Monday, September 30, 2019
In a fairly recent newsletter (#352 of his “Apologetics for the Masses”) put out by Catholic John Martignoni of the Bible Christian Society, he again brings up the topic of infallibility when he says that “…no one – absolutely no one! – in Protestantism can make an authoritative interpretation of Scripture that is binding on anyone else, because each and any interpretation, being fallible, could be wrong.” And because of this, he says that Protestantism is a “free-for-all.” See the newsletter here:
It is interesting that John says that any fallible interpretation could be wrong, yet, in this very same newsletter, he tells us what John 1:16-17 “very clearly states.” Now, I agree with John Martignoni concerning what John 1:16-17 states, but we have to ask, has this verse been “infallibly interpreted” by the Catholic Church? No, it hasn’t. So how can John know that his interpretation of this verse is “authoritative” or even correct? After all, as John himself said, if it hasn’t been infallibly interpreted by the Church, then it could be wrong, right? But by telling us what this verse “very clearly states,” he’s using his fallible interpretation of this passage to make it “binding” on everyone.
You see, John is trying to play both sides. He knows that many Bible verses are absolutely clear for both Protestants and Catholics, alike. He is enjoying the freedom to fallibly interpret Scripture according to what it plainly says without worrying about his interpretation being wrong. But he doesn’t want Protestants to be able to do the same thing. He’s concerned about the “problem” of fallible interpretations for Protestants, yet it’s not a problem when he fallibly interprets a verse.
He does the same thing with a couple of other passages right after this (Colossians 1:19 and Colossians 2:9-10) and says that these are also clear to both Catholics and Protestants. Again, he doesn’t seem to care that the verses he mentions are fallibly interpreted by him. I suspect that the real reason that Catholic apologists push infallibility is to protect those very few “infallibly defined” uniquely Catholic interpretations of certain passages that falsely exalt the Catholic Church.
Anyway, we’ve already dealt with this issue of Protestants lacking infallibility when we addressed some of John’s other articles. For example, see here:
But in this more recent newsletter (#352), John has added a unique accusation against Protestants… he accuses us of “decapitating” Jesus.
He says that we Protestants are “pitting the Bible against the Church.” And he claims that Protestants say 1) that “we can’t trust what a church tells us,” 2) that “you don’t need the church as long as you’ve got the Bible,” and 3) “the church isn’t necessary for one’s salvation.” John accuses us of “separating the Church from Jesus,” thus cutting the Head (Jesus) off the body (the church).
First of all, I believe that very few knowledgeable Protestants would say these things using the biblical definition of “the church,” and they would certainly need to qualify these statements.
One problem is, when Catholics mention “the church,” they are often thinking of the Magisterium, or the leadership of the Catholic Church, specifically. But there is absolutely no biblical reason to describe the church this way.
But John Martignoni then quotes Ephesians 1:22-23, which says that the body (the church) is the “fullness of Jesus Christ.” Then he strings this verse together with Colossians 2:9-10, which tells us that Jesus is Head over “all rule and authority.” But John’s logic gets twisted here and leads him to believe that the church itself is somehow “all rule and authority!” But it doesn’t say that about the church.
His logic here says, 1) “Jesus is the Head over the church,” and 2) “Jesus is the Head over all rule and authority.” Therefore, the church is “all rule and authority!”
But that would be like saying, 1) God is Head over the planet Mars, and 2) God is Head over the planet Neptune. Therefore, Neptune is the same thing as Mars! It just doesn’t follow. But it does show their desperation to exalt the authority of the Catholic Church. We can’t let John get away with this. If he wants to be recognized as a credible and trustworthy apologist, he can’t be using this kind of logic.
Then John claims that this concept is “further strengthened” by Matthew 18:15-18 where Jesus speaks of “binding authority” in the church.
Therefore, he concludes that all this, taken together, means that the church must enjoy “infallibility” and “freedom from error” in its judgments. But that is a giant illogical and unbiblical step to take.
When the apostle Paul says that the church is the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23), he is saying that the church, the universal body of believers, in its best light, is the fullness of the expression of Christ. It cannot mean that the church is infallible, as John Martignoni says, because Ephesians 3:19 also speaks of “fullness” (using the exact same Greek word):
“… that you may be filled up to all the fullness [“pleroma”] of God.” [NASV]
If this “fullness” means “infallibility” in Ephesians 1:22-23, then it also means “infallibility” in Ephesians 3:19, as well. But in Ephesians 3, it was speaking directly to the members of the church of Ephesus. So does this mean that all the members of the Ephesian church were infallible, also? Someone might point out that it applies to all Christians, by extension, not just to the Ephesians. Ok, if that’s true, then by John Martignoni’s reasoning, it would mean that all Christians world-wide are infallible. But does John Martignoni want to say this? I seriously doubt that.
So there is no infallibility in the New Testament church (after the apostles). The Protestants that John Martignoni complains about are simply reacting (possibly over-reacting) to Catholics’ unbiblical over-emphasis of the authority of the church. There is a balance here. Yes, the church is indeed made up of God’s people, but Protestants honor the Bible more than the church because Scripture is God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16-17). It is the very message of God to mankind. It is the infallible standard and guide by which the church should live.
And finally, there is no “decapitation” on the part of Protestants. Putting the church in its proper biblical role is not “decapitating Jesus.” Christ and the church are intertwined, but not on the same level. The Head (Jesus) doesn’t need the church in order for Him to exist, but the church needs Him. It is almost as if some Catholic apologists try to make the church [read “Catholic Magisterium”] equal to Jesus.