Saturday, May 27, 2006

Kevin Vanhoozer Talks about The Drama of Doctrine

I was glad to see that two recipients of Christianity Today's 2006 Book Awards are projects of Dr. Kevin Vanhoozer of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He's the general editor of the Dictionary for the Theological Interpretation of the Bible and author of The Drama of Doctrine: A Canonical-Linguistic Approach to Christian Theology (about which I've written here and here).

The current issue of Trinity Magazine, a publication of Trinity International University, contains an interview with Vanhoozer about The Drama of Doctrine. Here are some select quotes that demonstrate why this volume is deserving of CT's recognition and evangelicals' attention.

Doctrine is dramatic precisely because it is about real life, namely, the way of truth and life identified with Jesus Christ. It's all about equipping the people of God to walk the way of Jesus Christ in the real world, a world that is complex and confusing. If theology is to serve the church, what it produces - doctrines - should help us understand not only the past but also our present.

Theology is 'faith seeking understanding' (Anselm), but understanding is not merely theoretical. We demonstrate our understanding only when we show that we know how to live as disciples of Jesus Christ, people who know how to embody the truth of the gospel in diverse settings and situations. Doctrine is dramatic when it aids and abets lived understanding.

Christianity is essentially about dramatic action, about what God has done in the history of Israel and especially in the person and work of Jesus Christ for the salvation of the world. Drama means 'doing,' and the Bible is all about the 'doings' of the triune God: Father, Son, and Spirit. Speaking is a form of doing, too; the action in some plays is largely dialogical. In Scripture, God gets the most important speaking and acting parts.

Doctrine directs disciples to act, yes, but to act not as hypocrites but according to their true natures and in accordance with the way things really are in Christ. Doctrine tells us not how to pretend to be something that we are not, but rather who we really are; the vanguard of a new creation. Doctrine defines me as a creature of God made in his image and as an adopted child into God's family. My true identity is ultimately a matter of my union with Christ. All other identity-markings-political affiliation, class, race, even gender-while important, are ultimately only secondary.

[T]he imagination enables us to see the parts of the Bible as forming a meaningful whole. But we can go further still. The imagination also enables us to see our lives a part of that same meaningful whole. This is absolutely crucial. Christians don't need more information about the Bible, trivial or otherwise. What the church needs today is the ability to indwell or inhabit the text, the ability to make the Bible serve as the framework through which we interpret God, the world, and ourselves.

I think a picture of doctrine as theoretical information has held evangelicals captive for too long. We believe the right things and sign on the dotted line of our confessional statements, but too many of us are unable to relate our official theology to everyday life. There is a tremendous disconnect. We know how to profess, but not to practice, the cross.

Most evangelical textbooks view doctrine in terms of teaching or of factual propositions. Liberal theologians tend to see doctrine as an expression of religious experience. So called 'postliberals' have recently suggested that doctrines are like grammatical rules that describe Christian talk and Christian action. My own view is that doctrine is a matter of dramatic direction, direction for understanding and participating in the gospel action. In other words, doctrine gives us guidance for our new life 'in Christ.' What you have to remember is that understanding is not merely theoretical: Christians have not only to know but to do the truth.


YnottonY said...

Good stuff, Keith! Thanks.

Vynette said...

The Doctrine of the Trinity is a teaching which affirms that:

there is one God
this one God may take on any of three forms - God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
The Latin 'Trinitas' is a translation of a Greek word first found in Theophilus of Antioch about 180 AD. The first creed in which it appears in that of Gregory Thaumaturgus in his work of 270 AD.

After much bitter controversy, the teaching was finally accepted by the Christian Churches at the Council of Nicea in 325 AD. The Creed agreed upon at Nicaea remains the basic statement of Christian faith. It is the formula still used today by The Eastern and Oriental Orthodox, the Lutheran, Anglican, Roman Catholic, and many Protestant Churches.

According to a Roman Catholic Encyclopaedia article entitled 'Dogmatic Theology' :

"The doctrine of the Trinity is the cornerstone of the Christian religion..." and

"The dogma of God's threefold personality, traces of which may be found in the Old Testament, can be conclusively proved from the New Testament and Tradition."

In future posts on the Race is Run, it will be 'conclusively proved' that the doctrine of the Trinity is NOT based on either the Old or the New Testaments. As for Tradition...