The New Testament Canon, by Michael Kruger. Sanford, FL: Ligonier Ministries, 2019. DVD, 138 minutes. $30.00. Reviewed by Douglas J. Kuiper.
How do we know that God intended the New Testament to have only 27 books? Did God intend the church to have these 27 books, or did men foist them on the church? Might these books be forgeries? Should other books that are not currently in the New Testament be added?
If these questions serve to remind us that God’s revelation is complete and that God has providentially preserved His revelation for the church of all ages, we can appreciate them. However, some ask them to undermine the New Testament Scriptures by instilling doubt regarding the authority and trustworthiness of these books.
Michael Kruger (president and professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, NC) responds to this undermining of the New Testament Scriptures. His response is simple in format: six lectures, each 23-minutes long, given in class on the campus of Ligonier Ministries. His goal is to defend the gospel itself: this undermining of Scripture is an attack on the gospel of Jesus Christ as the only, sufficient, and complete Savior.
Kruger uses the word “canon” to refer to the Scriptures. The word refers to a standard by which we can determine if something else is good or right; for example, a measuring stick is a standard of length. The use of the word “canon” underscores that the Scriptures are the only authority for faith and life.
After describing “The Problem of Canon” in his first lecture, Kruger explains what the canon of Scripture is (“The Definition of Canon”). In his third lecture, “The Reason for Canon,” he teaches that the church did not create the New Testament canon, but that she recognized that God provided her with divinely inspired writings. This she recognized early, even in the first century (lecture four, “The Date of Canon”). The inspired writers themselves understood that they wrote with divine authority (lecture five, “The Authors of the Canon”). Kruger’s final lecture explains three characteristics of these books that show they are from God. In the end, his argument is that only the 27 books of the New Testament possess these characteristics; no other books do.
These lectures are informative, educational, and easy to understand. They lay the scholarly groundwork for our conviction that Scripture is God’s true and complete revelation. We know that none will receive this apart from faith. These lectures demonstrate that our faith is reasonable; it rests on a good foundation. Kruger does not explicitly refer to the Belgic Confession Articles 2–7, but his teaching accords with the Reformed doctrine of Scripture that these articles set forth. For these reasons, I recommend the DVD.
Some might prefer reading to watching, and others might prefer a more substantive treatment of the subject. They may read Kruger’s book The Question of Canon: Challenging the Status Quo in the New Testament Debate (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2013). If you want to make use of other Ligonier teaching series (free), visit the “Learn” tab at ligonier.org.