Canon and Church

Canon and Church September 8, 2017

Do Protestants concede infallibility to the church when we affirm the canon of Scripture? Some Catholics argue so: The church created the canon, and so when we accept the canon we are implicitly accepting the church’s infallible decision-making power. It’s inconsistent to accept the canon, and then go off with sola Scriptura.

Michael J. Kruger begs to differ. In Canon Revisited, he argues that “The books received by the church inform our understanding of which books are canonical not because the church is infallible or because it created or constituted the canon, but because the church’s reception of these books is a natural and inevitable outworking of the self-authenticating nature of Scripture” (106).

He elaborates: “In the self-authenticating model . . . the church’s reception of these books proves not to be evidence of the church’s authority to create the canon, but evidence of the opposite, namely, the authority, power, and impact of the self-authenticating Scriptures to elicit a corporate response from the church. Jesus’ statement that ‘my sheep hear my voice . . . and they follow me’ (John 10:27) is not evidence for the authority of the sheep’s decision to follow, but evidence for the authority and efficacy of the Shepherd’s voice to call. After all, the act of hearing is, by definition, derivative not constitutive. Thus, when the canon is understood as self-authenticating, it is clear that the church did not choose the canon but the canon, in a sense, chose itself. . . . In this way, then, the role of the church is like a thermometer, not a thermostat. Both instruments provide information about the temperature in the room – but one determines it and one reflects it” (106).

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