a general law, rule, principle, or criterion by which something is judged.
“the appointment violated the canons of fair play and equal opportunity”
a collection or list of sacred books accepted as genuine.
“the formation of the biblical canon”
I’ve been asking my friends for a few weeks now, “Which three books of the Bible would you get rid of if you could?” People are super quick to point to the ones that don’t align with their ideas of God. But then I follow up with another question, “Which three books of the Bible would you keep?”
Not so easy, now, huh?
Whether we like to admit it or not, we’re all a little bit Marcionite. We have ideas of God, and then we naturally gravitate towards the texts in the Bible that confirm those notions. One of my professors in the Old Testament department once said that the Bible offers kaleidoscopic views of God; they aren’t contradicting one another. These books offer unique stories of people and their relationship to God. The Bible is authoritative in that we give it authority in our lives. We either align ourselves with the whole of Scripture or we don’t.
The way that I look at the Bible is that I see it as a gift from God. The Holy Spirit spoke through people over the course of 1,000 years (give or take a few hundred years depending on who you ask), and now we have these written accounts of people proclaiming the goodness of God, the righteousness of God, justice, wars, famine, exodus, miracles, healing stories, and most importantly the Incarnation of the Son of God.
The Bible is relevant to our lives because the word itself speaks of the Word Himself. This is whom the prologue in John speaks of: Jesus the God-Man. It’s the unveiling of the veiled God, the God who was too holy for Moses to see but instead offered his backside (Exodus 33). This is why Paul proclaims in a song in Colossians 1:15-20. The whole of Scripture is embodied in the person of Jesus (John 5:39).
The Bible is so cool.
I know I sound like the stereotypical Christian when I say that, but the Bible is literally the best book. In it, I can have pretty much any genre of writing but oriented towards God. If I’m in the mood for romance, I can open up Songs of Solomon (I’m an adult now, so I should be able to handle this…), and I can read the affirmation of the beauty in God’s creation in a relationship. I can open up the Psalms and read a lament when I feel distant from God. And what is awesome about these laments is that they end in giving glory to God. In my frustration, I can turn to the Psalms and have righteous conversations with God. Or if I’m feeling lost in my direction, I can read any of the call narratives in the Old Testament. Literally any one of them. Each person that God called from somewhere to another questioned what they were doing and if they were qualified.
Now why do I care about canon? Or biblical authority for that matter?
The Bible is there for us to read it, and the amazing thing is that these stories written by people thousands of years ago become our own stories. We become grafted into their lives, and we read Scripture and hear our own names in the accounts. The Bible is authoritative in all areas of life, and we can become shaped by it. It’s not going to give us detailed accounts of psychology, chemistry, modern politics, etc. This is not to say that the Bible has nothing to do with our modern culture, but we have to careful in how we use the Bible. The Bible isn’t meant to end a debate on Facebook. It’s not meant to only sit on our bedside never to be opened. It’s not meant to be a book that is only opened when discussing issues within the world/church. It’s not a book that only condemns. The Bible isn’t meant to keep outsiders out.
That’s not the point of the Bible. The Bible reveals Jesus. Our modern culture absolutely can (and should!) be shaped by the Bible, but the whole of Scripture points to a relationship between God and God’s people. We stand under the Bible, and the Bible is not a weapon to wield against anyone within ear shot.
If we’re going to use the Bible as a weapon, we should use it on ourselves. Let Scripture penetrate our hearts (Hebrews 4:12). We are the ones that need to be reshaped by Scripture. We all need to be shaped by the Bible, and that’s why it’s there. By the guiding of the Spirit more than 1,500 years ago, faithful Christians put together a book that has helped us to see God more clearly. This is the authority of Scripture: it lies in the one who is revealed. Let us all act justly and love mercy and walk humbly with our God.