Given God’s intention to rule the church by a written document consisting of his personal words, it would be anomalous in the extreme if he put them in a place where we couldn’t find them. Through OT History, God has taken pains to put these words in an obvious place, the tabernacle, and later the temple. Josephus says that the books kept in the temple, before its destruction in A.D. 70, were the books recognized as canonical by the Jews. Although the Jews read other books for edification, the temple books were those with fully divine authority. So there is no mystery about the extent of the OT canon. God put the books in a place where they could function as he intended, where they would be recognized as his. . . .
The problem with much current literature on the canon is that it does not take account of God’s expressed intentions. It seeks, rather, through autonomous reasoning (see chap. 3), to determine whether any first-century books deserve canonical status, and using that method it arrives at conclusions that are uncertain at best. But once we understand God’s use of a canon from the time of Moses, we must approach our present problem with a presupposition: that God will not let his people walk in darkness, that he will provide for us the words we need to have, within our reach.
The early church was divided by many controversies concerning basic doctrines . . . But remarkably, when in A.D. 367 Bishop Athanasius of Alexandria published a list of books accepted in his church, there was no clamor. From that time on, Christians of all traditions—Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant—agreed on the NT canon. Indeed, through the centuries since, agreement on the NT canon has been more unanimous than on the OT canon, though on the surface it might seem that ascertaining the former would have been more difficult (John Frame, The Doctrine of the Word of God, 135-136).
The biblical and Reformational model is catechizing, a method of teaching in which hearing and speaking are central. If the church needs men and women of faith for the days ahead, we must return to listening to the Word and from there to asking questions and getting answers. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Rom. 10:17). If we expect our children to mature, to stand fast for the truth, to contend earnestly for the faith, to resist the great deceiver, and to fight as the saints who nobly fought of old, they will need basic training more rigorous than making slingshots to understand the story of David and Goliath (Donald Van Dyken, Rediscovering Catechism: The Art of Equipping Covenant Children, 13).
The modern Sunday school movement began in 1780 by reaching unchurched children. The movement was outside the official ministry of the church, although its efforts were evangelistic and admirable. . . . Catechism [however] is specifically designed to teach children of the church (Donald Van Dyken, Rediscovering Catechism: The Art of Equipping Covenant Children, 12-13).
There are several places in the New Testament where the example of catechizing and the command to teach are emphasized. Apollos was “catechized” in the way of the Lord (Acts 18). Jesus commanded Peter in John 21:19 to feed his lambs. Teaching is obedience to the Holy Spirit’s command through Paul to Timothy, “These things command and teach” (1 Tim. 4:11) (Donald Van Dyken, Rediscovering Catechism: The Art of Equipping Covenant Children, 12).
Catechizing is a particular method of instruction historically used by the Christian church. . . . When you question people, you find out “where they’re at” (Donald Van Dyken, Rediscovering Catechism: The Art of Equipping Covenant Children, 11).
The situation at the time of the Reformation was similar to ours. Ignorance was rampant, the truths of Scripture were unknown or neglected, and the result was the confusion of mind and ungodliness of life (Donald Van Dyken, Rediscovering Catechism: The Art of Equipping Covenant Children, 8).
Faithful instruction of the next generation is the normal mechanism God employs for the advance and growth of his people (Donald Van Dyken, Rediscovering Catechism: The Art of Equipping Covenant Children, 7).
The way to be patristic is to learn to discern the doctrine of the Trinity in Scripture, as the fathers did, and not to blame the doctrine on churchly creativity, as their opponents did (Fred Sanders, The Triune God, 81).
Before the persecution of my day, the message given through Christ to the world of reverence to God was accorded honor and freedom by all men, Greeks and non-Greeks alike. Rulers granted our people favors and even permitted them to govern provinces, while freeing them from the agonizing issue of [pagan] sacrifice. In the imperial palaces, emperors allowed members of their own households–wives, children, and servants–to practice the faith openly, according men like the loyal Dorotheus and the celebrated Gorgonius higher favor than their fellow servants or even officers. All governors honored the church leaders, mass meetings gathered in every city, and congregations worshiped in new, spacious churches that replaced the old. This all progressed day by day, the divine hand protecting its people from jealousy or plot so long as they were worthy.
But greater freedom brought with it arrogance and sloth. We began envying and attacking one another, making war on ourselves with weapons formed from words. Church leaders attacked church leaders and laymen formed factions against laymen, while unspeakable hypocrisy and pretense reached their evil limit. Finally, while the assemblies were still crowded, divine judgment, with its accustomed mercy, gradually started to intervene, and the persecution began with our brothers in the army. In our blindness, however, we made no effort to propitiate the Deity but, like atheists, assumed that our affairs went unnoticed, and we went from one wickedness to another. Those who were supposed to be pastors, unrestrained by the fear of God, quarreled jealousy, and hate, frantically claiming the tyrannical power they craved. Then it was that the Lord in his anger humiliated his daughter Zion, in the words of Jeremiah, and threw down from heaven the glory of Israel [Lam. 2:1-2]. And, as foretold in the Psalms, he renounced the covenant with his servant and profaned to the ground his sanctuary–through the destruction of churches–exalting the right hand of his servant’s enemies, not assisting him in battle, and covering him with shame (Eusebius, The Church History, Translated by Paul L. Maier, 85).
The eternal triune conversation behind the salvation-historical triune revelation is the dimension of depth that alone can orient us to the right interpretation of what God does and says in the economy of salvation (Fred Sanders, The Triune God, 72).