Monday, March 01, 2010

Why Didn't Nicaea Address the Canon Question?

Proponents of sola scriptura, especially those who would like to believe that the early Church fathers espoused this doctrine, have an important question to consider. Why didn’t the Church address the canon issue at Nicaea?

The Church gathered in 325 AD to settle the Arian controversy, but assuming that the Scriptures alone are infallible, it seems inconceivable that any council could reliably settle a doctrine of faith, especially one so critical, if she had not first settled the question of which books could be considered as an infallible basis for such a decision.

One might object that such a question is only a concern for those who believe in solo scriptura, but this is false because there is no principled distinction between solo and sola scriptura. Another objection might be that the Church, widely and by general consensus, knew the canon, at least of the New Testament. But the New Testament canon was still in question at the time as no authoritative council would consider the matter for two more generations. To use such an objection would be to base certainty on doubt, an inconsistency that simply won’t suffice.

The reality we are left to consider is that the Church gathered and under the full weight of her authority made a critical theological decision, and the question of the canon never came up. This is inconceivable if the Church had ever considered the Scriptures the sole source of infallibility.

(Originally posted at Called to Communion)

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