Armstrong vs. Collins & Walls #5: The Church “Gave” the Bible?

Armstrong vs. Collins & Walls #5: The Church “Gave” the Bible? October 19, 2017


This is one of my many critiques of the book entitled, Roman but Not Catholic: What Remains at Stake 500 Years after the Reformation, by evangelical Protestant theologian Kenneth J. Collins and Anglican philosopher Jerry L. Walls (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2017).


Kenneth Collins, in his chapter 2: “Tradition and the Traditions” states:

J. I Packer [wrote] “The Church no more gave us the New Testament canon than Sir Isaac Newton gave us the force of gravity . . . Newton did not create gravity, but recognized it.” . . . Simply put, Rome did not give us the Bible.

The rise of the NT canon . . . is often conceived differently by Roman Catholics and Protestants.

I’m happy to report that official Catholic teaching is in total agreement with what he has expressed. We hold this belief about the origins of the biblical canon in common. It doesn’t follow at all, that Catholics are placing Church above Scripture, in simply pointing out that human authority was needed in order to determine the canon. It was necessary for human church councils to decide on the specific books that were to be included in the biblical canon. This doesn’t imply in the least that the councils (let alone the Church) are “above” Scripture, any more than a Christian communion authoritatively declaring in its creed that Jesus is God in the flesh, makes them “higher” than He is, or superior.

Proclamation of an existing reality has nothing to do with some supposed “superiority” of category. Both the Bible and theological truth remain what they are at all times. Here are the Catholic magisterial documents having to do with this question:

First Vatican Council (1870)

These the Church holds to be sacred and canonical; not because, having been carefully composed by mere human industry, they were afterward approved by her authority; not because they contain revelation, with no admixture of error; but because, having been written by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, they have God for their author, and have been delivered as such to the Church herself. (Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith, chapter II; emphasis added)

Second Vatican Council (1962-1965)

The divinely-revealed realities which are contained and presented in the text of sacred Scripture, have been written down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. For Holy Mother Church relying on the faith of the apostolic age, accepts as sacred and canonical the books of the Old and New Testaments, whole and entire, with all their parts, on the grounds that they were written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (cf. Jn. 20:31; 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:19-21; 3:15-16), they have God as their author, and have been handed on as such to the Church herself. (Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation [Dei Verbum], Chapter III, 11; emphasis added)


Photo credit: from “UnlockingTheBible”; Image Courtesy of *_Filippo_* (5-30-12) [Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0 license]


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