The Infallible Interpreter?

When you confront the errors of Rome with the Bible, the frequent drum beat of the Catholic is: “what makes your interpretation of the Bible infallible? Are you an authentic interpreter of the Bible?” Marcus Grodi, a convert to Rome also used this rhetoric device:

“All of this wrangling [over] how to interpret Scripture gets one nowhere if there is no way to know with infallible certitude that one’s interpretation is the right one. The teaching authority of the Church in the magisterium [is] centered around the seat of Peter. If I could accept this doctrine, I knew I could trust the Church on everything else.” (Surprised by Truth, 1994, 56).

There are several weaknesses in this claim.
(I) The Catholic assumes that the Bible is so cryptic, so confusing, so esoteric, that we need to be “infallible” in order to understand or interpret it. To them, we can’t even understand verses like Matthew 24:1 “Jesus left the temple and was walking away when the disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings.” According to Rome’s apologists, we need to be infallible to understand this. Yet the Berean Christians didn’t have an infallible church to guide them as they “examined the Scriptures daily” (Acts 17:11). They didn’t need to be infallible to understand the Scriptures.

When Jesus chastised the Sadducees for being in error and held them accountable to what God has said to them in Matthew 22:31, why did the Sadducees not respond “We didn’t have an authentic interpreter of the Bible?” Because one doesn’t need an “infallible church” to know God’s Word!

II. Rome has a problem with the Bible. They described it as:

“A dumb and difficult book [which] was substituted for the living voice of the Church, in order that each one should be able to make for himself the religion which suited his feelings.” (A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture, 1953, 11).

Rome does not want the Bible which God gave to all of mankind to speak to each person. Not only that, the role of the Holy Spirit in enlightening each Believer to Scripture has been totally eradicated and replaced with the Church (pope and bishops). So, to a Catholic, the Holy Spirit is just like a theological abstraction or a sentence at the end of the Apostle’s Creed. But the Holy Spirit has been given to every Believer, and He’s not just a bystander, He’s a Teacher.

Rom 8:9, 16 “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his…The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God…”
“But God hath revealed them [“the things of God”] unto us by his Spirit; for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God…the things of God knoweth no man but [by] the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God, that we might know the things that are freely given to of God” (1 Cor 2:12)

If all Christians are “led by the Spirit of God” then they must be able to understand the Scriptures inspired by God’s Spirit. Since Christians have received the Spirit of God and have “the mind of Christ” (1Cor 2:16), we don’t need a church magisterium to understand or interpret the Bible. This is a truth that Rome hates.

III. The doctrine of the “infallible interpreter” implies that God didn’t make Himself clear in His Word. It assumes that God gave us a revelation that still needs revealing. Did God fail in His attempt to give man a revelation? Or why would God inspire infallible Scripture and then deny to all except an elite few the ability to understand it, requiring billions of people to surrender their minds to a hierarchy by blindly accepting their interpretation of His Word?

If “the entrance of His word gives light and understanding unto the simple” (Ps 119:130) then one doesn’t need the pope to know what it says. If the Holy Spirit can convince the world “of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgement” then surely He can teach all those in whom He dwells (Jh 16:8). John says that the Christians to whom he writes don’t have to look up to a class of men for teaching but have an “anointing [of the Holy Spirit which] teacheth you all things” (1Jh 2:27). Sadly, the very book that should bring life and freedom to Catholics have been spiritually chained out of their reach.

IV. Catholic apologists tell their fans that anytime someone shows how Catholic doctrines contradict the Bible, they should dismiss it with the magic wand of “that’s your fallible interpretation.” This is obfuscation by rhetoric, a very common tactic in popular Catholic apologetic. Catholics who use this line have  a priori assumptions that:

(a) the Bible is too complicated- Which is false. In fact, a non-Christian can exegete a Bible verse and comprehend a passage in a context. The difference is that his understanding will not have the Holy Spirit’s illumination and his conclusion would be the deadness of the letter. It would all sound like foolishness to him.

(b) only Rome can interpret the Bible- This is also false. Respected Catholic scholars have denied this, thus forcing the Catholic himself to resort to excessive amounts of private interpretation.

“A wide field is still left open to the private student, in which his hermeneutical skill may display itself with signal effect and to the advantage of the Church. On the one hand, in those passages of Holy Scripture which have not yet received a certain and definitive interpretation, such labors may, in the benignant providence of God, prepare for and bring to maturity the judgement of the Church.” (Providentissmus Deus, On the Study of Holy Scripture. [Encyclical of Pope Leo XIII Nov 18, 1893])

“Very few texts have in fact been authoritatively determined and there consequently remain many important matters in the explanation of which sagacity and ingenuity of Catholic interpreters can and should be freely exercised…” (Dom Bernard Orchard M.A; ed, A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture, 1953, 60).

If the Catholic church has not yet given her sheep the infallible interpretation of the Bible, but “a wide field is still left open” that even cows and crop circles can all share the pasture, then its a spiritual tragedy to look up to them for any guidance. Catholic scholar, Raymond Brown even stated:

“To the best of my knowledge, the Roman Catholic Church has never defined the literal sense of a single passage of the Bible” (The Critical Meaning of the Bible, New York: Paulist, 1981, 40). Yet Catholics are told by pop apologists that their church is the infallible interpreter of Scripture. Sorry, we refuse to submit to such a dubious religion.

V. Since the Magisterium hasn’t infallibly interpreted most of the Bible, on what basis then do Catholics trot out Bible texts at will? Why do Catholic apologists not go to debates with the Catechisms or the Canon Law of the Catholic Church, but rather go around with that “dumb and difficult Book” that no one can understand outside of Rome? If these dudes have the hotline to God through the living voice of the Mother Church, why do they use the Bible or even quote it? Doesn’t that make you a bit suspicious? Devin Rose, in his book The Protestant Dilemma wrote:

“We know that Christ established a Church visible and unified, to which he gave his divine authority. In Matthew’s Gospel, we read that ‘he called to him his twelve apostles and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out and to heal all diseases and every infirmity.’ (Matt 10:1). But according to Protestantism, this authority must have been lost when the visible Church became morally and doctrinally corrupt.”

Here we have a lay apologist using his private judgement of the text to tell us “we know that Christ established…” Has his Magisterium given him an infallible interpretation of that verse? No, that’s his fallible opinion. The text shows that the authority Christ gave His apostles was to cast out demons and heal the sick. Until the Magisterium of the Catholic church start going to demon possessed folks or hospitals to cast out demons and heal the sick, they should discard this spooftext. This Catholic assumes that everywhere the Bible mentions the apostles of Christ, it must be referring to the Catholic Church! Such a giant leap is a Catholic dilemma.

VI. If the Old Testament saints didn’t need a magisterium, why should it be necessary for New Testament saints? Some Catholics even appeal to “the seat of Moses” in Matthew 23:2. Apart from the fact that their idea of Moses seat is wrong (since its referring to the seat from where the teachers read the Law and not the chair of a pope), for Catholics to use this text, they will first have to explain to us how the “Jewish Magisterium” could fallibly pass on the Corban rule which Jesus attacked in Mark 7:1-13. And how did the Jewish Magisterium “magically” become the Catholic magisterium? The appeal to “authority of the seat of Peter” is spurious. [Read why]

VII. Rome forbids Catholics from using their private judgement in understanding Scripture, yet many Catholic converts used their private judgement and reasoning in whatever they read in order to arrive at Rome. But once they get into the circle, they are mandated to give up their private judgement, submit to the Church and become like a stick in her hands. Eric Svendsen pointed this out:

“The fact is, he had to engage in the very same principle of private judgement that we all must use to decide among the various options; namely, a thinking, objective reasoning process apart from reliance upon the system to which he would eventually subscribe… The Roman Catholic cannot introduce a double standard at this point and still be consistent.” (Upon This Slippery Rock, New York: Calvary Press, 2002, 34)

VIII. We’re not infallible, neither are Catholics. But if they claim their church (or pope) is infallible, then how did fallible Catholics “know” this? If they can’t know this, then their claim of an infallible church is their fallible opinion. How do fallible Catholics even infallibly understand and interpret Rome’s infallible teachings?

Catholic lay apologists are the most interesting to watch. On one hand they attack private judgement, but in reality, their lives depend on it because their church is infected with liberalism. Steve Ray refers to the “pitiful additions and deletions to the sacred liturgy, or priests who think they are 2,000 years smarter than Jesus, the gospel writers and the holy popes” and hope “never to have to endure another such arrogant and foolish homily.” This dude must be competent to interpret the Bible more correctly than his liberal seminary-trained priests.

Karl Keating of Catholic Answers complains that “many Catholics are confused because some priests tell them contracepting is immoral, while others tell them the practice is morally neutral, some priests speaks as though Mary had one child while others imply she was the mother of the ‘brethren of the Lord.” As if that is something not to be expected.

Catholic apologist, Bob Sungenis too admits: “Today’s Catholic scholars took over where the Protestant liberals left off at the turn of the 20th century, and they are much worse than the Protestant liberals ever were. They simply do not have the traditional faith of our Fathers and medievals any longer.”
Its gratifying to learn that the same Magisterium they are asking us to submit to have abandoned their own theology! These guys live in a context of contradictions.

IX. If an institution claims to be “infallible,” it must not contradict itself or make any blunder. Like God-breathed Scripture, it must be “perfect, converting the soul” and its testimony must “be sure converting the simple” (Ps 19:7). Does Rome meet up to this criteria? Here are some blunders of the Magisterium:

(a) Traditionally, the magisterium emphasised the plenary inspiration of the Scriptures, extending to its factual inerrancy. This doctrine was sustained by Vatican I, Pius IX, Syllabus of Errors and Benedict XVI. But later in an encyclical Divino afflante Spiritu, Pius XII made allowance for Bible criticism that has opened the door to a dehistorical reading of Bible narrative. Vatican II stripped the Bible of its authenticity affirming only a partial inspiration.

(b) Rome condemned Galileo’s view of heliocentricity in the 17th century, and forced him to recant his views before the Holy Office. Yet centuries later, they realized he was right and affirmed heliocentricity in 1992.

(c) The belief Limbo was affirmed in the 12th century and was defended all through the Middle Ages. Several “visions” of Mary had called for prayers for the babies on Limbo, yet in 2007, the Vatican smoothly discarded the belief and declared Limbo non-existent. The word has quietly disappeared from the catechism.

(d) In its canonical list, Trent mistakenly attributes the composition of James to the Apostle rather than the Lord’s brothers. This error has been discarded even by modern Catholic scholars.

(e) Trent also codifies Paul as the author of Hebrews, yet this cannot be sustained on either internal or external grounds and has been discarded by modern Catholic scholarship (L. Johnson, The Writings of the NT, 1999, 460-61).

(f) In the papal bull “Unam Sanctum,” Boniface VIII declared that there is only one true Church, outside of which there is no salvation or remission of sin and made submission to the pope necessary for salvation. This position was codified by the councils of Florence, Lateran IV. Yet in Vatican II (Lumen Gentium 16) and even in pope Benedict XVI’s book, God and the World, every allowance is made for the possible and actual salvation of non-Catholics and even non-Christians. Pope Francis has perfected this universalism to a tee.

(g) According to Vatican II, the universal consensus of the laity cannot err in matters of faith and morals (LG, 12). Paul VI’s “Humanae Vitae,” declared artificial birth control as inherently evil. This position is reaffirmed in the Catechism (2366-2370), yet this teaching has provoked the most uniform dissent on the part of the laity (not to talk of the priests and theologians). So which are we to choose?

(h) In 1590, Sixtus V issued an edition of the Vulgate accompanied by a bull in which he endorsed it with apostolic fullness as an irreformable text. But the Sistine edition was so riddled with errors that it had to be withdrawn from circulation after his death and a revised edition was issued under Clement VIII. How can this religion be infallible?

(i) In the Tridentine canon on Confirmation, no appeal is made either to Scripture or tradition. They also appealed to Gen 2:23 in defense of the sacrament of marriage. But this appeal to the book of Genesis would show that marriage was a creation mandate and destroy the Catholic claim that marriage is a dominical institution. Besides, Rome now regards the first two chapters of Genesis as allegory.

(j) According to a Catholic historian: “Innocent I and Gelasius…declared it to be so indispensable for infants to receive communion that those who died without it go straight to hell. A thousand years later the Council of Trent anathemised this doctrine.” (The Pope and the Council, 1870, 42).

Is Catholicism an infallibly interpreting “church”? No.

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