Friday, July 22, 2022

Protestants Aren't The Only Ones With Complicated Canonical Issues

Cameron Bertuzzi recently retweeted some comments from Josh Rasmussen on canonical issues and referred to how "this is a good [argument] for Catholicism". Keep in mind:

- The alleged ability of Catholicism to settle canonical issues in this context only addresses a portion of Catholicism's canon. That canon involves more than scripture. And Catholics continue to disagree with one another (and with non-Catholics) about what qualifies as tradition and what doesn't, which papal teachings are infallible, and so on. There's more agreement among Protestants about the canon of scripture than there is among Catholics about the canon of their rule of faith.

- Canons are complicated by their nature. That's not just true of scripture canons, but also of canons more broadly. People can dispute what documents were and weren't written by an ancient philosopher or a more recent individual, like Thomas Jefferson. If you broaden the canon to include all of the writings of a particular ancient school of philosophy or America's founding fathers in general, then the canonical issues will get even more complicated. How should the school of philosophy be defined? Who belongs to it and who doesn't? Who qualifies as one of America's founding fathers and who doesn't? Which documents attributed to George Washington were actually written by him? And so on. Since a canon of scripture in the Christian context involves multiple figures over a lengthy period of time (especially if you're including the Old Testament canon rather than limiting yourself to the New Testament), it involves the complexities that inherently go with a multi-author canon covering a longer rather than shorter timeframe. And there are other such factors that can make any given canon more or less complicated.

- Here's a series of posts I wrote about an Evangelical justification for the canon of scripture. We've written a lot more about the topic since then. You can find some archives of many of our relevant posts (not all of them) here and here. To summarize, the best explanation for what the relevant sources tell us about the apostles (e.g., Old Testament precedent, what Jesus said about the apostles, what the apostles said about themselves, what the other early Christian sources said about the apostles) is that they were communicating Divine revelation, including scripture. We have to make a probability judgment about whether a given document was part of that revelation, but the same is true of the alternatives (how probable it is that all of the sources supporting Jude's canonicity, for example, were wrong; the likelihood of Catholic arguments about the alleged authority of their denomination; whether it's probable that something that's claimed to be part of Catholic tradition actually is part of that tradition; etc.). It's not as though Protestants are the only ones who have a position to defend or the only ones relying on probability judgments about history. We have more evidence for the canonicity of 1 Corinthians than we have for the canonicity of Hebrews. But the evidence doesn't have to be equally good for every book, and a rejection of Hebrews has to be defended, just as an acceptance of it has to be. We've said a lot more about these and other canonical issues in the threads linked above. See my recent post here for a brief overview of how all of us (including atheists, for example) have to justify our own canons in many contexts in life and how those canonical issues are often complicated.

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Piling A Double Load On Other Men's Shoulders

This is a major problem in apologetics, as in other contexts:

"This is the age of proxy. People are not charitable, but they beg a guinea from somebody else to be charitable with. It is said that charity nowadays means that A finds B to be in distress, and therefore asks C to help him. Let us not in this fashion shirk our work. Go and do your own work, each man bearing his own burden, and not trying to pile a double load on other men's shoulders. Brethren, from morn till night sow beside all waters with unstinting hand." (Charles Spurgeon)

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

The Accuracy And Significance Of Acts 5:36-37

Lydia McGrew just produced a good video on the subject. I agree with her view of the Theudas issue, which is what the video is focused on, but she only briefly discusses the importance of Luke's comments on a census in verse 37. I've written some posts on the significance of that verse for how we interpret the census account in Luke 2. Here's a collection of links to some of my Facebook posts on the Luke 2 census, one of which addresses Acts 5:37. Those posts provide brief overviews of the issues involved. For a lengthier discussion of the relationship between Acts 5:37 and Luke 2, see here.

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Does Galatians 1:16 suggest that Paul's experience with the risen Jesus only occurred inwardly?

Critics of Christianity sometimes bring up the reference to how Jesus was "revealed in me" in Galatians 1:16 as evidence that Paul's experience with the risen Christ was of a more subjective nature than Christians have traditionally believed. Supposedly, Paul was only claiming to have experienced a vision or something similar within his mind, which the critic dismisses as a hallucination or something like that. I want to discuss some problems with that sort of view.