Tuesday, 30 December 2008


The issue of canon is a vital one for our doctrine of Scripture. Why should we regard certain writings as normative, indeed as the Word of God? What exactly is it that makes these particualar writings special? I think this is a question that will become more acute in the years to come as it touches on many of our contemporary debates. So, take homosexual practice. Why should Christians regard 1 Timothy 1:10 (for example) as normative and not the writings and experiences of modern Christians who want to affirm belief in Christ and homosexual practice? Isn't the authority of 1 Timothy merely derived from the decsisions of the early church - weak, flawed men as much as any generation? Or even if we say that it may have been authoritative for that generation, why should it continue to remain authoritative when times and people have changed so much.

Over the next few months I am hoping to make some posts on the issue of canon. Many, I am guessing will flow from a book I have just started reading: The Church's Guide for Reading Paul: The Canonical Shaping of the Pauline Corpus by Brevard S. Childs. Here is a quote to whet your appetite:

[I]n my opinion the widespread axiom of the New Testament guild that the subject of canon does not belong to critical New Testament study, but is a later activity of church history, reflects a fundamental misunderstanding. [...] [This misunderstanding] serves to illustrate two dramatically opposed understandings of the task of biblical studies, and to demonstrate how high are the theological issues at stake.

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