Saturday, October 17, 2009

Kevin Vanhoozer's 10 theses on Theological Interpretation

I am fortunate enough to have a copy of Kevin Vanhoozer's paper on "Systematic Theology: The State of the Evangelical (Dis)union" delivered at Gordon-Conwell. It includes these 10 theses on theological interpretation:

1. The nature and function of the Bible are insufficiently grasped unless and until we see the Bible as an element in the economy of triune discourse.

2. An appreciation of the theological nature of the Bible entails a rejection of a methodological atheism that treats the texts as having a “natural history” only.

3. The message of the Bible is “finally” about the loving power of God for salvation (Rom. 1:16), the definitive or final gospel Word of God that comes to brightest light in the word’s final form.

4. Because God acts in space-time (of Israel, Jesus Christ, and the church), theological interpretation requires thick descriptions that plumb the height and depth of history, not only its length.

5. Theological interpreters view the historical events recounted in Scripture as ingredients in a unified story ordered by an economy of triune providence.

6. The Old Testament testifies to the same drama of redemption as the New, hence the church rightly reads both Testaments together, two parts of a single authoritative script.

7. The Spirit who speaks with magisterial authority in the Scripture speaks with ministerial authority in church tradition.

8. In an era marked by the conflict of interpretations, there is good reason provisionally to acknowledge the superiority of catholic interpretation.

9. The end of biblical interpretation is not simply communication - the sharing of information - but communion, a sharing in the light, life, and love of God.

10. The church is that community where good habits of theological interpretation are best formed and where the fruit of these habits are best exhibited.

I really liked this quote from Vanhoozer towards the end of the paper:

"Seminary faculties need the courage to be evangelically Protestant for the sake of forming theological interpreters of Scripture able to preach and minister the word. The preacher is a “man on a wire,” whose sermons must walk the tightrope between Scripture and the contemporary situation. I believe that we should preparing our best students for this gospel ministry. The pastor-theologian, I submit, should be evangelicalism’s default public intellectual, with preaching the preferred public mode of theological interpretation of Scripture."


Charles said...

This is excellent Thanks for sharing. I have linked to this at my blog,

Rick Wadholm Jr. said...

I especially appreciate the quote at the end. I'm sure it was a fascinating paper to hear read. Thanks for sharing it!

Bryan Lopez said...

Thanks for putting this up. It's a great reminder to all of us!

Jeffrey K said...

Do you happen to know when Vanhoozer delivered the paper at Gordon Conwell? Also, do you know if he intends on publishing the essay in an upcoming work?

Lastly, I THOROUGHLY enjoyed your work on justification, The Saving Righteousness of God. In fact, I’ve completed the course work for my Ph.D. in systematics and am currently preparing for comps with an unofficial dissertation proposal of re-examining justification through a trinitarian lens. All I mean by that is that, whereas justification is typically viewed almost exclusively as the work of Father and Son (i.e., the Father declares us righteous based upon the work of the Son, etc.), my objective is to preserve the reformation understanding of forensic justification while also examining the subject pneumatologically so as to present a truly trinitarian understanding of justification. (I am deliberately attempting to steer clear of the NPP, as there is just too much going on in that arena to try and address it in any meaningful way AND tackle my main project). Anyway, my main point (in addition to my two questions) was to simply thank you for your book as it was extraordinarily helpful with my own project.



pen and paper said...

is there anyway we can get a hold of this paper?

Michael F. Bird said...

Yes, it was delivered at GC. Thanks also for the kind words. I sense that SROG is having the effect that I intended. A triune approach to justification is a very good avenue to explore and one that is, as far as I can tell, mostly uncharted. I think Gal 4 is the key text for linking justification and the Spirit! Did Charles Cosgrove write something on that?

I got mine from Dr. Vanhoozer himself. I assume it will be published at some point somewhere.

Tyler said...

"The pastor-theologian, I submit, should be evangelicalism’s default public intellectual, with preaching the preferred public mode of theological interpretation of Scripture."

Amen. Unfortunately, the guys most people see are more public than intellectual. Or, the reverse is true and they never effect change.

Obviously, there are exceptions.

Ferdinand said...

It is very interesting. I would like to know how to get a copy of the paper.

Gordon Kennedy said...

Thanks for this Mike, I've linked to my blog and will probably add some comments later in the week.

I'm especially struck by no. 8, about the need for a catholic interpretation in a time of disagreement - I wonder why someone in the Church of Scotland found this point standing out?