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Why do Protestants accept the inerrancy of the current canon of scripture but reject many of the other decisions made by the Roman Church at the time the Bible was being canonized?

Take the Council of Laodicea, for example. Canon 60 of the Council of Laodicea states the books that are allowed to be read. Revelation was not included at this time, and some books were included then are not included today. Also, the Council of Laodicea stated things like marriages and birthdays are not to be celebrated during lent (canon 52), and Christians should not dance at weddings (canon 53). So it seems like the council's decisions on some things are just simply ignored, while others, especially the canon of Scripture, are readily defended. Why?

  • Ultimately for the same reason Christians in general accept the inerrancy of the Old Covenant canon, while simultaneously rejecting Pharisaic and Rabbinic authority. – Lucian Oct 30 at 4:53
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To answer your main question: The Council of Laodicea, being a regional council, would only have been binding on the Faithful living in the region (specifically, on areas that were represented by their bishops). Being only a regional, and not an ecumenical council, it is not binding on all the Faithful.

For your question about scripture, the answer is a little complicated. Wikipedia summarizes it well, but the important point is that we have points at time where we know Canon was already considered settled, which was certainly before 400. It is harder to point to the moment where it actually was settled, although the broad strokes clearly had been in agreement for a while.

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First, it should be noted that not all protestants do accept the inerrancy of the canon. In fact, biblical inerrancy has really only been a topic of discussion during the last two centuries. Uniterians reject the doctrine of inerrancy, The Princton and Fuller Theological seminaries rejected this teaching and the and the entire Liberal Theology movement rejects the idea of biblical inerrancy which was was an idea first advanced in 1881 by two conservative Presbyterian theologians, Benjamin B. Warfield and Archibald Alexander Hodge.

Really, only Evangelical Protestants have this doctrine as a formal tenant as of 1978 with the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.

For this group of Protestants, the reason that the inerrancy of the canon is accepted while other doctrines were rejected has a great deal to do with the Pope. Many of the edicts from the Roman Catholic Church come from the pope. For example, only the first 7 ecumenical councils were originally recognized as ecumenical until the 11th century when Pope Gregory VII claimed them to be ecumenical. Because the pope is human, Protestants typically regard him as fallable and by extension his edicts, such as encyclicals, bulls and other such decrees and declarations can also be fallable and therefore errant (though not all necessarially are)

Conversely, Evangelicals typically regard scripture as infallable because of it's verification by those who walked with Jesus or it's authorship by his disciples and apostles. This creates an environment where texts which were false or incorrect would be discarded because those closest to Jesus would have claimed them to be wrong and refuted them. This would have led to their unpopularity which would have prevented their inclusion in the canon. This sidesteps the problem of mankind's fallen nature from introducing errors into scripture, but allows for all subsequent teachings to be errant because they do not come from Christ himself and therefore are fallable while the Gospels, and Epistles come from Christ and are thus regarded as inerrant.

  • "Conversely, Evangelicals typically regard scripture as infallable because of it's verification by those who walked with Jesus or it's authorship by his disciples and apostles." Could you point me to a discussion about this on stack exchange? This seems like a big assumption. I mean, evangelicals don't regard the gospel of Thomas as scripture, even though it was written by a disciple of Jesus. There were also gospels of Peter, James, Judas, and Mary floating around at the same time. Not to mention that Luke was likely writing to Bishop Theophilus of Antioch around 170... – New Wine Sep 24 '15 at 16:11
  • Some of the Apocrapha are claimed to have been written by apostles, but (as the argument goes) these claims were false, or for some (like the Gospel of Barnabas,) they date to after the Canon was closed. Therefore, the peer validation wasn't there, the claims were refuted and these gospels were not popularized.I wasn't really able to find any SE discussions about the purpose and mechanics of the Canon, however Lee Strobel in Case for Christ, Chapters 2, 3 and 4 has an excellent intro coverage of the topic. The canon helps sort out the difference btwn claimed authorship and actual authorship. – James Shewey Sep 24 '15 at 17:17
  • How does the canon help sort out the difference btwn claimed authorship and actual authorship? For instance, the gospel of John never mentions the transfiguration, which would arguably have been one of the most amazing things to have happened to John. This seems to muddy the waters about authorship. Also, like I mentioned above, the dedication to Theophilus seems to place Acts and Luke in the latter half of the second century, and therefore not actually written by a companion of Paul. – New Wine Sep 27 '15 at 21:07
  • In terms of the Gospels, they are all anonymous. It is merely tradition that has attributed authorship of these gospels to the apostles. Claimed authorship vs. actual authorship only applies in the context of epistles which claim to be from a given individual. For the Gospels, the focus is more on the accuracy of events. Other living witnesses would be able to confirm or refute these accounts, even if they were not literate. As for the transfiguration, 1) perhaps he was not at the transfiguration 2) perhaps the inclusion of this did not further his authorship goals – James Shewey Sep 28 '15 at 3:52
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    @NewWine you requested a SE post; this one might help: christianity.stackexchange.com/q/43817/24865 – tniles Jun 7 '16 at 23:50

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