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Everyday Theology: How to Read Cultural Texts and Interpret Trends (Cultural Exegesis) [Paperback]

Kevin J. Vanhoozer , Charles A. Anderson , Michael J. Sleasman

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Book Description

1 Mar 2007 Cultural Exegesis
Everyday theology is the reflective and practical task of living each day as faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. In other words, theology is not just for Sundays, and it's not just for professional theologians. Everyday Theology teaches all Christians how to get the theological lay of the land. It enables them to become more conscious of the culture they inhabit every day so that they can understand how it affects them and how they can affect it. If theology is the ministry of the Word to the world, everyday theologians need to know something about that world, and Everyday Theology shows them how to understand their culture make an impact on it. Engaging and full of fresh young voices, this book is the first in the new Cultural Exegesis series.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Baker Academic; annotated edition edition (1 Mar 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801031672
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801031670
  • Product Dimensions: 22.7 x 16.1 x 2 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 731,378 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

Kevin J. Vanhoozer (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is research professor of systematic theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He is the author or editor of many books, including the awardwinning Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible. Charles A. Anderson is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Cambridge. Michael J. Sleasman (Ph.D., Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is managing director of the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity at Trinity International University.

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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Full of Hope 11 Jun 2007
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Back in the late 60s it was common for even fundamentalists to use the popular music of the era as a vehicle for communicating the Gospel. Anyone here remember the Scott Ross Show? That was an exciting era. In this book Kevin & Co. present us with a practical (observable and not simply academic) framework for doing this same thing again. (Why this excites me so much is that it was this very behavior that came along with the Jesus Movement -- spell that R-E-V-I-V-A-L.) But I digress.

"Everyday Theology is not an encyclopedia of contemporary culture, nor is it a full-blown textbook of cultural hermeneutics. What it provides instead is a model for 'reading' culture theologically as well as a number of illustrative examples." (p. 10)

What will you gain from this book? First, if you're like many who've been out of touch with society in general, you'll get a snapshot of some important current attitudes and activities. If you're thoroughly in touch then this book will help you step back and look objectively at what's going on in culture today.

In this interpreation I was especially encouraged by Chapter 6 (by Michael Sleasman), Swords, Sandals, and Saviors: Visions of Hope in Ridley Scott's Gladiator. Mr. Sleasman does not try to make something Messianic (equivalent to Christ) out of the movie but shows how it conveys a somewhat messianic message, an evidence of the worlds hope and hopelessness.

Recommendation: Get the book. It's worth every penny you spend, and more. Have it available to all the leaders in your church. Couple the book with Harry and Mary for an invaluable package to help you understand culture and trends, and plan your public and interpersonal responses accordingly. For the cause of the Gospel.
19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not So Everyday Theology 20 Oct 2007
By Jonathan K. Dodson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
On the upside, the first chapter of Everyday Theology is worth the whole book; the rest of the chapters are a collection of Vanhoozer's cultural hermeneutic applied by students from his Cultural Hermeneutics course at Trinity Seminary. Vanhoozer turns his hermeneutical and linguistic savvy (cf. Is There Meaning in This Text?) to developing a framework for interpreting culture. He notes that the are cultural texts (products, forms, stuff) and cultural trends (intangible effects of cultural texts), both of which must be carefully interpreted if we are to redemptively engage our cultures.

Drawing on Mortimer Adler, he proposes that we understand the world in, behind, and in front of a cultural text. Strong echoes of Marshal McLuhan are present throughout.

On the downside, Vanhoozer imports too much lingusitic terminology for everyday readers (locutionary, perlocutionary, illocutionary) to communicate his framework, which could be presented with more accessible language. He also notes the importance of using the creation-fall-redemption storyline in interpreting cultural text and trends, but does not deliver on how or why this is important. Though far from "everyday" in places, overall he presents a cultural hermeneutic that is compelling and intriguing.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Everyday Theology 16 Dec 2008
By Dianna L. Edwards - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
"Everyday Theology: How to Read Cultural Texts and Interpret Trends" by Kevin J. Vanhoozer is the study of the doctrines of the Scripture as they were developed within succeeding eras or within individual authors' literature, all during the framework of biblical chronology. A significant introduction by Vanhoozer lays out the hermeneutical method for engaging with culture. In this book, the art and science of interpreting cultures are the set of rules, guidelines, or principles for interpreting cultural texts and trends. "Everyday Theology" is a how-to-book, how to read cultural texts, and interpret trend. It sets forth the principles for understanding cultural hermeneutics along with how and why Christians should read culture. The book is not an encyclopedia of contemporary culture, nor is it a full-blown textbook of cultural hermeneutics. With an emphasis on both methodology and case study, it is well suited for seminary classroom use. What it provides is a model for reading culture theological. Vanhoozer points that all Christians can and should achieve some degree of cultural literacy, that is, the ability to read or interpret the world through the lens of the Bible and Christian faith.

The book begins with how to use everyday theology as a practical task of living each day as faithful disciples of Christ Jesus. The practical task of everyday theology follows a series of essays that engages cultural texts and trends, from the music of Eminem to the grocery store checkout lane to the phenomenon of internet blogs. The purpose of the book is to teach Christians to get the theological lay of the cultural land. Vanhoozer wants Christians to find an understanding of what is going on in ordinary situations and why. He opens the book with the study of the principles and methods for interpreting the Bible.

Vanhoozer turns his biblical hermeneutical development into a framework for interpreting culture. He notes cultural texts products, forms, and stuff. In addition, he records cultural trends intangible effects of cultural texts, both of which require careful interpretation by Christians who are receptively engage in everyday cultures. Cultural texts is any human work precisely because it is something done purposeful and not by reflex, which bears meaning and calls for interpretation. A culture text interprets any kind of signs, symbols, artifacts, and media that communicates something about humanity values, concerns, or self-understanding. Vanhoozer proposal to look at cultural signs artifacts, figures, movies, etc. as texts is helpful in finding meanings and its functions within society. In addition, he proposes there are culture texts effects upon the of culture consumers.

The book conclusion is between Christ and Culture utilizing the church as a community of cultural agents. It is Vanhoozer hope that readers will get an understanding that it is not enough simply to know doctrine; the competent disciple must also be able to read culture. The church is the community of interpreters. The church interprets what is going on in culture by offering theologically thick descriptions that inscribe our everyday world into the created, fallen, and redeemed world narrated in Scripture. The textbook is usable for every day life. The reading gauges the authors meaning surrounding cultural texts and trends. The reading is suitability and applicability to theology.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Everyday Theology: Relevant 15 Feb 2010
By Patrick J. Jones - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Title: Everyday Theology: How to Read Cultural Texts and Interpret Trends edited by Kevin Vanhoozer, Charles Anderson, and Michael Sleasman.

Pages: 288.

Time spent on the "to read" shelf: 2 years.

Days spent reading it: 4.

Why I read it: I have heard great things about Kevin Vanhoozer, who teaches at Trinity Evangelical Divinity. So I was interested in reading some of his work. I am also interested in how Christians should interact with our culture. This book seemed to be a good fit.

Brief review:
Everyday Theology is a collection of essays that attempt to interpret culture through a multifaceted analysis. The basic grid is that we need to understand is called "the world behind, of, and in front of the text." The text is whatever element of culture we are looking at. "Behind the text" is the background information. "Of the text" is how does the text itself promote the message it is conveying. Like how hardcore music sounds angry, so it conveys this sense through aggressive rhythms, etc. (At least that is how I understand this point, its a little murky to me in the book). "In front of the text" refers to how we will respond to the text, I have to appropriate a response. For Christians this step would include taking the text and comparing it to a Biblical response.

If this sounds a little daunting, it can be, but it is also important if Christians want to be culturally savvy agents.

In this book, each essay takes one aspect of culture and analyzes it through this grid. For example there are articles on film (Gladiator), music (Eminem), political movements (UN Declaration of Human rights), as well as social movements (designer funerals, weddings, blogging).

I think Everyday Theology gives a solid grid for Christians to interpret culture through. However, I felt at times it was overly technical (I was certainly put off by some of the jargon). My interest level also rose and fell with different articles. If it was something I was interested in (i.e. Gladiator) I would be more interested than in something I barely encounter (i.e. designer funerals). And, as in any collection, some authors were clearly better at communicating their ideas than others.

The best chapter in the book was the final chapter. It actually walks us through the process of interpreting culture by analyzing something we all know--weddings. This chapter easily could have been the second chapter in the book (after the introductory essay by Vanhoozer that sets up the methodology used throughout the book) and would have served the reader better there because it gives a first hand account of how to interpret texts and trends. The other articles do not walk us through the process in such a step by step approach.

I would recommend this book to people who are interested in how Christians should interpret culture. This book is a little more academic than I was expecting, but does give good examples of how to evaluate culture and how we should respond to the culture we are interpreting. I would not suggest this book for the casual reader interested in Christians and culture, it might just be a little too dry for them.

Favorite quote:
"The ultimate goal of cultural hermeneutics is to live redemptively in response to cultural work. We find ourselves in a world in decay and yet with the shadow and promise of glory, a world that God is reconciling to himself. Part of our ambassadorship for Christ is to imagine how he should shape our lives in light of the influences of the texts and trends around us. Only if we practice cultural agency have we truly done cultural interpretation and fulfilled our responsibility to acquire wisdom."

Stars: 3.5 out of 5.

Final Word: Relevant.
5.0 out of 5 stars Great stuff! 12 Aug 2013
By Ben J. Welch III - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Wonderful and insightful! Vanhoozer provides some great essays which challange the way one has viewed the Christian's integration with the world!
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