Gino: Hi John. I heard R.C. Sproul say on Christian radio that the canon of Scripture is only “fallible.” He said this to evidently undermine the Catholic Church’s decision in determining the canon. What do you say about this?
J. Salza: Gino, Sproul has to argue that the canon of Scripture is fallible because he knows that the Catholic Church determined the canon of Scripture at councils in A.D. 382, 393 and 397. If he admits that the Catholic Church made an infallible decision concerning the canon (which is true), then he would have to explain why he doesn’t follow the Catholic Church’s other infallible teachings. To skirt the issue, Sproul has to argue that the canon is only a fallible collection of infallible books.
Sproul’s argument falls apart at the seams. If the canon were only a fallible collection of infallible books, then why should we believe that the books in the canon are themselves infallible? The infallible books do not tell us what the canon should be, and this forces us to look outside the infallible books to understand how the canon was selected. As Sproul so well knows, this outside source was the Holy Catholic Church, who made the infallible decision concerning what Scriptures were inspired and canonical, and what Scriptures were not (a decision that Sproul agrees with).
Moreover, if the canon is only a fallible collection, then this means other books could be added to the canon, and books currently in the canon could be removed. Is this what Sproul is suggesting? I doubt it, but this is the logical consequence of his argument, which proves that his argument is not logical at all. A principle of logic is that an effect can never be greater than its cause. This means that, if the canon of Scripture is infallible, its determination had to come from an infallible source as well. Arguing for a fallible canon also means that Sproul has no basis to deny the canonicity of other religious writings such as the book of Mormon, etc. He has no authority to do so.
Sproul’s argument is fallacious, but he must make the argument in order to avoid submitting himself to the teaching authority of the Holy Catholic Church, an authority that he himself recognizes regarding the canon of Scripture, but nothing else. His argument, paradoxically, undermines the reliability of the Scriptures, which is the very thing on which Sproul bases his whole theology and entire Christian life.