Can Bishops be in Error?
Question: How can it be possible for so many intelligent and learned Catholic bishops, theologians and scholars to be wrong, if indeed the Catholic Church is in error in its teaching on salvation?
Answer: Have you ever wondered how the religious leaders in Jesus’ day did not understand his message or believe in him, despite the convincing evidence of his moral beauty, his goodness, and the mighty works and miracles that he performed before them? They too were intelligent and yet they did not receive his message. Their rejection of the Messiah shows how prejudiced the human heart can be against God and his truth.
It is not for us to judge the spiritual state of the Catholic clergy, but we cannot just assume that they are right, or that their teaching is true, merely because of their intelligence and position. It is not impossible that because of their allegiance to the traditions of the Catholic Church, some of them may have missed the simplicity of the gospel message.
Truly the gospel is as profound as the ocean so that the wisest of the wise cannot fathom its depth. Yet even as a little child can enjoy himself playing at the ocean’s shore, so can anyone with a child-like attitude understand the gospel. Indeed, Christ warned that we cannot enter the kingdom of God unless we become like little children.
A young boy instinctively trusts his father. If I tell my son to jump from a height, he will not give it a second thought before he throws himself into my arms. That is exactly what God calls us to do - to trust in his Son Jesus. But many, wise or otherwise, will not let go of their pride, traditions and merits, and will not entrust themselves wholly in the arms of the Saviour. Tragic!
This is not a problem with Jews, Catholics, or with any one particular group of people. It is the problem of us all. For the Bible says this about us, that ‘no one understands; no one seeks for God (Romans 3:10, 11).
That does not mean that we are totally devoid of knowledge. We could be very intelligent and bright in many ways, and yet we could still be ignorant where it really matters. ‘The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned’ (1 Corinthians 2:14).
The gospel makes no sense to the unregenerate, even the most religious. ‘The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing’ (1 Corinthians 1:18). There are no natural ‘God-seekers’. Unless God takes the initiative to seek the lost and to draw them to his Son, no one will ever find him, as Jesus himself said: ‘No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him’ (John 6:44).
Thank God, everything changes when the Holy Spirit touches our heart. The blind suddenly begins to see! Thousands of Catholics convert to Christ every year, and there may be many others who truly believe in Christ for salvation who never come out of the Catholic Church. For them we can only thank and praise God, while we continue to proclaim the gospel of salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone, for the Spirit uses this powerful Word to change hearts, just as he did to us.
Copyright Dr Joseph Mizzi. Updated Oct 2011.