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The Drama of Doctrine: A Canonical-linguistic Approach to Christian Theology Paperback – 30 Jun 2004

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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.'"

About the Author

Kevin J. Vanhoozer is Blanchard Professor of Theology at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois. Previously, he served as Research Professor of Systematic Theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. He is the editor of The Cambridge Companion to Postmodern Theology and The Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible , and author of First Theology: God, Scriptures, and Hermeneutics.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Amazon.com: 13 reviews
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
Best book I've Read This Year! 12 Feb. 2007
By TJ - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Kevin Vanhoozer's Drama of Doctrine is a sweeping reconceptualization of Christian doctrine using the metaphor of drama. In an age when many pastors and theologians believe doctrine to be irrelevant or even divisive and dangerous; Vanhoozer's project cuts like a laser to reveal the importance, purpose, and practicality of biblical doctrine for the 21st century church. According to Vanhoozer, doctrine expounds to the church the Divine drama of the canonical scriptures in a way that allows the church to act within that continuing drama. Doctrine teaches us to improvise fittingly in God's continuing drama. As Vanhoozer puts it, "Canonical-linguistic theology attends both to the drama in the text--what God is doing in the world through Christ--and to the drama that continues in the church as God uses Scripture to address, edify, and confront its readers" (17). While this book is long, it is worthy of a wide reading by pastors, theologians, and churchmen and women around the world.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
How shall we live? 15 Mar. 2008
By Kevin T. Wood - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is an excellent work which seeks to set out the method for Vanhoozer's theology. It is orthodox yet aims at new ways of thinking of old ideas. Vanhoozer attempts to deal with the major problems that evangelicals face in this age; that is, trying to fit modern problems into the Christian Canon (i.e. Wayne Grudem; though Grudem can be appreciated as well), and on the other end, accepting postmodern notions of textual interpretation. To put it simply, Vanhoozer deals with how the Church is to go about living wisely all under the guise of a drama which we are ultimately part of without accepting more dangerous alternatives to traditional doctrine. I am convinced that this volume will be an immense help to those who struggle with rigid doctrine (Vanhoozer is very orthodox), modern epistemology (this is canonical-linguistic theology), postmodern hermeneutics (Vanhoozer deals with the major players very well), or all of the above (I think evangelicals struggle with all). His writing is articulated well and is yet enjoyable to read. I highly recommend this weighty yet worthy volume.
24 of 29 people found the following review helpful
Stuffy doctrine must go! 14 Sept. 2006
By Spencer Gear - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This book should jolt both liberals & evangelicals. Vanhoozer favourably quotes sociologist of religion, Jack Wolfe, who nails down what the church is facing: "Evangelical churches lack doctrine because they want to attract new members. Mainline churches lack doctrine because they want to hold on to those declining numbers of members they have" (cited on p. xii). The great strength of this book is the call to marry the teaching of biblical doctrine with living it personally and in church life. If his treatment is followed, it should deal with the disease that teaches doctrine in a "dry as dust" form.

Some may find it difficult to adjust to the redefinition of theological categories: "This book sets forth new metaphors for theology (dramaturgy), Scripture (the script), theological understanding (performance), the church (the company), and the pastor (director)" (p. xii).

I'd recommend this book to thoughtful pastors and laity who may have forgotten their responsibility to teach sound/healthy doctrine (I Tim. 4:6; 6:3; Titus 1:9; 2:1). I hope the book's length (488pp) does not deter them.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
The Attempt To Determine Meaning 3 April 2013
By Jacques Schoeman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Since the days of the Reformation the Roman Catholic Church has tried to slow the relentless march of theological progress, sometimes with misguided means. Hans Frei of Yale authored The Eclipse of Biblical Narrative (1974) which to him came as a result of the Enlightenment. According to Frei, when the unity between the Bible's meaning and history collapsed, it plunged the church headlong into a rift between rationalism and pietism. Opting to remove interpretive authority from the reader and the text, Frei proposed that in tradition the church alone, as the bearer of communal culture, had authority to shape Christian identity.

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
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Creative, Challenging, and Rewarding 18 Aug. 2012
By N. Smith - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Kevin J. Vanhoozer's The Drama Doctrine is by far one of the most challenging and rewarding books that I have worked through this year. In this magisterial volume, Vanhoozer wrestles with the role of doctrine in the church, interacting with insights from postmodernism and developing creative ways of speaking of the respective roles of Scripture, tradition, and theology in the life of God's people. His controlling - and creative - motif is that of drama, articulating the role of doctrine as "direction for the Christian's fitting participation in the drama of redemption, thus enabling one to continue the missions of the Son and the Spirit into new situations" (110).

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!
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