New Testament Canon

I was recently asked to address some arguments being made by a “progressive Christian” arguing that the Bible is neither inerrant, nor inspired. The below is a short answer that was originally intended to be posted as a social media comment. It turns out, the church fathers viewed Scripture as both inspired, and inerrant.

One concern raised was about which canon we are supposed to acknowledge. What the interlocutor seems to be unaware of is that we can reconstruct a significant portion of the New Testament from the writings of the early church leaders, who always referred to it as authoritative. By the early 200s AD, the vast majority of NT books were already well established with very few if any dissenters. The ones that were in doubt were accepted because they did not contradict the rest of Scripture, were written by an Apostle, and supported the accepted teaching in the church which was at least mostly unified at that time. By the time the canon was formalized in the 300sAD, there was little dispute at all over the canon. The vast majority of the church agreed on which books were inspired.

Another common claim is that the books of the New Testament were written decades after the events, this is simply untrue. The only people who promote it are pagan scholars with an ax to grind against the authority of the Bible, and their “progressive Christian” disciples. Regarding the apocryphal books, the early church did view the apocryphal with some esteem. However, those who were paying attention knew that Josephus, writing roughly 30 years after Christ, had made it clear that the Jews did not view the apocryphal books as inspired. The early church, while citing apocryphal books, also made a habit of referring to Scripture as authority. Augustine of Hippo, for example, made a point in a debate, to which his opponent responded by quoting an apocryphal book. Augustine responded by mocking his opponent for holding a position so weak that he was forced to use the appocrypha as a support, not Scripture.

Further, the claim was made that the Holy Spirit is innerant. I would agree. However, the only way to support that idea is to appeal to the Bible which, according to you is both fallible and uninspired. So why should you believe the Holy Spirit is inerrant if the book that tells you so is riddled with errors? In other words, if the Bible is not infallible and inerrant, why follow any of it?

Further, regarding the claim that is presented that Jesus broke the Law, or changed the Bible, it represents a fundamental misunderstanding of the Bible. First, the Pharisees were looking for an occasion against Him. If they had even thought they could convince the people He had broken a law, they would have used it. That is strong evidence that He broke no Law. Second, the laws regarding purity were given specifically to the Jews to signify them being set apart from the nations around them. They were specifically set up so Israel had different customs than the pagans, and many of them also were for health reasons. Touching a dead body or a woman with chronic bleeding could be dangerous for a mortal human. However, for the Son of God to touch them and heal them is in no way a violation of the laws as set down, especially since He wrote the laws. He, of all people, should understand what they meant.

Another claim is that the label “infallible” was not attached to the Bible until post-Enlightenment. This is also simply not true. The early church writers repeatedly refer to scripture as “the oracles of God” (Clement) the source of the “knowledge of God”(Hippolytus) and “the ground and pillars of our faith” (Irenaeus). Irenaeus also said “The Scriptures are indeed perfect, since they were spoken by the Word of God and His Spirit” Ambrose argued against adopting anything except that contained in Scripture. Augustine said “Scripture has a sacredness peculiar to itself” I could go on. So no, infallibility is not an enlightenment development. It has been a doctrine held to by the church for 2 millennia.

Unfortunately, common bad claims made by “progressive Christian” “scholars” often filter down into the church and infect the layman who don’t know any better. A little research however demonstrates that most, if not all of the claims these individuals make are absolutely absurd.

Do you know what’s going to happen when you die? Are you completely sure? If you aren’t, please read this or listen to this. You can know where you will spend eternity. If you have questions, please feel free to contact us, we’d love to talk to you.

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