Monday, March 19, 2018

A needful reminder from yesterday: I AM a Baptist!

Sometimes I slip into thinking I’m a Presbyterian in a Baptist skin. I worry that maybe I hang around the Baptists just because they are [insert ridiculous positive stereotype: pot-luck loving, friendly, emotional,  good musicians, and caring] as opposed to the [insert ridiculous negative stereotype: dour, Ichabod Crane-like, frozen-chosen] Presbyterians.

I do know at times in my life I have gotten myself in trouble for my “Presby-like” views on the ordinances sacraments. For example, I was mildly “scolded” some years ago (not in my current church but in the frozen tundra) for using the phrase “means of grace” while praying before the congregation in preparation for communion. (I’m certain that today, in that church, I would not be scolded. At least not for that.)

But yesterday…yesterday reminded me that I do indeed have “pure” Baptist blood in my veins, not the diluted 19th and 20th century “symbolic-commemoration-only” synthetic plasma.

Our sermon covered 1 Cor. 10:14-22, and our pastor made it clear that while we share the communion meal with each other and remember Christ’s sacrifice, it does not end there. That’s not all it is. Not by a long shot.  Paul is teaching us that we are also sharing the meal with Christ.

Pastor Ryan quoted Hanserd Knollys (1599-1691)1 an English Particular Baptist: 2
Christ and His Saints, do enjoy mutual communion and spiritual fellowship one with another, at the Lord’s Supper…Christ sups with his Saints and the Saints sup with Christ.
That's awesome. Calvin couldn't have said it better.

Reformed Baptists: Sharing much sound theology with the Presbyterians, but with pot-luck too. It's the best of all worlds.

1 Man, he must have been like the oldest person in the world when he passed!
2 As quoted in J. Ryan Davidson, A Covenant Feast, Ichthus, 2016,  p. 70.

Friday, March 16, 2018

What's the point, Franklin Graham?

Franklin Graham tweeting:

What's the point of this tweet?

  • Mocking the dead? 
  • Trolling?
  • Gloating?
  • Schadenfreude? 
  • Evangelism through fear rather than the beauty of the Gospel? 

These all are ugly reasons. And ~ 104 people "liked" it. Sigh.

Not a good look, Franklin Graham.

µTheology: The Resurrection

(µTheology = micro-theology, meaning small theology for you Arts and Humanities majors.)

Over on the Biologos forum, someone posted:
I would like to ask, why is it fundamental for a Christian to believe in the resurrection of Christ? And can one be a Christian without this belief?

Of course, really smart theologians have written magnificent tomes on this subject. But the forum platform demands a µresponse. So I wrote this:
I’ll give my opinions: 
Q:  [W]hy is it fundamental for a Christian to believe in the resurrection of Christ? 
A:  It is fundamental because it is the ultimate demonstration that Christ’s finished work defeated death. An empty tomb would have been insufficient. The women who first went to the tomb simply thought the body had been moved. That is what everyone would have presumed. 
Q:  And can one be a Christian without this belief? 
A:  No.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Atheists are drinking their own Kool-Aid (And believing their own fake news)

It is not hard to find blog-popular atheists, who tend to be the least erudite of the species, gloating over a reduction in the number of self-identified Christians and the aging of congregations if not out-right shuttering of churches.

For example, the nuance-challenged champion of click-bait atheist blogging, Hemant Mehta, blogging as the “Friendly Atheist” on the patheos network, has a recent post entitled Generation Z Is Less Religious Than Ever, and Evangelicals Don’t Know Why.

Well, we may not know why for sure, but I have some thoughts on the matter.

The number of the elect presently alive, or Augustine’s “invisible church”, being preordained by God, might at any moment go up or down, although I suspect it always goes up, but one thing is for certain: the number is a not an effect of the culture or progressive thinking or atheist blogs (or Christian blogs.)

The number of cultural Christians is, rather obviously, directly influenced by the culture. The more it is acceptable for a pretender in the pews to say to himself: “I no longer feel pressure to claim Christianity” the more such folk will leave. This is a win-win. It was, until recently, quite hard for a non-believer to be up-front regarding his lack of faith. It's not so hard any more.

If (in the view of Hemant Mehta et. al.) uber-rational atheist scientific thinking is winning out, then the losses in theism should show up as a similar growth in atheism. Not so. As a recent Pew survey reports, the lion's share of the reduction in those claiming to be religious shows up in the "spiritual but not religious" camp, not in the atheist camp. From the Pew report:

Worse yet for atheists is that conservative Christian denominations, those that preach an eternal, deific, penal-substitutionary, resurrected Christ (quite worthy of crucifixion) are growing with a healthy youth component.

Young. Not aging.

A recent scholarly study by Haskell and Burgoyne reported that conservative congregations are growing while liberal mainstream congregations are shrinking, with the following demographics:

The study also concluded:
"Conservative Protestant theology, with its more literal view of the Bible, is a significant predictor of church growth while liberal theology leads to decline. "
And in terms of attracting youth, Haskell and Burgoyne found that the best way is with Christian Rock, numerous youth-based activities, and a cool, twenty-something youth pastor with whom they identify. Actually, that is not what they found. Another patheos blogger, Owen Strachan, summarizes:

"here’s what is most clear: churches that want to attract young people should do what churches should already be doing: preaching the whole counsel of God and reaching out in love to the lost. Haskell and Flatt note the importance of evangelism to numerical growth: “because of their conservative outlook, the growing church clergy members in our study took Jesus’ command to “Go make disciples” literally.” There’s no perfect formula for drawing youth, but believing and preaching truth is what God promises to bless."

Time Magazine noted this trend back in 2009, calling "New Calvinism" one of the 10 ideas changing the world. 

The bottom line is that liberal churches who worship a non-miraculous, non-deity, non-resurrected Jesus about whom some have quipped “who would even bother to crucify such a man?” are aging and rotting. But for the most part the departing congregants are not embracing atheism, but rather some form of spiritualism. They are embracing not science (which the younger ones probably view as a mere social construct) but crystals, alternative medicine, astrology, and other forms of pseudo-science. Meanwhile the conservative churches, although always a smaller piece of the total pie, are growing and are not aging.

If I were a hard-core atheist I’d hardly look at this as a welcomed development.

Keep sipping that Kool-Aid, Hemant.

It is hard to talk about this without mentioning one of the all-time epic fails. Twenty years ago the ultra-liberal Bishop Spong wrote a bestseller Why Christianity Must Change Or Die. In this seminal work, he argued that the only way for Christianity to survive was to adopt his "Jesus was a good teacher" non-miraculous liberal Christianity and abandon that ugly, superstitious conservative evangelicalism. Fast forward to today, and we find that the churches that followed Spong's advice are teetering on extinction. You didn't really nail that one, did you Bishop Spong?

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

You can't make this stuff up....

Let us consider mega-church pastor Robert Jeffress. From his wiki bio:
Robert James Jeffress, Jr. (born November 29, 1955) is an American Southern Baptist (Evangelical), best-selling author, and radio and television host. Jeffress hosts the program, Pathway to Victory, which is broadcast on more than 1,200 television stations in the United States and 28 other countries. He also has a daily radio program, Pathway to Victory, which is heard on 900 stations and broadcast live in 195 countries. He is the pastor of the 13,000-member First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas.
Last night, pastor Jeffress appeared on Fox News. (Apparently he is a regular contributor. I never watch, so I don't know how often he is resident.) His mission was to explain why reports that President Trump had an adulterous affair with porn star Stormy Daniels seem to have no impact on his evangelical support.

Jeffress argued that “evangelicals know they’re not compromising their beliefs in order to support this great president” and that Trump’s personal behavior is “totally irrelevant” because he is displaying “strong leadership” and promoting their political agenda.

Jeffress also argues that "Evangelicals know they didn't elect an altar boy" and "Christianity is all about forgiveness."

The latter point, while true, is often used as a blunt instrument. You could say of anyone that "we knew he wasn't an altar boy" and "we are all about forgiveness." It's an offer tantamount to a carte blanche to those to whom it is selectively extended.

Color me skeptical that Jeffress would be as open minded if the president was a Democrat. Color me unsurprised that while he talks the talk about forgiveness, the silence is deafening in regards to the very Christian doctrine that forgiveness does not preclude consequences.

You can see the video here.

Atheists can't harm Christianity. Muslims can't harm Christianity. Only Christians can harm Christianity.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Scripture Bombs

I do not like the habit many of us have (and I’m guilty of it at times) of inserting scriptural references as little proof bombs. Pixels are cheap: post the passage.

Whenever I see something like:

 God is a Pittsburgh Steelers Fan (Jude 3:16) 

I expect that if I take the time to look up Jude 3:16 (yes, I know) that it will be, if not a proof text (for there may not even be such an beastie as a proof text for most of our beloved doctrines) then at least scripture that is directly relevant, not obliquely relevant. And while not a proof, the reference will lend substantive support to the doctrine at hand.

This is why I generally ignore the “proof texts” for the great confessions (which I dearly love). It turns out, you see, that ~90% of the time when I look them up the references they list are wholly unsatisfying as proofs for the doctrines they allegedly prove. Instead I just take it upon myself to do the homework, not always successfully, of finding the scriptural support from scratch or I look to some other in-depth discourse.

Now some proponents are more circumspect, arguing that the references are not intended to be proof texts but as homework starting points. Fair enough. However it’s not hard to find claims of proof.

Let me give another example. And to show it is not due to bias, I’ll take a writer I admire making an argument I agree with. Here is James Dolezal writing on Divine Simplicity, his area of expertise, for which the evangelical community owes him a great debt. Here are the first two sentences of his 2013 article Why Simplicity Matters on the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals site:

It is a commonplace among many Christians that nothing that is not God accounts for God. He is not built up out of anything less than or prior to himself. Indeed, God’s being is not the consequent of any activity or reality that precedes him in any way. He gives to all, but receives from none (Acts 17:25-25 (sic); Rom. 11:35-36). 

Am I being unreasonable to expect that the passages will have something substantive to contribute to the topic of Divine Simplicity? Let’s examine the passages:

 25 nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; (Acts17:25, NASB)  
 35 Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again? 36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen. (Rom. 11:35-36, NASB

The first passage, from Paul’s speech at the Areopagus, is a message regarding God as the Creator.

The Romans passage comes at the end of a lengthy botany-metaphor-filled discourse on the remnant of Israel, and it is a closing praise regarding God’s mercy and grace.

Neither of these passages are part of a discussion where Paul is teaching on the simplicity of God. (Unless, of course, I am completely obtuse, which is always possible.) That doesn't mean that these passages can not be part of a comprehensive argument on Divine Simplicity. This is my minor criticism: including them in the text implies that they, in and of themselves, are more weighty than they actually are, in application to the subject being discussed.

You could, I suppose, argue that the passages referenced are only in support of second sentence: He gives to all, but receives from none. To that I would ask: what's the point? Why would the only scriptural references in an article on the hefty topic of Divine Simplicity be not about Simplicity but on a rather minor point?

Scripture bombs are a common practice. We should stop it. If the passage is clearly supportive, lay it out. If it is not, then the bomb is somewhat deceptive. The reader would be better served by a reference to further or more extensive work on the subject at hand.

I agree with Dolezal's argument it its entirety. I think the article is spectacular. I would have liked it a wee bit better with the scripture bombs.

Biblical Inerrancy (Part 6) (modified)

(This is based on John Gerstner’s Primer on Biblical Inerrancy from a compilation of his primers in the book Primitive Theology. ) 

Sola Scriptura

Why was there a Reformation?

It was not because of the selling of indulgences. Certainly that sorry practice contributed, but the Catholic Church no longer sells indulgences. If commercialization of indulgences was the primary cause of the reformation, then it would be high time for Protestants to reunite with the Catholic Church.

There were many secondary causes of the Reformation. The selling of indulgences, in the final analysis, may not have even been one of the more important. The scandal involving indulgences pointed to corruption, which can be (and was) dealt with internally. The real issue was one of serious doctrinal error, which is the only justification for a schism.

The primary, or formal cause of the Protestant Reformation, was Sola Scriptura—Scripture Alone. The reformers proclaimed it; the Catholic Church refuted it. Not much has changed in this regard in the past 500 years.

What Is Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone)?

When the Church called for Luther to recant at Worms (1521), he famously dug in his heels and said he would not unless he "was convinced by sacred scripture."

Sola Scriptura means all things necessary and concerning faith and life are taught in the bible, and are taught in a way that the ordinary believer can understand.

The London Baptist Confession Confession puts it this way:
"The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man's salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down or necessarily contained in the Holy Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelation of the Spirit, or traditions of men. Nevertheless, we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word, and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed." (1689 LBC, I.6)
The Roman Catholic view is that scripture owes its authority to the authority of the church, because it was the church that created the canon. Vatican II declared:
It is clear, therefore, that sacred tradition, Sacred Scripture and the teaching authority of the Church, in accord with God's most wise design, are so linked and joined together that one cannot stand without the others, and that all together and each in its own way under the action of the one Holy Spirit contribute effectively to the salvation of souls.
Clearly Rome also differed historically with its view of the access of scripture to the flock. In 1559, Pope Pius IV said:
Since experience teaches that, if the reading of the Holy Bible in the vernacular is permitted generally without discrimination, more damage than advantage will result because of the boldness of men, the judgment of bishops and inquisitors is to serve as guide in this regard. Bishops and inquisitors may, in accord with the counsel of the local priest and confessor, allow Catholic translations of the Bible to be read by those of whom they realize that such reading will not lead to the detriment but to the increase of faith and piety. The permission is to be given in writing. Whoever reads or has such a translation in his possession without this permission cannot be absolved from his sins until he has turned in these Bibles ...
Calvin wrote, regarding the canon receiving its authority from the church:
Nothing therefore can be more absurd than the fiction, that the power of judging Scripture is in the Church, and that on her nod its certainty depends. When the Church receives it, and gives it the stamp of her authority, she does not make that authentic which was otherwise doubtful or controverted but, acknowledging it as the truth of God, she, as in duty bounds shows her reverence by an unhesitating assent. As to the question, How shall we be persuaded that it came from God without recurring to a decree of the Church? it is just the same as if it were asked, How shall we learn to distinguish light from darkness, white from black, sweet from bitter? Scripture bears upon the face of it as clear evidence of its truth, as white and black do of their colour, sweet and bitter of their taste. (Calvin, Institutes, 1.7.2)

Scriptural Support

There is, of course, scriptural support for Sola Scriptura, including this well-known passage from 2 Timothy:
15 and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:15-17)
Verse 15 tells us that scripture is what we need to be “wise for salvation”. Verse 16 tells us that Scripture is inspired (which implies inerrant). Verse 17 tells us that it renders us thoroughly (not partially) equipped.

In Jude it is written:
Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. (Jude 3)
The saints do not have to wait for further revelation. All that we need has been entrusted once and for all.

Moses wrote down the law, and then instructed that it be read to the people. In Deuteronomy we read:
9 So Moses wrote down this law and gave it to the priests, the sons of Levi, who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and to all the elders of Israel. 10 Then Moses commanded them: "At the end of every seven years, in the year for canceling debts, during the Feast of Tabernacles, 11 when all Israel comes to appear before the LORD your God at the place he will choose, you shall read this law before them in their hearing. 12 Assemble the people—men, women and children, and the aliens living in your towns—so they can listen and learn to fear the LORD your God and follow carefully all the words of this law. (Deut 31:9-12)

he said to them, "Take to heart all the words I have solemnly declared to you this day, so that you may command your children to obey carefully all the words of this law. 47 They are not just idle words for you—they are your life. By them you will live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess." (Deut 32: 46-47)
Here is the lesson from theses passages:
  1. The words Moses spoke were written.
  2. The people can and must listen (or read) and learn.
  3. In these words, there is life.

Not everything is in the Bible

Sola Scriptura does not mean that everything is in the Bible. The solution to your calculus homework is not in the Bible. Less trivially, not everything about God is in the Bible:
Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written. (John 21:25)
This verse is sometimes used to argue against Sola Scriptura. It is useless in that regard. I would love to know what Jesus did that was not recorded, but I don’t need to know it. And if I did need to know it, all would be lost; for no council, synod, or pope will ever be able to tell me what these unrevealed acts were.

Sola Scriptura in the Early Church.

Who was the first New Testament era proponent of Sola Scriptura? It was Jesus Himself.
3The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread." 4 Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" 5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6"If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down. For it is written: " 'He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'" 7Jesus answered him, "It is also written: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'" 8Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9"All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me." 10Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'" (Matt. 4:3-10, NIV)
When refuting Satan, Jesus didn’t appeal to tradition, or to the Pharisees, or even His own deity and infallible reason. Each and every time He quoted scripture. Even when Satan also used scripture (verse 6), Christ trumped him with more relevant scripture.

Was Sola Scriptura Invented by the Reformers?

Some Catholic apologists like to claim that Sola Scriptura was unheard of prior to the Reformation. It is a weak criticism on several fronts, not the least of which being that it is simply not true. However, even if it were true it would at most cast suspicion on the doctrine in the form of a “newness stigma”. In other words, it would simply be the argument that any doctrine that took 15 centuries to be discovered should be viewed critically. Fair enough, although that in and of itself would by no means disprove Sola Scriptura.

Anyway, it’s moot. For there is ample evidence that the doctrine existed in the early church.

Augustine (On Christian Doctrine) wrote:
In those teachings which are clearly based on scripture are found all that concerns faith and the conduct of life.
For another example, we turn to Cyril of Jerusalem, a teacher in the early church, who wrote in the 4th century: (lecture 4-17)
"Have thou ever in thy mind this seal, which for the present has been lightly touched in my discourse, by way of summary, but shall be stated, should the Lord permit, to the best of my power with the proof from the Scriptures. For concerning the divine and holy mysteries of the Faith, not even a casual statement must be delivered without the Holy Scriptures; nor must we be drawn aside by mere plausibility and artifices of speech. Even to me, who tell thee these things, give not absolute credence, unless thou receive the proof of the things which I announce from the Divine Scriptures. For this salvation which we believe depends not on ingenious reasoning, but on demonstration of the Holy Scriptures."
A rather nice encapsulation of Sola Scriptura.

Some tell us that we cannot use Cyril’s writing as early evidence of Sola Scriptura because Cyril also wrote extensively on sacred tradition and other "high Catholic" doctrines. In other words, because he is not totally consistent with the reformers, his clear exposition of Sola Scriptura is irrelevant. This is disingenuous—because I can just as easily turn it around and state that his writing on Sola Scriptura nullifies his alleged support of sacred tradition.

Besides, what does it matter what he wrote elsewhere? If Luther had written tomes on sacred tradition prior to his conversion, we would still say Luther supported Sola Scriptura.

The point is not whether Cyril was an early Lutheran but whether the doctrine of Sola Scriptura existed in the early church, regardless of the degree of self-consistency in Cyil’s theology. His writing clearly demonstrates that it did. It is but one piece of evidence contradicting the absurd claim that Sola Scriptura wasn't even "invented" until the 16th century.

I would like to think that if I were a Catholic and rejected Sola Scriptura, I would nevertheless have the instincts to doubt the claim that it was unheard of prior to the Reformation. After all, right or wrong, it is a singularly simple doctrine. The possibility that for fifteen centuries nobody came up with the simple and straightforward notion that Scripture is sufficient is just not credible. It would be much easier to believe that a complex doctrine such as the Trinity took a long time to develop.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Some ≠ All (Or-- Stop using guilt this way. Just stop it.)

In Paul's letter to the Ephesians, we read:
11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; (Eph. 4:11-12, NASB
 Verse 11 is often interpreted as:
And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as pastors and teachers, and EVERYBODY AND THEIR MOTHER as evangelists.
We do not tell people: Oh, you don't like public speaking? Well then you should get out of your comfort zone and become a teacher! I haven't heard that once. Nor have I heard: You have no ability to prophesy? Well get out of your comfort zone baby and lay some divine utterances on us!

But we often say: You don't like to evangelize? Get out of your comfort zone and come down to the corner, hand out these tracts and give the gospel to everyone you meet!

The hideous phrase "Get out of your comfort zone" is intended to guilt-signal: "If you're are a good Christian you'd do this."

This is often coupled with a nuclear weapon: with the Great Commission, as if it is typeset this way:
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, (Matt. 28:19, NASB
The first phrase is used in isolation to imply that everyone should be in the business of making disciples. It is also assumed to mean not discipling (as it plainly states) but evangelizing, and in the overt sense of proselytizing on the street corner, beach, door-to-door, or by other forms of cold-calling. If you are not evangelizing, the lying guilt-trip goes, you are violating the Great Commission, and you are a second class Christian, at best.

The second phrase, assuming it is not omitted, is glossed over or ignored. Because it presents a problem. If the Great Commission is a personal call from your personallordandsavior, then everyone should be baptizing. But it's not that, It is a corporate call from our common Lord; a command for the church to disciple the world, corporately.

This does not absolve Christians from witnessing. First of all, we all are called to exhibit our faith 24/7.* And we are called to defend our faith when asked. And never be ashamed of our faith.** And I would certainly agree that if God presents you with an evangelistic opportunity that falls in your lap like manna from heaven, you should probably jump on it. But that is quite different from saying it is the duty of all of us to knock on doors. The body has many parts. And he gave some as gregarious evangelists.

* To the extent that I fail daily in that regard-- now that's a legitimate guilt trip. 

** Although I am often embarrassed by what people do in the name of our faith. Including but not limited to linking our faith to support of a President who brags about grabbing women by their genitals.

Monday, February 26, 2018

City Steps (the nostalgia, it burns)

These steps (on the left, the ones that appear to rise to infinity) which we called City Steps go from three-river "water level" on Pittsburgh's North Side (not far from the Steelers' and Pirates' stadiums) to the neighborhood of my childhood--perched on top of a hill, called Fineview. Click to enlarge for an appreciation of the City Steps.

I walked them many times. I think now it would kill me.

Why was my neighborhood on Pittsburgh's North Side called Fineview? Well, because being perched on a hill it affords one a fine view of the city. This picture was taken about 100 yards from my childhood home, at the end of a street that looks over a ball field.

I played (or tried to, I was not an athlete) many baseball games on that field. It was all dirt when I was a kid. I wish we had that carpet of grass.


Does this work?  a link to street view of my childhood home (I don't know who lives there now) and a glimpse, on the right, of a fine view of Pittsburgh. You might have to move the viewpoint a bit.

Pittsburgh's North Side was and is a rough and tumble impoverished inner-city neighborhood. I loved growing up there. But I'm glad my kids didn't have to.

Biblical Inerrancy (Part 5) (modified)

(This is based on John Gerstner’s Primer on Biblical Inerrancy from a compilation of his primers in the book Primitive Theology. )

The Old Testament Canon

Examining the table of contents of a Protestant and Catholic bible, we find that the Catholic bible contains seven extra books known as the Apocrypha: These are: Tobit, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus (or, Sirach), and Baruch. In addition, Catholic Bibles contain an additional six chapters in the book of Esther and another three in the book of Daniel.

These books date from the period in between the old and new testaments.

These books are called “Apocryphal” not because the authors are unknown (for there are some canonical books whose authors are unknown) but probably, as Augustine says, because they are of an uncertain and obscure origin.

Why does the Catholic bible include the Apocrypha, while the Protestant bible includes only the part called “The Law (of Moses), the Prophets, and the Writings (Wisdom Books)?”

The answer comes from looking at the difference between two old testament canons that existed at the time of Christ: the Palestinian canon and the Alexandrian canon. The Palestinian canon did not include the Apocrypha; the Alexandrian canon used by that region’s Hellenized Jews did include the extra books.

So the question is: which of these two Jewish canons should we receive as the Old Testament?

The Reformers rejected the Apocrypha because they were persuaded that it was the Palestinian canon that was recognized by the Jews of Palestine during Christ’s time—and so Jesus himself, in his education and ministry, would have used a canon that did not contain the Apocrypha.

(It is, in effect, an "If it was good enough for Jesus it's good enough for me!" argument)

The reformed theologian Francis Turretin (1623-1687—he is described by Gerstner as “the most precise theologian in the Calvinistic tradition”) wrote:
The Jewish church, to which the oracles of God were committed (Rom 3:2) never considered [the Apocrypha] as canonical, but held the same canon as us (as is admitted by Josephus, Against Apion 1.39-41)… They are never quoted as canonical by Christ and the apostles like the others. And Christ, by dividing all the books of the Old Testament into three classes (the law, the Psalms and the prophets, Luke 24:44), clearly approves of the canon of the Jews and excludes from it those books which are not embraced in these classes. The Christian church for four hundred years rec¬ognized with us the same and no other canonical books… The authors were neither prophets and inspired men, since they wrote after Malachi (the last of the prophets); nor were their books written in the Hebrew language (as those of the Old Testament), but in Greek. Hence Josephus (in the passage referred to above) acknowledges that those things which were written by his people after the time of Artaxerxes were not equally credible and authoritative with those which preceded "on account of there not being an indisputable succession of prophets"
Turretin’s reference to Christ’s words is worth examining:
He said to them, "This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms." (Luke 24:44)
Thus, Turretin argues, Christ specifically mentions the three sections which we receive as canonical and omits the Apocrypha.

Next: A look at the topic of Sola Scriptura.