Thursday, 8 January 2015

Shameless Popery: The Protestant Fallacy That Threatens to Undermine Christianity

Shameless Popery: The Protestant Fallacy That Threatens to Undermine Christianity

Catholics believe in the infallibility of the Church and of the pope. This serves as both a teacher of, and an important check to, our personal interpretations of Scripture. If I understand a passage of Scripture to be teaching X, and X is a conclusion contrary to the teachings of the Church, I can be sure that I'm wrong. It's a simple rule, but a powerful one. Think of the countless heresies have arisen from people misunderstanding Scripture. In many of these cases, these errors could have been avoided, if people would have just followed this rule.

But there's a Protestant objection to this. It says, in a nutshell, "You Catholics believe in the Catholic Church for one of two reasons: either (1) because the Catholic Church says so, or (2) because you've become independently convinced on the basis of Scripture, history, etc. If it's (1), that's a circular argument. But if it's (2), then you're in the exact same position as a Protestant. You accept Catholic teachings because of your private judgment, we reject Catholic teachings because of our private judgment."

On its face, I think that this looks like a pretty strong argument. But there are several problems with it, two of which I want to highlight. The first is that the argument proves too much, and the second is that it misses a critical distinction.

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