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Q & R: Open Canon

Here's a Q about the Canon (i.e. recognized list of books in the Bible):

Thanks for continuing to have the courage to speak...providing a place for unanswered questions to land. I really appreciate your willingness to continue to put your processing public. I think I have read most of your work, including A New Kind of Christianity in a graduate student community gathering through the summer.

I do have a question.

I'm not sure how, given an ongoing development of our understanding of God, that an open canon would not be acceptable. If Jesus is the final cornerstone of the foundation, and the foundation is declared "complete", I'm not sure I understand particularly why it is complete.

I put an addition on my house a few years ago and seamlessly added another foundation beside the one that already existed. The house fits together as if it were built at once. It was in keeping with the original architecture and landscape, but the interior is now all updated and contemporary. I don't anticipate adding more, but a water feature addition would be nice.

Jesus, certainly represents a more mature way and view of God, but he points forward to more mature ways as well. After all, we still see through a lens darkly, but one day we shall see clearly.


Here's the R:


Thanks for this good question. You might want to read what I wrote about the Bible for yesterday's post for starters ...

I think there are advantages to keeping the canon closed - not for the sake of closure, but for the sake of freedom. We could add more and more documents to the biblical library that would work like fine print on a contract, or new laws in a constitution, limiting rather than expanding freedom.

Having a closed biblical canon in this way ensures that the seminal documents won't be obscured or marginalized by later additions. But that doesn't mean we aren't free to write and read new texts that become increasingly important to the Christian community - classics, if you will.

The bigger issue than a closed canon, in my experience, is closed interpretation. When Christian communities act as if they have seized upon the final grid through which the Bible is interpreted, so that new perspectives can never be explored and new questions of meaning and application can never be raised - that's when freedom is severely limited. A closed canon with open interpretation ... that seems to me to be a good recipe for a "living tradition" in which the voices of the dead are not forgotten or drowned out by the living, and the voices of the living are not told to shut up and simply repeat what their ancestors have said.

That's the approach - as I see it, anyway - that helps us keep moving forward to see more and more light.