11 November 2014

If I could change Christian vocabulary: "Closed Canon"

by Dan Phillips

I've remarked in the past that it often seems as if bad doctrines (and problematic denominations/cults) have all the best names, while orthodoxy gets stuck with negative terms. More than once, I've tried to spur a search for more positive terminology...with varying degrees of success. I've also tried to find less gauzy, more realistic descriptors for bad doctrine.

Wellsir, well ma'am, I'm back with another.

We're wont to talk about the closed CanonBy that we mean a great thing: we mean that the millennia-long process of revelation has reached its climax (Heb. 1:1-2), and no fresh revelation is being imparted.

It's a wonderfully robust truth. But the term is negative. It just says closed. No more. It doesn't mean that the process was successful or satisfactory; just that you aren't getting any more. Closed. You've gone to the pharmacy to get some medicine for your flu... but it's closed. You wanted to take your honey to your favorite restaurant... but it's closed. You wanted to register for the Sufficient Fire conference, but... well, thank God, that's not closed yet. But it will be.

See? Closed. Disappointing, dissatisfying. Final, yes; but not happy. Not gladsome connotations.

So what if in stead of "closed" we spoke of the...

Full Canon

"Full," as in "No, thanks, really, I'm stuffed. Not another bite!" As in "Everything I could possibly need." As in "Replete, well-stocked, abundantly furnished, neither room nor need for one bit more." Full.

Doesn't that describe the situation better and more truly both connotatively and denotatively? It isn't that the last apostle had a bunch he needed to say, but just expired before he could, and now the doors are closed. It isn't as if it's an inadequate product, but it's the one we've got, so we've got to make-do.

It's that God has given us everything for which we need a word from God. It's bursting with His wisdom, His mind, His heart, His direction, His instruction. It has more in it than we will ever be able to take in, process, savor, and put into practice! It has enough to make us wise to salvation (2 Tim. 3:15), and fully to equip us for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17)! It's full!

Which then correctly depicts the sort of person who'd try to come up with some sort of lame supplement in the light he deserves: foolish, futile, ignorant, and in the final analysis of-little-faith.

So I submit that for your mulling-over and discussion. What if we began speaking of the "full Canon" instead of the "closed Canon"? Would the newer phrase say all the older one did even better, and say more besides? Plus, it makes a nice set with another contribution of mine, "leaky Canon."

Have at it.

Dan Phillips's signature


16 comments:

Stephen Dunning said...

Perhaps we could use the word the Bible uses for the 'closed canon' (as many of us understand it): PERFECT (1 Cor 13:10)

A Simple Elder said...

Sufficient

Allen Cantrell said...

"Completed canon"-- which means mission accomplished ! The Holy Spirit said all that God wanted to say. Now we have everything we need to know in order to do His work (2Tim.3:17). Just a thought... Yours is ok too,Dan. =)
Allen

Frank Turk said...

You know, "canon" all by itself is a totally sufficient word for what we mean here, but because people are who they are we have to be on guard to say, "no, the new Osteen book is not on-par with the letter to the Colossians."

I like "full canon."

DJP said...

It's settled, then.

Kerry James Allen said...

Loaded canon?

Mike Barr said...

After years of reading, mine is becoming a "loose canon".

Mike Barr said...

After years of reading, mine is becoming a "loose canon".

yochanan said...

should be locked and loaded, then. }:o)

Jim Pemberton said...

It was heresies in the early church that made the Church refine and solidify its understanding of canon. The gnostics solidified the principle of Apostolic authority and taught the Church that the canon was public. The Marcionites taught the Church that nothing in the canon, including the Old Testament, should be left out, i.e. a "full canon". The Montanists taught the Church that the canon was closed after the apostles.

Also, logically I think we need both. You gave a great connotation to the therm "full canon", but I doubt everyone will get on board with that, especially those who want to deny some aspect of the canon. Denotatively, a full canon doesn't necessarily imply a closed canon. A closed canon doesn't necessarily imply a full canon.

Michael Coughlin said...

This post reminds me that I need to finish what I started by bookmarking this: Bible History.

Everyone else should, too.

Signed,

Web

Merrilee Stevenson said...

Loaded canon as opposed to "loose canon"? I like "full canon" as opposed to...? famished? (Too many mixed metaphors and play on words for this English major to ponder. Especially on this significant day.)

Webster Hunt said...

Canon Ball!
-Splashing into God's Sufficient Word-
Take off your spiritual floaties and wade into the water.

Gary Good said...

Fully loaded

Morris Brooks said...

I, too, prefer Completed Canon.

Richard said...

TOTAL CANON
coming soon to a theater near you...