Posted by: Standing Solus Christus | September 14, 2006

The Canon – All Required Books Are Included

In today’s entry we would like to continue our discussion about the Canon of Scripture as outlined in Article 4.  In it we would like to discuss two common objections:  1. What about missing books referred to in Scripture, yet not included?  2. What about the “thousands” of other books that were considered, however were suppressed by the Church?  We will defer discussion about the apocrypha until we reach Article 6. 

In Paul’s letters to the Corinthians many affirm that a third or even a fourth letter are referred to and identifies writings not included in the Canon.  In the letter to the Colossians Paul refers to a letter to the Church at Laodicea, which appears to be another inspired writing not included in the Canon.  In the Old Testament other books not included in the Canon are mentioned as well (i.e. Book of Wars).  Our belief in the Canon does not assert that all of God’s special revelation to mankind is included in it.  Much of the special revelation that God provided is also not recorded at all.  Especially, when we take into account the unwritten words from Jesus or any other authorized agent spoke orally. 

However, in God’s wisdom and providence He has not allowed these additional books or unwritten oral revelation to be preserved for the Church’s use.  He has preserved the Canon as we know it today.  If these were available then they would have every right to take there place within the Canon, since they were produced through authorized agents of revelation.  There are some who would seek to use this, however, to promote the idea that there was some kind of conspiracy in the ancient Church to exclude these authentic works of special revelation.  Although this tactic is unwarranted on the facts of history, it also undermines the omnipotence and sovereignty of God by asserting His inability to preserve His word.  We would have to reject the notion that the Canon is insufficient, because it lacks this additional information.  We would reject this since it does not give deference to God’s wisdom, providence, omnipotence or sovereignty.  

Another objection that is made by Mormon missionaries (also The Da Vinci Code) is the claim that there were thousands of qualified works that could have been included in the Canon.  However, the Church sought to suppress these thousands of books that did not correspond with their theological persuasion.  This is actually going to be a perfect transition into our discussion on the authority of Scripture in the next Article of the Belgic Confession.  For today we would like to begin with an examination of John 14-16, which is commonly taken out of context by many Christians as well in our day.   

Thus far, we have reviewed how authorized agents of special revelation are distinguished from non-authorized agents.  We’ve concluded that the Apostles and the Prophets were the only authorized agents of special revelation based on the message that they proclaimed being authenticated by signs and wonders.  This understanding is further affirmed in the passage Scripture cited.  Many Christians fail to recognize, however that the words that Christ was speaking was directed at a specific audience.  His audience during this discourse was limited to the Apostles in the upper room.     

This was Jesus’ last night with His Apostles and He was intentional in preparing them to be separated from Him.  These were words that they did not want to hear, however He assured them that they would not be abandoned.  The Holy Spirit would be given to them to remind them of His words as we read in John 14:26.  This clearly cannot be applied to all believers, since all believers did not directly hear all the things that Jesus spoke on earth.  No, this would apply to the Apostles who were commissioned as ambassadors to speak/write with the authority of our Lord.  This is reinforced as we read further in the discourse in John 15:26-27.  Thus, when we come to verse John 16:13-15 we can see that Jesus is referring to the Scriptures that were to be written by His Apostles.  To apply these words of Christ to modern day Christians or Spiritual Leaders is to take it out of context.  The point of this examination is to confirm that there were not “thousands” of writings that were qualified for entrance in the New Testament.  These other writings were not prepared by the Apostles, thus did not possess the appropriate credentials for entrance into the Canon.  Although, some of these writings bore the name of an Apostle (i.e. The Gospel of Thomas) they were produced after any of them were alive and known to be false.  

As we discussed in our previous entry, the qualifications of a book for entrance into the Canon were very clear.  Each work had to either be prepared directly or indirectly (i.e. under the guidance of) an Apostle.  These were the only authorized agents of special revelation that possessed the ability to speak/write God’s authoritative word.  In our next entry we will begin a review of Article 5 and further examining this concept of God’s Word being authoritative.

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Responses

  1. […] It’s been a long day and I cannot sleep, rather than toss and turn for a couple of hours.  I thought it would be helpful to “spill my brain” for a little while.  That is a great line by the way, my apologies for employing it here.  Well, it’s been about three weeks since our last entry on the topic and it is not out of neglect that I have failed to write to you.  No, it’s simply a matter of having too many balls in the air and barely enough hands to catch them.  Nonetheless, I have digressed and its time to embark upon the topic we’ve been covering for the last few months.  We have reached the culmination of this topic as we encounter Article 7 of the Belgic Confession.  It is our opinion that for Christianity to remain viable it must recover an understanding of the sufficiency of the Scriptures.  It is important to emphasize that the confession states the “Scriptures fully contain the will of God” and all that we need to know concerning salvation are contained within it.  That is the inerrant, infallible (inspiration-inerrant-and-infallible), canonical books (the-canon-all-required-books-are-included), which carry the authority (whos-to-say) to govern the life of the Church and the believer.  If we are to understand that the Scriptures are sufficient or complete then all the special-revelation has reached its culmination (the-nature-of-special-revelation-progressive) after a period of progressive epochs. Although, we affirm that the nature of special revelation is progressive it does not follow that it must continue to be improved to our day.  No, the progress nature has reached a culmination in the compilation of the New Testament as Francis Turretin states in his Institutes as follows:  […]


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