Monday, September 19, 2011

Don't Settle for the Disaster of a Canon within the Canon

I enjoyed reading Fred Sanders' recent reflection on the concept of a "canon within the canon." He talks about having a "favorite" book of the Bible (not necessarily harmful if you affirm the whole canon), about the importance of recognizing the unique functions that different books play in the larger canon, and finally about the disaster of actually developing a "canon within the canon" as an interpretive grid.

Any time a Christian promotes one book or author over the others, and forms the habit of always seeking answers in that section of the Bible while neglecting and losing familiarity with other sections, disaster awaits. The real Bible is replaced by an eclectic mini-Bible. The real canon is subordinated to a personal canon. Instead of hearing the word of God, we begin to hear our own voices echoing back from our self-selected favorite verses.

Settling for a canon [within] the canon is a terrible thing. As fallible and sinful interpreters, we lapse into this error all too often, but when we do so, we should at least know we are erring, and not pretend we are doing well. To play favorites with Bible books (in this sense) is to have a blind spot, not to have a privileged lens on the truth.
–Fred Sanders, "Canon within the Canon"

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