FOUR VIEWS ON MOVING BEYOND THE BIBLE TO (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology) Paperback – 2 Oct 2009
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From the Back Cover
The Bible has long served as the standard for Christian practice, yet believers still disagree on how biblical passages should be interpreted and applied. Only when readers fully understand the constructs that inform their process of moving from Scripture to theology---and those of others---can Christians fully evaluate teachings that claim to be 'biblical.' Here, scholars who affirm an inspired Bible, relevant and authoritative for every era, present models they consider most faithful to Scripture: - Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.: A Principlizing Model - Daniel M. Doriani: A Redemptive-Historical Model - Kevin J. Vanhoozer: A Drama-of-Redemption Model - William J. Webb: A Redemptive-Movement Model Each position also receives critiques from the proponents of the other views. Moreover, due to the far-reaching implications this topic holds for biblical studies, theology, and church teaching, this book includes three additional reflections by Christopher J. H. Wright, Mark L. Strauss, and Al Wolters on the theological and practical interpretation of biblical texts. Four Views on Moving beyond the Bible to Theology empowers readers to identify, evaluate, and refine their own approach to moving from the Bible to theology.
About the Author
Stanley N. Gundry is executive vice president and editor-in-chief for the Zondervan Corporation. He has been an influential figure in the Evangelical Theological Society, serving as president of ETS and on its executive committee, and is adjunct professor of Historical Theology at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. He is the author of seven books and has written many articles appearing in popular and academic periodicals.
Dr. Gary T. Meadors (ThD, Grace Theological Seminary) was professor of Greek and New Testament at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. He is author of Decision Making God s Way and a contributor to the Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Dr. Meadors and his wife, Gloria Jean, have been married since 1967 and reside in Ft. Myers, Florida.
Walter C. Kaiser Jr. (PhD, Brandeis University) is distinguished professor emeritus of Old Testament and president emeritus of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts. Dr. Kaiser has written over 40 books, including Toward an Exegetical Theology: Biblical Exegesis for Preaching and Teaching; The Messiah in the Old Testament; and The Promise-Plan of God; and coauthored An Introduction to Biblical Hermeneutics: The Search for Meaning. Dr. Kaiser and his wife, Marge, currently reside at Kerith Farm in Cedar Grove, Wisconsin. Dr. Kaiser s website is www.walterckaiserjr.com.
KevinJ.Vanhoozer(PhD, Cambridge University, England) isResearch Professor of Systematic TheologyatTrinity Evangelical Divinity School inDeerfield, Illinois.He is author ofseveral books, includingIs There a Meaning in This Text? The Bible, the Reader, and the Morality of Literary Knowledge, The Drama of Doctrine: A Canonical-Linguistic Approach to Christian Theology, andFaith Speaking Understanding: Performing the Drama of Doctrine.He also serves on the editorial board of theInternational Journal of Systematic Theologyand theJournal of Theological Interpretation.
William Webb is professor of New Testament at Heritage Theological Seminary in Cambridge, Ontario (Canada). He has also written Returning Home: New Covenant and Second Exodus as the Context for 2 Corinthians 6:14--7:1 (Sheffield) and Slaves, Women and Homosexuals (IVP).
Mark Strauss (PhD, Aberdeen) is professor of New Testament at Bethel Seminary in San Diego. He has written The Davidic Messiah in Luke-Acts, Distorting Scripture?: The Challenge of Bible Translation and Gender Accuracy, Luke in the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Background Commentary series, and Mark in the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament.
Al Wolters is professor of religion and theology/classical languages at Redeemer University College in Canada. His publications include Creation Regained: Biblical Basics of a Reformational Worldview, and The Song of the Valiant Woman: Studies in the Interpretation of Proverbs 31:10-31. He is working on a commentary on Zechariah.
Dr. Christopher J. H. Wright is International Director of the Langham Partnership International. After teaching the Old Testament in India and the UK, he also served as chair of the Lausanne Movement s Theology Working Group and was the chief architect of the Cape Town Commitment at the Third Lausanne Congress, 2010.His books include: Knowing Jesus through the Old Testament, Old Testament Ethics for the People of God, Deuteronomy (Understanding the Bible Commentary), Salvation Belongs to Our God, The Mission of God, The God I Don't Understand, andThe Mission of God's People. Chris and his wife Liz who have four adult children and a growing number of grandchildren, live in London, Uk, and belong to All Souls Church.
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This book probably should have been titled Moving Beyond the Bible to Ethics, since the authors deal almost entirely with ethical matters, including euthanasia, women in ministry, homosexuality, abortion, stem-cell research, slavery, weddings, gambling, architecture, transexuality, war ethics, and corporal punishment. So if the relationship between the Bible and theology sounds boring, don't worry! This book deals with where the rubber meets the road: daily Christian living. This book shows that the Bible is really relevant to the practical issues of our lives, even if there is debate about how it is relevant.
Reading this book will help you to become a better reader and doer of Scripture, more self-aware and methodical regarding how to move from the text to applying it in your own context. At times, the explanation of each view becomes a bit obtuse, but the response from each scholar help to sort through the obvious questions, and will help you to formulate your own opinions on each view. You will also benefit greatly from the reflections by Gary Meadors, Mark Strauss, Al Wolters, and Christopher Wright, all of whom add great perspectives to guide you in processing this important material.
Of course, the book does not deal with every possible view of moving beyond the Bible to theology and ethics, which explains why other important elements such as character formation, interpretation and application within community, and the role of the Holy Spirit are touched on at points, but not emphasized enough. Regardless of its weaknesses, however, Four Views on Moving Beyond the Bible to Theology is an important book regarding one of the biggest questions with which Christians should be wrestling: how does the Bible relate to our lives today?
Walter C. Kaiser Jr. proposes a model that might be considered distinctly modernistic compared to the others, in that it tries to extract timeless truths from the ancient content of the Bible and seems to leave the context behind as a kind of unnecessary baggage. He says we should "principlize" the text of Scripture. "To `principlize' is to [re]state the author's propositions, arguments, narrations, and illustrations in timeless abiding truths with special focus on the application of those truths to the current needs of the Church."
This seems to be the way many people view and preach the Bible today. As Vanhoozer says, this view "is the default position of many evangelicals." I think this perspective may try to disconnect the text from the era and culture it was written within in such a way that it inadvertently portrays the Bible as a kind of disorganized book of ethics that is simply waiting to be arranged.
That's not to say there is no merit in "principilizing" a text to understand its application to modern times--and Kaiser Jr.'s explanations and illustrations are fascinating--but there seems to be more to "moving beyond the Bible" than that.
Daniel M. Doriani proposes a "Redemptive-Historical Model" which is not as easily summarized as the "Principilizing Model" put forward earlier. Doriani seems to take more factors into account when interpreting the text than does View #1. Although he takes a similar route as Walter C. Kaiser Jr. in some cases, his model puts more emphasis on the biblical narrative and contextual nuances.
Doriani asks us not only to try and interpret the Bible by asking questions but to ask the appropriate questions. The questions he recommends we raise are:
1. What is my duty? What should I do? What do I owe to others?
2. What are the marks of good character? Who should I be? What kind of person?
3. What goals are worthy of my life energy? Where should I go alone? Where with my community?
4. Given that people have different perspectives on ethical questions, how can I see the world as God does? How can I gain a biblical worldview?
Perhaps many will not agree with Doriani's complementarian perspective on women in leadership--I do not. But the reader gets to see how he arrived at those conclusions through biblical interpretation in spite of his egalitarian upbringing and we learn how the Redemptive-Historical Model might be applied.
In conclusion, Daniel M. Doriani writes, "This essay makes two theoretical points. First, we can make more use of narrative in our ethic. Second, we must try to bring the best questions to the Bible, questions of duty, character, goals, and worldview. But in most ways, the essay restates the classic evangelical view of the way interpretation ought to be practiced."
Kevin J. Vanhoozer calls for a "drama-of-redemption" approach. His essay uses a distinct vocabulary that emphasizes the dramatic manner in which he says the church should live in the world today. He views the Bible as "theodramatic discourse" meaning, "something someone (prophets and apostles, Holy Spirit) says about something (the drama of redemption) to someone (the church) at some time (past, present) in some way (a variety of literary forms)."
Vanhoozer modifies an idea put forward by N.T. Wright that compares the drama of redemption to a Shakespeare play. Vanhoozer writes that he sees "each of the five acts of the theodrama as set in motion by a divine act. Hence: creation, election of Israel, Christ, Pentecost and the church, consummation. On my dramatic reckoning, the church does not have to work out the ending so much as live in its light."
While I found Vanhoozer's view slightly confusing, it seemed akin to Doriani's "Redemptive-Historical Model" yet used different terminology and took more care to stress the importance of learning from the Great Tradition of Christian history.
At one point, Vanhoozer gives a concise definition of his own view that works as a better description than any I could give:
"In sum: the drama of redemption approach affirms God's actions in history, preserves the emphasis on story, and incorporates a canonically attuned, wisdom-oriented `chastened' principlizing, while better integrating the interpreters into the action."
William J. Webb wrote a fascinating essay that I think is the most convincing out of the four. It reminded me in some ways of Scot McKnight's wonderful book, "the Blue Parakeet." Webb's "Redemptive Movement Model" requires us to study the trajectory of scripture and the historical/social context it was written in. An example that many Christians can agree with is to see the slavery laws in the OT as something to be considered within the historical context and contrasted with the societies near the Israelites--not regulations that we should practice today.
"While we do not want to be anachronistically judgmental of a biblical social ethic, we surely do not want to promote a naïveté that treats Scripture as if it at every point presents an ultimate ethic. Only by wrestling hard with the incremental nature of Scripture's ethic and by listening to its redemptive spirit do we appreciate the much grander scope of Scripture's ethical vision."
Webb compares the Redemptive Movement Hermeneutic to the Principilizing Model proposed by Kaiser Jr.
"Both methods work at discovering abstracted meaning within the biblical text and then applying it; both types of abstracted meaning (PH meaning and RMH meaning) coexist within the same concrete specifics of the text. In the PH method the abstracted meaning is called a principle, whereas in the RMH method I like to call the abstracted meaning the redemptive spirit."
I think the similarities are clear yet the RMH approach seems to be more appreciative of the biblical narrative as a whole and more sensitive to the changes that have taken place historically in the Church and in the world at large. Webb gives a concise and informative explanation, full of examples and references, on how to apply the Redemptive Movement Hermeneutic. It is a very nuanced method that is not necessarily used in the same way by all its adherents, but it seems to make a lot of sense of the biblical text.
There are three short essays at the end of the book that help to analyze and clarify the four different methods presented throughout.
Mark L. Strauss has some interesting thoughts on each contributor's chapter and he points out certain things that could have been clearer or more consistent. He also provides a couple of examples of other models for the hermeneutical task that he considers helpful.
Al Wolters gives some well-thought out assessment of each contribution and probably presents the best critique of Webb's proposal and Vanhoozer's essay in the book. He seemed to identify most with Doriani's approach, but also had much to say about its flaws. He also laments the lack of appreciation each author seems to have for general revelation.
Christopher J. H. Wright begins by showing the positive aspects of each contribution and believes that all four views take the Bible seriously in their own way and have much to offer. He lays out an outline of his own broad approach that seeks to integrate aspects of each model. His short reflection might have been a whole chapter in itself, with a few tweaks here and there. Near the end of his contribution, he touches on the importance of missional thinking when interpreting the Bible.
William Webb reminds us that
"Affirmation of method ought not to be equated with affirmation of Scripture. Our very best attempts at discerning meaning from Scripture ought not to be equated with Scripture itself."
And yet, of course, we must still attempt at discerning meaning from the Bible--and this book is very helpful in giving different frameworks to consider while doing that. It touches on many subjects like slavery, the ordination of women, gambling, homosexuality, transexuality, corporal punishment, and much more. Although they hold very different views on some things, it seems at times that the contributors agree with each other more than they disagree. In fact, there are moments when it is difficult to see the distinctions between their approaches. But through their responses to one another and the unique emphasis of each proposed model, we can see the distinctive characteristics that help us judge which of the methods of interpretation is best suited for "moving beyond the Bible to theology."
It is a four view book and it starts right where most of us start when we first become Christians. This is what I would call the default position. We know we should read and study the Bible and when we become saved we begin to really want to and the first thing we do is look for principles to live by. This approach is represented by Walter Kaiser, a well respected Biblical scholar that at one point headed the seminary that I attended; Gordon Conwell. This approach is called the Principalizing Model(PM).
The other views are: A Redemptive Historical Model, A Drama of Redemption Model, and A Redemptive Movement Model.
Frankly, this book gets better and better as it goes along. The third view; A Drama of Redemption Model(DOR)by Kevin Vanhoozer was the best read so far until I got to the Redemptive Movement (RM) by William Webb! Now I feel like I'm moving beyond myself and really learning to be a better interpreter of God's Holy Word!