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Bible Interpretation: A Canon within the Canon
Episcopal leader Paul Zahl talks about how to read the bible in The Witness magazine.
By Ed Knudson
Episcopalians gathered recently for a conference on "Truth and Dialogue: Friends or Enemies? Biblical Diversity in the Anglican Communion." The conference "was designed to explore the polarizing issues of biblical interpretation, diversity, and dialogue." The conference, known as "Epiphany West", is held each year at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific (CDSP) in Berkeley, Calif.
One of the speakers was Paul Zahl, dean and president of Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry in Ambridge, Pa. In the magazine The Witness Joseph Wakelee-Lynch writes about the conference and Zahl as follows:
"Everyone has a canon within the canon, Zahl suggested, that sums up the Bible's message. Most of us, he added, find it difficult to live with other parts of scripture that conflict with our personal canon. 'God's grace to sinners and sufferers,' said Zahl, is his own canon. 'The hurting person that lives inside me is galvanized by that saying.'
God's grace is not only a key to the Bible's message, Zahl said, but it is also central to resolving Anglicanism's disputes, particularly in light of the Bible's teaching about power relations. Referring to Philippians 2, he pointed out that Christians are called to seek not their own interests but those of others. The church, including its leaders, should emulate Jesus, 'who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant. . .' (v.6-7)."
As a Lutheran I agree with Zahl's "key" to understanding the biblical message. For Luther God's grace is, indeed, the canon within the canon.
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