If The Protestant Canon Were True…

Augustine scheming to change the canon

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?

73 thoughts on “If The Protestant Canon Were True…”

    1. Thanks Brandon. It is essentially an “argument from silence.” Which isn’t a slam-dunk by any means–maybe Augustine threatened all the other bishops, priests, and deacons in the Church, and that’s why they were silent and went along with it, but this is of course unlikely in the extreme.

        1. Hahaha! Love it.

          I was hoping you would agree and half-fearful that you had a killer counter-argument for it.

          My Protestant friends are really claiming that the Protestant canon was universally attested to until Augustine single-handedly changed it. I’m hoping they will answer my challenge and respond to this counter argument.

          1. Devin,

            This is a historical question really: Did the early church accept the apocryphal books in their canons? What did the early Councils decide?

            I have a friend who wrote an Introduction to Historical Theology recently that will soon become standard fair in Protestant seminary classrooms. His book makes a historical argument for the Protestant canon, arguing from the evidence of the early councils, Augustine, and Jerome, that the Protestant canon makes sense. If you are looking for the most worthy of interlocutors, I would start there: http://www.amazon.com/Historical-Theology-Introduction-Christian-Doctrine/dp/0310230136



          2. Thanks Bradley,

            Also see Christopher Noble’s comment below.

            There is certainly some historical evidence for the books of the Protestant canon, as there is for the Catholic one. My argument is that the historical evidence is ambiguous enough that no one can claim it can give conscience-binding certainty in their canon.

  1. This could also be used to ask Mormons about the so called “great apostasy’. Where was the outrage at such an event?

    1. Good point, Lidia. I think Mormons would say, “well, there was no outrage because everyone (or most people) in the Church fell into the apostasy!”

  2. Never thought of it like this before, but makes sense. I mean, St. Nicholas punched Arius in the face when Arius proposed that Christ was subordinate to the Father. They weren’t exactly timid.

    1. Exactly! That’s a great scene. The early Christians knew many who had given their lives for the faith. They weren’t about to stand idly by while heretics messed it up.

      Marcion is a great example as well, Gnostic heretic, but one of the first men who proposed a canon, essentially forcing others in the Church (like Ireneaus) to counter him with the Apostolic Tradition.

  3. Great post. This same line of argumentation can be used in response to so many accusations you hear, particularly with those crazy conspiracy theories about what happened in the Early Church.

    I often ask “How is it that we know so much about Gnosticism and all of the other heresies of the early centuries?” (which they too would also regard as heresies). How do we know? We know because Catholic apologists at the time fought against them. Thanks to effort, we have a historical record. So…if you want to assert that the “real Christians” in the Early Church believed X, Y or Z, where is the record of the dispute which they would have necessarily had to have had with the Catholic Church?

    BTW, your book just arrived in the mail. Expect a review up in the next couple of weeks 🙂

    1. Chris,

      My Protestant friend commented at Called to Communion with his list of some of the Fathers’ canon proposals: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/01/the-canon-question/#comment-20354

      The summary is that some of the deuterocanonicals had widespread acceptance, especially Baruch, while a book like Esther that everyone accepts now was excluded by many. In other words, a mixed bag that doesn’t exactly correspond to either the Protestant or Catholic canon.

  4. Christopher the Noble,

    I think you are interpreting my comments more antagonistically than I intended them (i.e. as somehow a threat to the Catholic position). I’m not suggesting that in arguing *from* evidence a position is thereby right. “Evidence” can be interpreted in satisfying and unsatisfying ways, or can even itself be challenged. All I’m suggesting is that he uses historical data to make his argument. The “evidence,” then would be sources from councils, Jerome’s writings, Augustine’s writings, etc. Catholic will interpret this “evidence” (historical sources) in a different way than Protestants.

    Hope that puts you at ease.


  5. If this were universally accepted, then why did the King James version of the Bible include the Deuterocanonical books from it’s first printing in 1611, later moving them to an appendix, before finally removing them completely in 1827? If these were universally rejected, then why were they included in this Protestant stalwart?

    In fact “in 1615 George Abbot, Archbishop of Canterbury, who had been one of the translators of the King James Version of 1611, directed public notices to be given that no Bibles were to be bound up and sold without the Apocrypha on pain of a whole year’s imprisonment” http://www.gnte.org/ecopub/apocrypha.htm Yup, that sounds like rejection to me. 😉 Punish the people who leave it out because they don’t agree with it at all………

    1. For what it’s worth….

      The Original 1611 Version has already separated the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical books into a separate appendix (sometimes at the end, sometimes between the Old and New Testaments). And it was during the Long Parliament in 1644 that it was removed from the Church of England’s “list of approved books” — (not a theological council, but a governmental act in the immediate post-Cromwell period, for good or for ill).

      Copies were already being distributed without the appendix as early as the 1630s.

      It was as late as the previous post suggests. However, it is interesting to note that it was initially included (albeit in appendix form). I believe Luther’s translation proceeded similarly, but I could be wrong.

  6. It seems like several canons were proposed in the early Church. The Orthodox, Catholics, and Protestants all have somewhat different canons, all of which can be traced historically to the Early Church. And no one brought out the pitch forks or the anathema’s.

    Maybe it’s because the disagreement about the canon wasn’t very important to the early Church, like it is today.

    1. Paul, what you say about the historicity of various canons is true. The whole ideas of “Scripture” and “canon” and inerrancy and infallibility saw gradual development and a deepening of their importance and the Church’s understanding of them.

      But for a Protestant to conceded that is dangerous for them, because it raises the question: Since sola Scriptura is true and has been true for the history of the Church [except in perhaps the first century when the NT was being written], why wouldn’t the canon have always been critically important? If the Church operated off sola Scriptura, she would have to know (quickly) and with (a great deal of) certainty which books were inspired and which were not.

      So facing the fact that the canon took shape over centuries and the Church didn’t go crazy over it with anathemas to people who proposed different lists is evidence against Protestantism.

      1. And this seems to suggest that this or that variation on the canon was not as important to the early Church as this or that variation on, say, the nature of Christ (fully God?), or, say, on the nature of God (one in persons or three?), or, say, on the resurrection of the dead, etc. There is a certain hierarchy of importance when it comes to doctrines.

        1. “And this seems to suggest that this or that variation on the canon was not as important to the early Church as this or that variation on, say, the nature of Christ”

          Actually, that is true. If you look at the Deuterocanonicals and “extra” books of the Orthodox, you will find very little that Protestants would disagree with other than prayers for the dead in 2nd Maccabees.

          Of course Augustine didn’t change the canon, but if he did, he could have done so without anyone balking because it didn’t make a bit of difference doctrinally whether the canon was smaller or bigger.

          1. Inasmuch as a Catholic can be a faithful Catholic without having ever read the Apocryphal literature, it seems that Catholics might admit with me that the question of the canon per se is not really all that important. But inasmuch as the question about the canon brings to light different views on authority, I must agree with Catholics that it brings to the fore questions of much greater importance.

            I can especially see how, for Catholics, it raises a question of deep piety inasmuch as Catholics believe that the will of Christ is mediated through the Catholic Church infallibly. In this doctrine of mediation the teachings of the Catholic Church become the same as the teachings of Christ himself. This is what makes the question of the canon significant. The weight of the matter is not on whether one ever reads the Apocryphal literature or not (and thus in this sense, it’s not so important whether one has these books in his or her Bible or not), but the matter takes its weight from the Catholic understanding of mediation (Christ mediates his will via the Catholic Church, and therefore it is arrogant and prideful to reject anything the Catholic Church teaches, whether it is as weighty as the deity of Christ, or as relatively inconsequential as whether one accepts the Apocrypha or not).

            As Aquinas might say, the question of the canon takes it great weight accidentally from the question about the nature of mediation.

  7. I thought I would throw in the following observations. These issues are much more important than they may appear at first glance. Why? If the Protestants are right about the Canon then Catholicism is teachng a false gospel. (I hope I won’t have to explain the reasoning for this. It should be obvious.) If the Catholic Church is not the church that Christ built then where is it? In other words, questions about the Canon are ultimately questions about the nature of God.

    On the other hand, if the Catholic Canon is correct then Protestants are in serious error. After spending years disputing the Catholic Church I finally realized after much study and soul searching that the Catholic Church is the One and Only Church. I was led to this conclusion by many things. One of the primary reasons is the realization that if God allowed the Bible to be corrupted then Christianity as a whole cannot be defended.

    There are no true debates about the Canon of Scripture. All debates are really about things like Marian doctrines and the Eucharist etc. No one, and I sincerely mean no one would ever question the Canon if there we no other issues involved. This is why the Canon went unchallenged for 1100 years until the time of Martin Luther.

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  9. Jeff,

    You say: “If the Protestants are right about the Canon then Catholicism is teaching a false gospel. (I hope I won’t have to explain the reasoning for this. It should be obvious.)”

    This is not obvious. It is one thing for a Protestant to say “Catholics have a different Canon,” and quite another to say “Catholics preach a false gospel.” These appear to be distinct claims that by no means necessarily entail one another. Please do explain.


  10. Except (one could argue) that if they’re going to argue about the nature of Christ, etc. They would need to have some basis for arguing their reasons. I’d think that either settling on a canonical list was of vital importance, or that it had already been settled, or that canon made no difference at all (in which case you’d have to base your arguments in some sort of [T/t]radition).

  11. Bill,

    The NT gospels themselves were Tradition put to writing. The fact that Protestants, Catholics, and the Orthodox can all argue on the basis of their own canon for, say, the deity of Christ, or say, the doctrine of the Trinity, suggests that the “basis” for arguing need not necessarily entail a particular commitment to the Protestant, Catholic, or Orthodox canons, but [most likely] something they all share in common.

    Sure you need a “basis” to argue, but the preconditions for asserting the deity of Christ or the doctrine of the Trinity can be found in the oral Traditions about Jesus (before they were written and upon which they were based, as Paul says to Timothy “hold fast to the Traditions I taught you and pass them on,” etc.) or likewise in the written traditions of the gospels (which P’s, C’s, and O’s all hold in common) or likewise in Paul’s letters (which P’s, C’s, and O’s hold in common), etc. Luther was ready to do away with the epistle of James, which would have created yet another distinct canon from the ones we know today (with one less book than the Protestants today have). Would this have caused him to reject Nicaea and Chalcedon? I doubt it.

    This is why I insist on distinguishing between a particular view of the canon vs. a particular view of the gospel itself, upon which the writings that constitute the canon were based. This is why I conclude: “It is one thing for a Protestant to say that Catholics have a different Canon, and quite another to say that Catholics preach a false gospel.”


  12. *Prot Alert*

    The problem with the argument you’ve presented here is that it can be easily turned back against the 73-book position. Personally, as a prot, I would not have claimed that the entire present day 66-book canon was flawlessly and continuously attested to until Trent (or whenever). I don’t think that’s a tenable argument. However, neither was the 73-book canon.

    In reality, the canon was to a certain degree in flux for hundreds of years. It is very important to understand the significance of this: for hundreds of years, barely any two canon lists from non-heretical sources were identical in every respect, yet no dog barked. To say this another way, the thing the dog did not bark at was centuries of co-existing, slightly differing canon lists. When this is understood rightly, one can then correctly assess Augustine’s role: Augustine’s list was not some landmark change in the canon, but neither was he one more in an unbroken chain of 73-bookers; rather, Augustine (like Athanasius, Cyril, Hillary, Eusebius, Origen, and many others before and after him), was merely one in a chain of slightly differing canon lists. This is the true explanation for why the dog didn’t bark at Augustine. He was merely one in a succession of dozens of mailmen who also crossed the street.

    Now I know that for many RC apologists, the idea of instability in the canon is analogous to the idea of nuclear war to a highschool debate student; but there it is, in the black-and-white of history: centuries of differing canon lists, and no dog barked.

    Like I said, the argument is turned: basically, if the Roman Catholic canon list were continuously attested to throughout Christian history, then Athanasius (among many others) would have been slapped like a red-headed step child. But this never happened. Notice though what was said by Athanasius:

    “These are the fountains of salvation, that he who thirsts may be satisfied with the living words they contain. In these alone the teaching of godliness is proclaimed. Let no one add to these; let nothing be taken away from them. For concerning these the Lord put to shame the Sadducees, and said, Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures.”

    And his list was not the 73-book list.

    1. Charles,

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I concede that there was “instability” in the canon for a long time. I would not claim that the 73 book canon was a historical slam-dunk.

      This post though is responding to some Protestant friends of mine who are arguing (against you and me) that the Protestant canon is a historical slam-dunk, that, as my friend says, “nine Church Fathers in a row all listed the Protestant OT,” (even though in fact none of them exactly listed it–I was ignoring that in this post and assuming he was right).

      So in short, I agree with you that the dog did not bark because there were many varying canonical lists proposed, which slowly crystallized in the late 300s/early 400s with the 73 book list, BUT that even up to the Reformation it wasn’t dogma and Christians in the Church still debated it. Hence, the Council of Florence in the 1400s affirmed the 73 book canon again but Cardinal Cajetan at the time of the Reformation still was of the opinion that the deuteroncanonicals should not be accepted.

      God bless!

    2. So are you saying that as a Protestant, you are comfortable with the fact that the Protestant canon was not attested to continuously until the time of Luther and Calvin?

      1. Sarah,

        What I’m saying is that neither canon was attested to continuously until the time of Luther and Calvin.

        The canon list in Trent was not a formal declaration of a universally (yet informally) recognized list, even though that’s what it claimed to be: “(the Synod) following the examples of the orthodox Fathers, receives and venerates with an equal affection of piety, and reverence, all the books both of the Old and of the New Testament… as having been dictated, either by Christ’s own word of mouth, or by the Holy Ghost, and preserved in the Catholic Church by a continuous succession.” [followed by the 73-book list]

        But as we know that canon list was not preserved by continuous succession. Neither of them were. While I disagree with some protestant’s claim that the 66-book list was handed down by an unbroken succession, all the RC arguments against that prot can be made with equal strength and validity against the claims of Trent concerning the 73-book list.

        1. That’s really interesting. I don’t have a problem with the idea that there were reputable Christians through the centuries who had differing opinions on the canon. But wasn’t the Vulgate, which included the deuterocanonicals, *the* version accepted for use in worship in the West from the time of Jerome until Trent? Aren’t there works of art based on the stories in the deuterocanonicals decorating many ancient churches, right alongside art based on stories from the rest of the Bible? Even if some Christians believed in a different canon, it would seem the western Church generally used the 73 books. Or have I completely got my history wrong?

          Also, I find it very interesting that you believe the openness of the canon during history to be a point in favor of Protestantism and not in favor of Catholicism. As a Catholic I believe I could have my faith even if there were no Bible. If the canon had never been defined I would still have access to the Catholic faith. But if one believes the Bible to be the ultimate arbiter of what the orthodox faith is, then the question of what the canon is becomes extremely important. So if your view of the canon is true, Christians in the early church, who believed in sola scriptura, and believed they had the responsibility to keep the church from apostasy, using scripture, for some reason never felt the need to define once and for all, exactly what was and wasn’t scripture. They put themselves in the precarious position of not having the tools (a defined canon) for the job (keeping the church from adopting extra-Biblical doctrines and practices).

          1. Sarah,

            First, your second paragraph, in which you wrote: “As a Catholic I believe I could have my faith even if there were no Bible.” Before I reply to this, I’d like to know (by show of hands?) if this is the majority opinion among the RCs here; and, if so, if someone could demonstrate whether this is the position the RCC would like for her people to hold.

            As to your second paragraph: first, it must be noted what Jerome said about the deuterocanonical books. After listing an OT canon list that looks pretty darn close to the 66-book version, he says this: “This preface to the Scriptures may serve as a helmeted introduction to all the books which we turn from Hebrew into Latin, so that we may be assured that what is outside of them must be placed aside among the Apocryphal writings. Wisdom, therefore, which generally bears the name of Solomon, and the book of Jesus the Son of Sirach, and Judith, and Tobias, and the Shepherd are not in the canon. The first book of Maccabees is found in Hebrew, but the second is Greek, as can be proved from the very style. ” The longer quote, and the list in it, can be read here: http://www.bible-researcher.com/jerome.html

            As for works of art and such, compare that quote of Jerome’s to this one of Athanasius’ concerning the same deuterocanonicals: “There are other books besides these, indeed not received as canonical but having been appointed by our fathers to be read to those just approaching and wishing to be instructed in the word of godliness: Wisdom of Solomon, Wisdom of Sirach, Esther, Judith, Tobit, and that which is called the Teaching of the Apostles, and the Shepherd. But the former, my brethren, are included in the Canon, the latter being merely read…” Taking these two quotes together (among others), it would make sense that these books would have influenced the church culture without having been considered canon. It is probably an unfortunate outcome of the Reformed reaction to Rome’s abuses of these books that they have been almost entirely lost to the Reformed world at this point. But there you are.

        2. Well, it has to be the Church’s definition of “continuous succession” and not your definition. Continuous succession doesn’t mean “every Church Father who mentioned a possible canonical list matched this one.”

          Sarah makes good points. It is not without coincidence that the same canon agreed upon and confirmed by the Pope in the 300s is the same canon reaffirmed 1,000 years later at Florence and then at Trent dogmatically.

          1. Devin,

            I must of course concede your point about the meaning of “continuous succession” that we use. So what is Rome’s definition of continuous succession?

          2. Charles,

            Good question–I will have to research what that phrase means (“and preserved in the Catholic Church by a continuous succession”).

        3. Charles, but how would you explain the Coptic, Assyrian, Oriental Orthodox, and Eastern Orthodox canons?

          The first three broke away from the Catholic Church during the first 400 years, yet they contain the deuterocanonicals as to the Eastern Orthodox. Yes, they all have different canons but it seems like the Catholic canon is actually the most minimalistic of the bunch. There has been open hostility between many of these groups (especially the Assyrian Church of the East and every other Catholic/Orthodox branch) so there is little likelihood of mutual influence, yet despite being apart for so long, they do agree that the canon at least contains 73 books. Why haven’t any early Christian offshoots or even later Christian offshoots before the Reformation preserved the 66 book canon if that canon had any legs at any time?

  13. Dear Bradley

    Thank you for your reply. Who would guess that someone was actually reading what I wrote. I will be glad to explain my reasoning for this. That may take me longer than I have at this moment so I will prepare my answer and post it tomorrow.

    I do understand why you feel the way you do. Believe me, my intent is not to argue. I merely want to introduce a different element into this discussion. Disputes about the Canon are not merely an academic exercise. As you may know when Martin Luther was challenged in a debate about Purgatory he responded by removing seven books from the Bible. Ultimately, if one decides that the Protestant Canon is correct it starts a chain reaction of inferences that can only lead to the conclusion that Catholicism is corrupted and false.

    If you don’t mind me asking, can you tell me if you think Catholicism is preaching a false gospel or an authentic gospel? Are we saved by faith and works or by faith alone? Is the Pope the Vicar of Christ or a Pretender? Did the line of apostolic succession end with Peter and Paul or does it continue today? How do we decide that the Bible is the Word of God? Is it by the authority of our “feelings” or by some other authority.

    Let me end by saying that I deeply respect all thoughts on this subject. These are such important topics. I like to think that both Catholics and Protestants are on the same road. From a Catholic perspective Protestants are brothers in Christ even though we see them as separated from the Church. However, from a Protestant perspective the Catholic Church cannot be anything but an arrogant pretender to the truth. I say this not to argue but becaue I want Protestants to see the ultimate end of their arguments and thereby see that the Catholic Church is the True Church. So, are you ready to become Catholic yet? Just kidding!!!


    Jeff Simmons

  14. Jeff,

    Thanks for your appreciation for “all thoughts” on this matter, and your contribution to the discussion. I think you are taking this thread in an interesting direction.

    You write: “Ultimately, if one decides that the Protestant Canon is correct it starts a chain reaction of inferences that can only lead to the conclusion that Catholicism is corrupted and false.” This sounds like your previous point, only in different words. But I await to see how you will defend this and demonstrate that the former logically and necessarily leads to the latter. And remember, the latter is not just Catholicism is corrupt “in some way,” or that it is false “in some way,” but that it is a corruption of the gospel in particular, understood as the central message of Christianity concerning Christ.

    You write: “However, from a Protestant perspective the Catholic Church cannot be anything but an arrogant pretender to the truth.” This seems like another assertion without argument. There is a litany of Protestants who do not see the Catholic Church as “nothing” but an arrogant pretender (e.g. ECT [Evangelical and Catholics Together], the Joint Declaration, etc.). It seems that you are suggesting that such would be impossible. But certainly it is not, since many Protestants in fact do not think of Catholics this way. Therefore I take you to mean that ECT and JD are only “logically” impossible for Protestants via a “chain of [necessary] inferences.” I add “necessary” because your argument will not hold without it.

    Looking forward to reading your argument, with at least one of the premises being “the Protestant Canon is the right one,” and the conclusion being “Catholics preach a false gospel,” or “Catholics cannot be seen as anything other than an arrogant pretender to the truth [of the gospel].” Looking forward to discovering the secret premise that get’s you to your conclusion, and the chain of necessary inferences that flow from “the Protestant Canon is true.”



    1. Bradley,

      I’ll take a stab at Jeff’s logic.

      1) The Catholic Church claims to be the Church Jesus Christ founded and as such the infallible teacher of the faith
      2) The Church defined a 73 book canon operating under the grace of infallibility
      3) But, the Protestant canon is the right canon
      4) Therefore, the Church does not have the grace of infallibility
      5) Thus, it is reasonable to doubt their other promulgations are untrustworthy (i.e., they get the gospel wrong)
      6) In turn, #1 is not true but rather the opposite

      I can understand how this logic would not work for almost any other church, since most other Christian communities don’t make the claim of #1. In other words:

      1) The Protestants say that the canon is 66-books
      2) But, the canon is not 66 books
      3) Therefore Protestantism teaches a false gospel

      3 does not follow from 2 because 1 does not imply what is entailed in #1 in my first example.

      Peace in Christ,


      1. Brent,

        You loose me on #5. You seem to be arguing something like this: “Because Rome is wrong about her infallibility, other Catholic promulgations can be reasonably doubted, and therefore her teaching about the gospel must necessarily be doubted and considered false.” I don’t see the logical necessity of this conclusion at all.

        The way you have stated it (“it is reasonable to doubt other promulgations”) would then also extend to all that Protestants and Catholic share in common that has been “promulgated” by the Catholic Church (e.g. the Trinity, the deity of Christ, the resurrection of the dead, etc.). Therefore, it seems that believing that Catholics are wrong about infallibility doesn’t necessitate doubt about all Catholic promulgations, but only necessitates that all Catholic promulgations must be taken on a case-by-case basis rather than accepted wholesale or rejected wholesale.

        Your thoughts?


        1. If I understand you correctly, then yes I affirm that if the doctrinal authority of the Councils is not located in the authority of the Catholic Church and is located in the perspicuous and rationally unassailable claims of Scripture, then those doctrines which we share should be questioned given that Arians quoted copiously from scripture, made erudite arguments, and the language of Nicea is foreign to Scripture.

          Back to my claim, if the Catholic Church is not who she says she is, she is a liar. (If a Protestant makes a mistake about theology then they are a Protestant) It would be ad hoc and par accidens that she gets some doctrine right regarding salvation, if *we* are then to become the judge of whether or not she got it right or not (case-by-case basis). What one constructs, then, is their personal theology which we can imagine would be different for each person. To stay on topic, the case-by-case analysis is a Protestant paradigmatic way of looking at theology because it assumes that the Bible needs no Magisterium and therefore you and I with the aid of the Holy Spirit can interpret the Scripture and Tradition correctly so as to obtain doctrinal truth. However, in the Catholic paradigm that is not the case, and if the Church could err she would cease to be the Church. Which is why the original Reformers understood her to be the whore of Babylon.

          I appreciate when someone calls her that because it means they understand what she is claiming to be. Like Christ, he is not either partly right or partly wrong. He is either the God-man or he is a mad-man. His claim about himself necessitates the choice. So with his Church, it is either His Church or not his church and if not his church, must by necessity be teaching error which can lead souls to hell.

          If your distinction is between the particulars of theology and the whole, then we agree, and that distinction would be a protestant distinction and would make the Catholic Church a way-cool denomination. However, the Catholic Church isn’t nor claims to be a denomination. As such, the bar is higher, and what’s at stake even the more.

          1. Brent,

            I’ve lost you.

            I understand your contention with the Protestant doctrine of the “perspicuity” of Scripture (as if Scripture is so clear it needs no authoritative interpretation).

            I also can understand your appreciation of Protestants who grasp Catholic claims about the nature of the Catholic Church (that she is the One True Church of Jesus Christ, that she is Infallible, etc.).

            I just don’t see how this relates to our discussion. That is, I just don’t see how it necessitates logically that a Protestant who believes that Catholic promulgations should be accepted or rejected on a case-by-case basis (regardless of how wrong you think this approach is) necessarily must conclude that every single doctrine promulgated by the Catholic Church is the teaching of the Devil leading all souls to hell.

            Unless you are wanting to equate “the Catholic gospel” with “all doctrines promulgated by the Catholic Church,” I just don’t see the necessary inferences here.

            Your thoughts?


          2. Bradley,

            I think we agree with each other. I am apparently doing a poor job explaining what I intend to communicate. My only hope is that an Angel would save me. Thusly, let’s consider what St. Thomas says in Summa Theologica, II-II Q.5 a.3,:

            “Consequently whoever does not adhere, as to an infallible and Divine rule, to the teaching of the Church, which proceeds from the First Truth manifested in Sacred Scripture, has not the habit of faith, but holds the [other articles] of faith by a mode other than faith. If someone holds in his mind a conclusion without knowing how that conclusion is demonstrated, it is manifest that he does not have scientific knowledge [i.e. knowledge of causes], but merely an opinion about it. So likewise, it is manifest that he who adheres to the teachings of the Church, as to an infallible rule, assents to whatever the Church teaches; otherwise, if, of the things taught by the Church, he holds what he chooses to hold, and rejects what he chooses to reject, he no longer adheres to the teachings of the Church as to an infallible rule, but to his own will. Hence it is evident that a heretic who obstinately disbelieves [even] one article of faith, is not prepared to follow the teaching of the Church in all things (but if he is not obstinate, he is not a heretic but only erring). Therefore it is clear that such a heretic with regard to one article has no faith in the other articles, but only a kind of opinion in accordance with his own will.”

            So, to be Catholic is to affirm everything the Church teaches. If she errs regarding the Eucharist, than we are bread worshipers and as such idolaters.

            I hope St. Thomas cleared it up a bit.

  15. Martin Luther’s decision about which Old Testament books to include in his canon was reputedly based on a group of Jewish scholars gathered at Jamnia about 90 A.D. These scholars decided to keep ONLY those books originally written in Hebrew. This causes a problem with Daniel, as it exists in Hebrew only up to Chapter 4, verse 4.
    Anyway, these Jewish scholars at Jamnia are descendants of Pharisees who rejected Jesus, and the post-resurrection preaching of the Apostles. Why would a Christian, centuries later, accept their criterion for which books to include?

  16. Luther’s decision was at least in part a concession to Jeromes doctrine of Veritas Hebraica (truth of the Hebrew). IIUC, Jerome preferred the pre-Greek, Hebrew OT when it came to making canonical determinations.

  17. I’ve seen quotes like that before – the ones that indicate that Jerome and other church fathers did not believe the deuterocanonicals should be accepted. But this runs smack against what was actually done. These books were treated the same as the rest of Scripture for over 1000 years – painstaking copied, illuminated, bound together with the rest of Scripture, read during mass, referenced when making theological points… Also, as has been pointed out elsewhere, Jerome and Luther did not have Hebrew manuscripts of the deuterocanonicals, but some (I believe not all, but someone who knows better feel free to jump in and correct me/provide more info) have since been found.

    I’m curious how Rome abused these books. I’ve heard that Rome wrongly elevated them to the status of Scripture, but unless that’s what you mean, I’ve not not heard that she abused them.

    Also, you’ve ignored my point/question. How can sola scriptura be enforced if the definition of scripture is unknown?

    1. Sarah,

      You wrote: “…Jerome and other church fathers did not believe the deuterocanonicals should be accepted. But this runs smack against what was actually done.” But I think this only illustrates one of the problems, which is easier to see by stating the issue a different way: “Rome required that the deuterocanonicals be accepted, but this ran smack against what Jerome and other church fathers believed.”

      As to sola scriptura. I’m not sure exactly what you mean by sola scriptura being “enforced.” But it seems like the gist of your question is how the church can appeal to scripture as the lone infallible source of doctrine and use it to suppress heresy, if the canon is not known. And in reply I am still going to press you on your position that your RC faith would be unaffected by a total lack of scripture. Let me try to communicate the sequence of thoughts here:

      You wrote this: “So if your view of the canon is true, Christians in the early church, who believed in sola scriptura, and believed they had the responsibility to keep the church from apostasy, using scripture, for some reason never felt the need to define once and for all, exactly what was and wasn’t scripture.” But there are several problems for you here, in sequence: 1) Many fathers DID define canons. 2) If you object with, “But not once-for-all!”, I reply “Neither did Rome for 1400 years.” 3) When you respond to this by repeating your assertion that your RC faith does not require a canon, and so neither did Rome, I insist that we stop here for a moment and make sure we’re all on the same page: Are you sure this is the position you want to defend? Before we go any further, Are you sure that the Roman Catholic church does not, nor ever did, require a canon of scripture? Are you sure that Roman Catholic doctrine is authoritatively established extrabiblically?

      If you say “Yes I’m sure, Rome doesn’t need a canon (like the early Christians would have if they were sola scripturites),” then we have an interesting conversation ahead of us. But if you answer “No, Rome really does need a dogmatized canon,” then I return your sola scriptura challenge back to you: if the suppression of heresy requires a dogmatized canon, how did Rome manage for 1400 years without one?

      1. “Rome required that the deuterocanonicals be accepted, but this ran smack against what Jerome and other church fathers believed.”

        So the question becomes one of who had more authority – the pope in Rome or Jerome and Athanasius. Since the church generally (including Jerome and Athanasius) in actual practice followed the pope, it would seem the early Christians (including Jerome and Athanasius) believed the pope had more authority to decide the question than did they.

        Since you’re trying to pin me down, I’ll say I’m not sure I spoke quite correctly in saying that the Catholic faith would be the same without a Bible. I’ll try to explain what I mean. Is Scripture important? Of course. Can the Church contradict Scriptural doctrine? No. But… and this is a huge caveat, Catholic faith doesn’t rest only on Scripture as does any Protestant faith. If I can’t read my own Bible, like the majority of Christians throughout time, I still have access to the faith of the apostles. If I don’t have a Bible translated into my own language, as many Christians through history have not, I can still believe and practice the authentic Christian faith. If the translation I have has errors in it, as most (probably all) do, I can still know the true faith. If I know there are sacred writings, but don’t know which writings are sacred and which are not, I still have an authoritative voice to tell me what is orthodox. I do not have the responsibility personally to use any sacred text in order to decide which doctrines and practices are acceptable and which are not.

        Correct me if I’m wrong, but sola scriptura not only claims the right of every individual to read and interpret Scripture for himself, but the responsibility to do so. Under sola scriptura I would need to be able to read, to have a translation of the Bible in my own language, and to know which writings are and are not included because I personally have a responsibility to test every doctrine I hear against those Scriptures. Without a defined canon, I can’t do that. Without a translation in my own language I can’t do that. Without the ability to read, I can’t do that.

        Can you see the difference between the two systems? And can you see how, if there was no defined canon until Luther/Trent, then the early church could not have been following any version of sola scriptura? Can you see that in a system without a defined canon, only the Catholic or Orthodox systems could even function, while any system that depends on scripture alone could not possibly even function?

    2. I’d like to add-on another question to Sarah’s here for Charles to weigh-in on.

      What recognized authority defined what “Sola Scriptura” even means in the early church and what Protestant “authority” defines its meaning in this modern secular day and age? The entire topic of “cannon” can not even stand without addressing a notion of “authority” – and this is precisely where the noisy legions of protesting voices rejoins the mob-rabble of Babel and topples the whole structure of Protestantism. Without legitimate authority (ref. the disaster of Korah’s rebellion OT Numbers 16) even the Protestant notion of Sola Fide asks us to first have a faith in the reformers theology before we can put our faith in Christ since its never mentioned anywhere in the bible nor in evidence historically up through the 16th century.

      History seems to be consistently silent on Sola Scriptura too until Luther first started expressing the concept. Those that care to argue differently must step into historical documents (if any could be found) and there annihilate their own argument outside of scripture. These notions are certainly not defined in the bible anywhere and seems to be refuted in many places which I won’t bother to enumerate. I note too that as far as we know none of the apostles actually ever sat down and gave each other “scripture” writing assignments. I think its more than sage to presume that NONE of them even knew they were writing what The Church was centuries later to declare and define as “NT Scripture”. In fact, all the early apostles and their disciples thought that Christ’s return was imminent in their life times (this is seen in Paul’s very own words). They were given the Great Commission to “Preach” all that Christ commanded – nothing about writing bibles. And no commandment to “do it yourself” apart from “the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth (1 Tim 3:15).”

      And I might also mention that very few early Christians (or pagans for that matter) could even read or write through the 18th century. So just HOW does any “general” notion of sola-scriptura (whatever it really means) even manifest the “biblical truth” to the millions who only had facilities for “hearing” predominantly by word or mouth and teaching tradition? If the Catholic Church is teaching gospel error then Christianity on the whole is universally a deception and the promises of Christ that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against [My Church]” are also false.

      The Church and Christians everywhere have always recognized apostolic authority. This was why anathemas were written anytime serious errors popped up by heretics to teach by negative example explicitly “what is not Christian” Anathemas predate the bible’s formation. The apostolic tradition of writing anathema’s is seen in the bible when (Catholic Bishop) St. Paul in his letter to the Galatians: 1:9 [i]”As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed! [/i] The apostles condemned any notion of independent preaching and interpretation of their own words.

      Forgetting for the moment that there was no canonical bible at all until Catholic Pope Damascus first started to formally codify the church cannon in 382 AD (the Damasus’ Decree) look to what is today undisputed Christian scripture tells us here in Gal. 1:9. Here is direct scriptural evidence that “what” constitutes “gospel” canon is of paramount importance but not only by what is accepted by the pedigree of it’s source (i.e. received by “you” from direct apostolic teaching authority) but also in the recognition of the manner in which it was PREACHED and TAUGHT by what is generally recognized by Christians by apostolic tradition. In other words “God’s family” knew each other and recognized each other by familiarity of teaching and liturgical traditions. Certainly, the common illiterate Christian was not reading any of the precious few loose leaf manuscripts available on his own.

      The only legitimate argument I would grant to there ever being a 66 book cannon would be that it was an abridged version used only to save the church the cost of scribing and reproducing. Ironically, in granting that I then have to also say that it was the Protestant Bible publishers who all on their own (an ad-hoc Protestant magesterium?) elected to remove the index of the so called “apocryphal” books from the original King James version of the bible to save printing and shipping costs. Doubly ironic to note that’s about a tithe light of the truth to sacrifice just to avoid the Catholic doctrine of indulgences….

  18. I have not read all the replys here, so I hope I am not asking a question that has an answer already here on this forum. I heard once that some of the Lord’s teachings were quoted from the book(s) that people dont believe are part of the cannon, those we are discussing. Does anyone know this to be true? If it is so, which ones? thanks.

    1. Joseph,

      There are probable references, but Protestants will try to dispute them. Here’s a list of many: http://www.scripturecatholic.com/deuterocanon.html

      If you haven’t before, I would also recommend reading Wisdom 2, in particular verses 12 onward, one of the clearest prophecies of Christ and His Passion in the Old Testament, ranking up there with Isaiah 53/suffering servant and Psalm 22: http://www.usccb.org/nab/bible/wisdom/wisdom2.htm

      But it should also be noted that quotation != canonicity. The Apostles quoted books no one accepts as inspired (1 Enoch, Assumption of Moses, etc.). Also, there are several books Protestants and Catholics both accept in the Old Testament that neither Jesus nor the Apostles ever quote. Still, it is good to examine this subject.

      God bless!

  19. Dear Bradley

    Christianity can be accepted and lived without engaging in deep logical analysis. However, when it is challenged by sceptics it should be able to standup to the rigors of rational scrutiny.

    Christianity is built on multiple and interconnecting foundations. All truth begins with our perception of the nature of reality. Atheism? Pantheism? Deism? Theism? Our perception of the nature of reality almost always determines where we end up. Let’s take a brief look at some of the sceptics and see what they have to say.

    The sceptic David Hume said: “If we take in our hands any volume; of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.” An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding

    The atheist Bertrand Russell said: “If everything must have a cause, then God must have a cause. If there can be anything without a cause, it may just as well be the world as God, so that there cannot be any validity in that argument. It is exactly of the same nature as the Hindu’s view, that the world rested upon an elephant and the elephant rested upon a tortoise; and when they said, “How about the tortoise?” the Indian said, ‘Suppose we change the subject.’ The argument is really no better than that.” Why I Am Not a Christian

    The atheist George Smith said: “For the atheist, the universe – the totality of existence – is a metaphysical primary and, as such, cannot require an explanation. The natural knowable universe provides the context in which all explanations are possible, so to demand an explanation for the universe itself is epistemologically absurd….The universe does not exist for a reason at all; it simply exists.” Atheism The Case Against God

    The atheist Nicholas Covington said: “Is it possible for us to know that we are not inhabiting a massive computer-generated world? I do not think it is.” Atheism and Naturalism

    The atheist Michael Martin said: “For if God could create the world out of nothing, one might suppose that something could be spontaneously generated out of nothing without God’s help. Atheism: A Philosophical Justification

    “Could it be that the universe was a completely spontaneous thing whose existence is completely independent of whatever existed before?” Digital Bits Skeptic: Article ID: 1312


    If we reject atheism and a random universe perhaps we really live in a Deist universe. What proof do we have that God has actually intervened into human history? Does history have meaning or is it a series of meaningless events without ultimate purpose? Is it possible that the hand of God is guiding history to a final destination? To know this we would need information that showed history has some kind of historical continuity. Perhaps a book that started with the creation of the world and ended with the end of the world might be a good place to start looking..

    So what does this have to do with the Canon of the Bible and the gospel? Everything! If you have done any serious reading—and I know you have because I read your bio—you realize that there are people who are dead serious about proving Christianity false. As one of many examples I cite Dr. Michael Martin’s book, The Case Against Christianity. Martin and many other sceptics even argue that Jesus did not exist. Are they right? For someone like Martin , the Canon of the Bible is like a domino piece standing in a row with all the other domino pieces. If you knock it over it starts a chain reaction that will knock down most of the other pieces. Why? Because the chain reaction eventually knocks over any claim to historical continuity. Once historical continuity is destroyed all Christians lose the foundation that their beliefs are built on.

    I will now prove that “If Protestanism is True” and the Protestant Canon really is correct, then we have to infer that the Catholic Church is preaching a false gospel.

    There is only One gospel. Catholics and Protestants have a serious difference of opinion on the content of the gospel. With regard to justification, Protestant and Evangelical Theologian and Philosopher Dr. Norman Geisler states on page 237 of Volume 3 of his Systematic Theology: “the biblical doctrine of justification had been largely lost throughout much of Christian history, and it was the Reformers who recovered this Pauline truth.” Dr. Geisler states further that:

    “The Catholic View Makes Works a Condition of Eternal Life” p. 265
    “The Catholic View Makes Works of Santification a Condition of Salvation” p. 266
    “The Catholic View Makes a False Distinction Between Works and Works of the Law” p. 268
    “The Catholic View Is Similar to the Error of Galatianism” p. 270
    “The Catholic View Holds That the Roman Catholic Church Is the Institution of Salvation” p.275
    “The Catholic View of the Eucharist As Sacrifice Vitiates Salvation by Grace” p. 276

    Vitiate: to make something ineffective; to make something faulty; to debase something.

    If Sola Scriptura and Sola Fides are true as Protestants claim, all of the above are also true. On the other hand, if the Catholic Church really is what it claims to be then Sola Scriptura and Sola Fides are false concepts and Protestants are sincere but confused. We can gain insight into this issue by looking at the claims of the Catholic Church.

    Let’s begin by stating that The Catholic Church claims it is being guided by God in matters of faith and morals via apostolic succession. The Canon of the Bible is a matter of faith and morals. The Catholic Church has stated that the Canon includes 73 books. If the Catholic Church is wrong about the Canon it means they are not being guided by God via apostolic succession as they claim. This would mean apostolic succession ended with Peter and Paul. Thus there is no church that can claim historical continuity via apostolic succession. Consequently, in order to know Christian truth we are left with Sola Scriptura. Sola Scriptura is essentially the claim that God is personally guiding people in their search for truth when they read the Bible. In their search for truth, God has led Protestants to the truth of Sola Fides. Sola Fides, implies, infers and even demands that the Catholic Church is preaching a false gospel.

    This seems to be the only logical conclusion we can glean from our reflections on these matters. Therefore, the Catholic Church is teaching a false gospel. If you disagree and believe the Catholic Church is not teaching a false gospel please explain your reasoning.

    Unfortunately, if we were to follow the falling dominoes of Michael Martin and other sceptics to their logical ending point we would eventually be lead to the same conclusion as atheist Dr. Victor Stenger who states the following about Christians and the Bible:

    “people who imagine a man in the moon or the face of Jesus on a burned tortilla.” “The gospel writers shaped their stories of Jesus around the model of the godman of Mithraism and other Middle Eastern cults, with a little Osiris and Dionysus thrown in” The New Atheism: Taking a Stand for Science and Reason


    Jeff Simmons

    1. Jeff,

      I’m afraid you have underestimated the time and energy it would take to defend your thesis, for you have taken too many of your assumptions for granted in your argument that would need to be established in their own right. I think your argument follows only if someone holds in common with you the multitude of contestable personal beliefs you have managed to embed thoroughly in your line of reasoning.

      I do not share your assumption, for example, that Protestants and Catholics believe different gospels. This question hangs on how broadly or narrowly you define “the gospel” in relation to other Christian beliefs. Is the gospel the same thing as the doctrine of justification? Many Reformed Protestants would say so, but I think this way of viewing the gospel is a result of Reformation polemics. Who before the Reformation ever equated belief in the gospel with adherence to a particular understanding of Paul’s language of justification? Is the gospel message the same thing as the doctrine of the Church? Perhaps some Catholics would say so, but I would argue these are distinct doctrines. Geisler’s very way of describing the differences between Catholics and Protestants (much like his way of describing the differences between Calvinists and Arminians) is unperceptive, prejudiced, and uncharitable.

      You say: “This would mean apostolic succession ended with Peter and Paul.” Not necessarily. It depends on how you define “apostolic succession” in the first place. Furthermore, I see nothing preventing someone from supposing, based on a particular understanding of apostolic succession, that the Apostolic succession continues in Eastern Orthodoxy, or something other than the Catholic Church. (This does not mean they are right, but only that you must rule this out as a logical possibility to establish your thesis). I think you are too eager to jump from “if not a, then b,” without considering other logical possibilities. But if you are going establish what you intended to establish, which is something like “If x, then y necessarily follows,” then you can’t leave room for other logical possibilities than y. You have to show a “necessary chain of inferences.” The same goes for your comment: “Consequently, in order to know Christian truth we are left with Sola Scriptura.” Again I say … not necessarily. If that were the only other option, from whence cometh the Eastern Orthodox, who scorn Protestant doctrine of Sola and adhere to what they think is the true Apostolic Tradition?

      I’m not sure here and now is the best place to launch into a thorough discussion of all these points. Suffice to say this: “Logical necessity” turns out to depend on a great deal of one’s presuppositions and background beliefs.



  20. Dear Bradley

    I want to say one more thing. I consider you a brother in Christ so my intention is not to argue. So do not feel compelled or obligated to respond. My primary purpose here is simply to provide you with my reasons for believing the Catholic Church really is the Church founded by Jesus Christ. Ultimately, the real losers in all of this are the true skeptics who think Christians are little more than, “people who imagine a man in the moon or the face of Jesus on a burned tortilla.” I have read alot of books written by skeptics and atheists and believe me they play very rough. In comparison my Protestant brothers and sisters are little angels.


    Jeff Simmons

  21. It is always interesting to read posts where Christians slam each other and continue the divisive battle to see who is right.

    Another angle as to why the Church did not raise a fuss when the seven extra books were presented is that perhaps they took their foot off the gas pedal and relaxed, thus falling into complacency? Similar to what is happening today.

    1. Cliff,

      There’s a difference between slamming “each other” and making arguments against others’ arguments, which is what has been happening here. I don’t think I’ve read one ad hominem in this entire series of comments.

      Being “right” is one way to say it, in a negative way. But I would say we are trying to ascertain the truth, something important whether you are atheist or Buddhist or Christian. Sure, egos and pride can get in the way and we can just try to “win” sometimes, but that does not detract from the nobility of the goal of seeking the truth.

      As to your theory, it is true that the Church may have feel into complacency on this issue, or, more likely, also been distracted by more important things like, for instance, keeping society together as the Roman Empire had its last legs kicked out from underneath it by the barbarians (Goths et. al.) and the Huns.

  22. Dear Bradley

    Thank you for your response. You state: “I do not share your assumption, for example, that Protestants and Catholics believe different gospels.” I am glad to see that you do not believe the Catholic Church is teaching a different gospel. My comments were mainly an attempt to box you into a corner and see what you really believe. I’m glad you resisted my efforts.

    I would like to make a few last comments and then we can call it quits and walk away, hopefully, if I am not being too presumptive, friends. My comments will not be an attempt to argue but merely to provide my perspective on a few things. At the end I want to make a book recommendation. The book has nothing to do with this topic but I thought you might find it interesting. At least I did.

    One of the problems with discussing these things in posts is that there is not enough time to really delve into the topic. As you point out, my beliefs are built on a multitude of contestable personal beliefs embedded in my line of reasoning. Of course you are right. I would only add that this is true for everyone.

    One such assumption that distinguishes atheists from Christians is the idea that the universe does not “logically” require a cause. As you know, Aristotle developed the science of logic and it has grown and developed into what it is today. What is not always understood though is that at its most basic level logic is merely a way for us to perceive the world in a consistent manner. It is my view that inductive logic is really the foundation of deductive logic.

    Bertrand Russell points out that, “The general principles of science, such as the belief in the reign of law, and the belief that every event must have a cause, are as completely dependent upon the inductive principle as are the beliefs of daily life. All such general principles are believed because mankind has found innumerable instances of their truth and no instances of their falsehood. But this affords no evidence for their truth in the future, unless the inductive principle is assumed. Thus all knowledge which, on a basis of experience, tells us something about what is not experienced, is based upon a belief which experience can neither confirm nor confute, yet which, at least in its more concrete applications appears to be as firmly rooted in us as many of the facts of experience.”

    Here’s an example of a major assumption that distinguishes atheists from you and I. In response to the Kalam Cosmological argument developed by Dr. William Lane Craig, atheist philosopher Dr. Quentin Smith states, “Since the mid 1960’s, scientifically informed theists have been ecstatic because of Big Bang cosmology. Theists believe that the best scientific evidence that God exists is the evidence that the universe began to exist in an explosion about 15 billion years ago, an explosion called the Big Bang. Theists think it obvious that the universe could not have begun to exist uncaused. They argue that the most reasonable hypothesis is that the cause of the universe is God. This theory hinges on the assumption that it is obviously true that whatever begins to exist has a cause….Let’s consider the first premise of the argument, that whatever has a beginning to its existence must have a cause. WHAT REASON IS THERE TO BELIEVE THIS CAUSAL PRINCIPLE IS TRUE? It’s not self-evident;…Therefore, there’s no reason to think it’s true.” The Improbability of God

    Despite my inability to prove this “causal principle” I take this principle for granted. I am guessing you do too. Yet, there is no reason based strictly on logic to assume it is true.

    You stated:

    “This does not mean they are right, but only that you must rule this out as a LOGICAL POSSIBILITY to establish your thesis….If x, then y necessarily follows,” then you can’t leave room for other logical possibilities than y. You have to show a “necessary chain of inferences….“Logical necessity” turns out to depend on a great deal of one’s presuppositions and background beliefs.

    Here is the point I want to make. I think you are too concerned about logical possibility. Logical possibility only means concepts are internally consistent. Logical possibility does notestablish truth.

    Here is a quote from the book ARGUING ABOUT KNOWLEDGE. “In an extremely short and seminal article, However, — which is reprinted in this section – Edmund Gettier conclusively demonstrated that the tripartite account of knowledge, despite it strong prima facie plausibility, was completely unsustainable, at least in its current form. What Gettier noticed was that it is part and parcel of the tripartite account of justification to allow that one’s belief can be justified even if one’s belief is false.”

    You may or may not know this but Immanuel Kant developed what I consider a very strong argument for the existence of God. He demonstrated, at least to my satisfacton, that “logical” necessity really has no application to the concept of “existence.”

    Kant states: “There exists something positively necessary. This is an entity which is unitary in its essence, simple in its substance, a spirit in its nature, eternal in its duration, immutable in its constitution, and sufficient in respect to everything possible and actual. It is a God.”

    Kant again, “Providence has not intended that the insights most necessary for human blessedness should rest upon the subtlety of refined inferences, but rather has immediately provided such insights to natural common sense which, if it is not confused by false artifice, does not fail to lead directly to the true and the useful insofar as we most urgently require them. Thus that employment of common sense which is still well within the limits of ordinary insights readily yields sufficiently convincing proofs for the existence and the properties of this being”

    Kant again, “In the first case either the existence of God as a consequence is concluded from the possible as a ground, or else divine existence as a ground is concluded from the possible as a consequence.”

    Kant one more time: “That through which all possibility is altogether abolished is absolutely impossible. For these are terms meaning the same thing. Now, it is first through what is self-contradictory that the formal element of all possibility, namely agreement with the principle of contradiction is abolished. Thus what is in itelf self-contradictory is absolutely impossible. This is not the case, however, where we have to consider the complete deprivation of all existence. In that, as has been shown, there is no internal contradiction. However, that through which the matter and the data for all possibility are annulled is also that through which all possibility is denied. Now this obtains through the annulment of all existence. Thus if all existence is denied, all possibility is also abolished. Consequently it is absolutely impossible that nothing at all exist.”

    So, let me end by saying you seem like a wonderful Christian. Keep the faith.

    Here is my book recommendation. You probably have to go to Amazon to find it.

    Genesis and The Big Bang by Gerald Schroeder Ph.D.

    Dr. Gerald Schroeder earned a Bachelor of Science in Chemical engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) a Master of Science in Earth and planetary sciences from M.I.T. and a PhD in Earth Sciences and Physics from M.I.T. Dr. Schroeder is a devout Jew and resides in Jerusalem.


    Jeff Simmons

    1. Jeff,

      Thanks for all your kind judgments about me (e.g. that I am a great Christian person, etc.). In Charity, I imagine you to be the same, and clearly you are keen on understanding how people have attacked the faith, and this is a gift of knowledge I trust you are stewarding well for the Kingdom.

      My apologies if I have managed to focus too much on logic. I guess I just don’t know where the “line” is between incoherency and “too much logic.” I think perhaps you set a trap for me (on accident) in this regard, since you raised my hopes so high by your phrase “chain of inferences.” I mistakenly misunderstood you to be claiming that if a Protestant believed that Catholics had the wrong cannon, there was some sort of “strict logic necessity” (hence my excessive focus on “logic”) which made the conclusion “Catholics preach a false gospel” logically inescapable. Methinks now that I must have misunderstood your claim entirely, and you were claiming something more like “Some people, in order to be consistent with their own convictions, come to the conclusion that the Catholic Church is preaching a false gospel.” If this was the true nature of your claim, I think our entire disagreement has been a bit of an accident, since I would have no dispute with such a claim at all.

      Thanks for the book recommendation. I will take a look.



  23. Dear Bradley

    You are correct. There is no logical necessity in my argument. I will have to be careful to make sure I don’t phrase it like that if I ever make that statement in the future. Personally, I feel logic merely relates to the consistency of what we already believe. For example:
    1) All mothers are women. (An inductive argument)
    2) Mary is a mother. (An empirical observation.)
    3) Therefore, Mary is a woman.

    The conclusion is totally dependent on the correctness of the first two premises. David Hume had alot to say about induction and its implications. Hume’s belief on these subjects is one of the reasons he was a skeptic. Although I have to say if you ever feel inclined I recommend reading a biography on him sometime. He is a fascinating character.

    By the way, I love reading Dr. Geisler’s books. I have learned alot from him. He has a great argument for God’s existence in his book Christian apologetics. I sometimes wonder what he thought when the co-author of his book on the Catholic Church became Catholic. All things considered I think Dr. Geisler is awesome. I may not agree with everything he says but he makes me think hard about a lot of things.

    I have a burning desire to help people, especially skeptics, see the truth of Christianity. So I started writing a book. First seven chapters on the nature of reality. The next seven on the meaning of history. The final seven on why I think the Catholic Church is true. So, although I enjoy interacting with people in this format, for the time being I will have to focus my attention on writing my book. Let me offer one small bit of advise if I may. We are in a real struggle. The consequences are real. For example: New Atheist Sam Harris states: “I hope to show that the very ideal of religious tolerance—born of the notion that every human being should be free to believe whatever he wants about God—is one of the principle forces driving us toward the abyss.”

    Yes, there are people that want to destroy our faith in God. They work at it full time. So Guard your faith.

    I will pray that God protects and guides you.


    Jeff Simmons

  24. Dear Jeff,

    I have just read all the posts here and have been extremely pleased to see such a civilized conversation. Kudo’s to you both!!! I know a little about all of this so I really have nothing new to offer. I was raised a Southern Baptist with Mormon parents and now am Catholic!! Go figure…
    Anyway, Jeff do know when you your book might be published and by what publisher? I am really very interested in reading what you have to say.

  25. Dear Lee Ann

    Thank you for your interest in the book I am writing. I plan for the book to be divided into 3 sections of 7 chapters each. Although I have chapter titles for each of the chapters I have only finished the first seven. The other 14 are mapped out in my mind but still need to be written. I am hoping to finish writing it, if possible, by this time next year. I have no publishers at this time. In fact, very few people even know I am writing this book. It is the first time I have written a book.

    The concept of the book is a bit different. I came to the conclusion that there is a need for a book that takes someone from square one (The exisence of God) all the way through to the Catholic Church. I have felt for a long time that Christianity is too often presented in bits and pieces rather than a cohesive whole that encompasses all truth. My vision is to write a book that anyone who is “Searching For The Truth” can pickup and read and see the big picture. I would be glad to share this information with you as I go along if you are interested. If you send me an e-mail I would be happy to send you the first chapter and see if what I am writing is something you would be interested in reading.


    Jeff Simmons

  26. Gentlemen – I would like to remind all here that if there is in fact no valid presumption in a principal of causality then there is no basis for logic, nor critical review nor any coherent dialog. Because we have a language and can speak and can smile or frown or nod our heads to indicate “yes” or “no” to any assertion it would seem that this means either there is a both a valid notion of objective truth and causality or else it means we do not exist and we are not real. Most of what I have heard here trends toward an impossible tautology and a paradox that can’t be escaped with mere words and requires faith in some prior unchanging principal. That’s about as close to a proof for God as I suspect He will let us come without crossing the line to insanity (by whatever arbitrary standard one chooses).

    As best I can tell two of the most fundamental propositions the form the basis for all the importantly held human ideas come from these two thing

    1) I think therefor I am.
    2) Out of nothing comes nothing.

    God help us if we’re wrong on both accounts? (!! And there’s our proof for God) 😀

    1. Dear JVD

      I like your comment. I would say if God does not exist there is no basis for believing cause and affect are universal and unchanging. In my opinion, all truth begins with the presupposition that God exists. David Hume showed that cause and affect are not provable using pure logic since logic itself presupposes cause and affect as a foundation. Any argument for God’s existence that uses the fact of the worlds existence and then argues that God is the cause of the world has a problem. The problem is exactly what you said in your comment. It is logically possible that the world came from nothing. Therefore, the fact of the worlds existence does not “logically” prove that God exists. Of course the world did not come from nothing but such an assertion cannot be disproven strictly by logic. So, what we have to do is go back even further and show why something cannot come from nothing. What is that reason? Simply this: I think therefore I am. I’m impressed JVD. Most people miss this brilliant insight. Logic presupposes that I think and that I exist. Continuing with this line of reasoning we see that thought and reason itself presuppose the existence of God. This is a much deeper issue and would require much more explanation to make my point more clearly. However, as you have pointed out the bottom line is that:

      1) I think therefor I am.
      2) Out of nothing comes nothing.

      I’m totally impressed. Virtually no one understands this. And, these two truths are not merely wishful thinking. As Descartes showed, the only true foundation for thought is the existence of God. Rational thought is not possible in a random universe where things can be spontaneously generated out of nothing. The moment we deny these two truths we have no basis for believing we can think rationally.


      Jeff Simmons

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