The Key to the Canon of Scripture

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?

Good question!

Why the Canon is Key

Underlying every difference between Catholics and Protestants is the issue of authority.

Protestants say their sole infallible authority is the (66-book) Bible.
Catholics say it is the (73-book) Bible + Tradition as interpreted by the Magisterium.

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:

  1. God protects the Church from error in her doctrines on faith and morals
  2. The canon of Scripture is a doctrine that pertains to faith
  3. 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.

Sign up for it right here!

Navigate the Tiber for Free

I’m giving away three copies of my new book, Navigating the Tiber, and you’ve got one day left to enter the giveaway.

The book has been out for a few months and received an overwhelming positive response. People are calling it a spiritual sequel to The Protestant’s Dilemma, as it launches off from the pure apologetics into strategies, soft skills, and psychology when having conversations with your Protestant friends.

Soft Skills for Apologetics

In my fifteen years of being Catholic, I’ve realized that these soft skills in dialogue are just as important as knowing the apologetics data and arguments.

navigating_the_tiber_spotlightWe are human beings, with feelings, moods, and biases–not just human syllogism computing machines–hence the need for a book like Navigating the Tiber, that helps you understand how and why to make certain arguments when, that points out what your Protestant friend is thinking at various stages of dialogue, and to give you insight into your own thought processes and blind spots in regard to evangelization.

Free Paperback for You!

With this giveaway, I’ll be drawing three names randomly, but you can stack the odds in your favor by first entering the drawing, then in the confirmation email getting your lucky link (url) that you can share with others on facebook et cetera.

For every person who enters the giveaway through your lucky link, you will get three additional entries in the contest, greatly increasing your chance to win.

The book is already helping Catholics lead their Protestant friends into full communion. It’s worth the $14 that it costs even if you don’t win, but why not give it a shot and potentially get a free book!

The Book of Hebrews is Catholic

Just ask Shane Kapler.

Hebrews is one of the most interesting and challenging books of the New Testament.

  • Protestants use it to claim Catholicism is disproven
  • The book’s authorship has been debated for thousands of years
  • The book was not accepted as Scripture in many places for hundreds of years
  • Martin Luther, while thinking it a fine book, put it in his infamous appendix to the “truly inspired” books of the NT

Hebrews Is Catholic

Shane Kapler has done us a great service that rebuts the first bullet point. In his new book, The Epistle to the Hebrews and the Seven Core Beliefs of Catholics, Kapler illuminates this challenging book and demonstrates how it actually supports the distinctive doctrines of the Catholic Church!

Specifically, Kapler shows how the book is harmoniously interpreted to support the doctrines of:

  1. The Holy Trinity
  2. Jesus’ full humanity
  3. The Word of God (both written and unwritten)
  4. Salvation
  5. The communion of saints
  6. The Eucharist
  7. The authority of the Church’s ordained leaders

For example, taking the seventh doctrine of authority of Church leaders, Hebrews 13:17 says:

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls and will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with sighing—for that would be harmful to you.

What’s fascinating about this passage is the problem it presents for Protestants.

corebelWho, exactly, are the Church leaders under Protestantism that should be obeyed and submitted to? This is far from an idle question: it is instead a dilemma for Protestants that is unanswerable.

Is the pastor at First Baptist someone I must submit to? What if I leave because I think he’s wrong about X doctrine, and instead I go to Second Baptist?

Or is the Methodist pastor the legitimate authority the Bible commands me to submit to? Or the Presbyterian one? Which Presbyterian denomination? Or maybe it’s the Anglicans, or one of the splits from the Anglicans? Or maybe you start your own church and now you are a leader people have to submit to!

This passage alone from Hebrews demonstrates the impossibility of Protestantism to be God’s design, for there is no way to follow this clear directive found in Scripture.

Deep Learning

I am always amazed by the scholarship and insights that Shane Kapler has in his books. He has done powerful research and made it accessible to the Catholic layman by explaining in plain language how Hebrews is Catholic.

In particular Kapler delves into the deep Jewish roots that lie beneath the teachings of Hebrews and shows how they perfectly square with Catholicism’s teachings. I’ve been dimly aware of some of these connections but, like a book by Scott Hahn, Kapler maps them all out with great clarity and depth.

Just this week I was asked a series of questions by one of my readers about the book of Hebrews and the often confusing study notes in the New American Bible on key passages. The answer was simple: buy Kapler’s new book on the Epistle to the Hebrews and all those questions are solved. Done, son!