Papal Infallibility: A Protestant Evaluation of an Ecumenical Issue

Papal Infallibility: A Protestant Evaluation of an Ecumenical Issue

Papal Infallibility: A Protestant Evaluation of an Ecumenical Issue

Papal Infallibility: A Protestant Evaluation of an Ecumenical Issue


First major book-length study on this subject written by a Protestant in more than a century.

The dogma of papal infallibility has become increasingly problematic for Roman Catholics, and it is a major point of division in Christian ecumenical dialogue -- arguably the key issue separating Catholics and other Christians today. Mark Powell here contends that papal infallibility has inevitable shortcomings as a way to secure religious certainty. After introducing the doctrine, he illustrates those limitations in the life and writings of four prominent Catholic theologians: Henry Edward Cardinal Manning, John Henry Cardinal Newman, Avery Cardinal Dulles, and Hans Kung.

The book concludes with a fresh proposal for conceiving religious epistemology, ecclesial authority, and ecumenical agreement. Powell's Papal Infallibility is an accessible, critical study for Catholics and non-Catholics alike.


This book needs some explanation. After all, why does a Protestant, and a free-church Protestant at that, take up a critical study of a Roman Catholic doctrine like papal infallibility? It should be stated up front that this project was never an attempt to attack and denounce the Catholic Church, although I do find papal infallibility untenable for the epistemological reasons laid out in this work, as well as biblical and historical reasons. Instead, and perhaps surprisingly, this project began with the uneasy realization that Protestantism’s appeal to sola scriptura faced limitations when dealing with the major christological heresies faced by the patristic church. the basic problem tory or browsing the internet. One can affirm this observation and, as I do, still have the highest regard for scripture, both as a source for knowledge of God and a guide for spiritual formation. the patristic church, which held the biblical writings in the highest regard and fervently appealed to scripture in theological argumentation, never limited its response to heresy by simply handing the Bible to its opponents, even after the canon of the New Testament was finalized. Likewise, conservative Protestants, even those that are non-

1. Tertullian wanted to take scripture away from the Gnostic heretics! Athanasius reluctantly accepted the use of the unbiblical term homoousios in the Creed of Nicea once it became clear that such a term was necessary to exclude Arianism.

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