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Two scholars recently talked about the Canon of Scripture at this year’s G3 Conference.

These two men, Dr. James White and Dr. Michael Kruger has written, lectured and debated on this subject.

Here’s the hour long conversation:

Enjoy!

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The Canon of the New Testament[1]

 Lesson 1:  I have titled Lesson 1, The Term Canon.  This section will discuss details of the Greek word κανών; how the word κανών has been used in a variety of contexts; the English usage of the the word canon; the history behind the usage of the word canon; and the correct view of the word canon.  Understanding these valuable aspects and how they relate to κανών produces a valuable tool for apologetics.  Therefore, it is strongly recommended that the student is immersed with these aspects so that the believer maybe able to defend the New Testament from sinful critics that devalue the word of God.

1)  Comes from the Greek word κανών.

The Greek word is κανών is signified as a reed.  The reed is used as a tool of measurement or alignment.  As a result, κανών is used as a metaphor which acquires the basic sense of a “straight rod.”  The purpose of this word was to test straightness.[2]

2)  Moreover, this word κανών has been used in a variety of contexts.

It has been used in art, music, literature, ethics, law, and philosophy as a tool of measurement when testing accuracy.  In Galatians 6:16 Paul uses κανών.  For example, Paul says, “And those who will walk by this κανών (rule), peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.  Clearly Paul uses this term to signify the Gospel message as the standard and authentic way to live for the glory of God.[3]

3)  The English usage of the canon.

According to Dr. Robert Thomas, the English usage of canon carried two possible connotations:[4]

 

(a) Canons may speak of principles, rules, standards, or norms by which a book is measured before being accepted as a part of Scripture. (b) “Canon may speak of an authoritive list of books accepted as Holy Scripture, i.e., the collection of books which measures up to the body of principles referred to in definition.”  Also there is history behind the use of the word canon.”

                       

 

 

4)  History behind the usage of the word canon.

The word did not begin to be applied to Christian writings until the mid-fourth century.  The earliest known use of this term can be traced back to Athanasius who was the bishop of Alexandria.  It can be seen used in his Decrees of the Council of Nicea, which was written soon after 350 A.D.  For example, he used this term when he was describing the document known as The Shepherd of Hermas.  In his Easter Letter, he describes some writings as canonical in the 39th “Festal Letter,” which is also called his Easter Letter of 367.[5]  During that same time the Council of Loadicea (ca. 360) used terms such as “uncanonical” (akanonista) and the “canonical” (kanonika) books of the old and new covenants.  As a result, it became common to use the term canon when dealing with a collection of books that are authoritive.[6]

5)  The correct view of the canon.

There are two major ways in which the canon has been viewed:[7]

(a)  “The canon is an authoritive collection of writings.  This is the traditional view of Roman Catholicism.  Note that the authority of the canon is hereby vested in the collection or, in other words, the collecting agency or the church rather than in the writhing themselves.” (b)  “The canon is a collection of authoritive writings.  According to this view, the authority is vested in the writings themselves.  The church merely recognizes the authority that is latent in the writings themselves.  The authority rests upon the fact of inspiration, not upon the agency of collection.  This is the proper view of the canon as will become evident in the discussion which follows below.”

[1]Robert Thomas, “Canon of the New Testament” (unpublished syllabus, 2009).

[2] Merrill Tenney, The New Testament, A Survey, p. 417; Harry Y. Gamble, The New Testament Canon (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1985), p. 15.

[3] Ibid, 15.

[4] Robert Thomas, “Canon of the New Testament” (unpublished syllabus, 2009), 1.

[5]Ibid, 1.

[6] Merrill Tenney, The New Testament, A Survey, p. 417; Harry Y. Gamble, The New Testament Canon, 17.

[7] Robert Thomas, “Canon of the New Testament” (unpublished syllabus, 2009), 1-2.

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After reading “Logical and Conceptual Reasoning” in Section 4.5, “Thinking God’s Thoughts After Him,” of Van Til’s Apologetics: A Reading and an Analysis by Greg Bahnsen, I wanted to write down quickly some applications and implications from the passage I read (pages 235-236). I’ll include an excerpt here for those unfamiliar with Man’s Analogous Thinking applied to logic:

“Van Til pictured human knowing as “thinking God’s thoughts after Him.” He also maintained that God’s thinking represents perfect coherence. Therefore, in order for men to know things, taught Van Til, they too must think coherently or with logical consistency. “The law of contradiction, therefore, as we know it, is but the expression on a created level of the internal coherence of God’s nature.” So in all of our thinking about Scripture and the world, believers are obligated to think logically, thinking God’s thoughts after Him. “Christians should employ the law of contradiction, whether positive or negatively, as a means by which to systematize the facts of revelation, whether these facts are found in the universe at large or in the Scripture.” Van Til goes on to indicate that in contrast to unbelieving thought, the Christian views logic as a reflection of God’s own thinking, rather than as laws or principles that are “higher” than God or that exist “in independence of God and man.” To explain by application what this means (in part), Van Til held that God’s word must be interpreted logically—that is to say, using God’s thoughts (logical ordering) to interpret God’s thoughts (in Scripture)—but cannot (and may not) in the nature of the case be subject to criticism or rejection on the basis of some supposedly higher logic. Van Til said that there is “no impersonal law of logic” that dictates to God what He can or cannot say; the logical constraints of God’s thinking are the constraints of His own personal nature, which man is to emulate.

After reading, I realized that I too often fail to apply the implications of man thinking analogously after God’s thinking. In a previous post, I attempted to correct the misconception that testing the logic of an interpretation of Scripture is the same as testing the logical veracity of Scripture. However, my previous post stopped short of developing or even stating the basis for the Christian understanding of logic. By failing to do so, readers lose a huge insight to utilize in defense of objections against using Scripture as an ultimate authority or presupposition (see previous post for definition of a presupposition). Hopefully, the excerpt given above allows me to quickly discuss two applications of thinking God’s thoughts after God without a lengthy elaboration or development of my own.

In summary of the passage above I wrote the following implications to God being the originator of logic:

Logic is not:

  1. Neutral, being a standard outside of God and humankind
  2. The laws of logic was not originally created or developed by any person

On the contrary, any person who develops or thinks of the laws of logic are only aligning his or her thoughts to God’s thoughts. Because logic belongs to God and thinking logically aligns oneself to God, a person cannot put God to the test with logic; logic puts the person to the test, indicating whether his or her thoughts correspond to His. This has immediate applications for apologetic issues related to hermeneutics and the canon.

In regards to hermeneutics, using logic to gauge our correct interpretation of the bible is not extrabiblical but is thinking our thoughts after God’s thoughts. God’s mind is completely logical and coherent, therefore any interpretation must reflect analogously God’s mind and way of thinking.

Consequently, even attacks of any biblical doctrine or particular verse in Scripture becomes impotent. Any law of logic the unbeliever or inconsistent Christian appeals to belongs to God. Ultimately then, any objection of logical inconsistency shows that their interpretation, summary, or paraphrasing of Scripture is immediately false. Before the unbeliever or believer alike even begins to point out a logical inconsistency in Scripture the person already is defeated by attacking a straw man (or straw bible, in this case). Not only are logic-based attacks against the Christian a logic bomb inserted into the Bible, the attacks turns out to be a logic bomb already defused by the Christian’s biblical worldview! The attack is not a dangerous threat but a straw man to be blown apart with apologetic vigor.

Moving to the second application, in regards to the canon, when a Christian rejects any document that is not logical he or she is really applying our innate knowledge of God. Because all people know God —regardless if they deny knowing Him, and because Christians know God more fully by studying and believing Scripture, a Christian can quickly reject any idea or thought —moreover, any document— not abiding by the laws of logic (God being the originator of any law of logic). When a Christian believes Scripture, the Christian also is by his or her very faith, admitting, without a word spoken, that he or she recognizes God’s “voice” or “signature” wherever and however God reveals Himself (whether in Scripture or in nature). Moreover, the Christian’s faith reveals an innate knowledge that God’s voice is coherent in His revelation because God by nature is coherent, in His very being.

In conclusion, if you are struggling with defending the Bible as a presupposition when it comes to interpreting the Bible (hermeneutics) or assuming that the Bible is Scripture (the canon) then read up on Chapter 4 of Van Til’s Apologetic: A Reading and An Analysis by Greg L. Bahnsen. Doing so will give deep insights about the place of logic in the Christian worldview and help prepare a apologetic response to questions about the canon or hermeneutics.

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