Monday, June 11, 2007

Canonical Thinking

A question has occurred to me related to the canon issue: would I trust myself to a different set of texts?

The answer is that I do not trust to the texts but to the God they point to. So the question is wrong. It should be: would I trust to another God other than the one pointed to by the texts I happen to have been introduced to in the culture in which I grew up?

The answer to this is conditioned not only by what I have learned from these texts and what I chose to take from these texts as guidance in such a decision but also by the experience of relationship with that God.

Here is a conundrum of course: what if I had only read a few of these 'canonical' texts like Psalm 34: taste and see that the LORD is good and only later read the threats of excommunication if I did not 'obey' some other set of laws, propositions, etc in other parts of the canonical texts?

The key here is what? My selectivity? My ignorance? I have heard that some First Nations asked their preacher if they were now worse off than before once they had heard the Gospel. Parts of Hebrews are rather nasty on first reading - if you fall away now, you are toast!

Truth is not made of such rhetorical stuff. At first I simply ignored lots of these details. Later I was better at rationalizing them into someone else's problem, and later still, I realized they were part of a larger positive structure. Who would fall away after entry into the Holy of Holies?

My last note was somewhat incomplete - let me try to finish it: the man who phoned his father loved his life. God's loving kindness is better than life itself. We love our own life - [gap in explanatory expressivity - we know something of your loving kindness חַסְדְּךָ] - conclusion: God is good - this is not to be seen as a biblicist statement since maybe this is the only verse I know (very very small canon).

That man has missed his last few appointments - but he will probably pick up his welfare cheque tomorrow and he may pick up the phone number of an old friend who wants to see him and get him out of the drug-street culture he is now occupying. He has lots of people rooting for him but he must make the choices himself. Yesterday, I got an email from an author in Britain who wants to write him into the history of the Hudson's Bay Company. You see, he is a direct descendent of a Cree chief who married the daughter of a settler from the Orkney Island clearances of the 19th century. His life is much bigger than he imagines - but will he accept it?

The other day when I spilled his coffee he asked me how to overcome lust. Of course I told him about his baptism and how that made him new and how to obey it. Maybe this phone call and the email are part of the wider community that prays him into life.

This is why we have a canon - not (just) for doctine, not for systematics, (especially) not for idolatry, but for the strength of the Spirit in our lives.

How deep can the mystery we are a part of go to lift up the lost and fallen? Why were they lost and fallen to begin with? Who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born with brain damage? Of course this post directly raises the questions of theodicy that Chris Heard raised several weeks ago.

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