October 18, 2009 by Gerald Hiestand
Michael Bird posted these ten theses from 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. These have been floating around the blogosphere, but they’re worth posting again here, particularly the closing observation he makes regarding pastor-theologians.
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.
Vanhoozer goes on to write, “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.”