Whose Bible Is It, Anyway?
Most Protestants are at a loss when asked how they know that the 66 books in their Bibles belong in it. (They are at an even greater loss to explain why the seven additional books appearing in Catholic Bibles are missing from theirs.) For them the Bible “just is.” They take it as a given. It never occurs to most of them that they ought to justify its existence.
The most overlooked part of the Bible, apologetically speaking, is the table of contents.
It does more than just tell us the pages on which the constituent books begin. It tells us that the Bible is a collection of books, and that implies a collector. The identity of the collector is what chiefly distinguishes the Protestant from the Catholic.
Douglas Wilson knows this. Writing in Credenda Agenda, a periodical espousing the Reformed faith, he notes that “the problem with contemporary Protestants is that they have no doctrine of the table of contents. With the approach that is popular in conservative Evangelical circles, one simply comes to the Bible by means of an epistemological lurch. The Bible ‘just is,’ and any questions about how it got here are dismissed as a nuisance. But time passes, the questions remain unanswered, the silence becomes awkward, and conversions of thoughtful Evangelicals to
Most Protestants are at a loss when asked how they know that the 66 books in their Bibles belong in it. (They are at an even greater loss to explain why the seven additional books appearing in Catholic Bibles are missing from theirs.) For them the Bible “just is.” They take it as a given. It never occurs to most of them that they ought to justify its existence. All Christians agree that the books that make up the Bible are inspired, meaning that God somehow guided the sacred authors to write all of, and only, what he wished. They wrote, most of them, without any awareness that they were being moved by God. As they wrote, God used their natural talents and their existing ways of speech. Each book of the Bible is an image not only of the divine Inspirer but of the all-too-human author. So how do we know whether Book A is inspired while Book B is not? A few unsophisticated Protestants are satisfied with pointing to the table of contents, as though that modern addition somehow validates the inspiration of the 66 books, but many Protestants simply shrug and admit that they don’t know why they know the Bible consists of inspired books and only inspired books. Some Protestants claim that they do have a way of knowing, a kind of internal affirmation that is obtained as they read the text.
A moment’s thought will show that the “burning in the bosom” proves too much. It proves not only that the Book of Mormon is inspired but that your favorite secular poetry is inspired. You can get a similar feeling anytime you read an especially good novel (or, for some people, even a potboiler) or a thrilling history or an intriguing biography. Are all these books inspired? Of course not, and that shows that the “burning in the bosom” may be a good propaganda device but is a poor indicator of divine authorship.
Back to the Protestant. The “full persuasion and assurance” of the Westminster Confession is not readily distinguishable from Mormonism’s “burning in the bosom.” You read a book of the Bible and are “inspired” by it — and that proves its inspiration. The sequence is easy enough to experience in reading the Gospels, but I suspect no one ever has felt the same thing when reading the two books of Chronicles. They read like dry military statistics because that is what they largely are.
Neither the simplistic table-of-contents approach nor the more sophisticated Westminster Confession approach will do. The Christian needs more than either if he is to know for certain that the books of the Bible come ultimately from God. He needs an authoritative collector to affirm their inspiration. That collector must be something other than an internal feeling. It must be an authoritative — and, yes, infallible Church.
Keating, Karl. “Whose Bible Is It, Anyway?” National Catholic Register. (November 12-18, 2000).
Reprinted by permission of National Catholic Register
Karl Keating is the founder of Catholic Answers and edits its magazine, This Rock. Keating is the author of Catholicism and Fundamentalism: The Attack on "Romanism" by "Bible Christians", What Catholics Really Believe-Setting the Record Straight: 52 Answers to Common Misconceptions About the Catholic Faith, Controversies: High-Level Catholic Apologetics, and The Usual Suspects: Answering Anti-Catholic Fundamentalists. He also engages in public debates with leading anti-Catholics, and publishes This Rock magazine. Karl Keating is on the Advisory Board of the Catholic Educator's
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