Well here we are! Over the last few months, we’ve taken a careful look at “How Christians Determine What They Accept as Scripture”. We’ve examined tests ranging from prophesy and accuracy to authenticity and value. (If you’d like to review any of these tests, click the highlighted link above.) Today, we conclude our series with a look at how, when, and where, the final selections were made and what effect this determination does or doesn’t have upon Christians today.
Confirming the date at which the Bible was finalized in its present form can be tricky business. Why? Quite simply because it took a few decades between the composition of each book and its distribution to and acceptance by the individual congregations scattered throughout the world. What is certain is that all 27 books of the New Testament were accepted and in use by the time of the Nicean Council in A.D. 325 – a council which (contrary to urban myth) never even addressed the issue of what should or shouldn’t be included in the Canon.
It was the Synod of Hippo in A.D. 393 that produced the first complete New Testament list and it is interesting to note that the Synod did not establish the Canon, but merely recognized it. Indeed, it was the churches themselves, individual believers who had done the hard work of reviewing the candidates for Scripture, comparing them to previous revelation, and establishing their accuracy and apostolic authority. Perhaps the greatest miracle of the Canon is that independent thinkers throughout the world came to the same conclusion that these 27 books deserved a special place within the faith.
So, do you have to accept all 66 books in order to be a Christian? Absolutely not! While I, personally, believe that the Old and New Testament are the accurate, inspired, and infallible Word of God, some of the most respected Christians in history have found what they felt to be sufficient cause to doubt. Martin Luther, the instigator of the Protestant reformation doubted the books of Esther and James. John Calvin, his northern counterpart, questioned Esther.
Christians sometimes encounter difficulties in Scripture which seem hard to resolve – but their doubt concerning the books themselves, does not equal doubt in God. Nor does it equal lack of saving faith. Christianity, after all, isn’t about what you know, but about Who you know. It is faith in Christ’s shed blood as the full payment for our sins which saves us, not absolute certainty that every word in our modern Bible is actually a part of Scripture.
So if you doubt, don’t lose hope. Struggle with the hard questions. Be open to admitting your doubts. Seek the answers. And cling tight to the One who gave His life in order to redeem yours!