Critique of THE PROTESTANT'S DILEMMA by Devin Rose

Chapter 9 - A Self-Authenticating Bible?

Page 75: The Reformers were not unaware of the conundrum we treated in the previous chapter, and some of them – John Calvin was the most influential proponent of this theory – offered an alternative: the self-authenticating canon. It states that a true Christian can read a given book and easily tell whether it is inspired by God or not. The Holy Spirit dwelling within the Christian would witness to the book’s inspiration.
Note: The Apostle Paul wants every Christian themselves to prove what is good and acceptable.
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Romans 12:2.

Pages 75-76: This theory did away with the need for trusting the corrupted early Church or for tracing the messy history of the canon’s development. Instead, you as a faithful Christian simply picked up your Bible, read the books, and listened for the inner witness of the Spirit telling you that the books were inspired by God. Similarly, you could theoretically pick up a non-canonical epistle or Gospel from the first or second century, read it, and note the absence of the Spirit’s confirmation of its inspiration.
Note: Scripture will be consistent within the inspired canon.
For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Romans 4:3.

Page 76: Calvin makes two claims here: first, that the Church does not give authority to Scripture but rather Scripture has authority by the fact that God inspired it; secondly, that a Christian can know the canon from the Holy Spirit’s testimony within him, not by trusting a decision of the Church. Moreover, a Christian can know quite easily what is inspired and what is not, as easily as distinguishing “white from black, sweet from bitter.”
Note: Scripture will be consistent within the inspired canon.
For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” Romans 10:11.

Page 77: Calvin’s first claim – that the Church does not give Scripture its authority – has never been contested by the Catholic Church, the Orthodox churches, or any Christian. It is a straw man: The Church teaches that it received inspired texts from God (through human authors), and that God guided it in discerning which among many texts were truly inspired. The Church is thus the servant of written revelation and not its master.
Note: Scripture will be consistent within the inspired canon.
And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.” Galatians 3:8.

Page 77: Calvin’s second claim has become the common answer from Protestants who can’t concede that a corrupt Church selected the canon. There’s an element of truth to it: Surely the Holy Spirit does witness to our souls when we read the Bible. But Calvin sets up a false dichotomy here: Either the Church, by discerning the canon, imagines itself in authority over Scripture, or the canon is self-evident to any Christian. Calvin replaces the belief that God guided the Church in selecting the canon with the belief that God guides me or you in selecting it. He forces his readers to choose between these options, but in fact they are both false.
Note: The Apostle Paul wants Christians to be self-reliant.
Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified. 2 Corinthians 13:5.

Page 77: There is no principled reason, in Scripture or elsewhere, to believe that God would guide me or you in this discernment but not the Church. Moreover, Calvin subjective criterion for discerning the canon is surely impractical and unrealistic. How would a person seeking truth but not yet indwelt by the Holy Spirit know which books to read to find truth?
Note: Once a person has found Jesus Christ they have found the truth.
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 14:6.

Pages 77-78: What about a new Christian who had not learned to distinguish the inner voice of the Spirit from his own? At what point after his conversion would a Christian be considered ready to help define the canon? If two Christians disagreed, whose inner judgment would be used to arbitrate their dispute and identify the real canon?
Note: The author proposes a straw man argument via questions.
These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. For “who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ. 1 Corinthians 2:13-16.

Page 78: Another problem with Calvin’s claim is that the facts of history flatly contradict it. As we have seen, the selection of the canon was not an easy, debate-free process that ended with the close of written revelation in the early second century. Rather, the canon emerged slowly through a laborious process, with differing canons being proposed by different Church Fathers during these centuries. If the canon were obvious and self-evident, the Holy Spirit would have led each of them to the same canon. Yet even these faithful, Spirit-filled men, so close to the time of the apostles and Christ himself, proposed different canons. It was not until A.D. 400 that the canon was settled, and it contained the seventy-three books of the Catholic Bible. When, more that 1,100 years later, the Reformers changed the canon by rejecting the seven deuterocanonical books (and Luther unsuccessfully tried to discard others) it was another example of intelligent and well-meaning Christians disagreeing about the “self-authenticated” canon.
Note: The author assumes that the Catholic Church was led by Spirit-filled men.
Hippolytus of Rome (170–235) was the most important 3rd-century theologian in the Christian Church in Rome, where he was probably born. Photios I of Constantinople describes him in his Bibliotheca (cod. 121) as a disciple of Irenaeus, who was said to be a disciple of Polycarp, and from the context of this passage it is supposed that he suggested that Hippolytus himself so styled himself. However, this assertion is doubtful. He came into conflict with the popes of his time and seems to have headed a schismatic group as a rival bishop of Rome. For that reason he is sometimes considered the first antipope. Wikipedia Encyclopedia.

Pages 78-79: If Protestantism is true, then the books of the canon are obvious just from reading them – at least to any true Christian bright enough to discern black from white. (Apparently that excludes Martin Luther, the founder of the Protestant Reformation, since he wanted to jettison four books from the New Testament.) Of course, this makes the canon contingent on the subjective opinions of millions of individual Christians, each of whom have to personally figure out what it’s supposed to be. It also creates a vicious circle, if a) true Christians can tell in their hearts what the books of the Bible are, but b) the Bible is the only thing we have to tell us what true Christianity is. Without a trustworthy canon to tell us what true Christianity is, how can we know that we are true Christians able to discern what the canon is?
Note: Are you abiding in Jesus Christ or an authority-mad church based in Rome?
“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” John 15:5-8.