Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Infallibility and authority

1. A common Catholic objection to the Protestant faith is that evangelicals lack certainty for their beliefs. Which presumes that Catholicism provides the remedy, but of course, Catholicism doesn't actually provide certainty–as I've often explained. But I'd like to make another couple of points:

2. There's a sense in which an evangelical can have beliefs that aren't merely true, but infallible. Although inspiration entails infallibility, infallibility doesn't require inspiration. It's possible for uninspired beliefs to be infallible.

This is what I mean. We typically say what's inerrant is without error but what's infallible is without possibility of error. 

Suppose the Protestant canon is true (to take one example). Suppose God cultivates belief in the Protestant canon by providentially arranging that many Christians are raised in evangelical churches. By virtue of their religious conditioning, they not only have a true belief about the canon, but they cannot fail to have a true belief about the canon. God intends for them to believe in the Protestant canon, and he's caused that belief through selective indoctrination. Even if some of they are exposed to the Catholic argument, let's say they are unable to overcome their engrained belief in the Protestant canon. Not only do they have a true belief in that regard, but it's not psychologically possible for them to change their true belief to a false belief. 

3. On a related note is the question of whether the use of reason to assess revelatory claimants makes reason more authoritative than revelation. However, evangelicals, unlike Rome, don't claim that their assessments have divine authority. So reason is not a rival to the divine authority of Scripture. Ironically, the alleged weakness of the Protestant position is a strength. We don't claim to be divinely authoritative arbiters of the canon or divinely authoritative interpreters of Scripture. We don't deify reason in the way Rome deifies the Magisterium, by ascribing divine authority to Magisterial judgments. So we, unlike Rome, remain subordinate to the authority of Scripture. 

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