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Thread: Calvin's 66 book Canon

  1. #141
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    Re: Calvin's 66 book Canon

    Sam] I wrote out a great long response to you about an hour ago, but when I tried to post it my computer crashed. Anyway, the gist of it was concerning the power of God and the Character of God. It is very easy for us to forget one of God's attributes when considering another. So If we where to ask the question of possibility with God - one might say that nothing is impossible with God - but that then brings up the same old paradoxical questions - is God not strong enough to bind Himself?

    This is an anthropomorphism which creates a logical contradiction--the question alone denies all of God’s attributes. It is impossible for God to act against His own nature (i.e.: commit sin; lie, etc..).--in this sense, your rhetorical question is founded upon false premises--which I‘m sure you are aware of. I have found others who really have a tough time with it, however.

    [Sam] From studying scripture we develop systematic and progressive (unfolding historically) theologies. We see that God has bound Himself in "covenants" both inter-trinitary and with/for man.

    Yes, all things depend upon God and His promises and His promise of keeping His word in His covenants with man/men (and with ‘Himself‘).

    [Sam] If we can trust the Book of Hebrews and 1 Peter then we see that God has built the NT on better promises and that we have a more sure word of prophecy than even the best of saints in the OT.

    2Pe 1:19 We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:

    It is my understanding that this verse means that Christ, in his incarnation, is a more sure testament to the veracity of Scripture than men speaking as the Spirit carried them along and testified by signs. We have the words of God incarnate now in addition to the words of men attested to by the Spirit and signs. If ALL of scripture is God breathed--how can any one part of it be “more sure” in a sense of “better authenticity” or “more true” if it is ALL the word of God? In this respect, the entirety of Divine Revelation carries equal weight--although many take Jesus words as supposedly being ‘better’ than say, Paul’s or Peter’s--or Isaiah’s, for that matter. This is why I am looking at this issue in a new light and examining all of what men have said is Scripture -in regards to it.

    [Sam] Therefore, my questions aimed at the heart of these statements. Are they true? Can we trust them? If we take the line of thinking that God has enough power to decree that His people would wallow in canonicle darkness, we go beyond making a statement about the extent of Gods power, and begin to make a statement about His character. Never mind that we make Him a liar.

    Your viewpoint here was the foundation of my ‘kneejerk’ reaction to this issue. I said much the same thing in my first post on this thread. However, looking at the temporal realities that surrounded the assemblage of the canon, examining what has been said about the standards by which the canon was adopted (and the various lists and beliefs of the various assemblies-yesterday and today), one is left with questions--especially given the nature of the decisions coming from the various ’so-called’ ecclesiastical assemblages in our current day and age.

    I am not questioning the veracity of God’s word, I am questioning the actions and words of men--not just those who made the choices of canon, but also those that wrote the words. How can I ignore clear instructions of Scripture in regards to all things--yesterday and today?

    After re-examining my beliefs regarding this issue, I came to the conclusion that I subscribed to the tacit belief that the Holy Spirit of God must have worked in the lives of the men of history in a ‘more sure manner’ than He does today. Is this belief founded on sound Scriptural principles? Today, do I merely accept the obviously heretical statements and doctrinal positions that have been produced by some convocations of leaders in contemporary churches without measuring them by some objective standard? These men all profess Christ also, do they not? What makes some of their positions heretical? This is serious business here, not a mere ‘intellectual’ exercise.

    [Sam] But we also discount the whole covenant structure and promise which God says is better than the OT and that the prophecy (Word from God) is more sure. So you see I am after a simple comparison contrast. How sure a testimony did Israel have when Moses said "Thus saith the Lord"? - was it inerrant and fully trustworthy? Or was it mixed with Satan's lies? - To make the point even stronger - when Peter was on the mount of transfiguration with the Son of God and the voice of the Father and the presence of Moses and Elijah - was the word spoken to Peter more reliable than what we have?? - Peter says no!

    Once again, the issue in my mind is not the veracity of God’s word--it is the veracity of the faith and testimony of the men who met and decided what God’s word contains (or should contain, as the case may be). Obviously, God has ordained error and blindness regarding the understanding of His word in the entirety of earthly history. What evidence do I possess that the men who decided the canon were not affected in the same manner as some today (including myself--as the case may be)? Shall I wait until the end of my life and look to time as a testimony of their and my veracity or do I look to Christ immediately? What do the Scriptures require of me in this regard?

    [you] The whole bible testifies to the fact that God is drawing closer to us covenantly - not further from us. To use your illustration would it have been possible that Satan was telling Abraham to sacrifice Issac and not God? Sure we now have hind sight - but how did Abraham know that the Word's where God's? They certainly did not seem Christo-Centric from the outside. Was God's Word self attesting then?

    I am not sure what you mean here by God ‘drawing closer;‘ He is within us (I cannot understand how He might be ‘closer’ than this) and we (if our faith is true) are within Him. If we are in the ‘New Covenant’--should not these words apply:

    Heb 8:10-11 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.

    I realize that some (dispensationalists--of which I call myself, but need more study) understand this to mean that God will fulfill this in the Jewish nation at some point in the future, however it is my current understanding that the reformed view takes this to be in effect today. I believe the NT believer to be grafted in and an heir to this promise regardless of which theological position one believes espouses it properly. Do not all true believers know God regardless, by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit?

    [Sam] If we say that James is false teaching and that the Bible may contain the word of God but it may also contain the word of fallible man - we must admit that we do not have a more sure word than Peter on the mount, or Abraham, or Moses or really any in the OT to the time of Malachi. We must be starting with the idea that God's Covenant is not what He said it is or would be, and because of the book of Hebrews we must also be declaring that Christ is not a better prophet than the OT prophets. It doesn't matter if James was writing out of good legalistic zeal or under Satan's direct influence, the co-mingling obliterates the trustworthiness - no matter what. If we take the high ground that all of God's word is maintained and kept pure, only some text in our bibles are not the Word of God and therefore not protected by His providence - then how do we know what those text might be? Who determines? - What ever our criteria it still cannot stand up to the surety of a direct Word from God and thus we fail Peter's test and question Hebrews grand declarations.

    This position appears to presuppose that history is the ‘sure testimony’---that tradition is the judge, not the testimony of the Spirit in the heart of man according to the ‘more sure word’ of prophecy that we have received, does it not? As I said earlier, should I merely accept the actions of these men because of the passage of time and the ‘lording’ of a professional laity--in seeming contradiction to some of the same scriptures you have mentioned:

    1Pe 5:2 -3 Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.

    What is their example? Did they not gather together and discuss these very matters in the power of the Holy Spirit or did they merely come together at the behest of worldly authority? Did those men merely accept the words and choices of others who went before them? By what measure can I be assured (if, in fact, I can be by the testimony of men --apart from some kind of Gospel standard) that the Holy Spirit worked in them infallibly to compose an inerrant canon? Is the mere passage of time and the lordship of a ‘professional’ laity good standards by which I should judge? Were these men free from heresy and false profession themselves? How do I, personally, ascertain these things?

    In regards to some of James’ words being non-inspired, I find myself quoting James all the time in my conversations. His admonition to be quick to listen and slow to speak happens to come up quite frequently. Do I believe all of James is God-inspired? This is what I am attempting to discern by the power of the Holy Spirit. Does the general truth of some of James words indicate inspiration? Do I accept that James’ admonition has any more Gospel authority than say “a penny saved is a penny earned,” and by what standard do I judge--its mere traditional presence? This is the issue in my mind. There is a difference between a God-breathed instruction and a general truism and it is my desire to be convinced of it.

    Isa 1:18 Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.

    [Sam] The a-priori approach to canonicty may seem like the easy way out at first, but I am convinced that after all is said and done - it is the only approach when dealing with the Trinitarian God of Scripture - After all he is the Alpha and Omega.

    I have accepted the words (canon) with gladness and studied them as a means to know my Lord and Savior to the best of the abilities that He has given me. I must trust that He will work in me and as the author and finisher as I continue in my walk by faith.

    [Sam] A-priori in terms of canonicity means that the Bible selected itself - that the providence of God to deliver a sure Word to His people overrides man or Satan's attempts against it. It means that the canon is not dependent on the decisions of man - their councils and decisions about the bible are all a-posteriori (This is sometimes called the transcendental argument).

    Maybe if the canon was selected by lot it would have more sure testimony in this regard;---just a quick observation.

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    Re: Calvin's 66 book Canon

    Thanks so much rlh!

    My recommendation is that we alter this discussion to move away from the canon itself (which has become repetitous of the same arguments over and over). We need to discuss instead the nature of genuine faith, which I have tried to do introduce in the "Notitia, Assensus, and Fiducia" thread. This is the real conflict in James 2:14-26 vs. the rest of the apostolic testimony.
    I got four things to live by: don't say nothin' that will hurt anybody; don't give advice--no one will take it anyway; don't complain; don't explain. Walter Scott

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    Re: Calvin's 66 book Canon

    Hi rhuckle!!

    Thanks for your response again.
    It is my understanding that this verse means that Christ, in his incarnation, is a more sure testament to the veracity of Scripture than men speaking as the Spirit carried them along and testified by signs. We have the words of God incarnate now in addition to the words of men attested to by the Spirit and signs. If ALL of scripture is God breathed--how can any one part of it be “more sure” in a sense of “better authenticity” or “more true” if it is ALL the word of God? In this respect, the entirety of Divine Revelation carries equal weight--although many take Jesus words as supposedly being ‘better’ than say, Paul’s or Peter’s--or Isaiah’s, for that matter. This is why I am looking at this issue in a new light and examining all of what men have said is Scripture -in regards to it.
    You mentioned that you might be dispensational in you theology, so I'm not sure how much you will agree with me here. Never-the-less, I totally agree with your question about the difference between scripture and mere truism. When Peter talks about a more sure word of testimony and Hebrews argues for the superiority of Christ and the New Covenant neither are pitting truth against truth - but relationship against relationship. The relationship God Had with his people in the OT was good, but the relationship in the NT is better! As to the word of prophecy being more sure, I take from this that Peter is telling us that revelation is progressive and cohesive so that even if you were to have the experience of standing with Christ on the mount of transfiguration and hearing God the Father speak directly to you - you still would do better to have the scriptures with the Apostolic revelation. Just as when you first meet your wife, your conversation may have been entirely true and sincerer with her, but now it's more! Why? Because the relationship is more!

    As a covenant theologian I am careful not to see a discontinuity in the OT - but a continuity, yet I would never say that God's relationship to His people has digressed, but rather progressed. I glory in the anticipation of the consummation of human history when we will all sit at the marriage supper of the lamb and move into the final eschatalogical glory of the relationship that God so wonderfully designed. So we do not pit one portion of scripture against another, but we do not long to return to the immature days of our relationship after now being brought to the mature.

    Now to the point about men selecting verses God selecting what is canon. You and I obviously agree that God clearly selected what words to use when inspiring the penmen of the NT. (I think every one agree here?) So where we may differ is in the subsequent history. I deny that any man or men ever got to choose what constituted God's word. From the men He first inspired to all the subsequent men that handled His Word through out history. I confess that many have tried to destroy it - many have tried to manipulate it. But in the end there efforts all come to naught, as God protects His Word as part of His bond and as part of His character. To me, to confess a good understanding of inspiration and the infallibleness of God's Word as originally given, but then to obscure that confession with the fear of man or Satan makes no sense. Why did God go through the trouble to Perfectly and with out error inspire men, If He was going to take no care to preserve that Word? Or preserve it but also hide it amongst the lies of men and Satan? So now our theology of God and His relationship comes into play. If God was not going to care for His people - then of course its possible that He would hide His Word. After all Christ spoke in parables so that the crooked generation would NOT understand. But if God, by the blood of His own Son was bringing His people to an entirely new and wonderful covenant relationship - then how could the testimony be less sure?? Another point worth observing is that of monorgism in history. Almost all here hold tenaciously to God monorgistic work in salvation. We rightly confess that we contribute nothing and that God CHOSE us we did not CHOOSE Him. The Redemptive Historical understanding of the canon is just like this. The Canon selected itself , we did not select it!
    "We see that our whole salvation and all its parts are comprehended in Christ[Acts 4:12]. We should therefore take care not to derive the least portion of it from anywhere else." - John Calvin

  4. #144
    Moderator Rlhuckle's Avatar
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    Re: Calvin's 66 book Canon

    Hello Sam, thank you for your comments, they are interesting and add to the relevance of the discussion.

    [Sam] You mentioned that you might be dispensational in you theology, so I'm not sure how much you will agree with me here. Never-the-less, I totally agree with your question about the difference between scripture and mere truism. When Peter talks about a more sure word of testimony and Hebrews argues for the superiority of Christ and the New Covenant neither are pitting truth against truth - but relationship against relationship. The relationship God Had with his people in the OT was good, but the relationship in the NT is better! As to the word of prophecy being more sure, I take from this that Peter is telling us that revelation is progressive and cohesive so that even if you were to have the experience of standing with Christ on the mount of transfiguration and hearing God the Father speak directly to you - you still would do better to have the scriptures with the Apostolic revelation. Just as when you first meet your wife, your conversation may have been entirely true and sincerer with her, but now it's more! Why? Because the relationship is more!

    I understand what you are saying--that the ‘more sure’ means ‘fuller’ or ‘more complete’ in the progressive nature of the unfolding of God’s complete revelation, and I agree.

    [Sam] As a covenant theologian I am careful not to see a discontinuity in the OT - but a continuity, yet I would never say that God's relationship to His people has digressed, but rather progressed. I glory in the anticipation of the consummation of human history when we will all sit at the marriage supper of the lamb and move into the final eschatalogical glory of the relationship that God so wonderfully designed. So we do not pit one portion of scripture against another, but we do not long to return to the immature days of our relationship after now being brought to the mature.

    I take this to mean that we are to weigh all things against scripture ala the Berean example EXCEPT what has been handed down as Holy Writ. This has been my historic position.

    [Sam] Now to the point about men selecting verses God selecting what is canon. You and I obviously agree that God clearly selected what words to use when inspiring the penmen of the NT. (I think every one agree here?)

    Yes. I subscribe to verbal plenary inspiration.

    [Sam] So where we may differ is in the subsequent history. I deny that any man or men ever got to choose what constituted God's word. From the men He first inspired to all the subsequent men that handled His Word through out history. I confess that many have tried to destroy it - many have tried to manipulate it. But in the end there efforts all come to naught, as God protects His Word as part of His bond and as part of His character. To me, to confess a good understanding of inspiration and the infallibleness of God's Word as originally given, but then to obscure that confession with the fear of man or Satan makes no sense.

    I understand. This has been my historic position--that no matter what evidence that has been passed down regarding the men, who they were, their character, etc., that God worked in them to pass down a proper version of His word. In regards to this, I have been in study and prayer to verify that this is indeed a biblically supportable position. AT this point, I am not so sure--as I have indicated. I am not as well-studied as some here and I think it wise to look at things historically taken for granted---one must know why one believes what one believes and then be able to give a ready defense for the hope that lies within.

    [Sam] Why did God go through the trouble to Perfectly and with out error inspire men, If He was going to take no care to preserve that Word?

    I do not doubt that God HAS preserved His word. One might ask the question why God preserved his word but then allows people to misinterpret it and teach others by those misinterpretations thereby endangering their very souls (I speak as a fool).

    [Sam] Or preserve it but also hide it amongst the lies of men and Satan?

    It would appear He hides it within the halls of buildings and from the minds of men supposedly devoted to His worship.

    [you] So now our theology of God and His relationship comes into play. If God was not going to care for His people - then of course its possible that He would hide His Word.

    God cares for His people by the power of the Holy Spirit working within and testifying to Christ.

    [Sam] After all Christ spoke in parables so that the crooked generation would NOT understand.

    Who opened the minds of those who did understand?

    [you] But if God, by the blood of His own Son was bringing His people to an entirely new and wonderful covenant relationship - then how could the testimony be less sure??

    It isn’t!

    [Sam] Another point worth observing is that of monorgism in history. Almost all here hold tenaciously to God monorgistic work in salvation. We rightly confess that we contribute nothing and that God CHOSE us we did not CHOOSE Him.

    I wholeheartedly agree!

    [Sam] The Redemptive Historical understanding of the canon is just like this. The Canon selected itself , we did not select it!

    Thank you for your insights. I fully understand your position--as it has historically been my own. It is good to examine oneself in the light of progressive revelation and the process of spiritual maturation. The various hermeneutical methods proposed here deserve further study by all as they are led by the Holy Spirit in their walk with the Lord.

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    Re: The Unique Purpose of this Forum

    I hope it will not be off the topic to ask a question here at this point. I wonder if when reading God's word and studying it; is anyone asking: what is God's point in inspiring the 66 books of the Bible. Or to phrase it another way:

    What is God's purpose and theme of the entirety of Holy Scripture?

    What I am not asking is: "What do WE think it is?" But What is God's intention? I don't think I have ever heard anyone discuss this anywhere.

    Bill
    Jude 24 "Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy,
    25 To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen."

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    Re: The Unique Purpose of this Forum

    Bill wrote: “. . . what is God's point in inspiring the 66 books of the Bible. Or to phrase it another way: What is God's purpose and theme of the entirety of Holy Scripture? What I am not asking is: "What do WE think it is?" But What is God's intention? I don't think I have ever heard anyone discuss this anywhere.”

    It’s been my experience that, when individuals phrase a question in this manner, they generally already have (or believe they have) the “answer,” and they’re merely creating an opportunity to proclaim their views. Nonetheless, the question’s a good one . . . and fundamental. So, here’s my position:

    I believe God’s objective in inspiring the 66 books of the Bible is twofold. His intent is (1) to reveal Himself to humankind and (2) to inform such of His “eternal purpose” in Christ. Indeed, I believe this twofold intention is accomplished in the Holy Scriptures in language which mankind – through tireless and diligent study – can comprehend and for which they will therefore be accountable.

    On the first point, the revelation of God of necessity takes into account the fact that He is a triune being, eternally existing in the persons of the Father, Son, and Spirit. In addition, the Holy Bible identifies Him as the Creator, Sustainer, and Sovereign Lord of the created order. It sets forth His non-transferable attributes, which include (but are not limited to) omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence, immutability, and impassability. It references – among other infinite and praiseworthy attributes – His absolute holiness, as exemplified in the righteous laws He has established for His elect Households; His grace and mercy, as exemplified in His dealings with the Households; His justice and wrath, as exemplified in His dealings with those outside the Households, i.e., the reprobate among mankind.

    On the second point, God’s eternal purpose in Christ can be briefly stated as follows: “That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him” [Eph. 1:10, 3:11]). The Scriptures inform us that God’s eternal purpose comprises His dealings with three elect Households: the Gentiles, the Jews, and the Body of Christ. These Households are identified in the Scriptures by their distinctive Commissions and Hopes, as follows in brief:

    Gentiles – Elect Tribes/Nations
    Commission: (1) to “replenish the earth,” i.e., to fill the land with righteous offspring; (2) to have dominion” over other sentient life, i.e., to “reign” over lesser created beings in the earth, such as fish, fowls, animals; (3) to subdue the earth, i.e., to maintain and bring man’s natural surroundings (non-sentient life) into subjection and order (Gen. 1:26-28, 9:1).
    Hope: as individuals specifically identified with particular tribes/nations in the eternal kingdom, to fulfill their God-given commission regarding the earth, and to submit themselves in righteousness to Israel, the “chosen” nation (Isa. 60:1-3; Amos 9:11-12; Rev. 21:22-26).

    Israel – God’s Chosen Nation (comprising 12 tribes)
    Commission: to govern the nations and be a channel of blessings to them (Gen. 12:2-3; Heb. 11:8-10; Isa. 60:1-3; Amos 9:11-12; Matt. 28:19; Acts 3:13-26; Rev. 21:1-27).
    Hope: in the eternal kingdom (beginning with the Millennial phase), as a nation of priests and kings (Ex. 19:6; cf. Rev. 1:6, 5:10), headed by David (Eze. 34:23-24, 37:24-25), to possess and rule the Gentiles in righteousness.

    Body of Christ – No Tribal Nor National Distinctions
    Commission: to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery (Eph. 3:9), to govern the elect angels (I Cor. 6:3), who govern Israel, who govern the Gentiles (Rev. 21:9-14).
    Hope: as joint-members of One Body (Rom. 8:16-17), under Christ, the One Lord and Head (Eph. 1:20-23), to rule the created order, including the holy angels (see scriptures immediately above, et. al.).

    When these God-given divisions are observed, the clarity, accuracy, and uniformity of the Scriptures will be apparent. When they’re blurred or ignored, the Bible will seem to be anecdotal, contradictory, and generally hard to understand. But in such cases, as always, the difficulty is not with God’s Word, which is flawless – but with man, who is flawed.

    MK

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