Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Is Scripture Self-Attesting?

One of the most glaring problems within Protestantism is on the authority of the Bible: how do we know which Books are sacred Scripture?  How can a Christian possibly know which Books belong in the Christian Holy Book without learning this from the Christian Church?

Titian, John Calvin (16th c.)
As Catholics, we'd argue that they can't.  An often overlooked point is that the Bible was written to the Church.  St. Paul specifically addresses most of his Epistles to specific churches (see, e.g., Romans 1:7, 1 Cor. 1:1-2; 2 Cor. 1; Gal. 1:1-2; Eph. 1:1; etc.), and every Book in the New Testament was written to, and for, the Church.  These Books were then preserved by the early Church, read publicly in the Liturgy, and solemnly declared as canonical: by the Council of Carthage in 397, by Pope Damasus shortly thereafter, all the way through to the Council of Trent.

But Protestants reject this Bible.  They have a Bible, with seven of the Books (and portions of two more, Daniel and Esther) removed. The result is a Bible which was not used by a single Church Father, or endorsed by a single early Church Council.

That is, while they call it the “Bible,” it wasn’t the Bible that the early Christians would have used or recognized.  How to get around this problem?  The Reformer John Calvin addressed this issue by simply claiming that it's obvious which Books belong in the Bible, as obvious as telling white from black:
As to the question, How shall we be persuaded that it came from God without recurring to a decree of the Church? it is just the same as if it were asked, How shall we learn to distinguish light from darkness, white from black, sweet from bitter? Scripture bears upon the face of it as clear evidence of its truth, as white and black do of their colour, sweet and bitter of their taste.
But of course, the canon of Scripture isn't as obvious as telling black from white, or everyone would agree on which Books belong in the Bible.  Calvin addressed this problem by claiming that the key was listening to the “the inward testimony of the Spirit.With the Holy Spirit's help, you could easily know which Books were truly Scripture:
Let it therefore be held as fixed, that those who are inwardly taught by the Holy Spirit acquiesce implicitly in Scripture; that Scripture, carrying its own evidence along with it, deigns not to submit to proofs and arguments, but owes the full conviction with which we ought to receive it to the testimony of the Spirit.
Calvin's argument, known as the “self-attestation of Scripture,” is one that countless Protestants have reused,
often by proof-texting John 10:27 to say that the true Christians (the sheep) will hear Christ's voice (and thus, know which Books are in the Bible, since the Bible is the word of God).  So, for example, Michael Kruger at Reformed Theological Seminary trots this argument out in his recent book Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books. Justin Boulmay, a Protestant blogger, gently dismantles Kruger's arguments for self-attestation.

So let's address the obvious, glaring problems with this argument for the self-attestation of Scripture: the unanimous witness of the Church Fathers.  There are three facts to consider.
St. Cyril of Jerusalem
  1. First, the early Church Fathers had different canons.  That means that, even as Catholics, we have to recognize that the canon of Scripture wasn't always as clear as it is today.   For example, St. Athanasius, St. Augustine, and St. Cyril each argued for a different canonical list.  Yet Catholics, along with most Protestants, consider all three men Saints, and exemplars of the faith.  This suggests that while the Holy Spirit remained, at all times, in control, He worked slowly and through the Church, rather than instantaneously, through each believer (as Calvin imagined).

  2. Second, no Church Father had the Protestant canon.  Despite the various canons that the early Church Fathers used, none of them used the canon of Scripture that Protestants use today.  Consider the implications.  If Calvin is right that those with the inward guidance of the Holy Spirit will recognize the Protestant canon of Scripture, then not only are Athanasius, Augustine, and Cyril not Saints, but no known member of the early Church was a Saint.  We would have to reject as non-Christian the very people, the very Christian communities, the very Church that brought all of us (Catholic and Protestant alike) the Bible. So, if John Calvin and his spiritual heirs are correct, the Early Church Fathers are neither our spiritual fathers, nor representations of the true (Spirit-led) Church.  But even Calvin himself would reject this conclusion.
  3. Even Jerome didn't buy into the idea of Self-Attestation.  St. Jerome argued unsuccessfully for the Protestant canon, before deferring to the judgment of the Church.  But even in his arguments for the Protestant canon, he wasn't saying, “I’m guided by the Holy Spirit, so this is obvious to me.” Instead, he was making arguments based on textual criticism, and the Jewish canon, etc. So even the Father who came closest to having a Protestant Bible didn't find the canon of Scripture obvious or self-evident.
Given Calvin's high view of St. Augustine (he quoted him 232 times in The Bondage and Liberation of the Will, for example, while quoting no other Father more than 11 times), it's instructive to hear what St. Augustine had to say on the matter.  Not only did Augustine endorse the entire Catholic canon, but he explained the standard by which “the most skillful interpreter of the sacred writings,” ought to determine which Books were Scripture:
Louis Comfort Tiffany, stained glass window of St. Augustine (detail)
Now, in regard to the canonical Scriptures, he must follow the judgment of the greater number of catholic churches; and among these, of course, a high place must be given to such as have been thought worthy to be the seat of an apostle and to receive epistles. Accordingly, among the canonical Scriptures he will judge according to the following standard: to prefer those that are received by all the catholic churches to those which some do not receive. Among those, again, which are not received by all, he will prefer such as have the sanction of the greater number and those of greater authority, to such as are held by the smaller number and those of less authority. If, however, he shall find that some books are held by the greater number of churches, and others by the churches of greater authority (though this is not a very likely thing to happen), I think that in such a case the authority on the two sides is to be looked upon as equal. 
So it's not just that Calvin denies the canon that Augustine affirms.  It's that they're taking totally different approaches to Scripture.  Calvin's approach encourages each individual to assume that the Holy Spirit is directly communicating this knowledge to him.  Augustine's approach encourages the individual to humbly look to the Church.

There's much more that can be said on this topic. For example, Neal Judisch at Called to Communion makes a number of good points, including this one:
Second, his [Calvin's] own theory simply comes down to the idea that each individual can replace the Church’s activity in this regard – that although it’s demeaning to Scripture and indeed sacrilegious to say that the Spirit can tell the Church in Council which books are inspired and which are not, it’s God-honoring and perfectly pious to say that He does this with each particular person, as a kind of little church standing alone, one by one.

Now Calvin, I honestly believe, didn’t see himself as doing this. But this was because he clouded the issue by assuming (as have many following him) that when something seems clear and evident to him it’s got to be because the Spirit is speaking directly to him, giving him the unvarnished news, as it were, whereas anyone who doesn’t see precisely the same thing must not enjoy that unmediated spiritual insight he has but is instead being blinded by some or other interpretive “filter.” The misled might feel just as inwardly certain about their own beliefs as he does, of course, but if so they’re just deluding themselves, mistaking their own unfounded psychological certainty for the testimony of God Himself.
Judisch's point is astute, and we see Calvin's tendency to assume that his own views were the result of the Holy Spirit guiding him, while everyone else's views were delusional elsewhere in his writings, like on the issue of assurance of salvation and “evanescent grace”.

31 comments:

  1. I've raised this issue with my "Bible-only" independent evangelical in-laws and they just kind of shrug their shoulders. They are very suspicious of any authority other than their own and I'm not sure they want to understand the importance of the issue.

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  2. Great post! This truly is less an issue of deciding which books belong in the Christian Canon, and more an issue (as you raised in your final point) of deciding on whose authority you will base the Canon. Will I allow myself to be that authority, or do I rightly look to a Divinely-appointed Authority? This question was crucial in my conversion. I understood that to reject the Church's authority was simply to accept my own authority - which made no sense.

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  3. Why didn't Augustine just point to the Council of Hippo?

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  4. If we each have authority to determine our own Bible, I probably would leave out the book of Revelation (for the reasons given by D.H. Lawrence in Apocalypse) and I would add three books that have helped me along - Lewis' Mere Christianity, Chesterton's Orthodoxy, and Tolkien's LOTR. No two Bibles would be the same. We need not stumble in the dark when we can be guided by the light.

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  5. One argument I've been working on in my head regarding this issue is to compare Scriptures to the periodic table of elements.

    The periodic table can't be interpreted by each person individually. You can't say "Well this element symbol here means XYZ to me..." No, it means what it means, the numbers around those letters signify specific things, that we need to know in order to work with these elements.

    One physicist can't say it represents the basic building blocks of the visible universe, and another physicist says that it is a sheet of long lost classical music.

    Our entire civilization would come to a standstill if that were the case.

    Also, like with Scripture, everyone who comes to the periodic table has to come to it through some outside source which has some degree of authority on interpreting the periodic table. Without your Chemistry and Physics teachers back in High School the periodic table would be gibberish to you.

    Someone, somewhere along the line, had to have said: "Okay, Hydrogen should come first. There! The matter is settled." Just as someone had to say "Okay, Matthew is going to be the first Gospel. There! The matter is settled."

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  6. I didn't know this was still an issue for Catholics towards Protestants. I went to mass this weekend, and not one person wanted to discuss the differences in Bibles, and the homily wasn't reference to the Apocrypha. "One of the most glaring problems within Protestantism is on the authority of the Bible." The Protestants I know don't seem to argue at all about which scripture are from God.

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    1. I'm not positive I know what you mean by whether or not this is “still an issue for Catholics towards Protestants.” If you’re asking if we still believe that these Books are the word of God, yes. And yet nearly all Protestants deny that these Books are the word of God. Since this is an important issue (both Catholics and Protestants having a desire to hear what God is communicating to us, and all), it’s obviously going to be an “issue.” Which Books are inspired by God should be an issue for all Christians, right?


      Having said that, it’s not as if the Deuterocanon is the only part of the Bible – as you mentioned, it’s quite normal for the homily to be about a different portion of Sacred Scripture (frequently, the Gospel).


      Finally, I agree that most Protestants don’t seem to argue about which Scriptures are from God. I wish that they would, and that they would seriously investigate the reasons for their belief on this issue. I think it would be instructive, and would make for more engaging dialog.

      I.X.,

      Joe

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  7. Can a man know God? Can a man know God apart from the Scriptures? Yes! Adam did, Cain did, Noah did, and Abraham did! We can know God before we every lay eyes on a Bible! Paul says "Faith then cometh by hearing; and hearing by the word of Christ." Can the word of Christ be heard apart from the scriptures? Yes! Paul was taught the Gospel he later wrote about by Christ. And he also found the gospel concealed in the Old Testament. but I fear without revelation from God faith is not possible. Man cannot know God except God reveal Himself. We can be taught by the church, but at some point God must make it (faith) real by revealing Himself to us PERSONALLY. None other but God can do this.

    John 17:3; Jeremiah 9:23-24

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    1. Dave,

      Catholics agree that faith is a theological virtue that comes from God. But that doesn't eliminate the role for the Church, precisely because the Church also comes directly from God. But even acknowledging that faith is of (and from) God, how does that impact the question of which Books are in the Bible?

      I.X.,

      Joe

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    2. I think his point is that God can—and, by all accounts, did—reveal what the books of the Bible are, and he did so by faith. In other words, I would know what they are, even if no Roman Catholics had lived. After all, the first of those who knew of the canon did so without the benefit of a pre-existing canon or pre-existing councils.
      Aren’t you just trying to shift the question to “are Councils self-attesting?”

      Why do you want to solve this question of the canon as though it is a question of Euclidean geometry? May all who teach others to do these things be accursed.

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    3. Comrade,

      "In other words, I would know what they are, even if no Roman Catholics had lived. After all, the first of those who knew of the canon did so without the benefit of a pre-existing canon or pre-existing councils."

      What do you mean? 1) You wouldn't know what the canon was; and even if you "did", your neighbor would have a different canon than you. Or perhaps in that scenario he wouldn't have the true faith? So either we tend toward Gnosticism or relativism.

      2) The first of those who knew of the canon also disagreed on what the canon was. So, we again arrive at either Gnosticism or relativism without the Church.

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    4. Taylor, you say: "You wouldn't know what the canon was [if there was no preceding canon or council]."

      Do you see the slippery slope you are headed to? Do you see that, if you are correct that I would not know the canon without the benefit of the councils and what-not, then we have no canon even now? That is nonsense, of course, since I know my canon. Find another line of reasoning.

      You say: "... and even if you "did", your neighbor would have a different canon than you."

      Yes, but was this about my neighbour, or me? After all, even given the councils, the Protestants and Catholics disagree about the canon. Having an authority to decide the canon does not remove the possibility of divergence, since we will then just diverge on who the correct authority is. This is what happens when you try to solve matters of faith as though they are matters of Aristotelian logic; may all who teach this to others be accursed,.

      You say "Or perhaps in that scenario he wouldn't have the true faith? So either we tend toward Gnosticism or relativism."

      He would have true faith, if he believes that he is justified before God by putting his faith in Christ apart from works of the Law. Unlike Catholics, I do not believe that uniformity is a necessity for one to be a believer in the Gospel. Which, after all, is why the letters to the Churches were so different in Revelation. It wasn't one church. Roman Catholicism, with roots in heady European politics, is as obsessed with uniformity in thought as a European king would be.
      I should note that Roman Catholics recognise Muslims as people who worship the same God as them; however, they disagree on the canon in a most-fundamental way. Yet Protestants seem to be the over-riding obsession.

      You say "2) The first of those who knew of the canon also disagreed on what the canon was."

      Do you proof-read your comments? How can they know the canon, if they also disagree on what it is?

      You say "So, we again arrive at either Gnosticism or relativism without the Church."

      You failed to get my point. My point is that we disagree on what the "Church" is. How are you going to solve that? By breaking out your theorem provers once again? How will you correct the Muslims on their canon? By threatening them with Gnosticism or relativism? How will you resolve disagreement about who the authority on canon is? More Aristotelian logic? May all who teach others to treat matters of faith as though they are matters of philosophy be accursed.

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    5. It is interesting that you keep worrying about Aristoelian logic when you ignore all the other Eastern Catholics who don't rely on that like the Roman Catholics do.

      Yes, I proofread comments. It was to point out that nobody actually "knew" the canon in such a solid way as you seem to claim.

      All you seem to be advocating is the typical "me and my Bible sitting under a tree, being my own pope." It simply does not work.

      The reasons that Protestants disagree about the canon is that they rejected the councils. That is awfully convenient.

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    6. Hello, Taylor;
      You say: “It is interesting that you keep worrying about Aristoelian logic when you ignore all the other Eastern Catholics who don't rely on that like the Roman Catholics do.”

      I do not ignore them any more or less than I do Roman Catholics. —Or, for that matter, non Catholics who act like reason is the language of Heaven.

      You say: “It was to point out that nobody actually "knew" the canon in such a solid way as you seem to claim.”

      But I know the canon in the solid way I seem to claim! Or are you disputing this? —As in, disputing that I know my canon very well?

      You say: “All you seem to be advocating is the typical "me and my Bible sitting under a tree, being my own pope." It simply does not work.”

      You say it as though it is a bad thing. It works, and Catholics are actually required to do it regarding the councils. No council tells Catholics which councils to adhere to. Or which encyclicals to adhere to, or how to interpret them. No encyclical is interpreted by any other encyclical—and these are all more-complex than Romans. It works, and all believers are in the state of “me and my God sitting on this Earth, being my own believer”. For all these things, it is each Catholic being an authority unto himself. Is this a bad thing? Is the Catholic Church wrong on this? You seem to fail to grasp that it is an inescapable end. Why is the Pope the only Christian allowed to formulate thoughts on canons? This is an old and relentless assault against the beauty and glory of child-like faith, where it is now dishonourable to believe for yourself. May all who teach others these things be accursed.

      You say: “The reasons that Protestants disagree about the canon is that they rejected the councils. That is awfully convenient.”

      Au contraire”, the Protestants will insist, “it is the Catholics who agreed with the wrong councils and rejected sound teaching.“ How to resolve that? Another council, another promulgation? Do you see where you are headed yet?

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  8. Joe, you say: “One of the most glaring problems within Protestantism is on the authority of the Bible: how do we know which Books are sacred Scripture? How can a Christian possibly know which Books belong in the Christian Holy Book without learning this from the Christian Church?”

    You are merely shifting the problem to deciding which the correct Authority is. Even if I agreed that we can only know the Bible by relying on an Authority, then I would still contend with you and insist that you are wrong (as, in fact, I do), because we do not agree on who the Authority is.
    Why do you want to solve questions of faith using Aristotelian logic? May all who teach others to subject God to logic be accursed.

    Christopher, you say: “I understood that to reject the Church's authority was simply to accept my own authority - which made no sense.”

    Did you rely on the authority of Church to point out that you should accept the authority of the Church? Why do you treat a question of God as though it is a question of geometry?
    All those who teach others to privilege the mind of man and the working of logics over the voice of God and the working of faith, may they be accursed.

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  9. Rob, you say: “One argument I've been working on in my head regarding this issue is to compare Scriptures to the periodic table of elements.”

    So, for you, the best way to examine a question regarding the God-breathed Word of God is to liken it to a compilation of classes physical objects? Why do you treat the mysteries of God as though they are the subject of Baconian Science?
    May all who teach others to reduce the matters of God’s to the matters of men be accursed.

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  10. This is a straw man argument of the Doctrine of Self-Attestation, and of Kruger's book on the Self-Authenticating Canonical Model. Have you actually read Canon Revisited? He literally deals with all the arguments that you laid out here. Also, Catholics and Evangelicals have no disagreement on what is in the NT canon. The debate is in the OT canon. Kruger's book is primarily about the NT canon. I'd encourage you to spend more time looking at the history of the Deuterocanonical Books and the history of the OT covenant-canon structure. Evangelicals (and Jews for that matter) have really good reasons why we do not believe that literature to be God's self-attesting Word. Meredith Kline has some really eye opening stuff of the apparent covenantal structure of the Bible. It pretty much lays the debate to rest to be honest.

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    1. William,

      1) Be more specific. What are you claiming is a straw man, and what are the answers that you think are so convincing?

      2) And where has the appeal to "the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit" produced a single, unified canon of Scripture? The Mormons claim to use this method, and their canon obviously differs from both of our own. Calvin and Luther both had canons differing for each of our own, as well: is this evidence that they weren't guided by the Holy Spirit? Why should we favor my subjective feeling of being guided internally by the Holy Spirit over the judgment of the Spirit-led Church?

      3) "Also, Catholics and Evangelicals have no disagreement on what is in the NT canon. The debate is in the OT canon."

      I don't think that this is valid ground. When you say that Catholics and Evangelicals have no disagreement on what is in the NT canon, that's true only because Evangelicals accept the Catholic Church's determination (Luther, in contrast, did not, and rejected the canonicity of four of the New Testament Books).

      But there's no coherent way for Evangelicals to rely upon the Church's authority to determine the canon while simultaneously denying the Church's authority to determine the canon. After all, it wasn't like the Church separately defined the OT and NT canon. That was one act, and attempting to break it into two separate acts (one of which you accept and one of which you reject) is bad history and bad ecclesiology.

      I.X.,

      Joe

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    2. So you have or haven't read Canon Revisited? If you had you would know exactly what I'm talking about, at least you should. So that makes me think you haven't. Go read it, it's a great book. Even if you don't agree with it, you will at least have an accurate knowledge of the the Evangelical stance on the self-attestation of the Scriptures.

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    3. P.S. The internal appeal of the Holy Spirit is a sub-point of a sub-point for our argument about the self-attestation of Scripture. You treat it like it is the main crux of our argument. So like I said, check out the book, you'll enjoy it!

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    4. William,

      No, I haven't the book. I've read the review that I linked to, and maybe others, but I can't remember: this post is over two years old. I cited it in passing in this post just to point out that the self-attestation position is still being taken, several centuries after Calvin.

      Again, if you can present the argument, great. If not, I'm honestly probably not going to try to find the book here in Italy just to figure out what your arguments would be if you were making arguments.

      I.X.,

      Joe

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    5. Yeah I don't blame you. You can easily pick it up on Kindle though for pretty cheap. Just saying.... I just stumbled on this article doing research in a class. I just thought I would respond for your sake and the sake of anyone else who stumbled upon it, that what is being presented here is not a valid representation of what Reformed or Evangelical Christians believe about the self authentification of God's Word. Self-Authentification Model of Canonicity, check it out sometime for your own edification.

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    6. William,

      Wait a second; are you saying that because this doesn't analyze Kruger's specific arguments, that it's therefore "not a valid representation of what Reformed or Evangelical Christians believe about the self authentification of God's Word"?

      In other words, are you claiming that Reformed and Evangelicals all take Kruger's position? Because while I haven't read Kruger's arguments, I have read Calvin's, which I'd argue are a bit more important when we're talking about the Reformed position on basically anything.

      I.X.,

      Joe

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    7. I'm saying that you misrepresent the arguments of both. As far as "all" Reformed and Evangelical Christians taking his position, obviously there are some that probably don't. Just like there are plenty of Catholics who have divergent beliefs from mainstream Catholicism. But Kruger's view is definitely the widely held and accepted Reformed view of the Authority and Canonicity of Scripture. As far as Calvin goes, his view is not near as systematized as Kruger's for sure, but they are essentially the same. Both of which you misrepresent. Alright so since you probably won't read the book I'll go ahead and explain the problem with your argument.

      So you say that the self-attestation of Scripture is defined as Scripture bearing particular divine marks which evidence it as such coupled with the inward testimony of the Holy Spirit. So I agree that this an aspect of a the Self-Attestation of Scripture, however it is just that. An aspect. You fail to understand the full argument of Self-Attestation. So here is a real short and sweet outline and introduction.

      So when we talk about Self-Attestation we mean that the Bible actually says certain things about itself. God speaks through his word about his word. For example 2 Tim 3:16-17
      What are some of these things?
      1. God's Word bears the mark of the Divine author in the unity and harmony (Luke 24:27, Acts 28:23), beauty and excellence (Psalm 19 & 119), and efficacy and power (Heb 4:11-12, Prov 30:5, Eph 6:17)
      2. God's Word is written through Prophetic/Apostolic Origins (Heb1:1, 2 Peter 1:16-21, 2 Peter 3:15-16) This includes Apostolic Company like Mark and Luke
      3. Corporate Reception (John 10:27)- This should never be confused with perfect corporate reception. It also should be noted that this in no way denies a process. To your point in the article. The Holy Spirit is in total control, but is choosing to work over time. No reason for that to bother us. Because of course we have to remember that even people with the Holy Spirit are still sinners who feel the noetic effects of sin. Another aspect of corporate reception the fact that the Bible itself is a covenant (testament) which carries with it certain authoritative and canonical expectations from the receiving church. Kruger goes into this a little.

      Ok so we see here that the Bible actually gives us the criteria for authentic Scripture, and likewise authenticates itself using that criteria. Boom, Self-Authenticating Model of Canon.

      Also, here is a link to an article (also by Kruger) on the evidence that the Early Church Fathers also understood that the Scriptures are self-authenticating.

      http://michaeljkruger.com/ten-basic-facts-about-the-nt-that-every-christian-should-memorize-early-christians-believed-that-canonical-books-were-self-authenticating/

      Now obviously I didn't engage with the Catholic view here , cause again Kruger deals with it sufficiently in CR as well as other Theologians like DeYoung in his book Taking God at His Word. So I send you there for any more questions you might have regarding this issue. Hope this is helpful in understanding what Reformed Evangelicals believe about God's Word. Namely that He Is Who He Is and can speak for Himself and authenticate Himself.

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    8. I should also clarify, that all three aspects of the Self-Authentification Model, work in tandem. And the only reason we use those as our criteria is because the God says that they are our criteria objectively. And yes it is circular reasoning, but God has to ultimately appeal to Himself, there is no higher authority to appeal to. Plus it is no more circular than a secularist appealing to self sufficient reason using reason, or a Catholic using the Church's authority to establish God's authority.

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    9. “And where has the appeal to "the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit" produced a single, unified canon of Scripture? The Mormons claim to use this method, and their canon obviously differs from both of our own.”

      Why do you even know about the Mormon canon, let alone refer to it to support your position in a Christian debate?
      You assume that the internal testimony of the Spirit didn’t produce a unified canon; is this because you say (perhaps as a Roman Catholic) that Mormons, like Protestants, are both equally guided by the Holy Spirit, both Prot and Mormon, and yet end up on two different canons?

      You expect a “single unified canon”, while in fact scripture was a reality—as the self-attesting word of God—even in the time of only the Old Testament. People recognised that canon, of that time, such that even Jesus simply referred to the scriptures as primary sources on God and doctrine. The reason they did is the same reason the Protestants today do—and the same reason the Synod of Hippo, among others, did—which is the same way anybody can believe the self-attesting “Thus says the Lord” that is everywhere in the scriptures.

      By faith, from first to last, just as it is written: the just one shall live by faith.

      “When you say that Catholics and Evangelicals have no disagreement on what is in the NT canon, that's true only because Evangelicals accept the Catholic Church's determination (Luther, in contrast, did not, and rejected the canonicity of four of the New Testament Books).”

      You don’t even know the history you want to teach. Luther’s Bible includes even the Deuterocanonical books. He had his opinions on them, but he is also not considered among Lutherans like you consider the popes among you.

      The RCC never decided the canon. If it had concluded otherwise, it would be wrong. Since the New Testament itself already refers to the scriptures, they were already know when the RCC was not yet here. We accept the RCC because they accept the right canon (among a few other things); we do not accept the words of God because a bunch of men, however pious (or, as is the case, however perverse) have said we should. God doesn’t need your approval.

      “After all, it wasn't like the Church separately defined the OT and NT canon.”

      The Church never defined the canon. They didn’t have any other choice. Either they agreed with the canon we have, or they would have been heretics. We accept the canon because of the testimony of God; we accept as orthodox those who accept the orthodox canon; we do not accept the canon because of the people we accept. The canon was known before, and the Synod of Hippo was only careful not to veer from what had been known before as canon, not to set anything new.
      Anyway, for you Roman Catholics, every other encyclical and bull is legitimately regarded as scripture. (As a result, in fact, you follow *sola scriptura* without knowing it.)

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  11. “Plus it is no more circular than a secularist appealing to self sufficient reason using reason, or a Catholic using the Church's authority to establish God's authority.”

    Now you get it. Everything about God is going to be by faith. Everybody else is lying.
    This is how everything—even justification—has to go.

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  12. “The internal appeal of the Holy Spirit is a sub-point of a sub-point for our argument about the self-attestation of Scripture. You treat it like it is the main crux of our argument. So like I said, check out the book, you'll enjoy it!”

    That book cannot possibly be the final word for Reformed scripturology, since it apparently differs from (or extends) the position of the Three Forms of Unity. In Reformed scripturology, as you can see from the Belgic Confession, the sole way in which we know canon is by the testimony of the Spirit. If the testimony of the Spirit is just one of many ways to know canon, that is not quite the Reformed position in its bare expression (which, as it goes, is sufficient).

    Unlike the Roman Catholics, we do not rely on men who apparently have more of the Spirit (or whose persons God respects more or whatever) to give us permission to treat the word of God as such. That position is heretical, especially since they admit that the scriptures predate them, but that the acceptance of them should not; it is heresy to teach that the Word of God requires men to line up behind it before it is legitimately treated as such. (Clearly, it is recognised as scripture from the very day it is sent forth. “Thus saith the Lord.”)

    “God speaks through his word about his word. For example 2 Tim 3:16-17 What are some of these things?”

    In appealing to the Scriptures to prove your point about the Scriptures, you prove that it has to be by faith—having pre-accepted the scriptures, apart from any of these proofs—that anybody will ever accept these points in the first place. Your Roman Catholic interlocutors are the kind who subject the testimony of the New Testament to whatever bull or encyclical may come out on the topic, so it is expected that they will disregard this 2 Timothy thing as “private interpretation”, and they are quite justified in it from their position.

    This shows what we Reformed know, that there is no way to turn the reprobate. (And if God doesn’t set some pots up for wrongness, how shall His glory on us, who are correct, be seen? God has chosen the weak things—like simple, child-like faith—to shame the strong; that none may boast.) If you prove from the Bible, they can always prove from their non-Bible. This is not a problem; eternal life is not about logic, but about election by grace. They will remain comfortable with the mythos they’ve constructed about the scriptures (“we decided on what the word of God is! we are the greatest in the kingdom!”), proud of their confidence in flesh, and suspicious of faith, unless God gives them his quickening Spirit, and consequently the radically-new scripturology that faith by the Spirit gives.

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  13. I must say, also, that I have always found it funny that Roman Catholics use and use and use (as in the blog banner here) 1 Tim 3: “… the church is the pillar and foundation of truth …” And yet they never see that Scripture is what they base on, so they should say “Scripture is the foundation of the pillar and foundation of truth.” Or, at least, they act like it.

    By faith, people. By faith.

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