Appendix 2 – Appeal to Tradition: the Trajectory of the Shots Fired over the Canon of Scripture

Catholics are comprehensive, interconnected, synthesizing people.  Well, at least the faith we profess is.  Unfortunately, many controversies between Catholics and Protestants are viewed in isolation, torn unnaturally from where they rightly fit.  It is like trying to determine if a single puzzle piece belongs without consulting the whole.  One area where this disconnect is most obvious is in regard to Scripture.  The debates over the Canon and Sola Scriptura lead to the need to appeal to an authority outside of Scripture.  There is no way for a Protestant to appeal exclusively to Scripture and maintain the current Protestant Canon, much less have grounds for rejecting the books of the Old Testament that they do.  So when you follow the trajectory is it really Sola Scriptura at all?

Recognizing this inevitability R.C. Sproul presents Dr. John Gerstner’s comparison of Catholic vs Protestant views regarding the canon.  Here is how it is presented:  “Roman Catholic view: The Bible is an infallible collection of infallible books.  Protestant view: The Bible is a fallible collection of infallible books.” [28] Sproul then argues for the Protestant position claiming it defends Scripture and protects it. It supposedly “guards against an infallible church” [29] (wouldn’t want one of those).  He articulates that “Church tradition and church creeds can err.” [30]  Unless the creed is Sola Scriptura, then of course it can’t be wrong.  “Individual interpreters of Scripture can err.  It is the Scriptures alone that are without error.” [31]  Assuming you have the right books.  Of course, as Scripture helps interpret Scripture, not having all the books would put someone at a disadvantage.  One might do something, like misinterpret Romans, when missing books.  R.C. Sproul would have to admit this is possible since he defends that he only has a fallible collection of infallible books.  To be fair, all of Christianity existed in a pseudo-Protestant position before the Reformation.  It would have been similar to “We have a reliable though unconfirmed list of infallible books.”  It was when the question of the list’s reliability moved from theory into practice with the reformers that the Church did what she does during times of controversy, made an ecumenical and infallible declaration to protect that which was received.  The infallible Church was coming to the aid of the infallible books which were being cast aside by fallible men. [32]


28. R.C. Sproul, “The Establishment of Scripture,” Ed. Don Kistler, Sola Scriptura 41.
29. Ibid, 41.
30. Ibid, 42.
31. Ibid, 42.
32. Gary Michuta’s Why Catholic Bible’s are Bigger offers an excellent historical survey covering the canon conversation.  He helps cover that Catholics also believe in the reception of the canon not the “creation” of it like Sproul wrote in the above article (Sproul, 49-50).

“It has thought it proper, moreover, to insert in this decree a list of the sacred books, lest a doubt might arise in the mind of someone as to which are the books received by this council” (Trent, Session 4, “Decree Concerning the Canonical Scriptures”).

To his credit, Sproul avoids accusing the Council of Trent of ‘adding’ books to the Bible.

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2 thoughts on “Appendix 2 – Appeal to Tradition: the Trajectory of the Shots Fired over the Canon of Scripture

  1. Pingback: Appendix 1 – A Practice Inconsistent with “Earning” Salvation: Infant Baptism – Thomas Creed – Doubt to Belief

  2. Pingback: People think they know, but they don’t really know. | Partakers of the heavenly calling

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