When the Pope speaks ex cathedra, that is, from the chair of his office, his teaching or instruction is viewed as infallible and authoritative in the Catholic church. An example would be the Assumption of Mary announced in the encyclical Munificentissimus Deus by Pope Pius XII on November1, 1950. This teaching affirmed for Catholics that Mary was bodily taken up into heaven following the completion of her earthly life. Because it was announced from the chair, ex cathedra, it is the official dogma of the Catholic church, The Assumption of Mary.
Well, of course, most Protestants and virtually all evangelicals disavow papal infallibility and the line of succession that links church hierarchy to Peter. The theological and biblical arguments our historians and scholars have referenced since the reformation affirm the infallibility of Scripture and the high priestly office of Jesus Christ over a nation of priests. (see Psalms 12:6, Hebrews 4:14-16, and 1 Peter 2:9). So, there is no ex cathedra position of earthly priests beyond what is revealed by God in the word and person of Jesus Christ.
My point in mentioning it here isn't specifically theological anyway. You can Google any of the topics relating to papal authority and infallibility and find volumes of written material to cover every aspect of this multi-layered subject. So, then, what is my purpose in mentioning ex cathedra now, in this context? It's more practical than anything else and simple to grasp. You see, now, every evangelical leader in America is talking about the coming presidential election and taking every voting angle possible to sinful humans. And, there's a good bit of confusion out there. My point is to remind us all that while every one is entitled to an opinion, none of them are offering ex cathedra instructions about how we should vote. That includes the media elite too.
Every day believers express their confusion about what Christians should do in this election. As previously noted, visible spiritual leaders have taken about every possible stance in announcing what Christians should do in the voting booth this November. Some of them include---
Stay home election day
No lesser of two evils evaluation
Lesser of two evils evaluation
Third party candidate
What this means is that every one of us will have to decide how to handle our personal stewardship of the franchise, that is, the right and privilege of voting.
Underneath the arguments about ecclesiastical authority and the acknowledged responsibility of spiritual leaders to counsel those entrusted to their guidance and care are several reminders about personal accountability and God's provision in personal decision making processes. Consider these---
1. Each of us is to be watchful, prayerful, and submissive in making spiritual
decisions. Paul warned the Corinthians, "Be watchful, stand firm in the faith,
act like men, be strong" (1 Corinthians 16:13). To the Colossians he advised,
"Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving"
(Colossians 4:2). Peter wrote, "Be sober-minded, be watchful. Your adversary
the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist
him, firm in your faith..." (1 Peter 5:8-9). We must struggle through this one
with fervent prayer and fear and trembling.
2. The Holy Spirit resides in believers and promises to teach us all things. Jesus
said, "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name,
he will teach you all things..." (John 14:26). John wrote, "As for you, the
anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need
for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and
is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him" (1 John
2:27). Abiding in Christ will bring clarity to these important decisions. Apart
from him we can do nothing (John. 15:5).
3. God is not the author of confusion. Paul wrote this, "For God is not the author
of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints" (1 Corinthians
Looking to our spiritual leaders in complicated matters is certainly one way to establish bearings when faced with important decisions. But, as Paul wrote, "Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!" (2 Corinthians 13:5). it is the "each of us" that must give an account to God on that day (Romans 14:12).
How am I going to vote? I don't know at this point. There's a good bit of information that isn't known at this early stage. I will join with many others in praying for his clear guidance for what I am to do in the voting booth on November 8, 2016.