Eric Giunta
The indefectibility of the Church
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By Eric Giunta
February 12, 2020


Perhaps the most emotionally challenging and political incorrect dogma of Catholic Christianity is that of the visible Church's indefectibility, i.e., her continued existence to the end of the world with her teaching, her hierarchical constitution, and her worship essentially intact.

This doctrine flies in the face of both Protestantism and modernism: Classical Protestants affirm, either explicitly or implicitly, that the true Church effectively ceased to exist sometime between the death of the last of the original apostles and the late Middle Ages, and only came back into existence when such-n-such reformer(s) re-discovered authentic doctrine and spirituality sometime after the early sixteenth century. Modernists, on the other hand, hold that the Church is an essentially human institution and as such is not inherently immutable or indestructible in any respect, save in its fundamental commitment to some sort of devotion to a vaguely defined "Christ" or "spirituality."

(Some of my more theologically and historically astute readers will point out that classical Protestantism traditionally does affirm some version of the Church's indefectibility. This is true enough, but to the extent Protestants have ever affirmed, or continue to affirm, this doctrine, they have done and do so only verbally and trivially, by reducing "the Church" to (a) those predestined to eternal salvation, or (b) to anyone who "believes in Jesus," however deficiently. There is also a long history of Protestants trying to claim a visible historical continuity of an alternative "true church," continually in existence from apostolic times alongside apostate "Roman" Catholicism, continually driven underground by the latter, but I do not believe any Protestant scholar or theologian subscribes to this today. It is only uneducated fundamentalists at the fringe of American Evangelicalism – e.g., hillbilly Landmark Baptists – who maintain the existence of an unbroken succession of Protestants-in-all-but-name from antiquity down to the present day. )

Three things logically and necessarily follow from the Church's indefectibility: (1) She must be empowered by God to settle theological controversies and expound the doctrine of the faith infallibly, i.e., without the possibility of error; (2) God must assure the fundamental integrity of her worship, i.e., He must supernaturally prevent her from ever authorizing or promulgating forms of worship that are intrinsically sacrilegious; and (3) God must ensure the perpetual legitimacy of the Church's pastoral leadership. If the Church is indefectible, these things must necessarily follow, because if the Church failed to maintain orthodox faith, failed to offer God proper worship, and failed to possess authentic apostolic leadership, she would not be the Church at all, but a false religion.

As far as Catholics are concerned, the Church's indefectibility is rooted in the historical promises of Jesus of Nazareth, which promises are recorded throughout the New Testament and whose veracity were vindicated by His verifiable resurrection from the dead and the historical fact of the Church's visible per durance down the centuries. As a matter of sheer historical fact, the New Testament texts indicate in numerous places that the first disciples of Jesus understood that the community He was founding would exist, without interruption, until the end of time, with her integrity supernaturally preserved by the Holy Spirit. . . .

Catch the rest of this essay over at Eric Giunta's blog, Laboravi Sustinens!

© Eric Giunta

 

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