The Canon Within the Canon

Which parts of the Biblical canon are to be emphasized while others are minimized? If Christians really believed the Bible they wouldn’t let women speak in their churches (I Cor, 14:34), for the man would be the domineering patriarchal head of the house in which a wife is to “obey” her husband just like Sarah obeyed Abraham (I Peter 3: 6), even to the point of lying to save his life by having sex with another man (Genesis 12: 10-16), and by letting him sleep with another woman so he could have a child (Genesis 16). And yet in order to blunt the force of these passages, today’s Christians focus on Paul’s principle that “there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ.” (Galatians 3:28). Which is it? What Christians stress becomes “the canon within the canon,” and this is cherry-picking plain and simple.

This problem forces Christians to specify exactly where they get their morals from. If they can stress one part of the Bible to the neglect of another part, then how do they actually decide which parts to stress and which parts to neglect? I maintain Christians get their morals from the same place I do…from the advancement of a better understanding of who we are and what makes us happy as human beings in society. Christians do not get their morals exclusively from the Bible. Christians have just learned to interpret the Bible differently down through the ages in keeping with our common sense of morality, that’s all, as our moral values change with the times.

Christians will object, without good reason, that I cannot provide an ultimate moral standard for my values. However, I just don’t think we need an “ultimate” justification for our morals, and I don’t think any of us has such thing, either. Let me just offer one analogy here. Take for instance, the scientific method. Can anyone tell me exactly what it is, and can someone also provide a complete and full justification of it? As far as I know no one has done so. Some thinkers, like Paul Feyerabend, have even argued there is no scientific method. And yet we have a general idea of what it is. In a like manner it falls on deaf ears to ask me to provide some kind of fully complete or ultimate justification for my morals before I can behave morally, in the same sense as it does to ask a scientist to provide a complete and full justification for the scientific method before he does science.