Ah, I love that formula (If X Were True).
Following up on the two previous posts about Protestants and the canon, let’s take another tack.
When you’re pulling with all your might at a tug-of-war and your opponent isn’t budging, try to see whether his position is balanced by…letting go of the rope. That’s what we are going to do here.
My Protestant friends claim their canon is demonstrably obvious from history, that such-and-such Church Fathers for centuries all attested to it exactly, and so on. There’s big holes there and inaccuracies, but for the purposes of this post, ignore them.
That’s right, assume that, up until St. Augustine and the North Africa councils around the year 400, all the early Christians accepted the sixty-six book Protestant canon. But then, Augustine, for his own reasons, changed the universally accepted canon to the (false) seventy-three book Catholic one. And he even got the pope to confirm it!
What a coup! Now, since the Protestant canon was the demonstrably obvious one for over three hundred years, what would you expect if someone were to introduce a new, different canon that added seven books, books which previously were not accepted? Would you expect them to quietly go along with it? Hell no!
One thing about the Christians in the early Church: they fought for the truth of the faith with all they had. They gave their lives for it. And if someone proposed something false, something heretical, something that changed the deposit of faith given to the Apostles, they raised the alarm. Fear, fire, foes, awake!
And this happened in every century. Ebionites, Marcionites (who came up with his own canon!), Sabellians, Novations, Montanists, Donatists, Arians–do you want me to keep going?–and the orthodox bishops of Christ’s Church rose up in a deafening roar to defeat their heresies, their false ideas.
So that is what we would expect when Augustine changed the canon of Scripture four hundred years after Christ. We would see an outrage, or an ecumenical council, or something that would signal a change to the demonstrably obvious canon that had been accepted by Church Fathers and the early Church.
Yet that didn’t happen.
Instead, these councils propose the canon, the pope endorses it, and…you can hear crickets chirp. No uproar, no ecumenical council. No division between the sixty-six book canonists and the seventy-three book ones. No schism as was seen with all the other heresies.
It’s another curious case of the dog that didn’t bark.
Which makes you wonder whether the Protestant canon really was, as my friends claim, the one that was so obviously accepted and attested to in the early Church.
So, the gauntlet is throw down again to my Protestant friends.
If the Protestant canon were always true, why wasn’t there an uproar when Augustine changed it?