I still remember (and treasure) an ongoing conversation I had with Dad years ago—a conversation of some passion—a conversation that spanned many conversations—a conversation about the open and the closed canon (the idea that you can keep adding to Scripture [the open canon] and the more traditional affirmation that you cannot keep adding to Scripture [the closed canon]).
I just couldn’t understand how to justify a closed canon. If God is still at work, if the Spirit is active, why stop including as Scripture what people write out of their experience and their insight? Certainly I had read children’s books (think Old Turtle) and poems (think Rainer Maria Rilke, e.e.cummings and T.S.Eliot, right off the bat), that were not just more beautifully written, but even more meaningful to me than so much of Scripture.
We went back and forth on all this. I don’t so much remember the particulars of Dad’s argument as much as his gentle insistence on a closed canon and his simultaneous refusal to deny anything I was saying (about the work of God, the activity of the Spirit, and the beauty and relevance of Old Turtle, Rilke, cummings and Eliot).
In the course of this long-lasting conversation, at some point, it dawned on me—how Dad could reject my conclusion while supporting my argument. For the truth of Old Turtle and of Letters to a Young Poet—of “this amazing day,” or “I am a little church” and “Four Quartets,” is truth contained in Scripture. What I value and appreciate most in these works—what I marvel at and meditate on—is their unique expression of biblical truth. In fact, most of what intrigues me—wherever I find it, has roots in Scripture.
So what if I think Wood, Rilke, cummings, and Eliot say it better, they’re saying “it,” and I must honor “it.” It is a good and appropriate thing that I appreciate where it came from. A good affirmation for a son to learn from his father, don’t you think?