The Sufficiency Of Scripture And The Biblical Canon -- By: Dennis W. Jowers
TRINJ 30:1 (Spring 2009) p. 49
The Sufficiency Of Scripture And The Biblical Canon
Dennis W. Jowers is Associate Professor of Theology and Apologetics at Faith Seminary in Tacoma, Washington.
That Scripture does not enumerate its own canon might seem an insuperable difficulty for the doctrine of Scripture’s sufficiency. How, one might ask, can one plausibly assert that Scripture suffices to guide the church’s faith and life if it does not so much as identify its own contents? In the following, we shall attempt to answer this objection in two stages. First, we shall briefly clarify the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture. Then, we shall outline, in a preliminary and abbreviated manner, how one who acknowledges no infallible standard of doctrine other than Scripture might reasonably yield unqualified assent to the Protestant scriptural canon.
II. The Sufficiency Of Scripture
The doctrine of Scripture’s sufficiency, as enunciated in the confessional statements of the magisterial Reformation, teaches that Scripture satisfies four conditions. First, it contains all of the articles one must believe in order to attain salvation. Second, it contains all precepts one must obey in order to live piously before God. Third, it is sufficiently perspicuous to convey this information to an attentive reader; and, fourth, it is self-authenticating.
The doctrine itself, then, is relatively uncomplicated. Before considering the biblical canon directly, however, it seems advisable to correct two misapprehensions of the doctrine, which pertain quite directly to the biblical canon. First, the doctrine of Scripture’s sufficiency does not imply that Scripture constitutes the sole instrumental cause of human acknowledgment of its authority. Manifestly, the church’s preaching constitutes one of the instruments by which (per quod) believers usually come to accept the inspiration of Scripture. This does not imply, however, that the church’s preaching constitutes the authority on account of which (propter quod) believers acknowledge Scripture’s inspiration. The church resembles, rather, the woman of Sychar (John 4:4-42), whom
TRINJ 30:1 (Spring 2009) p. 50
inhabitants of that city believe, not because of any real or pretended authority on her part, but simply because her testimony is credible.
The doctrine of Scripture’s sufficiency, likewise, does not imply that all revealed and consequently binding propositions are explicitly stated, albeit perhaps in other words, in Scripture. The reason why one refrains from crediting human beings with belief in every implication of their statements is th...
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