Fitted pieces

Jenson again ( Canon and Creed ), on the mutual support of canon and creed:

“We cannot claim that the regula fidei actively shaped the very New Testament that came about. On the contrary, the material relation between the creedal tradition and the new canon is at first glance problematic. The creedal tradition provides little or no narrative of Christ’s teaching and deeds; it thus suggests, if anything, that the church could get along without it – which is to say, without Gospels. The creedal tradition, taken in itself, brings little theological reflection to the first article’s concept of creation, or to the events the second article narrates, or to the sanctifying contexts of which the third article tells us; thus it suggests, if anything, that the church could get along with such reflections as occupy Paul’s letters; the theological interpolations into the creed appropriated at Nicaea serve purposes other than those that creed served in its baptismal role.”

On the other hand, the church recognized that something was lacking, specifically, “those essential aspects of the message that the regula fidei did not – as our creeds still do not – directly support. One cannot, for example, forever keep saying, ‘Jesus died to save us from our sin,’ without pondering how that might work, without the kind of second-level reflection that Paul exemplifies. Thus sophisticated theological reflection a la Paul or the evangelist John belongs to the mission itself One cannot keep confessing, for example, ‘He is Lord,’ without helpfully identifying the subject. Thus to remain gospel, the gospel narrative requires narrative expansion, a la the Gospels.”

Thus the canon and rule of faith fit like “conversely notched puzzle pieces.” The gospel could not be proclaimed except in summary; yet the gospel could not be fully proclaimed without elaboration in gospel narratives and in theological reflection. When they fit together, the “make one whole and integral guardian of the church’s temporal self-identity.”

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