A writing is canonical if and only if passages from it can be appealed to for the purpose of establishing a point of doctrine.Duane asks:
...why would anyone or any group want to do that?and like all good teachers, he answers his own question
A written authority, often, but not always, of obscure origin replaces a human authority. And it does it precisely in those areas of human thought where no human can be authoritative: religious doctrine.Sociologically it is a good answer, but I think there is a little more to tease out here. A canon is a closed list of varied works - I realise that a canon need not be varied, though the Christian and Jewish ones John is discussing are, and need not be closed as indeed, at least for many centuries the Jewish canon was not (though I suspect that at any time it "felt" closed). As such a list a canon, as authority, allows an interesting mix of stability and flexibility.
I must admit I like the canon I think I have. And I am not sure I could define it. I have my favorites - Psalms, Leviticus, bits of Genesis, Exodus and Deuteronomy, Job, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, the Song, Jonah, large chunks of Isaiah, bits of Jeremiah, and in the NT - Romans, John, Hebrews. I am grateful that the forest is large and for a late starter, too large, but I am also grateful that it has a border. I am grateful that the trees are varied.In his "Second Update" John also explores some of this, with a particular focus on Christian praxis in its relation with canon and doctrine (personally doctrine is a good word, but I am not so happy with "dogma", John) in this he is responding to a post by Doug (which I have not managed to mention above, but should have).
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