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).