Which books should be in the Bible?
The ones that God inspired.
Which ones did God inspire?
Protestants say: 66 of them; Catholics: 73 of them.
Who is right, and how do we know?
Why the Canon is Key
Underlying every difference between Catholics and Protestants is the issue of authority.
It makes eminent sense then to dig into which books make up the Bible, for we do not agree on that point, and further we don’t agree on whether it is the sole infallible rule of faith or not.
If we can get to the bottom of the canon of Scripture, it will shine light on the broader question of whether Catholicism or Protestant is true.
(As a heads-up, I’m offering a free webinar on how to help your Protestant friend understand the issue of the canon and why Catholicism is true; register for it here.)
Principled vs. Arbitrary
We say a position is principled if it is consistent with some principle, and we say one is arbitrary if it does not follow any principle.
An arbitrary position may be based on a feeling, or a whim, or an intuition, or a bias. It may be true, but it has no logical progression from a principle that we can follow to know whether it is true.
For the canon of Scripture, Catholics have a principled reason supporting their canon:
- God protects the Church from error in her doctrines on faith and morals
- The canon of Scripture is a doctrine that pertains to faith
- Therefore we can have confidence that the Catholic canon of Scripture is true
The Protestant position on the canon cannot say the same, because Protestants reject the authority of the Church. They, beginning with Martin Luther 500 years ago, claim that the Church can and has erred many times on faith and morals.
So the first premise, that God protects the Church’s teachings from error, is rejected from the outset. Protestants further confound themselves by claiming that the contents of the inspired books of the Bible are the sole infallible authority.
But, and pay close attention here, that claim only pertains to the contents of the books themselves, and does not include the discernment of which books those are!
What a pickle.
The result is that the Protestant position that a particular set of 66 books are inspired (and none others) is arbitrary.
Protestants Don’t Like Pickles
Protestants don’t want to have such a dilemma. So they try to solve it:
John Calvin claimed the Scriptures were self-authenticating. Therefore a Christian could tell an inspired book from an uninspired one as easily telling “white from black, and sweet from bitter”.
The implausibility of Calvin’s opinion is demonstrated through many facts: if the canon were so obvious…
- Why didn’t the early Church immediately identify it?
- Why did even the most faithful early Christians disagree on the canon?
- Why did it take til 367 AD for the first Christian to list the 27 books of the New Testament, without ambiguity?
- Why do Christians today disagree on the books of the Bible?
- Why isn’t the first test we give to someone becoming a Christian to read 100 books and tell us which are inspired vs. not?
Calvin was wrong, of course, on this and on many issues, and he has led millions astray in the past five centuries.
Other Protestants simply give up and say that their starting point presupposes their canon. They begin with those 66 books, via a blind leap of faith, and go from there.
How to Argue for the Catholic Canon
It is thus indispensable for a Catholic to know the arguments for the canon of Scripture and to bring it up with their Protestant friends. Most Protestants have never thought about the issue, taking for granted the Bibles handed to them as children.
I’m offering a free webinar to talk in detail about how you can help your Protestant friend see the truth of the Catholic Church by explaining the canon of Scripture to them.