I’ve Changed My Canon


GodReflection: Power Words

garyguarujaI grew up with the wrong Bible.

For the past several years, I’ve hovered over and circled around the way I view Scripture. Let me take another shot at it.

Previously, I sought out truth rather than purpose.

I believe the Bible to be true and inspired by God in both design and content.  However, today I realize not all of Scripture is equal in importance. It’s all true and it’s important—it’s just not equal in value. A battle recorded in the Old Testament isn’t equal in importance with the fact of Jesus’ resurrection.

There is an overarching purpose to Scripture. It is not to mine every truth. It is to understand the act and enormity of God’s grace.

Lately, I became aware of the phrase: “a canon within the canon.”

The Bible, as we know it with its 66 books became what we refer to as Scripture through a process of canonization that climaxed about 300 years after the death of Jesus.

canon10Canon at its most elementary level is nothing more than a list or a catalog.

Compilers within the church traced the chain backwards through written and oral history to conclude that the 39 books of our Old Testament and the 27 books and letter of the New Testament met the criteria as the inspired Word of God.

Indeed the Bible continues to stand the test of time and critics. The evidence stands strong to conclude the 66 books of the canon are God’s Word of truth in both design and content.

canon1The phrase, “a canon within the canon,” refers to those of us who have settled in on certain books or specific sections of Scripture and in practice created our own canon—our own Bible. It is our personal canons that run the risk of ownership of a Bible divorced from God’s design for the message of Scripture.

The Acts of the Apostles and the Letters of the New Testament served the greater portion of my life as my Bible.

It seemed as each fall in Sunday school, The Acts of the Apostles greeted the class as our “new and exciting” curriculum. Although we were a long way from the designation of “conquerors of content,” we felt there must surely be more to Scripture.

Certainly, I honor The Acts of the Apostles and the Letters as God-inspired writings.

As I move toward my 68th birthday, I find I struggle for the vocabulary to express my understanding of Holy Scripture.

canon2The power of the Bible comes when I accept the Apostle Paul’s challenge to handle correctly the word of truth.

What we call Old Testament Scripture, from Genesis its first book through Malachi its last book points to Jesus of the Gospels.

I want to know Jesus of the Gospels since he is the exact mirror reflection of God.

The Acts of the Apostles tells the story of Jesus living in his church. The Letters tell the story of the attempt by fellow human beings to live under the guidance of Jesus and his Holy Spirit.

Here is what I think.

I continue to work through the fog of my own mind in an attempt to express what seems to be true.

I cannot get the Jesus of the Gospels right and get his church wrong. If I get Jesus right I get church right.

canon8I want to be extremely caution about my creation of Biblical doctrine from an obscure passage extracted from the Letters. Whenever I find the appearance of a truth in the Letters, I want to make sure it can stand in the light that shines from Jesus of the Gospels.

I didn’t live in the first century after the resurrection of Jesus.

I don’t understand all of the cultural particulars of translating Jesus into the life of the church in my own time. How could I possibly assume to be authoritative in my understanding on the details of how the first century church operated?

We do a messy job at being church on earth.

At times, the laws we set don’t hold up to the actions and teachings of Jesus in the Gospels.

God bathed me in His grace.

Surely, He wants me to extend the same spirit of grace to my fellow Christ followers. It seems to me that I can best do so my making the Gospels my new canon within the canon.

Stay tuned.

Dr. Gary J. Sorrells – A GodReflection on Canon as a Power Word.

Gary@GodReflection.org     www.MakeYourVisionGoViral.com

 

 

4 thoughts on “I’ve Changed My Canon

  1. I find it amazing how many of us become “canon fodder” because we limit the contexts of the worldviews which we bring to the (holy) writings of God’s community of believers. These communities past or current found|find documents helpful in forming questions to bring to the texts — or are formed when they come from the text. One of the greatest gifts God gave thru the “Reformation” was the ability to investigate everything, including scriptures’ wider context. We cannot underestimate the role the empirical mindset of the Scottish Enlightenment brought to the early leaders of the “Restoration Movement” (read their writings and see that they thought of themselves as “Reformers”, but I digress) and the other frontier churches of earlier America. The Dead Sea Scrolls, the Pseudepigrapha, the Ante-nicean Church Fathers, the Apocrypha, etc. all help me to imagine a world vastly different from mine but in which folks of faith encountered God.

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  2. Gary,

    Great post! I recall coming to this same conclusion some 25 years ago as I was growing in my own personal faith, and this conclusion has never steered me wrong.

    At first glance, it seems the four gospels were at least contemporary with Acts, but were written after Paul’s and Peter’s letters and even after the letter to the Hebrews. Is it possible that one can be well-intentionally filled with correct doctrine and forget through Whom the doctrine came from? Did the first century Family need a reminder Who Paul’s and Peter’s letters were really about? There is a lot I don’t know, and I am not a scholar. Just offering a point of view and am glad to be corrected.

    Blessings,
    Denise

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