The Lord’s care for His church is not only manifested in the documentation of His Word but also in its preservation through the centuries.  There are no historical or theological grounds for the thesis that the canon of Scripture derives its authority from that of the church.  We reject the Roman Catholic position that the authority of the canon is sustained and guaranteed by that of the church.  The church did not produce Scripture, but received it from God’s hand.  In this regard, it merely had a receptive function.

But there is also a subjective approach that we must reject.  According to this view, the Scriptures are not accepted as they have come to us, “but only to the extent that they can pass the test of our criticism or can be received by us on the wavelength of our own experience” (Van Bruggen).  Then the “judgment of faith” of the individual or the church becomes the decisive factor or one seeks a “canon within the canon.”  This is a canon that is discovered within the Bible by theologians.  But it implies a rejection of the canon as canon, because then it can no longer be the canon in the fullest sense of the Word.

The canon points beyond itself: God gave it to His church as a standard and guide.  And also in the factual recognition of the books of the Bible as canon we recognize the work of God in His church.  It is “the Holy Spirit [who] witnesses in our hearts that” it is from God (Belgic Confession of Faith, Article 5).

From: Concise Reformed Dogmatics by J. van Genderen and W. H. Velema; translated from the Dutch by Gerrit Bilkes and Ed M. van der Maas (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2008), p. 113.  Dutch original published in 1992.

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