Part 2 | Total in Scope
By Dave Yauk
A (c)anon within a (C)anon….
I heard a Professor in college once say that most Christians are struggling deeply with their faith because they believe in a “canon within a Canon.” He made this statement while teaching the history behind how we received the 66 book Canon of The Bible. What he meant in this statement is that most Christians are like flower pickers rather than Gardener’s (my designation) when it comes to the Bible. Most people cherry pick verses from the Scriptures in whatever manner they like, and assemble the truths (apart from their context) into beautiful worldview bokehs that fit their taste. Unfortunately this causes major parts of the Bible to be completely ignored. In reality, one should approach the Scriptures like a Gardener. We should see the whole thing as being enriched with nutrients, and seek to harvest every square inch of soil in the hopes that a healthy life will grow.
A great example of cherry picking Bible knowledge is the everyday bumper sticker that resounds Jeremiah 29:11’s promise to Israel, that God has plans for us and will give us hope and a future. Those who parade this verse often cling to its promise in hopes that God will one day reveal his plans for them, and give them the dream for which they hope. Sadly, what they never realize is that this verse has already been fulfilled in the person of Jesus. This verse is a Messianic promise to the nation of Israel, and by cherry picking it out of its context, a person can absolutely obliterate its original meaning. The misinterpretation of this verse and many others has set a slew of Christians up for placing hope in their self-conceived dreams, which leads them into making idols of their ambitions.
The bottom line is that God gave to us a complete Canon—not portions—of Scripture that is about HIM, not US, and within its pages it tells the entirety of the Gospel. No, the good news does not just show up in the New Testament at the cross. Jesus’ view is that the whole Scriptures refer to himself (Lk. 24:27). We cannot just pick out the parts we like and ignore the ones that don’t “speak to us.” The whole of Scripture is there for our training, rebuking, and edification in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16)
Singing the Canon like a Cannon…
This idea of churches forming a “canon within a Canon” has shown up in our singing unfortunately. Some churches stress God’s love to the detriment of God’s justice. Some churches shout for God’s kingdom and yet fall silent when singing of sin and the cross. Some are infatuated with God’s reign, strength, and power and have overlooked his posture of a humble servant in the Incarnation.
In the next 4 posts we will try to examine a way to ensure that we sing the story of Scritpure fully. Included along the way will be a tool entitled the Song Selection Rubric. It will help us in our journey to be more thoughtful song designers. We will also continue to build on our look at singing by following a simple rhyme of words that can help us stay balanced: total, text, tone, target. To begin, we will consider the whole or total story of Scripture, and briefly think through how to involve the whole story of God in our song and lyrics.
Singing the Total Picture…
Songs are to be sung in full scope of God’s story. The greatest story ever told is the story of God, as is told in the complete narrative of the Bible. Therefore every story and doctrine included in Scripture is intimately important to the world, at all levels, and the Bible’s truths are inextricably linked to the whole. If people are to truly edify and build each other up in singing songs, we must make sure and sing the whole history of God, from Creation (the beginning) to Consummation (the End).
To do this, my approach over the years has been to steal an outline from Mark Driscoll’s book Doctrine (His outline is reflected in the first portion of the Song Selection Rubric. In the book, Driscoll outlines the core doctrines of Scripture very well in my opinion and his chapter titles have provided me over the years with good headings by which to consider the songs I’m introducing in my church.
As I’m picking songs, for any reason, I categorize them by the truths they emphasize, in order to see if I’m being enriched with ALL of God’s truths. I carefully go through and place song titles next to the overarching truth they affirm. After doing so, what is reveled is my canon within a Canon. It reveals the things our church tends to love to sing about, and the things we naturally neglect.
All churches tend to lean in emphasizing certain points of doctrine over others. Charismatic churches tend to emphasize Revelation, Worship as a Lifestyle, and the Kingdom, whereas Reformed churches tend to emphasize Creation, the Fall, Covenant, and the Cross of Christ. Seeker sensitive churches emphasize Incarnation, and Methodist and Baptist Churches tend to emphasize the Image of our Loving God. My total approach, ensures that the full breadth of theology is covered.
Full View for a Full Faith…
Keeping the full story of God in view is important. Consider what it would be like if someone wrote a crime mystery thriller and left out the ending? I’m afraid the church and its people are guilty of shortchanging God’s story in leaving aspects of it out, as well as overemphasizing things inappropriately in like fashion! Note, the Song Selection Rubric, does not teach a science, as many songs will definitely fall into multiple categories, and there are many songs that when strung together may highlight the story better as a unit, but the heart of this approach is what needs to be grappled with.
Are we singing songs that are deeply enriching us with all the truths that God wants us to know—mind, body and spirit?