John Bergsma on Papal Infallibility, part 2

This is a response to the second part of Dr. John Bergsma’s arguments for Papal Infallibility. In his post he links Papal Infallibility with ecclesial infallibility, which he derived from his overly simplistic “either the Church or the individual Christian” argument.

Bergsma and conciliar infallibility

Bergsma argues that if the Church is infallible, the voice of the Church should be at least sometimes indentified with its ministers or representatives. Bergsma then discredits individual Christians, Pastors, Bishops, local councils, for they have all erred and become heretical at some point.

But he stops at ecumenical councils and says the Church is not infallible at all if it is not infallible at this level, for what could be higher than an ecumenical council? If the Councils aren’t infallible, it’s back to every individual Christian again.


This reasoning contains a handful of problems. First, strictly speaking, a Catholic would have to say the Pope is higher than an Ecumenical Council, so why should Councils in themselves be infallible. In fact, later Bergsma will argue the Pope is needed to decide which Councils are ecumenical in the first place. So it all comes down to the infallibility of the Pope.

Second, why say local councils and Bishops have erred, but ecumenical councils haven’t? Erred by what standard? According to millions of Christians, Ecumenical Councils have erred, too. It’s begging the question to appeal to an infallible Pope here.

Vatican II and the Gospel

Vatican II implicitly declared earlier Councils to have erred by disagreeing with their dogmatic theology. If you want to try to harmonize V2 with all earlier Councils and dogmas, you might as well claim to harmonize all statements made by all individual Bishops and local Councils.

Dr. Bergsma calls his position minimalistic. Indeed, I might ask, was the voice of the Church never identified with any of its ministers during the years 100-324? This is ridiculous. The voice of the Church is heard whenever the Gospel is preached and the Apostolic Faith taught. This is precisely what I meant by saying that dogmatic considerations almost always forget about the Gospel.

Explore posts in the same categories: John Bergsma, Papal Infallibility

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