Roman Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox use the Canon argument against the Protestant position to show the necessity of an Infallible and Authoritative Church to epistemologically justify what books belong in the Canon (the books of the Bible).
The Argument is as follows:
P1: If one does not have infallible and authoritative church to determine the canon then one cannot know what books belong in the canon
P2: Protestants do not have an infallible and authoritative church to determine the canon
C: Hence, Protestants cannot know what books belong in the canon
A Rejection of the Argument:
The Protestant ought to reject P1 because one who holds to the Protestant position can say that the Bible self-authenticating and self-verifying thereby suggesting that when one reads it they just know it is God speaking to them. To use philosophical jargon: It is a properly basic belief what books are divinely inspired and belong in the Canon of scripture. A basic belief is a sort of belief that is reasonable to hold without inference and arguments, but yet these reasonable beliefs are basic or foundational for inference and arguments to start. Here are a few basic beliefs that are reasonable to hold without inference or argumentation: The existence of the external world, the fact that you have existed longer than five minutes, that you have reliable faculties, that we are not in a matrix and that we are not brains in vats. Therefore, it is a properly basic belief that God speaks to me through the 66 books of the Bible when I read them.
A Biblical Basis:
But is this idea of us being reasonable in believing that the Bible is divinely inspired independent of argument and inference itself a Biblical Idea?
It certainly seems that it is. Jesus says of himself to believers that they will know his voice:
John 10:3-6 3 To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers." 6 This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
Jesus does not say that they will know the Shepard’s voice on the basis of arguments and inference, but merely that when they encounter it they will know it is the voice of God. This is how the Protestant knows that the 66 books in the Bible are divinely inspired by God.
Do we really need a Divinely Inspired Table of Contents?
At this point the Roman Catholic or the Eastern Orthodox might say “well you may know the 66 books of the Bible belong in the canon but you do not have a divinely inspired and authoritative table of contents to the Bible.” In short, they are objecting that in the Bible it never says what books belong and do not belong in the Bible.
How should we respond to this?
The Bible does give a criterion for what books belong as scripture in the Canon (John 10:3-6). However, Non-Protestants will be quick to point out that it does not give the content of which books fulfill that criterion. But why think that we need that? I really can think of no good reason for why that is necessary. Admittedly, it may be subjectively preferable to some, but it is hard to see why this is necessary. They might argue that it makes things clear and that thereby entails that the Non-Protestant position is more reasonable, but I have demonstrated in the last post that just because a position is clearer than another does not constitute a good reason for choosing one position over another.
Thus, we have seen that the most popular Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox argument is a complete failure and cannot be used to show that Non- Protestant positions are more reasonable than the Protestant position.