Vanhoozer: Ten Theses on Theological Interpretation
Michael Bird posted these ten theses from Kevin Vanhoozer’s paper, have a copy of Kevin Vanhoozer’s paper entitled “Interpreting Scripture between the Rock of Biblical Studies and the Hard Place of Systematic Theology: The State of the Evangelical (Dis)union,” delivered at Gordon-Conwell for the Renewing the Evangelical Mission conference, in honor of David Wells.
“The ten theses,” Vanhoozer writes, “are arranged in five pairs: the first term in each pair is properly theological, focusing on some aspect of God’s communicative agency; the second draws out its implications for hermeneutics and biblical interpretation.”
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Theological interpreters view the historical events recounted in Scripture as ingredients in a unified story ordered by an economy of triune providence.
- 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.
- The Spirit who speaks with magisterial authority in the Scripture speaks with ministerial authority in church tradition.
- In an era marked by the conflict of interpretations, there is good reason provisionally to acknowledge the superiority of catholic interpretation.
- 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.
- The church is that community where good habits of theological interpretation are best formed and where the fruit of these habits are best exhibited.
Vanhoozer made this quote about pastor-theologians:
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.