The early church’s most obvious standard for controlling charisma is the canon or Bible. She approved certain sacred writings as norms for judging other versions of God’s Word.
When I read how much the excluded gospels move from the fantastic to the bizarre, I appreciate her wisdom.
Most people seem to believe the books of the canon are our only sacred writings. It is probably more accurate to describe them as the foundational texts that can be used to evaluate if others have any sacred worth. Canon means a kind of “yard stick” It measures things.
A problem develops if we regard the canon alone as God’s Word. Perhaps unintentionally we act as if God spoke 2000 years ago and then went silent. “Bible-believers” seem to do this when they make the canon the object of their faith rather than the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
This problem has been exacerbated in our time, because many people accept a fundamentalist understanding that ignores the canon’s nature and function. They give each word equal weight, relinquishing any means to resolve the different traditions and contradictory teachings in the 66 books. We all, including Satan himself, can cite scripture for our purposes. Indeed, right thinking people can disagree when reading the same passage.
In addition, the scientific mindset of our time has difficulty dealing with religious mystery that is ambiguous by nature. Demanding precision, a one and only” interpretation, it does not know how handle Jesus’ counsel to use love as the spirit of the law in confronting new problems. If we regard the Bible as a guide book offering specific directions, then we are helpless if it does not address contemporary issues. Many take this stance, claiming we have no right to address any problem that does not appear in the Bible.
All of this is compounded by the electronic media that uses texts in a very fluid fashion, encouraging a cut and paste mentality that reads the canon in terms of “what works for me”. Bible-believers can be as selective as anyone else when they use portions to buttress their own preconceived opinions. Many observe that this mentality has led to customized and even consumer- centered religion.
In the coming weeks, I’ll examine how the canon serves us well when it is supplemented and balanced by creed, clergy, custom, ceremony, community. Even though it remains the most basic of these elements, we fool ourselves when we pretend anyone of us uses canon alone.