Can we expand the NT canon?
Mr. Harrison has raised the question of expanding the New Testament canon.
He believes it is urgent as we move into the 21st century that the canon
more faithfully represent the diversity of primitive Christianity,
including its more gnostic elements. I would argue that this cannot and
should not be done.
The New Testament canon _cannot_ be expanded because the canon has already
been established by ecumenical consent. While the churches might disagree
yet on the precise limits of the Old Testament canon (do we include the
deutero-canonical books or not?), all the churches are in agreement now on
the contents of the New Testament. I think we may rightly invoke the
guidance of the Holy Spirit to justify this decision, for if the Church is
in error here, its witness and life are disastrously flawed from the
ground up. In other words, the canon now functions as an infallible dogma
within the Church catholic.
The New Testament canon should not be expanded because the canon arose
precisely to exclude the gnostic teachings that Mr. Harrison would like to
include in the Church's discourse. The canon is an anti-gnostic decision.
It is not supposed to represent the wide diversity of primitive
Christianity; rather, its purpose is to help the Church to define itself
over against the ever-present danger of gnosticism. In the Episcopal
Church we declare the Scriptures to be the Word of God, containing all
things necessary to salvation. Because of this conviction in the
sufficiency of Scripture as inspired witness to Jesus Christ, the Church
must resist all attempts to alter the canon of Holy Scripture.
Kyrie Eleison Alvin F. Kimel, Jr.
Christe Eleison 12701 Hall Shop Road
Kyrie Eleison Highland, Maryland 20777