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The Faulty Assumption of Protestant Apologetics

Joe Heschmeyer

Over on Twitter, @stephgotsaved gives 14 reasons she thinks Catholicism is “NOT Biblical.” There’s too much to respond to every point (our search bar can help you there) but I wanted to address the first one in particular, because I think it exposes a common Protestant fallacy:

#1 They have a different Bible.

The Holy Bible has sixty-six books (39 Old Testament, 27 New Testament). The Catholic Bible, on the other hand, has seventy-three books. Often referred to as deuterocanonical books or Apocrypha. Outside of Catholicism, these extra books are considered heretical.

There are many times in the Bible where God says verbatim to not add to His words, in Proverbs 30-5:6 He says: “Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar.”

This is just one of many. He gives a stern warning as well in Revelation 22:18-19.

The issue here isn’t just that Proverbs 30 and Revelation 22 are being used in a distorted way (neither passage is saying “here’s the biblical canon, don’t add or remove any books”).

What’s striking is a feature I see amongst many English-speaking Protestants: the naïve assumption that Protestantism is the ordinary form of Christianity, and Catholics are a weird fringe position. After all, the only argument she offers for why we should reject the seven deuterocanonical books is that “outside of Catholicism, these extra books are considered heretical.” That’s an argument from popularity: most Christians think Catholics are wrong, so we must be wrong.

But this is false. Globally and throughout history, it’s Protestantism that has always been the minority position. The Center for the Study of Global Christianity at the evangelical Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, in their article “Christianity 2017: Five Hundred Years of Protestant Christianity” report that “in 1600 Protestants represented more than 10 percent of all Christians worldwide. Their share of global Christians reached its high point around 1900, when it was about 24 percent; in 2017 it stands at 22.6 percent.” Most of the world’s Christians (admittedly, a bare majority, slightly over 50%) are Catholic, and another quarter-billion are some form of Orthodox (who also accept the divine inspiration of these allegedly “heretical” books). And that’s just today: as the Gordon-Conwell report reminds us, for 75% of Church history, Protestantism didn’t exist.

This means it’s historically illiterate to insist that Catholics “added” seven books to the Bible. We didn’t. Prior to the Reformation, the Bible (particularly in the West) had 73 books, and it was Protestants who removed them. At first, it was a matter of treating them as inferior books, which were nevertheless included in the Bible. Eventually, as the Mennonite scholar David Ewert explains, these seven books were removed from the Bible entirely in 1826 by the British and Foreign Bible Society. So the real question is, by what authority did the British and Foreign Bible Society remove seven books from the Holy Bible?

And the point here is broader than which books belong in the Bible. When someone argues (for instance) that “Catholics aren’t Christians,” are they prepared to say that Christianity didn’t exist on earth between the time of Christ and Luther? That the gates of hell overcame Jesus’ Church, but that Luther’s Church stands?

Simply put, there’s no logical reason to assume Protestantism is true and then put the burden of proof on Catholics and Orthodox. Protestantism is the innovation, and it’s the responsibility of the innovator to show how their innovation isn’t an alteration of “the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3).

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