Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Unloading 35 Loaded Questions for "Bible Christians" 31/35

Steve Ray has a list of 35 loaded Questions for "Bible Christians" (quotation marks his)(link to the whole list). This is number 31/35. I'm trying to provide the answers in a common format, for easy reference.

31) The time interval between the Resurrection and the establishment of the New Testament canon in AD 382 is roughly the same as the interval between the arrival of the Mayflower in America and the present day. Therefore, since the early Christians had no defined New Testament for almost four hundred years, how did they practice sola Scriptura?

Simple Answer(s):

One doesn't need a "defined" canon to read the Bible.

Important Qualification(s):

1) Obviously, one needs some idea of which books are the Bible, and the early church did have an understanding of that, from the very days that the Scriptures were being penned. For example, Peter referred to Paul's epistles as "Scripture" long before any council convened to "define" the canon (and even before the canon of the New Testament was closed).

2) The definitions of the canon in the late 300's were not "binding" on all Christians. Nevertheless, the Christians of that time remarkably were mostly in agreement as to which books were inspired and which were not.

3) Early Christians used what they had. Some failed to recognize that one or more of the inspired books was inspired, but they used the books that they knew were inspired. Other Christians erroneously thought that other writings were inspired, and mistakenly relied upon them. Nevertheless, like the Bereans they searched the Scripture and established their doctrines from that source.

- TurretinFan

43 comments:

louis said...

I just came across this quote, allegedly from Vatican I, that the Holy Scriptures are:

"held as sacred and canonical, not because they have been approved by the Church's authority, but because, having been written by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, they have God for their author, and have been delivered as such to the Church herself."

Is this an accurate quote/representation of offical RC doctrine? If so, it would seem to undermine some of what these Roman epologists seem to be claiming. Or maybe I just don't understand their point.

Turretinfan said...

That sounds about right. It's also found in CCC 105. Yes, it does undermine the position taken by some of the epologists.

louis said...

Well at the very least they need to refine their argument.

Btw, not sure how to reference the Vat.I doc, but it looks like Session 3, Chapter 2, Par. 7.

Turretinfan said...

I think it is usually cited as Dei Verbum 11. The official English translation is:

11. Those divinely revealed realities which are contained and presented in Sacred Scripture have been committed to writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. For holy mother Church, relying on the belief of the Apostles (see John 20:31; 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Peter 1:19-20, 3:15-16), holds that the books of both the Old and New Testaments in their entirety, with all their parts, are sacred and canonical because written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author and have been handed on as such to the Church herself.(1) In composing the sacred books, God chose men and while employed by Him (2) they made use of their powers and abilities, so that with Him acting in them and through them, (3) they, as true authors, consigned to writing everything and only those things which He wanted. (4)

louis said...

Where is that? I'm looking here:

http://www.ewtn.com/library/COUNCILS/v1.htm

Session 3, Ch. 2, Par.7, which expressly denies canonicity based on church authority/approval:

"These books the Church holds to be sacred and canonical not because she subsequently approved them by her authority after they had been composed by unaided human skill, nor simply because they contain revelation without error, but because, being written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author, and were as such committed to the Church."

Turretinfan said...

Oh, I'm sorry. I must be sleepy. I read your "Vatican I" as "Vatican II." The similar quotation I provided is from the latter council, not the former one. You are correct.

louis said...

Subsequent statements (including the catechism) seem to eliminate the "not because she subsequently approved them by her authority" language.

Turretinfan said...

Good point!

natamllc said...

"...Therefore, since the early Christians had no defined New Testament for almost four hundred years, how did they practice sola Scriptura?..."

Adding to the "simple answer", I would insert a behavioral modification to it: "be patient".

Huh?

Well, consider the question?

Who is asking it and who is he asking?

I am not sure who he is?

I am sure he is asking me seeing I have just posted it! :)

In the question, I would narrow to gnats now:::>

"....had no defined New Testament....".

Yes, quite right. However, those who "live" by Faith and patience and not circumstances, come to enjoy daily at times the minute discoveries that seem to come to the daily discourse by modernity and high technology all the time now.

For instance, consider the great salvation ship, Noah's Ark. Today ship builders typically follow the age old ratios laid out that Noah followed so that he and his family and the creatures in that ark, both clean and unclean would survive the flood, so that their ships don't sink in the oceans and seas!

Now, more than ever, we are coming to realize the accuracies defined within the Scriptures, about modern science and technologies and civics.

For instance, consider these words from Job, and I parenthetically observe that some Historical Theologians and Scholars believe the writings of Job are the oldest of the Scriptures?; in any event:::>

Job 28:3 Man puts an end to darkness and searches out to the farthest limit the ore in gloom and deep darkness.
Job 28:4 He opens shafts in a valley away from where anyone lives; they are forgotten by travelers; they hang in the air, far away from mankind; they swing to and fro.

Just a couple of things to note in there. One, what are you using right now to read this?

Two, now we know the course of satellites "hanging" in the air! Google earth anyone?

Are you telling me Job knew about the light bulb, computers and google earth when those words were written?

Finally, civics and the accuracy of the Scriptures in civil rule. Luke is a case in point.

I would note verses by him:::>

Act 19:18 Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices.
Act 19:19 And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver.
Act 19:20 So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.

It just seems like the Scriptures orally being spoken by men of God and read, were a major part of ordered humanity in those days?

If so, then, so I encourage it now, be patient dear Believer, Elect and Called, as the Scriptures foretold, they shall even accomplish Their purposes still!

The final frontier is this civil realm just as Peter foretold already:::>

2Pe 3:9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

2 Pe 3:10- to:::>
2Pe 3:13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

And for me, as much as I read the Sacred Scriptures, I have to conclude with John the Revelator that prayer is the last course in Sacred Scripture to bring us to that final end. He saw it best:::>


Rev 8:5 Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth, and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake.
Rev 8:6 Now the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared to blow them.

John Bugay said...

In the light of your second qualification, it should be noted that there is very good evidence that Paul's letters were collected and distributed during his lifetime, the four gospels were being used as a "canon" around the turn of the first century, and some of the other "catholic" epistles were being circulated in a collection as well. And they had the Old Testament. It's not as if people didn't have "scriptural guidance".

Alphonsus said...

"These books the Church holds to be sacred and canonical not because she subsequently approved them by her authority after they had been composed by unaided human skill, nor simply because they contain revelation without error, but because, being written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author, and were as such committed to the Church."

I think statements like this are meant to affirm the doctrine of inspiration, not to discount the role of the Church or to deal with specific questions of canonicity.

They reject a post hoc view of canonicity, in which Scripture is Scripture because the Church says so. In other words, non-inspired writings cannot be raised to the level of Scripture just because the Church says so.

Also, this statement does not deny the Church's role in affirming which books are sacred and canonical. I may rightly recognize which answer to a mathematical question is correct, but my assent does not make that answer correct.

'For example, Peter referred to Paul's epistles as "Scripture" long before any council convened to "define" the canon (and even before the canon of the New Testament was closed).'

Is this an appeal to Peter's letter as Scripture or merely as an statement of the early Church? If to it as Scripture, aren't you begging the question about canonicity by assuming that Peter's epistles are inspired and inerrant? If you are appealing to Peter as a witness of the early Church, couldn't he have been wrong about Paul's writings (after all, if your canon is fallible, how do you know 1 & 2 Peter are inspired?)?

louis said...

"They reject a post hoc view of canonicity, in which Scripture is Scripture because the Church says so."

Understood, but some apologetic arguments come pretty close to saying that.

John Bugay said...

Is this an appeal to Peter's letter as Scripture or merely as an statement of the early Church? If to it as Scripture, aren't you begging the question about canonicity by assuming that Peter's epistles are inspired and inerrant?

On the other hand, your reading of "canonicity" back to apostolic times is the anachronism here, begging the question that Peter understood some need for "canonicity". He understood Paul's writings to be "Scripture" without any ruling from any church body.

Alphonsus said...

'He understood Paul's writings to be "Scripture" without any ruling from any church body.'

What was the basis, then, and how do you know he was right?

louis said...

"What was the basis, then, and how do you know he was right?"

The basis is explained above: they were "written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author, and were as such committed to the Church".

How do we know he was right? How do YOU know he was right?

Alphonsus said...

'The basis is explained above: they were "written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author, and were as such committed to the Church".'

That statement from VI is a proposition describing what soemthing is, not a discussion of epistemology or fundamental theology. In any case, the phrase "committed to the Church" seems to indicate a rejection of sola scriptura.

What is the basis for the Reformed crowd?

"How do we know he was right? How do YOU know he was right?"

Are you admitting with that tu toque that you yourself don't know?

louis said...

"That statement from VI is a proposition describing what soemthing is, not a discussion of epistemology or fundamental theology."

It seems to me that VI is describing the basis of scripture's canonicity. They do not simply say that scripture is written by God, but that it is "held" as "canonical" on the basis of its having been written by God and delivered to the church. If you read it differently, then please clarify.

"In any case, the phrase "committed to the Church" seems to indicate a rejection of sola scriptura."

Not in my understanding of sola scriptura. How is it supposed to indicate a rejection?

"Are you admitting with that tu toque that you yourself don't know?"

No, I'm saying that if you think about your own epistemological foundations, then the answer will be obvious. And if there is any supposed failure or inconsistency on our part, then if applies with equal force to yours.

natamllc said...

Alphonsus,

With baited breath I wait for JB's response.

In the mean time I hope neither he or you take offense that I would respond myself?

You asked:::> "....What was the basis, then, and how do you know he was right?....".

Doing a Jesus ploy now, let me ask you:

"When does one know the True Grace of God is for their salvation?

Is it when they read by Silvanus Peter's epistle is telling the reader his writings are the True Grace of God, or when God gives them an understanding that He, all by Himself, secures and secured both His Grace and Salvation for them too after hearing read or reading themself Peter's epistle written by Silvanus about the True Grace of God?"

And I suppose you will not dispute the fact that Paul, the prisoner of the Lord regarded his own epistles to be the True Word and Work of the Spirit?

Eph 3:1 For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,
Eph 3:2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:
Eph 3:3 How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,
Eph 3:4 Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)
Eph 3:5 Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;

And better yet, how about this strong assurance that these men could know and affirm that certain True Grace was with them in Word or Deed, Deed as in something they wrote out for others to read that in time the Holy Spirit made a part of the True Grace of God in written form?

Col 4:16 And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea.
Col 4:17 And say to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it.
Col 4:18 The salutation by the hand of me Paul. Remember my bonds. Grace be with you. Amen. Written from Rome to Colossians by Tychicus and Onesimus.

We see that pattern before, written about here:

Gal 2:7 But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter;
Gal 2:8 (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:)
Gal 2:9 And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.
Gal 2:10 Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do.

What is interesting to note about verse 10 there is that is a clear reference to the "Letter" composed by James' Word at Act 15 that everyone considered the True Grace of God!

john martin said...

“One doesn't need a "defined" canon to read the Bible.”

Meaning one doesn’t need the bible to read the bible.


”1) Obviously, one needs some idea of which books are the Bible, and the early church did have an understanding of that, from the very days that the Scriptures were being penned. For example, Peter referred to Paul's epistles as "Scripture" long before any council convened to "define" the canon (and even before the canon of the New Testament was closed).”

Only assumes the authenticity of Peters letter and his authority to recognised a text as scripture. Neither of these are found in any text alone.

”2) The definitions of the canon in the late 300's were not "binding" on all Christians. Nevertheless, the Christians of that time remarkably were mostly in agreement as to which books were inspired and which were not.”

So does Francis believe the canon is what was determined in the 300’s or does he feel the HS moving him to determine another canon?

”3) Early Christians used what they had. Some failed to recognize that one or more of the inspired books was inspired,”

So the HS failed.

“ but they used the books that they knew were inspired.”

So the HS is a success.

“ Other Christians erroneously thought that other writings were inspired,”

So the HS failed.

“ and mistakenly relied upon them.”

HS failed again.

“ Nevertheless, like the Bereans they searched the Scripture and established their doctrines from that source.”

Except the canon, so the HS works with some doctrines and not others. It is impossible not to be an agnostic outside the Catholic Church.

JM

steve said...

"Only assumes the authenticity of Peters letter and his authority to recognised a text as scripture. Neither of these are found in any text alone."

Since modern Catholic Bible scholars are allowed to deny the traditional authorship of various canonical books, then Mother Church is no alternative.

Alphonsus said...

"Since modern Catholic Bible scholars are allowed to deny the traditional authorship of various canonical books, then Mother Church is no alternative."

They aren't allowed to deny that the Petrine epistles are inspired.

I think John Martin and I find it odd to argue for Pauline canonicity by assuming Petrine canonicity.

louis said...

I believe Peter was cited as a representative of the early church, not for the canonicity of his letter. The same point could have been made with any other (non-canonical) early writer who recognized the gospels as the word of God.

Alphonsus said...

"I believe Peter was cited as a representative of the early church, not for the canonicity of his letter."

Yes, but (if you bracket the question of Petrine inspiration) how do you know Peter was right? Aren't we back to the problem of a fallible canon of infallible Scripture?

steve said...

Alphonsus said...

"They aren't allowed to deny that the Petrine epistles are inspired."

So if the inspired author of 1-2 Peter claims, under divine inspiration, to be the Petrine author, then Catholic scholars are allowed to deny the inspired attribution so long as they don't deny the inspiration of the writer who penned that inspired attribution.

Would you care to flesh out that dichotomy? How can one affirm the inspiration of a writer whil also disaffirming his inspired self-witness?

steve said...

BTW, what about the authorial self-attributions in papal documents, like the proclamation of the Immaculate Conception or the Assumption of Mary?

Are Catholics at liberty to deny that Pius IX and Pius XII authored these documents? Isn't the authorship of said documents a precondition for the authority to formally define the dogmas contained therein?

steve said...

Alphonsus said...

"Aren't we back to the problem of a fallible canon of infallible Scripture?"

If that's a problem, then what about the problem of a fallible list of true popes? Or a fallible list of ecumenical councils? Or a fallible list of ex cathedra pronouncements?

louis said...

"Yes, but (if you bracket the question of Petrine inspiration) how do you know Peter was right? Aren't we back to the problem of a fallible canon of infallible Scripture?"

Steve beat me to it.

We are back to a question I posed to you previously: How do YOU know Peter was right? We either have a fallible canon of infallible scripture, or a fallible identification of an allegedly infallible church.

Turretinfan said...

"(if you bracket the question of Petrine inspiration) how do you know Peter was right?"

Among the evidences that Peter was right:

1) Peter's healing of the man born lame at the Beautiful Gate of the temple. (see Acts 3)

2) Peter's supernatural execution of Ananias and Saphira. (see Acts 5)

3) Peter's healing of Aneas' palsy. (see Acts 9)

4) Peter's resurrection of Tabitha/Dorcas. (see Acts 9)

Those are evidences that God was with Peter.

-TurretinFan

Turretinfan said...

"I think John Martin and I find it odd to argue for Pauline canonicity by assuming Petrine canonicity. "

I wonder why?

Turretinfan said...

I wrote: “One doesn't need a "defined" canon to read the Bible.”

JM replied: "Meaning one doesn’t need the bible to read the bible."

No, that's not even close to what it means.

"Only assumes the authenticity of Peters letter and his authority to recognised a text as scripture. Neither of these are found in any text alone."

The fact that arguments have premises shouldn't be shocking to anyone familiar with arguments.

"So does Francis believe the canon is what was determined in the 300’s or does he feel the HS moving him to determine another canon?"

The canon is an objective fact - lists of the books in the canon can be more or less accurate depending on how close they come to the objective reality.

"So the HS failed."

That kind of blasphemy is unwelcome here.

"So the HS is a success."

...

"So the HS failed."

See above.

"HS failed again."

See above.

"Except the canon, so the HS works with some doctrines and not others. It is impossible not to be an agnostic outside the Catholic Church."

There have to be better things that JM can be doing than posting remarks of this quality.

Blogahon said...

TFan.

I think his comment is basically aimed at getting ya'll to explain how it is that different Christians have different canons.

Turretinfan said...

"I think his comment is basically aimed at getting ya'll to explain how it is that different Christians have different canons."

We've explained it many times, and it's not a complicated explanation. Humans are fallible.

Blogahon said...

TFan.

If humans are fallible than how are you certain that your 66 book canon is correct?

Did you notice the recent article on Called to Communion that examined these issues? It is here.

It is the most exhaustive treatment of this subject that I've seen in quite a while and I believe that you would agree that it at least fairly describes all of the Reformed answers to the canon questions.

If you have time it is worth reading. These very questions are examined in depth and the ensuing conversation is enlightening as well.

Turretinfan said...

"If humans are fallible than how are you certain that your 66 book canon is correct?"

Will you grant that certainty (in some sense) is compatible with fallibility?

If so, what's the problem? Why is further explanation required?

If not, how can you (being human) be certain about anything? In which case, why is lack of certainty a problem?

Turretinfan said...

"It is the most exhaustive treatment of this subject that I've seen in quite a while and I believe that you would agree that it at least fairly describes all of the Reformed answers to the canon questions."

What was the most exhaustive treatment you saw on this topic before that post? My perspective on the post seems to be exactly the opposite of yours.

Blogahon said...

TFan.

If you were a PCA minister and a new member came to join your church and perhaps eventually be a teaching elder but this PCA elder candidate was convinced that Hebrews and Revelation were not inspired scripture what would happen?

Could he be a teaching elder in the PCA? If not, on what basis would the presbytery exclude him?

Or what if the church down the road believed that the Book of Mormon was scripture. They pointed to the inward testimony of the Holy Spirit. What would you say to them?

At the end of the day the Reformed conception of the canon fails to give any objective reason to trust the canon of scripture.

Even the Reformed confessions attempt to answer the canon question.

Here is what the WCOF says: Our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority (of Scripture), is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.”

Using this is our guide we should be able to verify the reliability of this classical Reformed canon criterion in the following way: We set various candidate texts, like books or passages from the New Testament, apocryphal works, or revered writings from the early Church Fathers, in front of new Christians who have the Spirit but have never read the Bible. If they would all pick out the same books or passages as canonical than the Reformed criterion for knowing the canon would be confirmed. If they picked different books than the Reformed criterion would be fallacious.

But, as you say, "Humans are fallible." Yes, they are. But all you do is admit that the self authenticating quality of scripture is not reliable which is already obvious.

con't

Blogahon said...

The Catholic position, on the other hand, is that Scripture has divine authority because it is God-breathed, the Holy Spirit having inspired the texts’ authors.

The First Vatican Council says: These 73 books the Church holds to be sacred and canonical not because she subsequently approved them by her authority after they had been composed by unaided human skill, nor simply because they contain revelation without error, but because, being written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author, and were as such committed to the Church.

Does our obtaining assurances from the Church conflict with our belief that that scripture has authority because it is God breathed? No. The Church is the body of Christ, according to sacred scripture. The Council of Nicea defined the Trinity. Does this fact mean that the Council Fathers were at odds with or trying to usurp the Holy Spirit? I don't think you would say that would you?

Turretinfan said...

Blogahon:

There are two comments from me, right above your last two comments. Those comments include some direct questions to you.

Please make sure that your next comments to this blog are answers to those questions.

You wrote: "But, as you say, "Humans are fallible." Yes, they are. But all you do is admit that the self authenticating quality of scripture is not reliable which is already obvious."

Once you answer my questions above, we'll see whether "not reliable" is synonymous with "doesn't make fallible men infallible."

-TurretinFan

Blogahon said...

Will you grant that certainty (in some sense) is compatible with fallibility?

In some sense, sure.

If so, what's the problem? Why is further explanation required?

Well, for one thing it depends on what you mean by 'some sense.'

In terms of the canon of scripture having a fallible list of infallible books is indeed problematic. To illustrate please answer my PCA elder candidate question.

What was the most exhaustive treatment you saw on this topic before that post?

Well, what I meant really was exhaustive from an online/blog perspective.

There are more technically 'exhaustive' treatments of the question offline and many of those are cited in the article.

Turretinfan said...

The subordinate standards of the PCA would be grounds for refusal of ordination of such men as you've described.

You wrote: "Well, for one thing it depends on what you mean by 'some sense.'"

Well, since you are the one who thinks that additional explanation is required, since you phrase the issue in terms of "certainty," and since you acknowledge that certainty (in some sense) is compatible with fallibility, it seems that you're the one should identify what sense of "certainty" you mean to suggest that we fallible humans should have.

- TurretinFan

Blogahon said...

The subordinate standards of the PCA would be grounds for refusal of ordination of such men as you've described

What if the subordinate standards are wrong?

And, what if that man went accross the street and started a new Reformed Church, just one that adopted a different 'subordinate standard' which had a canon which did not include Hebrews or Revelation.

What that be A-OK to you?

Turretinfan said...

"What if the subordinate standards are wrong?"

If they are wrong, then they should be amended to be correct.

"And, what if that man went accross the street and started a new Reformed Church, just one that adopted a different 'subordinate standard' which had a canon which did not include Hebrews or Revelation. What that be A-OK to you?"

As far as I know, there are no Reformed churches at all that reject either Hebrews or Revelation. Given your seeming impression that the self-authenticating nature of Scripture doesn't work, that should shock you.

So, what sense of "certainty" do you mean to suggest that we fallible humans should have about the canon?

Turretinfan said...

"Understood, but some apologetic arguments come pretty close to saying that."

Some come right out and say that: "The church gave you the Scriptures" or something like that.