This is another snippet from the CARM discussion, "Who Gave the Reformers Authority?"
You forget the Church Came before the bible!
No, God is the primary author of Scripture. He is the source behind it. The same Gospel in the New Testament was preached in the Old Testament (Gal. 3:5-14). The basic Gospel truths were based on the Old Testament, and were later inscripturated in the writing of the New Testament. The doctrine was the same before it was written. As William Whitaker pointed out long ago, the Word of God is the seed of the church. The seed is more ancient. For a detailed look at this argument see: David King, Holy Scripture: The Ground and Pillar of Our Faith (WA: Christian Resources inc, 2001) p.130-136.
How do you know what constitutes the New Testament canon?
Since God is the primary author of his Word, I trust in his divine providence to reveal His word to His church. So, I “know,” because God has spoken.
How do you know for certain that these 27 books here in your New Testament are in fact inspired and should be in the New Testament?
This is basically the question of an atheist. It assumes that God does not have purposes in revealing His Word, and that He is incapable of protecting and preserving that Word. The canon is the result of God’s purposes. It is God who preserves His Word for His church. The Church, or the people of God, hear the voice of God. If the people of God are indwelt with the Spirit of God, would it not make sense that they will hear the voice of God when He speaks?
But this does not mean the people of God must be infallible in order to hear it. The Roman Catholic Church did not have an infallible declaration of the canon until 1546, yet, we find the people God previous to this able to know and use Scripture. In other words, the question assumes the need for an infallible Church to announce the canon, but when this paradigm is used to interpret church history, it fails to make sense of reality.
Also, you may wish to contact Catholic apologist Gary Michuta, a Catholic canon expert. He believes that certain books not included in the current catholic canon, yet included in the Septuagint, may be canonical, or possibly not, because Trent left particular books undecided as to their canonicty. So, according to Michuta, you can’t have certainty even with your infallible interpreter.
And how do you know for certain that maybe some inspired books haven’t been left out of the canon?
Again, another question of an atheist. As Dr. White has pointed out:“The entire idea of ‘lost scripture’ requires us to believe that God would go through the work of inspiring His word so as to provide for His church guidance and instruction and encouragement; but then, having inspired His Word, be shown incapable of protecting and preserving it and leading His church to recognize if for what it is” (Scripture Alone, p.116). So what your asking me is if God is a poor steward of his very own Word. I trust in God’s providence and sovereignty. The Church trusts in God to sovereignly preserve his Word.Usually atheist balks about certainty. If one begins that God does not exist, nothing can be known with certainty. But as a Christian, I begin with “God exists”. Thus, as John writes, “these are written so that you may believe”. God promises that His Word will cause belief. I trust God can do this. Do you?
Where in Scripture do we find some doctrines listed as essential, others as ‘secondary’? The answer is: ‘nowhere’.
Another point of an atheist. This is exactly what an atheist would argue: that God can’t write a decent book. The essential doctrines are about Christ and His work. The entire Bible is about this. All the doctrines about Christ and His work are essential.
Evangelicals and Fundamentalists disagree on central issues such as baptismal regeneration and the necessity of baptism…
This is the self-refuting argument that somehow, Roman Catholics are all unified in belief. They are not. Roman Catholics hold to sola ecclesia. This is their infallible source. It does not provide unity. One can find scores of Roman Catholics disagreeing with each other. Therefore, it is simply ridiculous for Roman Catholics to hold Protestants to a standard they themselves can’t live up to. That some people misinterpret or twist the Bible is not the fault of the Bible, hence not a proof against sola scriptura. In the same way, that I may possibly configure my computer incorrectly is not the fault of the owner’s manual that comes with it. The misuse of a sufficient source does not negate the clarity of that sufficient source.
Rome has only explicitly defined a handful of passages, and allows their theologians to speculate and use their private judgment on the majority of Scripture. What this means to Catholic laymen, is that in actuality, they can’t really know what the Scriptures do mean in most cases. Rome has claimed infallible interpretive rights, but rarely use the right. Catholics can claim unity, but without an infallible interpretation of almost the entirety of the Bible, their balking against alleged Protestant disunity is more a clanging gong or a facade rather than an actual argument.