When pressed on matters of Bible origins and the Protestant Church of Christ’s only purported available source of revelation (the “Bible only”), your group must avoid the history of the canon’s formation; your group’s self-perceived legitimacy would be at risk if the Catholic Church were shown to be intrinsically connected with the Bible’s development. Your group is a “Bible-only” group, and your group insists it is the nascent Church, so your group must (or should, rather) insist the nascent Church was a “Bible-only” Church. As such, your group does not approach the Bible as Christians normally approach it (within Liturgy); it approaches the Bible with the assumption that the “Bible only” is the only source of religious truth, and therefore, the Bible must in some way establish for itself that the Bible is the full, complete, unspoiled, and self-authenticating written word of God.
I would bet that most of your group’s members know the Table of Contents at the beginning of their Bibles is not Scripture, but I would also bet that most of your members have never considered why they believe their Bible’s Table of Contents is correct. Is this not an important subject? If you believe the words within the Bible are there as your sole religious authority, then should you not be prepared to make a reasonable defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you (1 Peter 3:15)?
The original sixteenth century Reformers struggled with this same subject; they knew the Catholic Church was the body that in fact wrote the New Testament and compiled the Bible, but they could not remain faithful to that body, and they set out to produce Catholic-less reasons as to how they might know that the Bible’s Table of Contents is correct. But, of course, the early Reformers disagreed on which books should be included. They not only disagreed on which books should be included in the Old Testament, but they disagreed on which books should be included in the New Testament! They disagreed for one reason: they denied the authority of the historical Church that created the Bible, and therefore, denied the only authority and means that could determine its rightful contents. The resulting Protestant New Testament (which, when ironed out, remained true to the historical Catholic New Testament), and the Protestant Old Testament are what your group has since adopted as its Bible.
Your group, which is a descendent of the Reformation, adopted the already-discerned (though later-developed) Protestant canon, and has too developed an argument from which it claims to know that the Bible’s Table of Contents is correct; and it hopes its posits can somehow hold water with no dependence on any Catholic decisions. What I will show you is what I have found to be your group’s most popular and indicative argument for canonical certitude, and I will also show you how your argument cannot reasonably support your position because it presupposes Catholic inspiration and authority—presupposes the very elements your argument is primarily designed to erase.
Your group’s argument is that the Bible’s contents—the New Testament specifically—are self-authenticating. As evidence for its claim, it presents several verses that have already been established as inspired by the Catholic Church; its argument begins with an already-established canon. Put differently, its starting point alone proves that “Bible-only” Christianity cannot establish the canon! It is no different than insisting a tiger must have stripes because tigers have stripes. Nonetheless, I will present each stripe Protestant apologists typically present, and then show how each verse does not support their theory of a self-authenticating canon. I will show you how such verses actually prove the canon is not self-authenticating and that an extra-biblical source was (and is) needed to provide Christians with an accurate canon of Sacred Scripture. The verses are:
• 2 Peter 3:15-16
• 1 John 1:1-4
• 2 Timothy 3:16 with 2 Peter 1:21
• 2 Timothy 3:16 with 1 Timothy 5:18.
I will now address every passage. (See following blog posts.)