Some time ago, I was having a discussion with an Eastern Orthodox friend of mine concerning the canon. The discussion was enjoyable and hopefully beneficial for both of us. I benefited immensely by being pushed to question some of my basic beliefs about where I was drawing authority from. The following in particular caught my attention:
“Apostolic authority is a good criteria. I agree that its right, in fact its one of the influences that the church had upon its decision to recognize the canon. But first of all, why is it a correct criteria? Is this something you deduced solely by logical means, or is it something you take on authority? If so, whose authority?” [emphasis mine]
By Whose Authority?
These are some great questions. Is our faith a product of logical deduction or are we taking it on authority? If by authority, then by whose? While I hold that God has given us a sense of reason and wants us to use it, reason alone does not make something authoritative in an infallible sense. Infallible authority must come from a source beyond what seems reasonable to fallible human beings and beyond the change of time, customs and ideas.
It is the Holy Spirit who gives something authority. It is also the Holy Spirit who used the apostles (apostolicity) to bring about His message and continues to work in believers to attest to the truth of these writings. Without strong reason to doubt the work of the Holy Spirit, one is justified in believing that the words found in Scripture are from God. In other words, it is the Holy Spirit who makes something authoritative (infallibly), who used the apostles to convey the message of salvation (and/or process of being filled with the Spirit) and who continues to work in believers attesting to the truth of what He uniquely used the apostles to reveal.
True Christian teaching is un-revisable. By true Christian teaching I mean what is actually the case- what God has done in human history, what He has communicated and what He requires for faith and practice. While interpretations can be incorrect and in error, true Christian teaching is not. People make mistakes all the time whether in groups or individually (I may read the Scriptures and make a mistake in interpreting it just as one who is Eastern Orthodox can make a mistake as to the Church’s meaning or even whether he or she should even view the Church as infallible). The chance for error is present for both of our interpretations of what authority is or the authoritative interpretation itself.