Thursday, March 04, 2010

Simon Chan on 'canon'

"The canon is more than just a motley collection of 66 books. To recognize these books as constituting the canon implies an interpretive process involving the dynamic relationship between the texts and the interpretive community which shapes and is shaped by that body of texts. It is within this interactive process that we can speak of a canonical, authoritative and 'biblical' meaning. Conservative Christians have tended to understand interpretation as involving a one-way process centering on the text, as if there is a single, independent meaning in there waiting to be discovered, which once discovered, will decisively settle the issue. What the canonical approach has helped us to see is that meaning arises from the interaction of Scripture and the interpretive community [...] the church as the canonically shaped community recognizes the truth as it embodies or 'indwells' the Scripture, such that the community (the Body of Christ) could be said to be an extension of Scripture."
(Simon Chan, Pentecostal Theology and the Christian Spiritual Tradition [Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2000], 43-44. Italic original.)

Simon Chan is the Earnest Lau Professor of Systematic Theology at Trinity Theological College. I am currently taking his class on pneumatology in the Pentecostal movement. We noticed that he is a very careful scholar. We see that in his work as much as in his lecture. Each sentences he made is carefully framed and articulated, and he usually managed to engage with student's inquiries. At each lecture, he would stay seated while expounding the subject for the day through slides of powerpoint.

Simon contends that the idea of 'canon', which simply means the 'rule of faith', cannot be reduced to either the scripture nor the believing community. The scripture and the community are mutually affecting one another. Hence the canon as Christ's authority lies not from within the church or outside of the church but from the church's being in the scripture.

I came to a similar theology on scripture last semester in my essay: "The Bible as the Word of God is the open context of which God’s operating and engaging authority enshrined through and within which God’s people found themselves, rather than a mere closed text that witness only to the past." The only trivial difference is that Simon takes the scripture as that of only 66 books.

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