Wednesday, June 4, 2014

A controlling doctrine?

This is related to my earlier post about the canon-within-a-canon.  Tim Chester in the midst of reviewing Con Campbell's new book Paul and Union with Christ (which looks fascinating by the way) observes that "Campbell rejects the idea that any one theme (like union with Christ) can be identified as ‘the centre’ of Paul’s thought". A truism of hermeneutics is 'to let the clearer parts of Scripture explain the less clear parts', which is effectively the same thing as having a canon-within-a-canon. But here Con Campbell is saying that while Union with Christ might an important doctrine, it's not the one we can organise the Ordo Salutis around. In other words while Union with Christ might be a clear and profound doctrine it's not the one to interpret/control/organise the other doctrines of grace. So how do we organise/interpret the doctrines of grace? It feels like asking which books of the Bible do you prefer! The answer I suspect is to use the Gospel (Titus 3:4-6 is my current favourite definition) and my own personal context to control which doctrine gets emphasised.

[An English signal box, controlling a railway junction.]


Mikey Lynch said...

Tangential point, but I strongly believe that 'canon within a canon' is a clumsy expression for an evangelical to use.

For an evangelical saying someone has a 'canon within a canon' is a criticism - not submitting to all of Scripture in synthesis.

It's not an accurate description of a conceptually 'controlling doctrine' or 'clear interpreting unclear' method. That's a matter of method, a totally different category.

'Canon' is about 'canonicity', that is authority. To say something is conceptually central or methodologically primary is very different to saying it is more authoritative.

Mikey Lynch said...

Subscribing to comments... :-P

Luke Isham said...

I don't think it's clumsy to appropriate a phrase from one category to describe another (related) activity. I agree it may have been too subversive for my purposes, which is to highlight the subjective nature of hermeneutics and the way in which our chosen clusters of 'clearer' verses and controlling doctrines take on an interpretive authority.

(Hopefully our hermeneutics are always subject to the entire counsel of God and hopefully our summative verses and controlling doctrines accurately reflect the complete canon, however what we're doing is both creaturely and corrupted by the noetic effects of sin.)