Could be. I'm going to give some of my responses to these questions, and because of the kind of person I am they will be equivocal, and qualified. I will say the situation is messy and complex and it will probably be unsatisfying to some of you. My thoughts:
- Is the Canon oppressive? The Canon, repeating what I've said about the Bible, is an inanimate object - or perhaps an idea or way of thinking about an inanimate object. Therefore it cannot be responsible for either good or bad outcomes of our actions. Human interpreters of the Canon are solely responsible for their actions. In this sense we can't lay "oppression" at the foot of the canon. The canon doesn't DO anything much less oppress anyone.
- But can't ideas themselves be powerful or dangerous Aric? Aren't they analogous to weapons? Isn't an unarmed person less dangerous? Ok, I concede the point that ideas can be dangerous and all those crazy oppressive idealogues out there would be less dangerous without tools like the Canon to use. But what choice do we have? It isn't possible to remove an idea that is so widespread. Nationalism is an idea that is FAR more destructive than the Canon ever could be, but there is no hope of getting people to stop being nationalistic. The Canon is here to stay, like it or not.
- So you're saying that the canon is bad but we're stuck with it? Well, no. Anyone who has studied history at all would have to admit the fact that the formation of the canon was messy and involved all sorts of nasty power struggles, and the actual use of the canon has often been exclusionary and manipulative. But I don't think that means we have to write it off as an inherently bad idea. Frankly, every "idea" that humans have been involved in has been used in horrible manipulative ways. Check the use of the word "Freedom" in the last 8 years. I regard the canon as inevitable. Neither good nor bad really. It's what we do with it that matters.
- If it's not really good or bad, but you admit that it has been abused why not jettison it? Other than my aforementioned belief that it is impossible to jettison, my reservation about tossing the canon is this: arrogance. Anyone who thinks they can set up a better canon or standard is fooling themselves. We can't cut out all the objectionable bits of the Bible and the rest assured we've made a book which is free from error or potential for misuse. What now seems clearly sinful to us in the Bible (mysogyny for example) was once normal. Therefore what now seems normal or acceptable to us is almost certainly sinful from another perspective. We are blind to our own failings just as people of other times were blind to theirs. It is impossible to construct a perfect canon, therefore I prefer to stick with the one we have as a means of training ourselves in humility. When we have to accept something as authoritative which we know to be faulty, it reminds us not to be cocky about our own righteousness.
- I don't want to set up a better standard I want to get rid of ANY standards... Call me a skeptic but I just don't buy it. Everyone has standards they judge things by - ways we decide whether or not something is true. If we remove the canon it will be replaced by something else - reason, argument, democratic process, scientific investigation... take your pick. Frankly, all of these are already operative as ways of determining truth and they all have their strengths and weaknesses. In fact, the Canon has an advantage over most of these in that it is literature, which makes it LESS prescriptive than a democratic process (everyone must accept the majority opinion), or scientific investigation (everyone must be persuaded by evidence). In fact, as long as our debates in the church revolve around interpretation of scripture there will be a lot of diversity. It's once the matter gets put to a vote or the authority structure of the church weighs in that diversity gets squashed.
- Is there room for criticism of the Canon within orthodoxy? Eh. I don't worry about it too much. We are not Roman Catholics, so there is no magisterium to decide exactly who is orthodox and who isn't. I get to claim I'm orthodox and so do the people I disagree with. We have different opinions about the canon and that is fine. In fact, there isn't any consensus on what is canonical and what isn't. Catholics have 7 more books than Protestants and most Eastern Orthodox Christians have even more. Prominent heros of the faith like Martin Luther have openly criticized sections of the Bible and argued that we should toss certain books out. So I think it is safe to say that the canon can be criticized.
- Don't we have to take the whole Canon as authoritative? As my professor Ann Wire once put it - the only sections of the Bible that are authoritative are the ones that you take as authoritative. If you never read Habbakuk and never try to apply it to your life then it has no more authority over you than the Nag Hammadi or the Ring of the Nibbelungen. It's all about what actually gets used and how - not what some ancient conference of bishops says has authority. The canon has authority for the church precisely because it has been used that way, and more so than any other books outside the canon. Partly this is because at various times the church has declared the books in the canon authoritative, but it has always done so in response to their actual use in the church.