A reason many people choose to disregard the Bible is that they believe that it was written by man, not inspired by God and assembled by man, not discovered by the Church. This short article will confront the second charge.
The accusation is not new; it has existed long before Dan Brown popularized it in his novel, “The DaVinci Code”. The belief follows that the books of the Bible were chosen by attendees of the Council of Nicea in 325 AD under the insidious direction of emperor Constantine. Officials allegedly picked and discarded writings based on their own judgment with authority given to them by membership on the council. But this isn’t what happened at all.
There is absolutely no evidence that canonicity of the New Testament was decided in THIS council or ANY council or in THIS way, PERIOD. The agenda of the Council is well-documented and dealt with issues like: on what day to celebrate Easter and construction of the Nicene Creed, and debate over the Divinity of Christ (The Arian Controversy).
The benefit for the skeptic in using this false narrative is that a man-made Holy Book would bear the limitations of all things man-made. The content of Scripture could have been decided by prejudice or chosen advantageously by those seeking control of the populace. The latter is a common atheist charge to this day. Given credibility, a vast inventory of human foibles lay open for modern day deniers of God from which to pick their favorite.
However, there are answers.
No, the process of gathering our biblical texts was not a simple popularity contest for ancient writings, driven by personal whim and politics. Instead, the Canon, a word coming from the Greek, meaning “rule” or “measuring stick”, is a list of affirmed books that had served as foundational to our faith up to that point. In fact, any participation by any council was only involved to the extent that it merely declared the way things had been and not the way they wanted them to be. This was done using the specific criteria provided below.
Geisler and Nix, in their book “From God To Us”, list five basic criteria for discovering the canonicity of the New Testament books:
- Is the book authoritative—does it claim to be of God?
- Is it prophetic—was it written by a servant of God?
- Is it authentic—does it tell the truth about God, man, etc.?
- Is the book dynamic—does it possess the life-transforming power of God?
- Is this book received or accepted by the people of God for whom it was originally written—is it recognized as being from God?
Bible scholar Michael Kruger encourages every Christian to memorize this basic fact (and nine others, linked below) about the forming of the New Testament canon. To battle these false ideas of skeptics and keep Holy scripture in its proper place, the Church must understand that the New Testament canon was “the result of many years of God’s people reading, using, and responding to these books”.
Geisler and Nix. “From God To Us: How We Got Our Bible”. Page 67.