’t be infallible because the church is only human. And a revisable set of propositional formulas is the best we humans can do.
Now, I pretty much approach any statement by a Catholic about what Protestants believe and how they think with the assumption that the statement is at best a crude characature, and at worse a lame libel. In the quoted passage, my expectations were fulfilled.

If the church were as unified with Christ as this passage implies, we would expect to see perfection of action by its members; and this we clearly see is not so. Moreover the Roman church concedes its fallibility on many matters (such as, famously, astronomy), which if the union were this complete it would not need to do. The church isn't "only" human, but it is human enough.

Indeed, what I see in the infallbility arguments is that the "infallible" churches are not satisfied to be merely the members of the body, fingers and toes which move at the will of the Head. No, it seems that they aspire to be the head.

A little earlier in the same article, Mr. Robinson posits the following logic:
1. Everything taught by God is doctrine.
2. Everything taught by God is infallible.
3. Therefore doctrine is infallible.
4. (Premise) No statements made by unaided fallible agents can be infallible.
5. No statements made by unaided fallible agents can be doctrine.

This definition of doctrine is entirely question-begging, and its premises again misstate Protestant belief. Classically, Protestants believed that no Christian was unaided; also, doctrine would normally refer to church teachings. It is one thing to say that everything Jesus himself teaches is infallible; but when the church teaches through a process of interpretation, it needs to be established that this process manifests God's teaching. It is not an obvious point, and it is hardly unreasonable to posit that this process is potentially capable of misstatement and other more serious defects. Indeed, there is an issue precisely because some such interpretation is seen to be erroneous, though in theory when in error it is being done outside the church.

The problem is therefore mispresented in this little exercise. The question is whether aided agents manifest the infallibility of the divine. Perhaps one can talk oneself into faith that it does happen, but such faith is against reason.

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