apologetics

The Discovery and Preservation of the Biblical Canon Part I

When discussing how the Biblical canon was formed, it is important to define what a canon is. A canon is a collection of the most important and foundational truths of a particular belief system. This can be in oral or written form. For example, the British Constitution is not in written form. It consists of customs, traditions, principles and some written laws of differing dates. Though it is not written, it is real and firmly established. This unwritten Constitution is the foundation of the British system of law as well as an important influence upon our American system of law.

So what is in a canon? The American “canon” would contain the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and letters by the Founding Fathers.[3] These documents represent what America stands for and who we are. These documents were produced by authoritative eyewitnesses and participants in the founding of our country and yet reflect the whole country. In the same way, the biblical canon is the authoritative collection of the biblical texts that serve as a foundation of Christianity.  Christianity is built on the canon.

The idea of canon was not new to the Early Church. They had grown up using the Hebrew canon of Old Testament Scripture. According to F.F. Bruce, the Old Testament canon was settled before 70 C.E.[1] The Council of Jamnia, informal discussions/debates that took place after the Fall of Jerusalem among the rabbis, firmly acknowledges the Old Testament canon.[2] The Hebrew canon had three basic divisions: the Law, the Prophets and the Writings.  Jesus’ words in Luke 11:51, 24:44, and John 10:31-36 serve as evidence that these three divisions were well established and had long been considered Holy Scripture. It is also important to note that Jesus refers to the Old Testament as Scripture (John 10:35).

It would be a mistake to speak of the formation of the New Testament canon as if it is something that human beings decided. Wilber Dayton says it this way, “The New Testament is an authoritative offer of salvation.” It was revealed by God through the person and work of Jesus Christ. Jesus appointed his apostles as witnesses on which to found the Church. The canon then was already established by the work of Christ. The question is not how the Church discovered or confirmed the Canon, but how the Canon, established by Christ, survived through the history of the Church.

The Early Church recited and sang Scripture in their participatory meetings (Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16, I Corinthians 14:26).  Justin Martyr gives a similar account of Christian worship. He describes reading “from the memoirs of the apostles.”[9] We know that Paul instructs the churches to read his letters aloud and share them with their sister churches. The Apostle John expected Revelation to be read in the churches as well. From 50 through 70 C.E., the Apostolic Fathers quoted the four gospels, Acts, all of Paul’s letters, Hebrews, I John and Revelation.[10] So we see the Canon unfold through the practice and use of Christians including laity.

[1] James Patrick Holding, “The Formation of the New Testament Canon,” in Trusting the New Testament (xulonpress.com, 2009), 249-263.

[2] “What is the Difference Between Written and Unwritten Constitution?” Preserve Articles (2012). Accessed   September 13, 2015 at preservearticles.com.

[3] Holding, pg. 251.

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Audiobook Nook

The New Year is here! Why not start it right by learning the Names of God? Author Chris Adkins explores the many ways by which God identifies Himself through the Old and New Testaments in the Names of God. Over 50 copies of the audio book have already been purchased through Audible.com and you can even obtain this audio book (slightly over five hours in length) entirely for free with a new membership to Audible.

“Counting the cost” is a key element in determining whether people have fully recognized the responsibilities that attend a particular verbal commitment that they have made. Why would someone shy away from commitment unless they know what they are getting themselves into? While it is true that discipleship entails “counting the cost,” it is also very true that followers of Christ often do not understand the full implications of that pursuit and that passion until their spiritual journey is well underway. One committed follower of Christ who wrote about this journey is the German theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He did not compromise, even though he was given many “escape hatches” whereby he could have avoided persecution for his Christian faith and commitment to follow Christ unswervingly.

Following the dictates of your conscience and your faith may land you in trouble with the “powers-that-be” as Reverend Bern points out in his book on Occupying America. He reminds those who would separate faith and politics that they are, in fact, interrelated.

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You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling

Have you noticed sometimes that in marriages that have lasted awhile, the couple does not seem to enjoy one another as much as they once did? I remember watching my grandparents who were married for over 50 years. You could see that they loved each other. You could also see their irritation at the others comments or behavior.   Sometimes you could feel the build-up of resentment. Understand, my grandparents were amazing people that I look to for an example in many things. Since my own parents were unable to make their marriage work, I look to my grandparents as an example in that area as well.

 

Of course, I want something better than their marriage. I see their struggle with keeping the “loving feeling” going in their marriage reflected by many other couples today. I wrestle with it in my own marriage. I am blessed with a partner that I can truly say is the love of my life. I always love him. Sometimes I want to kill him, but that is another topic. Sometimes I find myself being irritated by him. I struggle to enjoy his company. Sometimes I resent him. Sometimes I feel that I am the one doing all the work in the relationship with little return. I refuse to settle for these feelings because I do not want my grandparents good marriage. I want a great marriage. I want to wake up everyday thankful for my amazing husband. I want to feel desperately in love with him all of the time. I want the dream.

 

I know the dream is possible because marriage is a reflection of our relationship with Jesus–Christ and the Church. I do wake up everyday thinking that Jesus is wonderful and knowing that He is good.   Sometimes I blame God for the bad experiences in my life. But I have learned to take these feelings to God right away. I have learned to talk to Him and ask what’s going on.   Starting with the premise that God is always good and wants what is best for me in every situation, I ask what am I suppose to be learning here? Why are you doing this to me?

 

Fortunately, God is never offended by this behavior. He is happy that I bring these feelings to Him so that He can address them. He is happy to point out my assumptions and change my viewpoint on a situation.   This allows me to correct my view and gives me clearer vision and a changed attitude. So when talking to the Lord about what I want in my marriage, He reminded me that I could use our relationship as a model for my marriage relationship.

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I realized how important it is to start with a foundation of knowing that my husband loves me and wants the best for me. (I am fortunate that I do actually know this.) I do not always use this as a grounding context in which to understand his comments. Sometimes flippant remarks or observations sound to me like attacks and complaints.   Many times this is not the case.   It is “the story that I am telling myself.” Brene Brown coined that phrase to allow people to discuss the assumptions and misunderstandings that come up in relationships in a non-threatening way. So for instance after I have spent all day cleaning and my husband leaves his socks/books/dishes on the floor, I sometimes take that as a sign of disrespect (especially when I am tired).   Starting a conversation saying, “The story I’m telling myself is that you think I am your personal maid and have nothing better to do than clean up after you all day. I know this is not true. Please help me understand.”

 

This gives him an insight into how I have interpreted his actions and allows him to correct any misinterpretations before I get angry or resentful.   Hearing him say, “No, I don’t think that. I was planning to clean that up.   I know how hard you work,” dissolves all negative feelings immediately. Now obviously, we do not have to bring up every single little thing.   Our spouses, like us, are human.   They have flaws. They do stupid things. Most the time we see this and let it go. But for the things that are bugging us, it is vital.

 

Another important practice in maintaining that “loving feeling” is to ask God to remind you why you like this guy. Sometimes our appreciation of our spouse’s awesomeness is lost in the business of life. We forget or lose track of how great they are. As God brings those things to your mind, you fall in love all over again. What is great about this is that it turns into a mini-worship session because you begin thanking God for giving you such an awesome partner. So then you are blown over by the thoughtfulness and care of the Creator while reconnecting with feelings of amazement for your partner. God is good.   You are sharing life with a stud.   All is right with the world.   I’ve found that “loving feeling.”

 

Audiobook Nook

Faith is not an award for our achievements; it is not a goal to strive for, as though the follower of Christ could simply tick off a checklist of positive ways to attain faith. Instead, faith comes to us supernaturally as a gift; we can take it and live in it or refuse it altogether. How do we as believers share that sort of message and the level of enthusiasm that should accompany such a message with those who do not understand “faith” this way at all? And He [Abraham] Believed in Yahweh looks at how a Christian-Islamic dialogue might begin with certain surahs (sacred sections) of the Qur’an that are based upon or rooted in stories of the Old Testament patriarchs and other biblical figures which Christians, Muslims, and Jews all have in common. These biblical accounts can be a good jumping-off point for explaining how Christian faith is appealing to those who have a very “works-oriented” approach to grace and/or salvation. Faith is not “worked for” but it is “worked out” as faithful pastor and World War II hero, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, understood and practiced in his daily walk with Christ. A classic work which shows that the believer’s sanctification is not a passive process is his seminal work, The Cost of Discipleship.

 

 

 

 

Categories: apologetics, family life, marriage | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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