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.