Thoughts on the First-Generation Christian
By Stephen Broyles
I express my thanks to Justin Hester and Tim Loescher, at whose invitation this
material was presented to students at a Navigator summer
program at the University of Vermont, and to Tim and his wife, Christa, for their
hospitality while I was in Burlington.
The aim of the pages listed in the column to the right is to give
some thought to the Christian canon—the collection of writings which
are the church’s primary source for understanding what God has done in
the events announced in the gospel.
The Christian movement had a body of scripture from the beginning:
the Old Testament. Within seventy years it also had a New Testament—as
long as we are content to say that the four Gospels and Acts and most of
the letters of Paul and the Book of Revelation are enough to constitute
a New Testament, and as long as we are content to allow a little
fuzziness at the borders, for even to the present day there is no global
consensus among all Christian groups about some of the details.
With this body of literature Christians served one another as pastors
and guides, fought temptations and cultivated virtues, found words for
prayer and worship, understood what had happened in Israel, and
understood what had happened in Jesus Christ.
In the second century, people came forth to say either that the
literature was too large (Marcion) or too small (Montanus). The wide
church, however, concluded that it was neither. The church concluded
that in the prophets and evangelists and apostles we have what we need
to be proficient and fully equipped for all kinds of good and beautiful