11 November 2007
Thoughts on Infallibility
Much ink has been spilled over the idea of infallibility, whether that infallibility be textual, ecclesiastical, episcopal, or papal. Non-Catholics have in particular criticized papal infallibility; while Catholics and Orthodox have shown the limitations of textual infallibility; and the Orthodox have rejected both textual and papal infallibility. A distinction must be made, though, between relative infallibility and true infallibility. I would propose, though, that true infallibility is, by definition, outside of the range of language. Whatever statement be proposed as infallibly defined, that statement and the words that make up that statement, have in themselves many possible interpretations and connotations, leading to the realization that any statement concerning faith, morals, God, the afterlife, this life, etc., is inherently limited and inherently limiting. Thus, "relatively infallibile" statements might be useful in terms of communicating statements via words, but to be "truly infallible", such a statement could never be stated in human language. The only truly infallible "statement" is the direct revelation/realization of God. Anything else is "almost infallible" or "more infallible" or "relatively infallible".
Whatever statement made by whatever ecclesial institution, know that it is not absolute truth, and that it is folly to look for absolute truth within any humanly constructed linguistic framework. Linguistic frameworks are useful for establishing doctrinal boundaries, and for gaining greater understanding of religious teachings; and in that sense there are frameworks that are relatively more infallible, or less fallible, compared to other frameworks. However, Truth -- itself -- is directly encountered and embodied, and incapable of being definitively and absolutely encaged within conceptualization.