Saturday, May 24, 2008

Some Protestants’ Rejection of Deuterocanonical Books (Inter-Testament Apocrypha): Justifiable?, p.6

Question 2: How then can modern Christians recognize the canon for the Church?

I think that modern Christians able to recognize the canon by recognizing the findings of early ecumenical councils. And by ‘ecumenical’ I mean the most inclusive meetings that were attended by Bishops representing almost the entire major Christian communities in existence at that time. Hence subsequent councils after the splitting of the Monophysite and Nestorian churches, after the council of Chalcedon (451 AD), are not considered ecumenical (J. Hill, The History of Christian Thought, p.94).

This might seem odd to Protestants because of our sensitivity towards churches’ integrity on one hand, while there is a sense of betraying the Reformation by turning back to recognize the authority of the Church’ councils on another. But to think further, are not our core doctrines, such as the Trinity and Christology, based on the early ecumenical councils’ interpretation and understanding of the Scripture?

Hence it is not wrong after all that we should pay attention to what the early Christians have to say on this matter. And turning back to the ecumenical councils does not mean turning back to the Roman Catholic Church. To think like that is simply anachronistic.

Our theology of the Holy Spirit allows us to recognize the illuminated ability of God’s people. Though the Church consists of fallen humans, nonetheless the Holy Spirit’s continual guidance illuminates the widest Christian communities in the early days to identify which books to be deemed Scripture, just as how the Holy Spirit guided the early Christians to understand the Trinitarian relationship and the dual natures of Christ as attested in the Scripture.

One may observes that the working of the Holy Spirit was fully manifested through the ecumenical councils, which consist of appointed Christian leaders from the east and the west, to institutionalise some of the core beliefs of the Church. And these core beliefs became the test of orthodoxy for subsequent believers. If not there is no way to know what is orthodoxy especially in today’s world where there are so many kind of diverging understanding of the faith. All these are to say that we have to acknowledge the establishment of the early ecumenical councils. Without them, hardly can we be sure whether any of our belief is the right one.

In conclusion, some Protestants’ rejection of the deuterocanonical books is not justifiable. If we can accept the findings of the ecumenical council at Nicae (325 AD) and Chalcedon (451 AD), I think there is good faith for us to accept the declaration from the council of Carthage (397 AD), which was held between the other two great councils, and which itself well represents the majority of the earlier Christian communities' standing on this issue, 300 years prior to the council.

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