Questions on Tradition and Protestant Evangelicals

Questions on Tradition and Protestant Evangelical Apologists

Please read below & then answer the questions that follow:

Lee Strobel and Bruce Metzger

In the book A Case For Christ by Lee Strobel, on page 66 Lee interviews Bruce Metzger (a world renowned Protestant NT scholar).

Lee asks Bruce: "How did the early church leaders determine which books would be considered authoritative and which would be discarded. What criteria did they use in determining which documents would be included in the New Testament?"

Bruce Metzger Responds: "Basically, the early church had three criteria. First, the books must have apostolic authority -- that is, they must have been written either by the apostles themselves, who were eyewitnesses to what they wrote about, or by followers of apostles. So, in the case of Mark and Luke, while they weren't among the twelve, early tradition has it that mark was a helper of Peter, and Luke was and associate of Paul. Second, there was the criterion of conformity to what was called the rule of faith. That is, was the document congruent with the basic Christian tradition that the church recognized as normative? Third, there was the criterion of whether a document had had continuous acceptance and usage by the church at large."

Notice that the early church did not use inspiration as a criterion for determining the Canon. They used the tradition of the fathers.


Why is it okay to trust the Church Fathers when determining the New Testament Canon but to doubt them on how they universally interpret the Canon regarding Baptism and Salvation?

Why trust "early tradition" that Mark was the helper of Peter and Luke was an associate of Paul, but reject early tradition regarding Baptism and Salvation?

Why rely on the "continuous acceptance and usage by the church at large" when determining the canon, but reject the continuous acceptance and understanding of Baptism and Salvation?

Lee Strobel and Craig Blomberg

Again, in the book A Case For Christ by Lee Strobel, on page 24 Lee is interviewing what he considers "the country's foremost authority on the reliability of the Gospels." (Craig Blomberg of Denver Seminary, author of The Historical Reliability of the Gospels)

Lee asks Craig Blomberg this question: Lets go back to Mark, Matthew, Luke. What specific evidence do you have that they are the authors of the Gospels?

Craig Blomberg answers by saying: "Again, the oldest and probably most significant testimony comes from Papias, who in about A.D. 125 specifically affirmed that Mark had carefully and accurately recorded Peter's eyewitness observations. In fact he said Mark 'made no mistake' and did not include 'any false statement.' And Papias said Matthew had preserved the teachings of Jesus as well. Then Irenaeus, writing about A.D. 180 confirmed the traditional authorship."

So, when one of the country's foremost authorities on the biographies of Jesus is asked how we can be sure that Matthew, Mark, and Luke were truly the authors of letters included in the New Testament, he quotes the church fathers.


Why trust Papias and Irenaeus about the authorship of the Gospels while ignoring them when speaking about Baptism and Salvation?

Craig Blomberg also says: "We have to remember that we're in a foreign land in a distant time and place and in a culture that has not yet invented computers or even the printing press. Books-or actually, scrolls of papyrus were relatively rare. Therefore education, learning, worship, teaching in the religious communities -- all this was done by word of mouth. Rabbis became famous for having the entire Old Testament committed to memory. So it would have been well within the capability of Jesus' disciples to have committed much more to memory than appears in all four gospels put together -- and to have passed it along accurately. This was an oral culture, in which there was great emphasis placed on memorization."

Lee Strobel then plays devils advocate to Blomberg and says: "You've probably played the game of telephone yourself: one child whispers something into another child's ear -- for instance, 'You're my best friend' -- and this gets whispered to others around a big circle until at the end it comes out grossly distorted -- perhaps 'You're a brutish fiend.' ....Let's be candid, isn't this a good analogy for what probably happened to the oral tradition about Jesus."

Craig Blomberg responds: "No, not really. Here's why. When you're carefully memorizing something and taking care not to pass it along until you're sure you've got it right, your doing something very different from playing the game of telephone. In telephone half the fun is that the person may not have got it right or even heard it right the first time, and they cannot ask the person to repeat it. Then you immediately pass it along, also in whispered tones that make it more likely the next person will goof something up even more. So yes, by the time it has circulated through a room thirty people, the results can be hilarious."

Lee Strobel interjects: "Then why isn't that a good analogy for passing along ancient oral tradition?"

Craig Blomberg responds: "If you really wanted to develop that analogy in light of the checks and balances of the first-century community, you'd have to say that every third person out loud in a very clear voice, would have to ask the first person, 'Do I still have it right?' And change if he didn't. The community would constantly be monitoring what was said and intervening to make corrections along the way. That would preserve the integrity of the message. And the result would be very different from that of a childish game of telephone."


Why is it okay to trust oral tradition when defending the reliability of the Gospels but to disagree with the way the Gospels are interpreted by some of the very same men you are relying on to validate the Gospels in the first place?

If it was well within the capability of Jesus' disciples to have committed much more to memory than appears in all four Gospels put together, shouldn't the same be said of the disciples' disciples?

If the community would constantly be monitoring what was said and intervening to make corrections along the way then wouldn't we see beliefs about Baptismal Regeneration and the possibility of a "true Christian" losing their inheritance of salvation through sin being publicly corrected and called heresy if they were not true "biblical" teachings?

Josh McDowell and The Da Vinci Code

Josh McDowell uses Irenaeus in his book to validate the authorship of Matthew and to validate the universal acceptance of the four Gospels about 100 years before Constantine. Josh McDowell uses Origen to prove the universal acceptance of the four gospels and to reject the Gospel of Thomas and Gospel of Matthias.


On what basis can we trust Irenaeus and Origen to prove inspiration, authorship and the universal acceptance of the four Gospels while rejecting other beliefs that Irenaeus and Origen held regarding Baptism and Salvation?

On what basis do Christians accept the inspiration and authorship of the New Testament (all 27 books) while rejecting Baptismal Regeneration, the possibility of a "true Christian" losing their inheritance of salvation through sin, and bread and wine becoming the body and blood of Jesus Christ?

These TRADITIONS were accepted earlier, and are more universal than the TRADITION of the 27 books in the New Testament being considered the Word of God, the complete/closed canon.

Josh McDowell writes on page 24 of his book concerning the Da Vinci Code: "For example there was this guy named Irenaeus. He was Bishop of Lyons and probably the most important theologian of the second century. Oh, and as a young man, he sat under the teaching of Polycarp, who had been a disciple of John the Apostle, one of the Twelve. So Irenaeus was an important link to the Apostolic age of the first century church."

What does Irenaeus say about Jesus' words in John 3:5:

For as we are lepers in sin, we are made clean, by means of the sacred water and the invocation of the Lord, from our old transgressions, being spiritually regenerated as newborn babes, even as the Lord has declared: 'Except a man be born again through water and the Spirit, he shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven'

So John taught Polycarp, Irenaeus sat under the teaching of Polycarp, Irenaeus (and all the other Christians for the next 1600 years) understood Jesus to mean water Baptism was necessary for the remission of sins, regeneration, and entering the kingdom of heaven, but we are supposed to listen to modern day evangelical apologists like Josh McDowell, Lee Strobel, or James White, etc when they give us an interpretation of John 3:5 that had never been recorded prior to the 1500's?

See also Born Again: Baptism in the Early Fathers

by Tim Francis

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