Friday, April 7, 2017

Do We Need The Catholic Church In Order To Recognize The Canon Of Scripture?

  • Defining The Issues:
          -Roman Catholic apologists commonly argue that we absolutely must embrace the allegedly infallible Traditions of their Church in order to know with certainty the correct books that belong in the Bible. In other words, they argue against Sola Scriptura by claiming that without the Roman Catholic Church's supposedly infallible declarations regarding the canon of Scripture, we Protestants would have no certainty of which books belong in the Bible. In summary, the claim to possessing "infallible certainty" in all doctrinal matters is just another one of Rome's arrogant, circular claims to exalt itself above the authority of the written Word of God. In the end, however Catholic claims to authority are self-defeating because our fallibility eventually has to meet the Church's alleged infallibility.
  • Objection: "The Bible does not contain an inspired table of contents. So how do you know which person wrote which books(s) of the Bible? How do you know that Matthew wrote Matthew?":  
          -This argument misrepresents the doctrine of Sola Scriptura. It does not teach that everything is written in the Bible. In other words, Sola Scriptura does not mean that the Bible provides us with an exhaustive list on anything, but rather, it gives us everything that we need to know regarding salvation and godliness. The Bible is the final authority in all religious matters, which means that we have every necessary thing that we need to know about the faith recorded in the Scriptures. Salvation does not require us to know the authors of the books of the Bible. Not knowing the author of a particular writing does not inflict harm to the authenticity of that document.
          -How do Roman Catholics know which oral traditions are inspired? Do they have an inspired table of contents identifying which specific oral traditions that we are supposed to heed to? Can they do any of this without resorting to weak, vague, or empty definitions of what constitutes "Tradition?" Do we need some infallible organization in order to recognize that the Koran and the Book of Mormon are not inspired by God?
          -Canonical writings such as Job and Hebrews have unknown authors, yet the Church of Rome has never identified who wrote those books. If "not knowing the author" automatically means a denial of the inspiration of a religious text, then would Roman Catholics be willing to reject the inspiration of such books of the Bible, since their authors are unknown?
          -Obviously, we can and must be dependent on outside sources of information in order to gather the correct books of the canon. No figure from the early church can directly tell us which books of the Bible are canonical because they are now deceased. So we must resort to the extra-biblical writings and traditions of the early church. We must draw some of our conclusions from the early church fathers. However, this is not in any way problematical for the Sola Scriptura position because none of the evidence verifying the canon is infallible. We can have sufficiency certainty that the canon of Scripture as we know it today is the written Word of God.
  • Objection: "Who determined the canon of Scripture?":
          -How did the Jewish people, who lived prior to the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ, know how to identify inspired Old Testament books such as 2 Chronicles and Isaiah? How did the Jews know that such books were inspired, without the assistance of a divinely appointed, infallible hierarchy? How come God did not simply give His chosen nation an inspired table of contents specifically identifying which Old Testament books were inspired?
           *The Roman Catholic Magisterium could not have identified the inspired books of the Old Testament for the Jews because it did not exist before the birth of Christ.
           *There is no historical evidence pointing to any sort of belief in the infallibility of the Jewish government. In fact, Jesus rebuked the Scribes and Pharisees for doctrinal errors (Matthew 15; Mark 7).
           *Just as the Jews correctly identified the books of the Old Testament without the help of an infallible earthly entity, the same is true with the early Christians recognizing the divine inspiration of the New Testament Scriptures. These people were able to recognize which books reveal the true character of God. His followers obey His voice (John 10:4-5; 27). 
  • Need For Infallible Certainty On The Books Of The Bible, As Roman Catholics Claim?: 
          -If infallible certainty of the canon is a really big deal, then why did it take the Roman Catholic Church over 1,500 years to finally settle the issue at the Council of Trent? Why would a supposedly infallible organization need to wait so long to give its members infallible certainty on the canon of Scripture?
            *“According to Catholic doctrine, the proximate criterion of the Biblical canon is the infallible decision of the Church. This decision was not given until rather late in the history of the Church (at the Council of Trent). Before that time there was some doubt about the canonicity of certain Biblical books, i.e., about their belonging to the canon.” (The New Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume 3, page 29, Copyright 1967; Under “Canon, Biblical”)
            *“The Tridentine decrees from which the above list is extracted was the first infallible and effectually promulgated pronouncement on the Canon, addressed to the Church Universal.” (New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia, under the category titled "Canon of The Old Testament)

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