There are many questions surrounding the authenticity of the canon of Scripture. Is it infallible? Is the canon an accurate source of truth? Is it really inspired by God? Although I do not have the time to delve into questions of this sort, I would like to explain why I believe the Protestant canon of Scripture is trustworthy.
2 Timothy 3:16 – 17 states that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” In other words, the Bible is the divinely inspired Word of God and is applicable to our lives. The term “divinely inspired” means that every word in the Bible is God’s Word for His people. This gives us confidence that what we have in the Bible is what God wanted us to learn.
When the early church fathers convened to assemble the canon, they used the following qualifiers to determine which books would be considered as part of the canon:
– The writings had to be written by an apostle or a close associate of an apostle
– The writings had to be widely distributed and read in the churches of the time
– The writings had to be quoted by church leaders.
The fathers had chosen these qualifiers so as to preserve the purity of the canon. For example, if one book was not widely read and distributed they asked if the book was applicable to the Christian life. If any book could not pass all three points, it was not accepted into the canon. God chose these qualifications for all of His divinely inspired words that He wanted to be in our Bible.
A way that I personally find comfort in the infallibility of the canon is that, God, in His sovereignty, had already ordained which books would and would not be included in the canon. I like the way the author of the article entitled “How Can Protestants Trust the Canon of Scripture?” phrased it: “Ultimately, it was God who decided what books belonged in the biblical canon. A book of Scripture belonged in the canon from the moment God inspired its writing. It was simply a matter of God convincing his human followers which books should be included in the Bible.” Although the way this author phrased particularly the final sentence may raise a few reformed eyebrows, the concept is still, I believe, valid. God did not just wait for the church fathers to try to put the canon together on their own – with all the mistakes and blunders that, as humans, they most certainly would have made! God had already chosen which books would and would not be included in the canon and simply guided His people in their selection of the books. This fact gives us confidence that every word of the Bible is exactly what God knew we would need for our lives as Christians.
Praise the Lord for His sovereignty over all things! If we do not hold fast to this beloved doctrine we may instead walk in the fear that the Bible as we know it may not be what God intended for us to know. Yet, in His sovereignty, I personally am convinced that everything we have in the Bible is what He wanted us to know about Him.
“How Can Protestants Trust the Canon of Scripture?” (Author Unknown)
Systematic Theology, pgs. 54 – 69 (Wayne Grudem)
Omnibus II: Church Fathers through the Reformation, pgs. 3 – 12 (Stuart W. Bryan)