Debate Replay: Devin Rose vs. John Martignoni on the Bible

I debated John Martignoni on whether the Catholic or Protestant Bible is the true one?

Watch the debate by entering your email below:

What Was the Debate About Exactly?

Catholics have 73 books in their Bible.
Protestants have 66 books.

The difference underscores the fundamental question of who, if anyone, has authority and divine guidance in discerning which books the Holy Spirit inspired.

Devin Rose vs. John Martignoni
John Martignoni

That’s what our debate centered on.

I put on my former Protestant hat for the debate and argued, as did John Calvin, that the books of the Bible are self-authenticating.

That means that, because God inspired them, they have a quality that no other books have, and since the Holy Spirit dwells within each Christian, the Spirit testifies in our hearts to which books He inspired.

John argued the Catholic position, that Protestants stole from Catholic Tradition (which they ostensibly reject as false) in order to even come up with the 66 books they do accept, but this is arbitrary since they think the early Christians went off the rails on numerous doctrines (the Eucharist, infant baptism, the Mass, sacraments, and so on).

Why Is the Canon of Scripture Important?

This came out in the debate. Since Protestants believe in sola Scriptura, that the Bible alone is the sole infallible rule of faith, they absolutely must know which books belong in the Bible.

And to know which books belong in the Bible, they must be able to offer a principled reason for why they accept the books they do and how they came up with the criteria for them.

As John demonstrated in the debate, in fact all Protestants have is their opinion on what they think the Holy Spirit is telling them. That way leads to chaos and cannot be the way God designed things. Further, it is not how the early Church operated.

I tried to argue that God wanted us to have something written down because traditions could be corrupted, but John countered that God can preserve both written and oral works from error.

It was a lively debate! You can watch it for free anytime by registering below:

Finally, at the end of the debate I offer anyone who watches it a discount on my Proven Catholic video course and ebook. You can get that deal here.

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!