What Roman Catholics refer to as “the Dogma of Papal Infallibility” is one of the most stunning of all of RCC doctrine. According to this dogma, the Pope-when he speaks on matters concerning the church-is protected from the possibility of error. Note that it is not that what he says is always true, but something more radical is claimed: there is not even the possibility of him speaking something untrue.
When this dogma was first codified (the first Vatican Council in 1870) they obviously defined it in more constrained terms than it had been practiced through history. Now, it only applies to matters concerning “faith and morals,” and when the Pope binds “the whole Church” to the declaration. While it was codified by the First Vatican Council, it in effect has been practiced throughout much of Roman Catholic Church history.
In fact much of RCC doctrine rests on nothing other than this authority. For one clear example, in 1950 Pope Pious XII declared that Mary did not die a physical death, but was “assumed” (assunta) up to heaven. This is a teaching with no biblical evidence (although Pope John Paul II did allege that it was the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise in John 14:3), and even less credible historical evidence. Actually, no one in the first 300 years of church history had even claimed such a thing had happened.
Because it is such an important part of what separates the RCC from Protestants, an obvious question to ask is, “are there times when the Popes have contradicted each other?” If so, that would be a glaring piece of evidence that the RCC’s claims to authority and doctrine are indeed fallible.
First, let me explain why this is important to me. Discussing theology with a Catholic can be frustrating, and usually goes in one of two ways. Either they claim to believe everything I believe, but they just also claim to have an unbroken tradition of history behind them. Or they respond to my biblical objections to RCC doctrine by saying Protestants are wrong because their interpretations contradict the interpretations of the RCC, which we know to be infallible.
Recently I saw a video taken at the Bank of England in which a gentleman had the privilege of being able to view rooms full of real gold. The gold was stacked from floor to ceiling with about 1 ton of gold on each shelf. The narrator commented that the total amount of gold was worth about $315 Billion at current prices and that the total amount of gold ever mined would equal about 60′ cubed. Again, according to the video, this is an amount that would easily fit under the legs of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
While it was a staggering amount of gold, one comment the man made really made me pay attention. He said, “If I was actually worth my weight in gold, I would weigh about the equivalent of 6 bars of gold (28 lbs. each = 164 lbs.). This means I would be worth a little over $4 million dollars.” His next comment was even more astounding – “I was a bit disappointed because I thought I would be worth more.”
This brings us to the question of what are we worth. Unfortunately, many have taken the worth of our lives and translated this to something called self-esteem. This is supposedly a term used to indicate that we have intrinsic value within ourselves. The psychology of self-esteem continues to be taught and drummed into our heads and the heads of our children on a daily basis. For example, you go to make a purchase and the salesperson will comment, “You should go ahead and buy this because you are worth it. You owe it to yourself to treat yourself nicely!” Sadly, this then is translated in the church that you should think more highly of yourself because you are worth something to God. Multiple books, videos, seminars, etc., etc., etc., are then offered in our so-called Christian bookstores to feed the same thought process that we are to love ourselves because of our own self-imposed self-worth.
Of course, there are major differences between a human and a bar of gold. From a metallurgical standpoint, a bar of gold is definitely worth more than the elements found in the human body. From a financial perspective, gold has more buying capability as one bar of gold is worth about $768,000. You cannot take 28 lbs of an arm and a leg and make any purchases.
The purpose of this post though is not to dwell on those aspects as much as it is to consider what our worth might be from a spiritual perspective. James 4 makes it clear that our life is actually like a vapor that is here for a short time and then vanishes away. In other words, your life and mine is nothing more than a puff of steam from a kettle filled with boiling water. While down through history, people have bartered their lives away to pay off debts, there was never any guarantee that the life of the individual would even be present at the end of the day. An interesting note was that the oldest bar of gold in the Bank of England is about 96 years old. The narrator noted that gold never changes. It does not go through a process of oxidation. It has no smell and certainly does not rust. That old gold bar looks exactly the same today as it did when it was first minted in 1916.
As much as we are taught to think highly of ourselves and to love ourselves, the sad and very biblical reality is that our lives are not worth what we think they are. This means further that any value attached to us can only be found outside of ourselves.
This is a special time of year in that many are celebrating Xmas, but they are not celebrating Christ. Purchases are being made to satisfy greed and lust, but little to no thought is being made of Christ. “X” is used to indicate an unknown quantity. People today are purchasing what they cannot afford to appease people who will never be happy with money they do not have in order to celebrate what they cannot understand. There is an unknown quantity that is missing in the lives of billions of people around the world – that quantity is not the element AU, more commonly known as gold. This rare element was discovered approximately 5,000 years ago and has been used in a variety of ways down through the centuries.
The element that is missing though is the Lord Jesus Christ. Say what you will about Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, or Winter Festival, these are not the original reasons why people celebrated this time of year. While Jesus was not born on December 25 or even in the wintertime, He did lay aside His glory and came to earth to be born in a manger. He left a place that uses gold as street paving material in order that He might be robed in human flesh. But His purpose for coming was not to live, nor was it to make all humans worth their weight in gold. After approximately 33 years, He laid down His life and died for a special group of people, namely, His elect Bride. This was not done because of their intrinsic value, but simply because He chose them from among the children of men. He set His love upon them and upon whosoever will may come. Jesus Christ came to atone for our sins and to suffer the wrath of God the Father on our behalf.
So, while our life may never be worth a bar of gold on this earth, our lives were purchased with the blood of the spotless Lamb of God. In the light of eternity, this means that our value is found in Jesus Christ alone. It has nothing to do with us, and it certainly has nothing to do with the tons of gold that will one day melt away with a fervent heat. What a marvelous thought!
1 Peter 1:18-19, “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”
In conclusion, each gold bar that is minted is marked with a specific identification marker so that it cannot be mixed up with any other bars. The identification tag stamped into the gold bar tells exactly how much it weighs down to the 1000th of an ounce. It also tells where it was minted and where it came from. How much more special the thought that each child of the living and thrice-holy God has marked each of us as His own. He has given us a new name and clothed us with the righteousness of Jesus Christ. One day, He will allow the trumpet to be sounded and we will rise to be with Him forever. Heaven will resound with the praises as we sing glory, praise and honor to the Lamb that was slain! Amen and amen!