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By the middle of the 11th century, the election of a pope had become “firmly vested in a college of cardinals,” the Westminster volume notes.
However, the papacy often faced turbulent times, such as “the establishment of rival pontiffs in Rome and France” from 1378-1418, according to the Westminster volume, in a rift initially created by a French king and later resolved by a series of church councils.
Today, Catholic doctrine holds that the pope is “the representative (vicar or vicegerent) of Christ on earth, and that his solemn official pronouncements on matters of faith and morals are infallible, safeguarded from error by God,” the Westminster volume states.
R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote after Pope John Paul II’s death in 2005: “For evangelicals, the crucial question comes with the institution of the papacy itself. After all, the Reformation of the 16th century required a rejection of papal power and authority, and the Reformers soon came to understand the papacy as an unbiblical office that inevitably compromised the authority and sufficiency of Scripture....
“Furthermore, this office is then invested with claims to spiritual and temporal power that are combined with claims of apostolic succession and serve as foundational pillars for the comprehensive claims of the Roman Catholic Church,” Mohler wrote, noting, “The Protestant rejection of the papacy was no small matter, though some liberal Protestants and careless evangelicals seem to have forgotten why.”
Mohler maintained that evangelicals “simply cannot accept the legitimacy of the papacy and must resist and reject claims of papal authority. To do otherwise would be to compromise biblical truth and reverse the Reformation.”
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