The Canon and Sufficiency of Scripture: Responding to James White’s Critique of Jay Dyer

On 01/04/2020, Dr. James White decided to respond to some of Jay Dyer’s reasons for not being Protestant (note: I’ve included an embedded link to the video at the end of this post.) Many comments can be made about Dr. White’s refutation, including Jay Dyer’s presentation, but I’m going to limit myself to two subjects discussed by Dr. White, namely the sufficiency and canon of Scripture.

Sufficiency of Scripture

The first concerns Dr. White’s interaction with 2 Timothy 3:16-17, which says “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God[a] may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Concerning this verse, at the 1:35:14 timestamp, Dr. White says:

Timothy, go to that which is the graphe, the hagia graphe, the Holy Scriptures, which may be still to come…Timothy, if you want to be fully equipped, then you need to go to that which is theópneustos… and you already know that what you have in the Tanach is theópneustos and he already knows that what he has in Paul likewise is authoritative in that same sense.

Since Dr. White has often used this verse, especially the words “thoroughly equipped” to prove the sufficiency or “complete” nature of Scripture and because he admits this specifically refers to the Old Testament and a few epistles only, the Catholic will object and note this would mean the Old Testament and a few epistles are sufficient. Dr. White has responded to this objection by saying:

It is common for Roman Catholic apologists to follow an error made by John Henry Cardinal Newman, with reference to this passage.  Indeed, Karl Keating, Patrick’s associate at Catholic Answers, makes the same mistake in his book, Catholicism and Fundamentalism.   And he repeated it again only recently during a debate on this subject in Denver during the papal visit.  Newman said that if this verse proves the sufficiency of Scripture, it proves too much, for Paul is talking here only of the Old Testament, which would leave the New Testament as an unnecessary addition.  But such is not Paul’s point at all.  Scripture, Paul’s point is, if it is Scripture at all, is God-breathed.  Paul is not speaking about the extent of the canon but the nature of Scripture itself as originating in God.  All Scripture then, including the New Testament, is God-breathed. (Source)

In other words, Dr. White is saying Paul’s words could be extended to the rest of Scripture, even that which has not been written yet. Yet, if we extend this verse to the rest of Scripture that had not yet been written then we must ask was Paul essentially saying “when all of Scripture has been written, then it will be ‘sufficient’ or ‘complete’ to fully equip the man of God?” If the answer is no (interpretation A), then we would have to conclude there was a sense in which the Old Testament and perhaps a few epistles were “sufficient” or “complete” for him. However, this is a problem because it implies the rest of the Scriptures merely confirm what has already been written, with no new revelation.

If the answer is yes (Interpretation B), then how was this helpful for Timothy, who did not have access to portions of Scripture that had yet to be written? I liken this to the charismatics who tend to see the Book of Revelation as entirely eschatological. If the events written in the Apocalypse were meant to be interpreted as pertaining to things that would happen thousands of years later, then how was the Book of Revelation relevant to the very churches for whom it was written?

From these points we gather interpretation A does not make sense because it would mean the rest of Scripture was merely confirming previous revelation and added nothing new to the deposit of faith. We also conclude interpretation B does not make sense because it would not make sense to Timothy, who was the recipient of this letter, and for whom these words were to be profitable. This means either there is a third interpretation (interpretation C) that Dr. White has not elaborated, or the claim that “thoroughly equipped” means Scripture is “sufficient” or “complete” in the sense Dr. White claims, is incorrect.

Canon

The second point from the video that I wanted to address concerns something Dr. White said about the canon of Scripture. At timestamp 1:35:00, Dr. White says “the church does not make the scriptures “theópneustos.” He seems to think the Catholic claim that the church infallibly ascertains what is canonical means the church adds to divine revelation and makes an inspired decision. Yet, Catholics do not believe the infallible ascertaining of what is canonical is somehow theópneustos or inspired. Dr. White presumably believes the Catholic has to claim this because that would then mean a non-inspired group of men are then judging that which is theópneustos. However, this is not the case because it simply means the Holy Spirit, who is perfectly capable of judging theópneustos, guides a non-inspired group of men to infallible ascertain the canon.

Moreover, in the video Dr. White repeated his claim that the canon is something God determines, not man. It is odd Dr. White continues to make this point since nobody disagrees that God determines the canon in an ontological way. The question is not who determines the canon ontologically but how do we ascertain what God has already determined is canonical (which is an epistemological issue)? On the one hand, Catholics believe the Holy Spirit guides non-inspired, yet authoritative, men to ascertain what God has determined to be canonical. On the other hand, Protestants have little more than the “my sheep hear my voice” argument for the canon, which is thoroughly subjective and ultimately no better than the Mormon claim concerning the Book of Mormon.

Perhaps in a future show or article, Dr. White will elaborate on his apologetic for the sufficiency of Scripture and will also provide more arguments for his position on the canon, because as it stands, his presentations seem unsatisfactory.

 

One thought on “The Canon and Sufficiency of Scripture: Responding to James White’s Critique of Jay Dyer

  1. Pingback: Michael Lofton’s Response to Dr. James White on the Canon of Scripture – Reason and Theology

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