Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask
Through Dave Armstrong, I’ve found an ex-Christian atheist who goes by DaGoodS (I’ll call him DGS). He runs a blog discussing (naive) critiques of his former faith (don’t all ex-Christian atheists?) called Thoughts from a Sandwich.
Scanning his blog, I discovered this entry from November of last year. He has picked up a book called The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask. His description is apt:
The author referred to a survey where 10,000 Christians were asked, “What Questions do you find difficult to answer?” and compiled a list of the top ten; the author kindly provides Christian responses.
DGS doesn’t think that the questions in the book are very good, and I’m also guessing that he finds the answers lacking as well.
Since I’m a sucker for questions that Christians allegedly can’t answer, I thought I’d take a shot at DGS’s list. Starting today, I’ll take a poke at two questions per day, posting one first thing in the morning and one in the late afternoon.
I’m hoping we can learn something from each other.
What is your method to _______?
Clear as mud. I can’t provide a sweeping answer to that question, since it’s really nebulous. Fortunately, DGS gives us a series of examples. I can provide an answer to each.
“Given a string of words, what method do we use to determine those words are theopneustos?” (God-breathed.)
Jesus himself gave us an answer, though I’m guessing that DGS won’t find it sufficient for these purposes since it comes from the Bible itself. Jesus, challenged by the religious authorities to plainly say that he was the promised Messiah, told them:
I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock. (Jn 10:25-26)
Jesus has told them, unambiguously, who he is. (We see from other Gospels that he sees himself as the Son of Man figure described in Daniel, who was the coming Messiah. See also Jn 5:39-47.) But they don’t believe because they aren’t part of the Great Shepherd’s flock. Jesus continues:
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one. (Jn 10:27-30)
What Jesus is basically saying here is that if we are members of his flock (referred to in later Christian writings as “the elect”), then we will recognize when he has spoken something.
For practical applications to DGS’s question, it means that God speaks through the Scriptures, and it is up to us to recognize when and where this is happening. So the canon of Scripture must be discovered; it is already set down by God and the writers of Scripture are moved to create it. Here Jesus promises that we’re going to be able to see what is from God and what is not, and thus put the proper canon together from what God has given us.
As a philosopher, I’m perfectly comfortable with the notion that we may be wrong. I don’t personally think we’re wrong about which books the Bible should contain (e.g. everything that’s there should be there), but there’s a possibility we might be wrong about which books were excluded (e.g. that some non-canonical writings might be canonical). Another view on that from C. Michael Patton, here.
More to the point of the original question, it isn’t about determining which words are from God from among a string of words, but examining the plenary teaching of an entire work and determining if it fits with what is already revealed.
The final question in this series suggests that DGS may have had some dealings with Christians that mythologize Scripture in part but not in whole, and this question is directed at those Christians. I believe in the plenary inspiration of Scripture, and with it, the plenary inerrancy of Scripture. That DGS may have had dealings with people who don’t believe that is what lead (I think) to the phrasing of this question the way he has.
“How do we determine whether the solution is either: 1) something science hasn’t discovered yet, but will or 2) something science hasn’t discovered yet and never will or 3) something science cannot discover because it is supernatural?”
I’m not sure that we can. But, permit a rhetorical question, how does that disprove God?
Science adopts methodological naturalism by default because it must. Which means its conclusions always have the caveat that we wouldn’t know how it would come out differently if agency were involved. There’s no real way to run an experiment that would test for any agency.
Contrast this with metaphysical naturalism, which believes that the physical realm–whatever we can empirically verify and nothing more–is all that exists. Neither methodological naturalism nor metaphysical naturalism try to test for agency. The difference is that the former leaves the question of God open, while the latter emphatically denies the existence of God, and by extension any intervention from God.
Methodological naturalism is compatible with theism because science always tests with the caveat that an intervening agent can change the outcome of the experiment dramatically. That’s one reason scientists devise multiple experiments for similar hypotheses: to root out the possibility that their own agency may have interfered with the result. Therefore, scientists can be theists (and the first scientists were). Being committed to methodological naturalism doesn’t automatically mean that one has to be a metaphysical naturalist.
“How do we determine whether this plane is exactly like the supernatural, similar to the supernatural, or not at all like the supernatural when we cannot observe the supernatural?”
“Natural” and “supernatural” are arbitrary distinctions, based solely on which plane of existence that the observer occupies. To God, we are supernatural. “Natural” sits on this plane, while “supernatural” is anything outside of this plane, including denizens of alternate universes (if any exist). Supernatural is typically defined as beings that are high and mighty, possessing powers we mortals salivate at. But that needn’t be the case; they only have to occupy an existence that isn’t native to our own reality.
Some hypotheses of quantum mechanics seems to suggest that alternate universes are closely linked at the molecular level. And most theories that underlie physics believe that the microcosmic interactions of particles that defy natural human detection can affect events on a macrocosmic scale (e.g. cause disturbances that we can observe).
The microcosmic level can be affected by activity in an alternate universe, or so the many worlds hypothesis states. Which, by equivocation, means that observable macrocosmic changes are somehow determined by activity in an alternate universe. Which means, under this hypothesis, alternate universes (supernatural agents by definition) can affect the day-to-day cause-and-effect-chains that we see going on in this universe (natural, by definition).
So science, in a roundabout way, accepts in theory that supernatural agents can affect the course of this universe. What all of this means is that natural and supernatural distinctions are moot. They are arbitrary, created only based on which plane of existence the observer lies.
If I, an agent in this universe, were to catch a speeding ball, is this a violation or suspension of the natural law stating that that ball will continue in motion forever at its current velocity? Nope. I’ve acted on it, which changes the expected outcome.
Now God isn’t native to this plane of existence. If he were to catch the ball, does that now make it a violation or suspension of the natural laws of inertia? Nope, it just means that an agent outside of this plane of existence has acted on the ball, and that also changes the expected outcome!
Phenomena that lack agency can also interact with this hypothetical ball: wind resistance, gravity, friction, or a big brick wall can all bring the ball crashing to the ground and stop it as effectively as an intelligent agent can. Like the discussion of methodological vs. metaphysical naturalism above, the law assumes methodological naturalism, not taking into account how any sort of agency could act on the ball. This isn’t tantamount to denying God’s existence
So the better question to ask would be how can we tell agency has intervened, when that agency isn’t native to our plane of existence? Agency native to our plane of existence is easy to spot. Agency native to another plane of existence might not be so easy to spot.
In the world of theoretical physics, supernatural agency seems to influence particles at the subatomic level, which means that it would be impossible to observe with the naked eye. Only the right instruments used at the right times would be able to detect it, if they were sophisticated enough to detect it at all. Which means that direct observation is unlikely to be possible.
So, the short answer to this question is that it may not be possible to know the difference among those options, at least not without a through investigation into all the possibilities. The action of supernatural agency should leave enough clues to discern if it had acted, but only if we are adopting methodological naturalism as our worldview. On the other hand, if metaphysical naturalism is our ruling worldview, then supernatural agency will never even be considered since we deny its existence (let alone its ability to interact with nature).
I’ve covered some additional details here. I should note that theoretical physics isn’t my area of expertise, so I’m open to correction in the comments section below, or by e-mail, if I’ve totally messed something up.
“How do we tell what is myth and what is historical in the story?”
I believe in inerrancy, so I don’t believe that the Bible is mythologizing history; rather, I believe that the Bible is reporting history. So I’m not the person to ask this of. My view of plenary inspiration (discussed above) cements my position with little more consideration. Ask a Christian who believes that portions of stories might be history and other portions might be myth.
For what it’s worth, I believe that Christians who posit that the Bible mythologizes history are leaving themselves wide open for this objection, and should be challenged with it as often as possible. There really isn’t much of a valid answer for how to determine which is myth and which is history. It’s either all true, or all false. If it’s all false, then what are doing calling ourselves Christians?
Posted on January 12, 2011, in Apologetics, Bible Thoughts, Religion, Science, Theology and tagged atheism, Christianity, DaGoodS, Dave Armstrong, faith, history, mythology, supernatural, Worldview. Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.
“I believe in the plenary inspiration of Scripture, and with it, the plenary inerrancy of Scripture.”
Are you a YEC?
I describe my position as Young Earth Agnostic. I think that a young earth seems to make the most sense with Scripture, but science equally seems to unequivocally teach an old earth. I want to study more Scripture and some Old Earth Creationism before I say for certain one way or the other.
I used to be an Old Earth Creationist and theistic evolutionist until my first encounter with Answers in Genesis. I quickly converted to Young Earth Creationist and anti-evolutionist. Now I don’t like AiG because I’ve seen their arguments for what they are: argument by outrage, with little knowledge of the science they critique. They also make frequent use of scare tactics. And, best of all, check the bibliography of any of their books. What do you see? A list of all their other books! It’s like these guys don’t read outside of the literature that they themselves produce.
I have a similar critique of the Christ-myth: the position that Jesus never existed and the Gospels were the product of the authors’ imaginations based on Jewish mythology with a bit of pagan sun mythology thrown in for good measure. If you check the bibliography of any of those works, you see books from the same list of about a dozen or so authors–most are outdated and have been refuted by secular scholars. If I mention that as reason to not buy the Christ-myth, I’d be completely inconsistent if I still believed YEC on the basis of AiG’s materials.
One Old Earth Creationist site lists YEC under “cults.” The more I look at it, the more I’m believing it.
At the end of the day, there are some convincing Old Earth Creation arguments, but I want to reserve judgment until I actually check them out. So, sorry, but the answer to your question literally is “I don’t know.”
Hmmm… A lot of words, but you haven’t actually answered the question, unless you mean to actually deny any actual method. You instead rely on some sort of inspiration to disambiguate theopneustos from metaphor.
“I’m not sure that we can. But, permit a rhetorical question, how does that disprove God?”
Actually, I won’t “permit” this rhetorical question, you’re changing the subject, apparently because you can’t answer the original question.
“Science adopts methodological naturalism by default because it must. Which means its conclusions always have the caveat that we wouldn’t know how it would come out differently if agency were involved. There’s no real way to run an experiment that would test for any agency.”
That’s simply not true, if by “agency” you refer (and you do seem to refer later) to something along the lines of specifically human agency. Human beings are part of the natural world, and we can detect their agency by ordinary scientific means. If the natural world (i.e. the world directly or indirectly available by reason and perception) were affected by any agency, even immaterial, we should be able to detect it using the same tools we detect material human agency.
If we define “supernatural” in opposition to natural, i.e. *not* directly or indirectly available by reason and perception, then of course we could not detect “supernatural” agency. But the problem is in the supernatural, not the agency.
You instead *seem to* rely on some sort of inspiration… Inspiration is not a method in the sense that Dagood means: If you were inspired one way, and I were inspired differently, how would we determine who was correct? It’s logically possible that this problem could arise with perception; we rely on perception, however, precisely because this problem typically does *not* actually arise.
Thank you for following up on my Questions. When I say, “What is your method to ____?” the reason I was not specific, is that there are so many areas I see Christians who either:
a) Don’t have a method; or
b) Inconsistently apply methods; or
c) Utilize an ad hoc method; or
d) Many combinations of the above.
Further, when I ask for a method, I am not looking for any method—one could easily say, “My method is to believe what ever I happened to be holding in my left hand right now.” If their left hand is the Protestant Bible, they could say, “I believe this.” True, they have a method, but how useful is it?
I am looking for a method we ALL can employ; a method as objective as possible. A method that might even cause one (if applied consistently) to lose a cherished belief.
Frankly, the proposed method of “We’ll know it when we see it” for determining what writing is theopneustos is not very substantial. (And it is ad hoc.) For centuries, people thought the Adulterous Woman Pericope was theopneustos. They believed they were members of God’s flock and recognized when God spoke something.
They were wrong.
They thought the long ending of Mark was theopneustos.
They were wrong.
They thought 1 Clement, Epistle of Barnabas, and Shepherd of Hermas were theopneustos.
Now they are considered wrong. (I understand you may believe some of these are, but this simply moves the goalposts of our method. Now we have to determine who the “true” members of God’s flock are as compared to who are not, when each group is conflicting with the other as to claiming to “hear his voice.”)
Mormons claim to be true members of God’s flock. They believe, under your same method, the Book of Mormon is inspired. Why should I believe your claim over theirs? Same with Christian Scientists and Key to the Scriptures.
The reason I ask for “phrase” is that textual criticism has demonstrated even some phrases are not in the original copies. Simply saying the entire book is in or out is no longer sufficient under our current knowledge.
As The Barefoot Bum pointed out, my question about solutions (natural later determined, natural never determined or supernatural) is not about proving/disproving a God. It is about methodology. In the past we have seen events attributed to supernatural forces—upon further information—turn out to be natural phenomena. Nothing preventing the error from occurring currently–we eventually learn something attributed to supernatural is actually natural.
I am questioning how we can tell the difference? Before someone says, “We don’t know _____; so there is a God”—I am cutting off the first premise. Don’t we first have to have a means of making those determinations even if we assumed a supernatural? Why couldn’t it equally be (even if there WAS a god!), “We don’t know. Yet.” (Which you answered, thank you.)
You list a lot of people who are considered “wrong,” but my argument (which I don’t believe is ad hoc) allows for the fact that people can be wrong about this. Nothing in my explanation, in fact, precludes a lengthy discussion of Scripture canon, with different people having different opinions. The point is that eventually Christians, as a single unit, did agree on the canon.
Some say that didn’t happen for almost 400 years, that the canon was a late development. Not just critics argue this, but Catholics often cite a late canon as a problem with the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura (which is a different issue best left alone for now). But there are some problems with a late canon developed at Nicea in 325. First, later NT documents refer to earlier NT documents as Scripture. That doesn’t automatically establish their canonicity (because I recognize the circularity of that argument; I’m not an idiot–the Bible isn’t the Word of God because it says so itself–if that worked, then I’m a millionaire as of now because I said so myself!), but it does suggest that the later documents recognized some of the earlier documents were already widely considered Scripture by the churches. For example, Paul called Luke’s Gospel (and Acts by extension) Scripture. Peter referred to some of Paul’s letters as Scripture. Some scholars even argue the late NT documents (most think these were written by 90-95) were penned and widely circulated no later than 70.
There really is no doubt that the four-fold Gospel was in place by the first part of the second century. Some argue it was in place before the end of the first century. It depends on how you want to date certain writings, which is outside my general field of expertise for now (I only know rudimentary text critical issues). Ireneus refers to the four-fold Gospel circa 150.
Then there’s this dude by the name of Marcion. Marcion lived in the second century, over 150 years before Nicea. Among his heretical ideas are the Old Testament God being the evil twin of the New Testament God, and that none of the Old Testament Laws or even principles derived from those laws should be practiced. But the most interesting idea he had was to “nibble” (as Tertullian put it) away from an (wait for it) established canon.
Marcion believed that only Paul’s letters and the Gospel of Luke were Scripture. Now, if there were no established canon circa 140, that wouldn’t be heretical in and of itself. As I just mentioned, the four-fold Gospel (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) had already been established long before, perhaps even in the first century. The Muratorian fragment, dating from 150-175, contains most of the modern New Testament (minus Hebrews, James, and the letters from Peter). Many scholars doubt that Marcion was the first to raise the issue of the canon, but that’s just speculation.
What all of this data suggests to me is that the canon came earlier and was more unanimous than critics of Christianity believe.
The data further suggest criteria to be canon. The document had to be apostolic (or approved by an apostle) and have wide distribution and approval–for starters. Of course, it goes without saying that to be considered, a document would have to agree with the established OT or growing NT in doctrine and theology. I think that final point might be where skeptics stick, because it suggests that we are cherry-picking what we want to believe. But I’d submit that criteria exists because we have faith that God’s revelation to us will be consistent (based on past experience and Deut 18:21-22), so we only add Scripture that is general agreement with previously established Scripture. Truth, after all, being truth will be consistent. Judge Judy is fond of telling people that if it doesn’t make sense, then it’s a lie.
So, with those criteria in mind, we can see that your examples of the Book of Mormon and Science and Health with Keys to the Scriptures fail all three criteria. They contradict previous revelation, they were never widely accepted or distributed, and they have no apostolic approval. I will not consider that part of your argument, therefore.
Also with those criteria in mind, the exclusions you mentioned (the Shepherd of Hermas, epistle of Barnabas, and 1 Clement) didn’t meet one or more of those criteria. I’m not sure exactly which one(s). For example, the epistle Barnabas was only circulated in a small geographic area (Alexandria).
Additionally, the “apostolic approval” criterion suggest that the canon is closed (as the office of apostle died out in the first century), and extra-biblical revelation doesn’t happen. That’s a suggestion; I’m aware that others (particularly the Charismatics and Pentecostals, and even theologian C. Michael Patton) believe that extra-biblical revelation happens today.
Here’s a thought experiment: the epistle of Barnabas was cut from the NT because it wasn’t circulated widely enough, nor did it receive unanimous recognition. This is most probably the case:
For our purposes, let’s say four churches accepted it, the six others that did read it rejected it, and no one else ever read it. Let’s further pretend that the epistle of Barnabas was intended by God to be Scripture (I doubt it; the writer has anti-Semitic overtones and regards the giving of the law itself as allegory which was never intended to be binding–this conflicts with the words of Jesus in Mt 5:18, Paul in Rom 2:12-13, and Jms 2:8-10). In this thought experiment, can we find any compelling reason to think that the four churches who accepted it were somehow more Christian than the six who rejected it? What about all of the others who never read it? I can actually cite a couple of widely accepted (even in the second century) Bible passages that would answer that question emphatically NO (cf. Rom 14:1-12; 1 Cor 1:10-17; Ti 3:9).
Paul specifically argues that, at the end of the day, everyone has knowledge of the gospel–enough to be saved by God (see Rom 10:14-21). And, if Dave Armstrong (or any other Catholic apologist) reads the following line, he will probably jump for joy seeing a sola scriptura Protestant realize this truth: reading the Bible is not a precondition for salvation, or even a necessary salvific work. The grace of God alone saves, therefore the canon to which one subscribes isn’t of much importance. If it was, the establishment of the canon would be far clearer (despite the general and early unanimity).
Which means that, if the Charismatics and the Pentecostals (together with C. Michael Patton) are correct and the canon is open and being written yet today, then I’m wrong and I won’t accept God’s Words spoken by a modern day prophet, am I suddenly excluded from God’s Kingdom? Of course not–no more than the hypothetical six churches who read and rejected the epistle of Barnabas above. Paul argues in Romans that we already know what we need to know for salvation in Christ. Scripture will enrich our lives certainly, but it isn’t the central part of our faith. That would be belief in Christ’s Resurrection, knowledge which we attain through the grace of God.
As to the specific phrases or chapters that are of questionable authenticity, I don’t think it bolsters your argument whatsoever. It still boils down to the plenary teaching of the work whether it is consistent with existing, agreed-upon revelation. For example, the story of the adulteress in the Gospel of John is quite orthodox. Conservative experts on Jesus believe that this is consistent with his teaching and message. It certainly doesn’t contradict anything we know of our Lord. However, it is excised because earlier MSS have surfaced that don’t include it. Therefore, it is a late addition to the text. That doesn’t mean that those who accept it or those who reject it aren’t Christians, as I’ve explained with the thought experiment above. I don’t think that the inspiration of this passage matters one way or the other: the story is orthodox and in line with Jesus, and it holds an important lesson for what the Christian should do with his life once the line in the sand has been drawn. Namely, walk away and sin no more.
As to the long ending to Mark, including that with divine inspiration seems to create some serious problems (for example). I’m not arguing that Christians can sometimes do greater things than Jesus did, and many have had a larger impact (albeit in a smaller and more localized timeframe rather than overall through the centuries) than Jesus. So I’m not saying that we Christians couldn’t charm snakes or survive drinking poison. These words don’t fit with what we actually see happening with Christians in any generation. Elsewhere, however, I’ve argued that there could be some truth to the inspiration of this passage, since there’s an immense difference between God demonstrating his power to unbelievers tangibly with a sign or portent and stupid people testing God by grabbing cyanide off of some ignorant hick’s altar in an effort to prove to other believers that they are “true Christians.”
There’s some wisdom in the atheistic criticism that Christians make a really big deal out who’s really a Christian and who isn’t. Whenever I call a heretic out while surrounded by atheists, someone inevitably says that I’m claiming I’m a TrueChristiantm (yes, they always add the trademark symbol) and only people who agree with me are going to join me in heaven. I’m not saying that at all. I’m also not saying that heretics aren’t real Christians or bound for hell, nor am I saying that we Christians must agree on everything. Simultaneously, I’m not trying to undercut orthodoxy, because there must be a method for differentiating an orthodox, biblical Christian from an obvious heretic (like Marcion, Joseph Smith, Mary Baker Eddy, or Paula White). Here, however, I don’t have enough time to explore those issues because I’ve already written a book.
And, as you already pointed out, I did answer regarding natural/supernatural explanations. We may not know yet, or ever, if an unexplained event was God 100% and we’ll never see it happen again, or if it was just a low-probability interaction of completely natural laws that could be duplicated with enough experimentation. If the many worlds hypothesis is really just God, angels, or demons interacting with us, those influences are only observable at the atomic/subatomic level. All we can do is keep plugging away at experimentation. In thinking through my philosophic worldview, I have immense faith in God as sovereign who ordains the ends as well as the means, so I’m perfectly comfortable with some mystery built into the picture. I don’t expect to have all of the answers.
This is kind of a long reply, Cory, and I don’t immediately see anything that looks like the description of a method. It’s kind of a stressful time for me (family medical issues), so if I’ve missed anything that describes an actual method, could you pull it out and maybe summarize it for me?
I have another question, only peripherally related to this post: Whither apologetics? Do you see apologetics as focused primarily on the believer, or the person who already *wants* to believe? Or do you see apologetics as focused on those who doesn’t already believe nor particularly want to believe? (It would, of course, be pointless to focus apologetics on those who were actively hostile to belief.)
If the former, why apologetics? I mean, if I already believe something, I don’t need for someone to tell me why I should believe it. And (although I don’t really understand the concept) if I were to want to believe something, I would just believe it. I typically do what I want to do (all things considered, to the best of my ability). Wanting to do something is a good reason for actually doing it.
If the latter, why focus on metaphysical presuppositions to the degree that you do? Telling me you think differently at a fundamental level than I do isn’t at all persuasive.
The question doesn’t stop at just what the method is—the question continues as to why THAT method. Again, I do think this methodology is ad hoc. (By the way, I was speaking toward theopneustos which I consider different than canonicity, but since we are speaking about methodology in general, canonicity will happily suffice.)
Taking us out of the biblical realm for an analogy…imagine we were discussing “Which county has the smartest people?” And I propose a method, “Whichever country has the most Doctorates per capita.” It is a method—even a fairly reasonable one generally associated with the question. But then we see four (4) problems arise:
1) What if I want America to be the result, and I already know America has the most doctorates? Am I possibly fudging the method to get the results I want?
2) What do I about data not fitting the argument? Many actors and persons are given honorary doctorates—do they nudge my results without relating to the underlying question?
3) What happens if the data changes—will I stay consistent? If some country creates a doctorate mill and surpasses my desired country—America—do I concede we are not the smartest country, or do I look for exceptions and variations to maintain my position.
4) But really the most important problem of all–why this method? Why not the most college degrees? Why not the most high school graduates? Or the most Mensa members? Or the highest score on a standardized test? Yet in the end, unless there was uniformity in application, we may not obtain a method to determine.
In the same way, regarding canonicity—why this method?
You listed three (3) requirements (as I see; correct me if I am wrong.)
1) Apostolic Approval;
2) Wide distribution and approval;
3) Consistency with previously established Scripture.
So let’s look at these individual requirements. First—why apostolic approval? Couldn’t your God use anyone to write canonical writing? Where is it indicated only apostles qualify? We could equally say only Disciples qualify (whoops, there goes Paul!) or only Jesus’ relatives qualify? Or only those at Pentecost. Or only martyrs.
Further, we have Hebrews. We don’t know who wrote it, let alone if it had apostolic approval. Or the pseudo-pauline epistles. Are those who subscribe to this method willing to lose the Pastorals? (and 1&2 Peter. And Matthew.) I understand you are willing to say we are wrong—but are you actively employing this method?
Why have a method at all, if you aren’t using it?
Second, what qualifies as “wide distribution and approval”? (This is partly why I ask about theopneustos rather than canonicity. Such a requirement is meaningless when discussing theopneustos.)
Approved by whom? Where do I find God stating, “This group’s certification qualifies; that group’s does not?” And distribution over how much area? Judea? Rome? Egypt?
Worse, what date do we use to “cut off” the determination? What is widely distributed and approved at 100 CE? 150 CE? 200 CE? 300 CE? Why that date? Where is that written?
Thirdly, consistency in doctrine is a matter of forcing interpretation (in my opinion.) The Tanakh requires adherence to Mosaic law. One must being interpretive dance to claim the New Testament is consistent.
What I see is a determination of canon, with a subsequent methodology developed to substantiate said canon. Thus I find it ad hoc. Sorry. *grin*
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