Friday, May 31, 2013

A new canon?

Ben Dueholm, in "A new canon, created by 19 people," wonders why a New, New Testament:
.... I have no doubt that Taussig and his collaborators had the purest and most honest of intentions. But they convened a self-selected, self-authorized “council” of spiritual savants for the purpose of revising a canon along explicitly ideological lines. Shouldn’t it have occurred to someone that this amounts to a sort of parody of the conspiracy-theory version of early church history?

.... Even Dan Brown’s fantasized version of Nicaea was more populous and cosmopolitan.

This impulse to re-open the work of the Christian past is very curious. In the church and in the world, we are liable to adopt a stance of instinctive scorn and superiority toward the people from whom we inherit our books and traditions. We even imagine that our mighty critical methods allow us to see the early centuries of the Christian movement with more clarity than Augustine or Athanasius.

It’s an unfortunate irony that this temporal imperialism is most evident in those parts of the church that are otherwise highly attuned to the marginalization of oppressed communities. These are the ages in which the most authoritative, central texts became a matter of consensus, however chaotically. Why not allow them to have done their work? Whence this desire to lecture and correct the dead? ....

Of the making of spiritual resources there is no end and was never meant to be. After all, if the point of this project is to “bring new relevance to a dynamic tradition,” why content ourselves with ancient texts at all? A truly “new” New Testament should have some real, Audenesque literary trajectories. I recommend Augustine’s Confessions, Bernard of Clairvaux’s On Loving God and Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Letters and Papers from Prison for starters. I’d like to see Julian of Norwich in there, too. It wouldn’t even require the approval of a council. [more]