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The Drama of Doctrine: A Canonical Linguistic Approach to Christian Doctrine Paperback – August 2, 2005
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"Vigorously argued, immersed both in Scripture and in the literatures of theology and philosophical hermeneutics, overflowing with provocative ideas, this is a book which both draws upon and furthers the contemporary renaissance of Christian doctrine. For anyone wanting to discover lively and generously orthodox Christian theology, this will be an excellent place to begin." --John Webster, Professor of Systematic Theology at King's College, University of Aberdeen, Scotland. Among his many books are 'Holy Scripture: A Dogmatic Sketch' and 'Holiness.'"
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"Kevin Vanhoozer is emerging as one of the most significant younger theological voices of our generation. This book will consolidate that reputation still further. It is a magisterial treatment of the origins and nature of doctrine, worthy to be ranked alongside George Lindbecks classic The Nature of Doctrine. It is essential reading for all concerned with the nature and future of doctrine." Alister McGrath, Professor of Historical Theology, Oxford University, Director, Oxford Centre for Evangelism and Apologetics
"A powerful methodological rethinking of Scripture, doctrine, and Christian practice in dramatic and performative terms. Vanhoozer helpfully reworks a cultural-linguistic model so as to give greater authority to the Bible and make clear the fallibility of the church." Kathryn Tanner, Professor of Theology, University of Chicago Divinity School
"Vigorously argued, immersed both in Scripture and in the literatures of theology and philosophical hermeneutics, overflowing with provocative ideas, this is a book that draws upon and furthers the contemporary renaissance of Christian doctrine. For anyone wanting to discover lively and generously orthodox Christian theology, this will be an excellent place to begin." John Webster, Professor of Systematic Theology at Kings College, University of Aberdeen, Scotland
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Using George Lindbeck's "cultural-linguistic" post-liberal approach to theology as his foil, Vanhoozer develops a "canonical linguistic" post-conservative approach. His approach to Christian doctrine integrates the insights of postmodernism (regarding the epistemological importance of community, culture, and language) while robustly maintaining historically orthodox views of Scripture and the knowledge of God. The result is a satisfying account of the importance of the church, Scripture, tradition, liturgy, and community in the Christian life, as well as the abiding value of doctrine for the church. Highly recommended!
Frei's work continued largely under the auspices of Yale in the person of George Lindbeck. In The Nature of Doctrine (1984) Lindbeck compared and critiqued the styles of Charles Hodge and Rudolf Bultmann. Hodge's way he coined epic-classicism, while Bultmann's way he coined lyric-romanticism. Lindbeck then proposed his own, the cultural-linguistic method. 'The net result of the linguistic turn was to remove the prestige from modernity's two privileged epistemological criteria - reason and experience - and to restore the prestige to tradition, understood as a community's habitual practices.' p 10 Though quite intent in his pursuit for a sociological hermeneutic, Lindbeck failed to subject the cultural to the canonical.
Hans Urs Von Balthasar, a Roman Catholic theologian, presented for consideration Theo-Drama: Theological Dramatic Theory (1989). It was in his mostly liberal proposals that Vanhoozer found the hermeneutical answer to the theological stalemate: analogia dramatis (p 50). Having affirmed doctrine as a drama whose impetus and momentum ultimately derive from God, Vanhoozer does not dismiss it, but tends to it as legitimate criteria. What does being on the dilemma of the hermeneutical horns of Hodge's 'fact-stating propositions' and Bultmann's 'feeling-expressing symbols' imply was the cause for the stalemate?
I. Hodge's epic theology has its major weakness in that it, 'assuming as it does the universal applicability of its perspective, encourages uncritical repetition. Epic invites admiration rather than action. Epic is not particularly good at evoking a sense of urgency about the present or arousing a passion for the possible.' p 86 This approach leaves one with the conviction that 'propositionalist theology at its worst is guilty of dedramatizing Scripture.' p 87
II. Bultmann's lyric theology is guilty of 'identifying the subject matter of theology with the interpreter's religious experience.' p 91 In that he said, 'Always in your present lies the meaning of history...' makes this approach's major weakness that it dehistoricizes the gospel. As its post-modern counterpart ('storied practice') de-emphasizes doctrine, Vanhoozer says 'it ultimately fails to preserve biblical authority.' p 93 He rejects this community hermeneutic as 'simply reflecting the church's cultural conventions.' p 97
From all their more prominent strengths Vanhoozer fashions the canonical-linguistic hermeneutic, or the cognitive-poetic approach to theology. He prefers to do theology in the context of canon (God) and culture (linguistics). Even with the conceptual changes in language, the biblical narrative as 'the word of God is primarily located neither in our experience, nor in the world, but rather in the communicative action that initiates the history of the covenant and that culminates in Jesus Christ.' p 92 Vanhoozer willingly subjects the linguistic aspect to the canonical, inviting the drama to become intralinguistic: 'The drama of doctrine involves propositions and passions alike.' p 93 He concedes that sanctioning God's voice through the biblical text 'the canonical-linguistic model accords primacy to Scripture as a species of divine discourse.' p 99 In viewing the primacy of the divine Actor, 'God gets the principal speaking part. It is God's triune speech and action that generate Israel's (and the church's) practices, and not the reverse.' p 99 Vanhoozer awaits the conferment of theo-drama as the normative norm, it being 'divine communicative action.' p 100