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The Drama of Doctrine: A Canonical-Linguistic Approach to Christian Theology

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Observing a strange disappearance of doctrine within the church, Kevin Vanhoozer argues that there is no more urgent task for Christians today than to engage in living truthfully with others before God. He details how doctrine serves the church--the theater of the gospel--by directing individuals and congregations to participate in the drama of what God is doing to renew a Observing a strange disappearance of doctrine within the church, Kevin Vanhoozer argues that there is no more urgent task for Christians today than to engage in living truthfully with others before God. He details how doctrine serves the church--the theater of the gospel--by directing individuals and congregations to participate in the drama of what God is doing to renew all things in Jesus Christ. Taking his cue from George Lindbeck and others who locate the criteria of Christian identity in Spirit-led church practices, Vanhoozer relocates the norm for Christian doctrine in the canonical practices, which, he argues, both provoke and preserve the integrity of the church's witness as prophetic and apostolic.


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Observing a strange disappearance of doctrine within the church, Kevin Vanhoozer argues that there is no more urgent task for Christians today than to engage in living truthfully with others before God. He details how doctrine serves the church--the theater of the gospel--by directing individuals and congregations to participate in the drama of what God is doing to renew a Observing a strange disappearance of doctrine within the church, Kevin Vanhoozer argues that there is no more urgent task for Christians today than to engage in living truthfully with others before God. He details how doctrine serves the church--the theater of the gospel--by directing individuals and congregations to participate in the drama of what God is doing to renew all things in Jesus Christ. Taking his cue from George Lindbeck and others who locate the criteria of Christian identity in Spirit-led church practices, Vanhoozer relocates the norm for Christian doctrine in the canonical practices, which, he argues, both provoke and preserve the integrity of the church's witness as prophetic and apostolic.

30 review for The Drama of Doctrine: A Canonical-Linguistic Approach to Christian Theology

  1. 4 out of 5

    Scott Bielinski

    Reread in 2022, inspired by "The Drama of Evangelical Hermeneutics," a conference arranged and organized in honor of Dr. Vanhoozer. It was an excellent conference and a joy to see Dr. Vanhoozer honored for his God-honoring work as an academic theologian for the church. What can you say? "Drama of Doctrine" is an astoundingly brilliant work that reenvisions (in a fresh way, not necessarily a novel, whole cloth way) the task and purpose of theology. Doctrine helps us live the good life, a life tha Reread in 2022, inspired by "The Drama of Evangelical Hermeneutics," a conference arranged and organized in honor of Dr. Vanhoozer. It was an excellent conference and a joy to see Dr. Vanhoozer honored for his God-honoring work as an academic theologian for the church. What can you say? "Drama of Doctrine" is an astoundingly brilliant work that reenvisions (in a fresh way, not necessarily a novel, whole cloth way) the task and purpose of theology. Doctrine helps us live the good life, a life that witnesses to all that God is doing in Christ.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Samuel Kassing

    Dense. But, brilliant. Doctrine is meant to be lived. We don't have to choose between fundamentalism and liberalism. We can preach and teach the scripture with confidence because they are inspired by God and meant to obeyed and lived! Dense. But, brilliant. Doctrine is meant to be lived. We don't have to choose between fundamentalism and liberalism. We can preach and teach the scripture with confidence because they are inspired by God and meant to obeyed and lived!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Scott

    Read over a series of 8ish months. Absolutely stunning. Not an exaggeration to say that it has helped to shape my theology, spurred me on to further thinking, comforted me -- and distressed me -- in the best possible way. Because of the amount of time I spent slowly reading and rereading over it, I can't estimate the impact this book has had on me. However, there are many sections that are very laborious to the point of the mundane. This book could've used serious editorial help, but is still wo Read over a series of 8ish months. Absolutely stunning. Not an exaggeration to say that it has helped to shape my theology, spurred me on to further thinking, comforted me -- and distressed me -- in the best possible way. Because of the amount of time I spent slowly reading and rereading over it, I can't estimate the impact this book has had on me. However, there are many sections that are very laborious to the point of the mundane. This book could've used serious editorial help, but is still wonderful. For that reason, though, I only give it 4 stars. I am hopeful that his recent released book, "Faith Speaking Understanding," will be a more accessible, condensed version of this tremendously helpful book.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    KJV is as always helpful in a post-everything world, as he lays out the relationship between Scripture, doctrine, and theology. As usual, though, the book is repetitive and at times sluggish. The merit lies in KJV's conceptual model for properly relating the Bible, theology, and interpreters. KJV is as always helpful in a post-everything world, as he lays out the relationship between Scripture, doctrine, and theology. As usual, though, the book is repetitive and at times sluggish. The merit lies in KJV's conceptual model for properly relating the Bible, theology, and interpreters.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Andre Filho

    It's not possible to not give a five to this book (though I found it sometimes repetitive). That book, together with "Is there a meaning in this text?", was a balsam for a post-modern Christ-loving young soul. Questions that for many years I had not courage even to ask were asked, deepened and answered. There's only one truth: plural and translated in many contexts. Its identity is not static but dynamic, essential. Doctrine is life, guidances to live "the good life", to live Christ with wisdom. It's not possible to not give a five to this book (though I found it sometimes repetitive). That book, together with "Is there a meaning in this text?", was a balsam for a post-modern Christ-loving young soul. Questions that for many years I had not courage even to ask were asked, deepened and answered. There's only one truth: plural and translated in many contexts. Its identity is not static but dynamic, essential. Doctrine is life, guidances to live "the good life", to live Christ with wisdom. Doctrine is canonical: comes from the dialogue between the dozens of genres and contexts of the bible giving wise judgements and examples on how to live "the kingdom" in many different contexts. Doctrine cannot be separated from context: part of the meaning of some genres are in their form. Instead of separating it from context and making it universal, the task of theology is to translate it to other contexts. The goal of doctrine is enacting the drama. Giving right guidance for us to play the "theodrama" in an adequate way and in our context. The final part of bible interpretation is living it. We are here as citizens of the heavenly kingdom: pilgrims, ambassadors proclaiming the new reality in Christ. We live in the transition between an old and dying, visible reality, and a new, liberating reality. Our lives must be a testimony of this changing reality and doctrine is the script to give this testimony right. How to find equilibrium? How to deal with thousands of denominations and different interpretations of the bible? How can God's church be catholic(universal) with much division and doctrinal debate? Where can it find unity? All those questions and dozens more Vanhoozer answers in this must-read book to anyone who has a formative role in the 21st century globalized church.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Brett

    Christianity is foremost a testimony of the great theo-drama: God’s communicative acts (finding their pinnacle in Christ) for the redemption of humankind. These acts comprise not only Christian scripture, but also a script upon which all later gospel performances must be faithful – in a wedding of textual and cultural analysis. Vanhoozer masterfully extends this metaphor of Christianity as theater in the four sections of his book: the drama, the script, the dramaturge, and the performance. This Christianity is foremost a testimony of the great theo-drama: God’s communicative acts (finding their pinnacle in Christ) for the redemption of humankind. These acts comprise not only Christian scripture, but also a script upon which all later gospel performances must be faithful – in a wedding of textual and cultural analysis. Vanhoozer masterfully extends this metaphor of Christianity as theater in the four sections of his book: the drama, the script, the dramaturge, and the performance. This work calls the Christian community (theologian, pastor, laymen) to reexamine assumptions about the Bible and theology, while making a clarion call as to the importance of good judgment and practical wisdom in the Christian life. Vanhoozer offers a weighty yet engaging “postpropositionalist,” “postconservative,” and “postfoundationalist” approach to theology. A+

  7. 5 out of 5

    Joe Johnson

    It was the 2nd century church father Tertullian who asked, “What does Athens have to do with Jerusalem?” Readers coming to Kevin Vanhoozer’s dense and immensely rewarding The Drama of Doctrine might initially voice a similar question: “What does Broadway have to do with Jerusalem?” In other words, what does the church have to learn about its task from the theater? I believe that Vanhoozer’s reply would likely be something along the lines of, “Actually, more than you might think.” The core of Vanh It was the 2nd century church father Tertullian who asked, “What does Athens have to do with Jerusalem?” Readers coming to Kevin Vanhoozer’s dense and immensely rewarding The Drama of Doctrine might initially voice a similar question: “What does Broadway have to do with Jerusalem?” In other words, what does the church have to learn about its task from the theater? I believe that Vanhoozer’s reply would likely be something along the lines of, “Actually, more than you might think.” The core of Vanhoozer’s proposal consists in a series of striking theatrical metaphors for theology, Scripture, interpretation, the Church, and even the pastor (p.xii). For him, these metaphors are appropriate because the world of “faith seeking understanding” is itself dramatic. He explains, “At the heart of Christianity lies a series of divine words and divine acts that culminate in Jesus Christ… The gospel—God’s self-giving in his Son through the Spirit—is intrinsically dramatic” (p.17). As a theological metaphor, the theater can also help show “how we come to know things not simply by beholding and contemplating them but by indwelling and participating in them” (p.79). The Drama of Doctrine is divided into four main parts (pp.31-33). In the first section, Vanhoozer sketches out his thesis: that doctrine and even the gospel itself can best be understood in theo-dramatic terms (nodding to the work of von Balthasar). He explains his directive theory of doctrine, which is near to the heart of the book. In the second part, Vanhoozer seeks to find a more fruitful way of relating Scripture and tradition, leading to an attempt to rehabilitate the idea of Sola Scriptura for the postmodern world by understanding it to be more of a practice than a principle. The third part of the book is where Vanhoozer fully lays out his conception of canonical-linguistic theology. In doing so, he also differentiates it from other similar approaches, like George Lindbeck’s cultural-linguistic approach. The final section of The Drama of Doctrine contains an extended discussion of the implications of Vanhoozer’s directive account of doctrine, looking at its importance in the life of both individuals and church communities (pp.31-33). With that overarching summary out of the way, I think it goes without saying that there’s a lot we could choose to stop and dig into. For our purposes, it will be enough to slow down and discuss a few of the points raised by Vanhoozer throughout the pages of The Drama of Doctrine. Approaches to Doctrine First, there is his comparison of different approaches to the nature of doctrine. Vanhoozer contrasts “epic” and “lyric” styles of doctrine alongside more “dramatic” approaches (p.84). The epic perspective reaches back to the philosophy of Hegel and tries to give an absolute, comprehensive explanation of doctrine. He explains, “Systematic theologies resemble epics to the extent that they appear to be written by impersonal and omniscient narrators who stand nowhere in particular” (p.85). Vanhoozer thinks that much of modernist theology fall within this epic framework. Another term for the epic style is “cognitive-propositionalist” theology (per Lindbeck) (p.84). Despite being vastly different from each other, he judges both Chales Hodge and Rudolf Bultmann to have worked from within this epic/cognitive-propositionalist framework. For Vanhoozer, “The main problem with epic theology… is that it opts out of the drama altogether and takes ‘an external, spectator’s perspective on the completed play'” (p.86). On the other end of the spectrum sits what Vanhoozer calls “doctrine as lyric” (p.91). He explains that “lyric theology, typical of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, swings to the opposite extreme [of epic theology], virtually identifying the subject matter of theology with the interpreter’s religious experience” (p.91). While Hegel is identified with epic theology, lyric theology is primarily associated here with the German theologian Schleiermacher. Vanhoozer explains: Lyric theology, insofar as its theologizing begins with one’s own religious experience, neither recognizes nor responds to the prior word/act of the triune God. Evangelical theology begins, however, with the divine promise, not human experience; with the divine missions, not a spurt of human creativity… One can read theology neither off the cosmos (as in epic) nor off consciousness (as in lyric)… Doctrine poses a spiritual challenge, a challenge to become a Christian and to perform one’s faith… The drama of doctrine involves propositions and passions alike. (pp.92-93) In contrast to the epic and lyric approaches to theology, Vanhoozer believes the cultural-linguistic conception of doctrine, as advocated by the postliberal theologian George Lindbeck in The Nature of Doctrine, to be much closer to his dramatic proposal, though not without some differences (p.93). This leads us into the second main discussion in The Drama of Doctrine that we will look at: the differences between Vanhoozer’s canonical-linguistic theology and Lindbeck’s cultural-linguistic approach. Vanhoozer Versus Lindbeck Lindbeck’s book came out in 1984, and it proved to be quite influential, leading to the “cultural-linguistic” turn in theology (p.10). One of the healthier consequences of the rise of cultural-linguistic theology is that it re-emphasized the importance and potentially life-giving nature of tradition, understood as the habitual practices of a community (p.10). It should be said that there is much in common between Lindbeck’s work and the proposal being set forth by Vanhoozer in The Drama of Doctrine. Nevertheless, his examination of the cultural-linguistic turn is not without critique: The canonical-linguistic approach to be put forward in the present book has much in common with its cultural-linguistic cousin. Both agree that meaning and truth are crucially related to language use; however, the canonical-linguistic approach maintains that the normative use is ultimately not that of ecclesial culture but of the biblical canon. (p.16) The Achilles heel of the cultural-linguistic approach, for Vanhoozer, is that practices can become empty and hollow; traditions can become corrupt and self-serving (p.22). Again, to say this is far from advocating a marginalization of tradition/practice in the life of the Church. Rather, it is to affirm the importance of Scripture’s ability to speak over against traditions and church practices when they are found to be wanting (p.17). This leads to Vanhoozer’s most biting criticism: he claims that Lindbeck’s attachment to the normative importance of church practice leads potentially to a situation where “doctrine does not direct the community but is directed by it” (p.97). Vanhoozer’s solution for this problem is to re-emphasize what Nicholas Wolterstoff calls divine authorial discourse (p.11). He thinks that the way forward is to “see the Scriptures themselves as ‘spirited practices'” (p.99). In other words, it’s not that narrative, rhetoric, and communal use aren’t important, but that “on the dramatic view, God gets the principle speaking part” (p.99). As we mentioned earlier, the canonical-linguistic approach subscribes to a directive approach to doctrine. So briefly, let’s look at what this means. The starting point is the communicative action of God. “In the beginning was the word… not propositions or religious experience or community practices” (p.101). At the same time, though, Vanhoozer argues that Scripture can be seen as incomplete in that “it calls for appropriation on the part of the believing community—in a word, performance” (p.101). He gives a beautiful description of what this kind of performative interpretation can look like: The appropriate theological response to the theo-dramatic gospel should be equally dramatic: a saying/doing that demonstrates one’s understanding of what God has done in Jesus Christ. Faith seeks nothing less than a performance understanding. Scripture is the script in and through which the Spirit guides God’s people into the truth, which is to say truthful ways of living… Doctrine’s place in the drama of redemption should now be clear. Doctrine is a guide for the church’s scripted yet spirited gospel performance. (p.102) I think this portrait sketched by Vanhoozer is a great way of bridging the ugly ditch that has all-too-frequently divided theological belief and practice in recent times. The Work of the Dramaturge We have seen that for Vanhoozer the gospel can be compared to a drama, Scripture can be compared to an authoritative script, and doctrine can be understood as directions for participating fittingly in the drama. This all leads to a question, though: “Who in the church corresponds to the director?” (p.243). Vanhoozer’s answer to this forms the third point we will explore here. The job of the director includes serving as the “mediator between the script and the actors,” which leads some to identify the director with the theologian. Vanhoozer, on the other hand, thinks it best to see the Holy Spirit as “the principal director of the church” (pp.243-244). What does this make the theologian? A dramaturge, “the adviser to the director and company alike” (p.244). The dramaturge has up until recently been a relatively unknown figure in the world of American theater, according to Vanhoozer. However, “In Europe… the dramaturge is the person responsible for helping the director to make sense of the script both for the players and for the audience” (p.244). In this framework, the dramaturge is tasked with researching and preparing the script for use. Other tasks include: selecting a edition/translation of the play, investigating the historical situation of the script, and looking at how the play has been performed in the past (p.244). The parallels of these activities with the work of a theologian are significant. In addition to these script-oriented tasks, the dramaturge also concerned with ensuring that the actors perform well. Some additional tasks include leading interpretative discussions, writing study guides, giving lectures, and writing scholarly essays and books for the community. As Vanhoozer puts it, “One is hard pressed to think of a better job description for the theologian than that” (p.245). Conclusion The most obvious criticism of Vanhoozer’s thesis, as he himself acknowledges, is that it could train Christians to overly-focus on external actions rather of the “inner emotions from which action springs” (p.365). In other words, they might become hypocrites: There is indeed a risk that the metaphor of “performing” the Scriptures could shrivel into that of “play-acting,” if by that we mean “taking on a role rather than becoming transformed into a different kind of person.” The danger is real. It is, alas, possible to play-act the Christian life. (p.365) Does this possibility of hypocrisy mean that attempts to understand the gospel and doctrine in “theo-dramatic” terms should be given up? Far from it, in Vanhoozer’s opinion: The solution is not to give up the theatrical metaphor, however, but to take it with the utmost seriousness. Like good actors, we have to learn not simply how to play-act a role but rather to become the role we play. The drama of doctrine has nothing to do with pretending but everything to do with participating in the once-for-all mission of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. (p.366) He goes on to take readers on an exploration of Constantin Stanislavsky’s way of teaching acting, a technique frequently referred to as “the Method” (p.369). The heart of the Method is the desire to embody dramatic roles in compelling ways, to avoid what Stanislavsky called “mechanical acting.” To act mechanically means to “suffer from a lack of coincidence between the inner and outer man,” which is fairly similar to the Scriptural category of hypocrisy (p.370). Thus, even in dealing with the criticism of hypocrisy, theatrical metaphors for theological issues can be potentially fruitful. The Drama of Doctrine is an ambitiously grand, and ambitiously dense, piece of academic theology. His proposals are both creative and constructive, and this has been one of the more rewarding reads that I’ve had in quite a while. I still have some questions regarding how he thinks about situations where issues of doctrinal directives seem to conflict (ex. between denominations), but Vanhoozer has nevertheless given plenty of food for thought for those seeking to find more fruitful ways of understanding the relationship between theological practices and beliefs. I happily recommend it. *Disclosure: I received this book free from Westminster John Knox Press for review purposes. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. *More theology book reviews can be found at Tabletalktheology.com

  8. 4 out of 5

    Bill

    Loved it. A weighty tome of academic theology yet still interesting and relevant. Although it's possible that I'm not thinking straight, given that I am currently up to my neck in theology for my M.Div. I need to read it again slowly, I had to rush through to finish it in time to submit a book review, which is posted below. Apologies if it's overly theological :) -------------- The Drama of Doctrine by Kevin Vanhoozer is a convincing attempt to establish a fresh approach to Christian doctrine – Ca Loved it. A weighty tome of academic theology yet still interesting and relevant. Although it's possible that I'm not thinking straight, given that I am currently up to my neck in theology for my M.Div. I need to read it again slowly, I had to rush through to finish it in time to submit a book review, which is posted below. Apologies if it's overly theological :) -------------- The Drama of Doctrine by Kevin Vanhoozer is a convincing attempt to establish a fresh approach to Christian doctrine – Canonical-Linguistic theology. Vanhoozer observes with concern the decline of doctrine in contemporary Christian churches, and argues that theology is desperately needed as a vital foundation for the life of the church. “Sound doctrine – authoritative teaching – is vital for the life of the church, and hence for the life of the world” (page 3). The Canonical-Linguistic approach to theology attempts to take seriously the constructive contributions of postmodern literary theory without abandoning the essential foundations of historic Christian orthodoxy. The distinctive feature of The Drama of Doctrine is Vanhoozer’s use of a theatrical metaphor to describe his theological approach. He believes that theatrical performance provides a helpful picture of balance between faithfulness to an authoritative script on one hand and the necessity for interpretation and response on the other. Thus he describes the gospel as a Divine Theo-Drama, scripture as the script, the theologian as a dramatic adviser, the Spirit as the director, perhaps assisted by church leadership and Christians as the actors. This metaphor did seem more confusing than helpful in the early stages of the book, leading me to wonder why Vanhoozer was so enthusiastic towards it! However as his argument developed, the theatrical metaphor began to prove its worth as a unifying motif that kept the entire picture on view even as individual chapters dealt with specific issues in detail. At times the metaphor seemed a little over stretched: for example Vanhoozer seems uncertain about the role of the director, at times attributing it to the Holy Spirit, at times to church leadership and at times to both together. None the less, the strength of the dramatic imagery was that it continually kept Vanhoozer’s main emphasis on view: Theology must be applied, enacted, lived out and “performed” to be genuinely faithful. In advancing a theory of Canonical-Linguistic theology, Vanhoozer is consciously responding to George Lindbeck’s Cultural-Linguistic approach to theology (10). This comparison highlights Vanhoozer’s attempt to adopt the best features of postmodernism without abandoning the best features of historic theological approaches. In agreement with Lindbeck, Vanhoozer accepts the postmodern linguistic emphasis – “meaning and truth are crucially related to language use” (16). In contrast, however, Vanhoozer locates authority not in the culture of the church but in the biblical canon. He aims to “reclaim the principle of sola scriptura while nevertheless recognizing the role of the Holy Spirit and the church’s cultural and historical context in the development of doctrine” (32). In chapters nine and ten Vanhoozer lists six defining terms that characterise this dual approach. Canonical-Linguistic theology, says Vanhoozer is postpropositionalist: propositionalist in that it doe not abandon propositions, post- in that it recognises a “plurality of communicative practices” (273) in Scripture which cannot be reduced to propositions alone. It is postconservative, holding the church accountable to authoritative scripture while recognising the complexities of language and genre and the need for imaginative interpretation. It is postfoundationalist in that Christ is still the foundation, but more than propositions about Christ are needed to define this. Further, Canonical-Linguistic theology is prosaic in its down-to-earth, everyday character, concerning the way “Christians should speak and act in everyday situations to the glory of God” (310). It is phronetic, in that it concerns ‘deliberating well’ in order to make decisions about specific life situations. Finally, it is prophetic in its call to witness, to speak up, to exercise judgement and confront situations with the word of God. The Drama of Doctrine is arranged in four parts. Part one, “The Drama”, examines the central message of Christian theology. Vanhoozer draws together the nature of the triune God, the acts of God in the world and the speech of God in scripture into a single concept – ‘triune communicative action’. He refutes the notion of epic theology because it overemphasises believing, lyric theology because it overemphasises feeling and narrative theology because it overemphasises doing. In place of each he proposes a directive account of the nature of doctrine: “Doctrine is direction for the Christian’s fitting participation in the drama of redemption” (110). This section contained some excellent and clear discussions of the sweep of the biblical storyline and the dangers of heresy. Part Two, “The Script”, is an extended argument for the authoritative role of the biblical Canon for Christian theology. In Part Three, “The Dramaturge”, examines the precise role of theology in Vanhoozer’s system. Given that Vanhoozer has to explain exactly what a dramaturge is, and notes that most theatrical productions in fact do not make use of one, perhaps the theatrical metaphor is stretched a little here. None the less, Vanhoozer argue that the role of theology coincides with the role of the dramaturge – to advise the church on the task of performing the drama of redemption faithfully according to the canonical script. Part Four, “The Performance”, completes the metaphor by identifying the church and individual Christians as the actors who live out the drama. This is the climax of a strong theme throughout the book: Theology must be oriented towards practical wisdom; faithful interpretation of scripture must issue forth in lives lived to the glory of God. In The Drama of Doctrine, Kevin Vanhoozer has managed to write an engaging, readable work of theology that is still thoroughly academic. He was able to discuss complex theological arguments while remaining accessible to an introductory reader like myself. Mush of the book uses simple and everyday language, allowing for the use of technical theological terminology when called for. The book is well structured and makes very helpful use of regular summary statements to recap previous content. The Drama of Doctrine presents a convincing, scriptural approach to the task of theology that takes seriously the strengths of postmodern thought without stumbling over its weaknesses. In addition, the book is practically and pastorally encouraging. Vanhoozer is able to connect his theological argument with the everyday affair of ministry in the local church. For example, Vanhoozer encourages church leaders to be guided by robust theology as they lead and preach in their local congregation, and to utilise doctrine to guide Christians in living faithfully for the glory of God day by day. Finally, I was encouraged to persevere in the task of ministry by Vanhoozer’s reminder of the Christian privilege of being caught up in the divine drama of redemption and living in response day by day.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jack Hayne

    Sad that this book is not referenced more. It is awash with insight and wisdom for Church that desperately needs to embody or perform, as a gospel company, the theo-drama (as well as the academy). Pertinent over 15 years later and surely more. Perhaps, the explanation of drama is a more totalistic explanation of correct movement from praxis to doctrine to scripture and back again than anything else. Might write a longer review later. If this is on your ‘to-read’ list bump it up in priority.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

    This book contains so much wonderful chunks of goodness it's hard to nail down. But the beautiful truth of the church being the theatre of the gospel with the Scriptures as a Script--and the Holy Spirit as the primary "actor" and us as players in the theo-drama--wow! This book is long (460+ pages in tiny font), but it is well worth working through. This book contains so much wonderful chunks of goodness it's hard to nail down. But the beautiful truth of the church being the theatre of the gospel with the Scriptures as a Script--and the Holy Spirit as the primary "actor" and us as players in the theo-drama--wow! This book is long (460+ pages in tiny font), but it is well worth working through.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sooho Lee

    About five years ago, while Kevin J. Vanhoozer had his itinerant time at Wheaton, word of this book, his magnus opus, was buzzed as the book to read for eager students of theology. So, wanting desperately to learn more, I bought the book, read the first few pages, and closed the book. His verbosity dwindled my fragile excitement.  Now years after the fact and having just finished the book, I both bemoaned my prior weak grit and celebrated how much I have learned since then. His verbosity, rather About five years ago, while Kevin J. Vanhoozer had his itinerant time at Wheaton, word of this book, his magnus opus, was buzzed as the book to read for eager students of theology. So, wanting desperately to learn more, I bought the book, read the first few pages, and closed the book. His verbosity dwindled my fragile excitement.  Now years after the fact and having just finished the book, I both bemoaned my prior weak grit and celebrated how much I have learned since then. His verbosity, rather than stifling, was a delight to thumb through -- he's a word-wizard.  The purpose and thesis of the book are fairly simple: to restore the Bible and doctrine as trusted twin sources of authorities for the glocal church. The scope and the means by which he staked his claim, however, are vast and deep. To be fair, I felt him to be a bit redundant, yet knowing the projected scope suggests to me that, perhaps, Vanhoozer even condensed and shorten some! Again, it was impressive how he juggled and argued on multiple fronts: against anti-intellectuals, reductionistic accounts, liberals, postliberals, modernists, and more. He constantly returned and re-tested his hypothesis, at times, to his readers' grief and, at other times, their enlightenment.  One of Vanhoozer's great concerns and, consequently, the book's strengths is the broken bridge between theology and praxis, theory and practice. As systematician and committed Church member, he bends over backwards to convince readers and fellow "in Christ" members of the role and benefits of doctrine for the local church. Originally, doctrines are meant to expand the mind and heart to overlap one another into truth, so that what Paul said of "renewing one's mind" (Romans 12:2) is fundamentally a sanctifying endeavor. In other words, the more you know is not merely for knowledge's sake, but for holistic integration of the Christian self to itself, to others, and, most importantly, to God.  Just as I heard The Drama of Doctrine as the book to read for budding theologians five years ago, I cannot help but continue the buzz.  cf. www.sooholee.wordpress.com

  12. 4 out of 5

    David

    This has been on my list for years and after finishing it, I wish I would have read it sooner. Vanhoozer has noticed that doctrine has fallen on hard times in the Christian church and part of his goal is to reclaim the importance of doctrine. Part of the reason Christians ignore doctrine is that it appears irrelevant. Vanhoozer’s task is to reclaim doctrine by connecting it to the daily life of individuals and the church as a whole. He does this by emphasizing the great drama of God acting in the This has been on my list for years and after finishing it, I wish I would have read it sooner. Vanhoozer has noticed that doctrine has fallen on hard times in the Christian church and part of his goal is to reclaim the importance of doctrine. Part of the reason Christians ignore doctrine is that it appears irrelevant. Vanhoozer’s task is to reclaim doctrine by connecting it to the daily life of individuals and the church as a whole. He does this by emphasizing the great drama of God acting in the world from creation on into Christ and the church. There are echoes of NT Wright here (Though perhaps Wright echoed Vanhoozer? I’d have to check the publication dates) as we see ourselves living in the midst of this continuing drama. With the future consummation still to come, we live in the same Act of the drama as the one the early Christians lived in. Christians then are actors in the great drama. Vanhoozer takes us through it, using lots of terminology from theater. God the Father is the author while the Spirit acts as the director. He introduces us, at least me, to the role of the dramaturge. One thing I most appreciated, and found incredibly helpful, was how he related scripture to the church community and tradition. Overall this book is challenging, but worth every minute of it. I think any and every pastor would benefit from working through this book. Churches would benefit from leaders who see doctrine in this way. It is a must read.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    Wonderful book showing the place of doctrine in the Christians life. Using the metaphor of drama, Vanhoozer successful shows how we are to live as Christians in the world. Highly recommended.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    This book is a bear to read that may require some acclimation to its style. It argues for the importance of doctrine that is derived from Scripture and is consistent with what the Church has traditionally held. Vanhoozer argues that doctrine is meant to be lived out, not just known intellectually or stated propositionally. There is a great drama occurring in this world. It is the story of what God has done in Christ and of how that affects mankind. God the Father is the Playwright; Jesus is the This book is a bear to read that may require some acclimation to its style. It argues for the importance of doctrine that is derived from Scripture and is consistent with what the Church has traditionally held. Vanhoozer argues that doctrine is meant to be lived out, not just known intellectually or stated propositionally. There is a great drama occurring in this world. It is the story of what God has done in Christ and of how that affects mankind. God the Father is the Playwright; Jesus is the principle Actor; the Holy Spirit is the Director. The Bible is the script. But this is not a drama for us merely to observe; it is, rather, participatory theater in which we also have parts to play.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Dan Ryan

    Great book- but not accessible for the layperson.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jelte

    Not the book for me. I had a hard time understanding it all. I prefer practical books.

  17. 5 out of 5

    James Korsmo

    I have to start by saying that I loved this book. Though it was over my head at points (he enters into many important theological discussions about theological method which I have but only a surface familiarity with, not to mention the philosophical theology and hermeneutics that continually arise in his discussions), its value is obvious even without grasping or appreciating all of the finer points. Vanhoozer gives, in essence, an apologia for the importance of doctrine, asserting that it fills I have to start by saying that I loved this book. Though it was over my head at points (he enters into many important theological discussions about theological method which I have but only a surface familiarity with, not to mention the philosophical theology and hermeneutics that continually arise in his discussions), its value is obvious even without grasping or appreciating all of the finer points. Vanhoozer gives, in essence, an apologia for the importance of doctrine, asserting that it fills the essential role of guiding the church to "demonstrate faith's understanding by living truthfully with others before God" (xii). Throughout the entire work, one of the themes that continually arises is the importance of doctrine for life, in that doctrine is not an esoteric or abstract exercise but a concrete, lived reality with the utmost practicality. I think this point, made repeatedly, is one of the most energizing in the book, as it brings an excitement to doctrine when its horizon is broadened to include the way we live. I will not attempt here a summary of this substantive proposal about the method of doing doctrine Christianly, but will simply say that it is clearly a tour de force, anchoring Christian wisdom firmly and faithfully to Scripture all the while using a robust hermenutic to reinvigorate the Scripture principle. This all deserves a careful unpacking, but suffice it to say that he sets for the Bible as the "script" that provides the authoritative direction, the "drama" in which we find ourselves players. This brings up another important dimension of this book, the sustained metaphor of drama that provides the framework for Vanhoozer's thought. The pervasive use of such a metaphor could be a distraction, but Vanhoozer uses it to good effect, carefully building may points and relationship off of this central idea. And once you've developed an ear for the way he uses and applies the various dramatic dimensions, with actors, script, drama, dramaturge, and so on, the metaphor serves to enlighten, instead of obscure, his points. In fact, it would seem that maybe "metaphor" isn't quite the right term for the role "drama" plays, because the correlation between doctrine as "drama" and the fact to which it referrs, that doctrine involves description and prescription concerning a narrative-infused world in which we live under God means that doctrine truly is dramatic. I have only but scratched the surface of this programmatic proposal concerning doctrine, but I hope that doesn't obscure my excited endorsement. I look forward to working through this book again in the future and digesting further its deep insights and catching again its passion for the dramatic truth of the gospel. If you have any interest in theology and the role of scripture in it, do not miss this book.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Aeisele

    This is a really fantastic book about the purpose of theology. Vanhoozer basically sets out to deal with the problem of theory and practice. How should we bridge the gap between theology as a speculative enterprise and the reality of everyday Christian, practical, existence? His solution is very interesting, although he is now not unique in it. He uses the analogy of the church as "a company of the gospel that gathers together to celebrate and anticipate the theo-drama and its end, to worship the This is a really fantastic book about the purpose of theology. Vanhoozer basically sets out to deal with the problem of theory and practice. How should we bridge the gap between theology as a speculative enterprise and the reality of everyday Christian, practical, existence? His solution is very interesting, although he is now not unique in it. He uses the analogy of the church as "a company of the gospel that gathers together to celebrate and anticipate the theo-drama and its end, to worship the divine dramatis personae, and to perform the script that sets forth God's self-communication" (447). These words - "company", "theo-drama", "dramatis personae," "perform," "script", all point to his analogy of theater as the grounding for his proposals. Doctrine, in other words, is all about helping Christians to become play-actors in the theo-drama, while at the same time the theo-drama has it's author in the Father, the climax of the action in the Son, and the Spirit as the one who brings us Christians on stage, prompts our lines, and gives us the props in order to play our part. I find this an immensely fecund analogy, especially as a pastor in trying to articulate what our relation to the Bible is, and why theological reflection is a necessary part of any Christian's life. Vanhoozer's approach, along with Sam Wells' approach in "Improvisation", follow on Van Balthesaar's theological aesthetics as a way forward for theological reflection in our postmodern age.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Greg McKinzie

    After reading it the second time, I'm as frustrated as ever with Vanhoozer's misrepresentation of Lindbeck. Much of what Vanhoozer wants to do is in fact actually what Lindbeck's proposal is about, though, so Vanhoozer's proposal per se is actually not the problem. The book as a whole is unfortunately fraught with repetitiveness and could be considerably shorter while making the same points with as much substance and a great deal more concision. Vanhoozer's commitment to exploring fully the dram After reading it the second time, I'm as frustrated as ever with Vanhoozer's misrepresentation of Lindbeck. Much of what Vanhoozer wants to do is in fact actually what Lindbeck's proposal is about, though, so Vanhoozer's proposal per se is actually not the problem. The book as a whole is unfortunately fraught with repetitiveness and could be considerably shorter while making the same points with as much substance and a great deal more concision. Vanhoozer's commitment to exploring fully the dramatic metaphor for doctrine is admirable, even if he ends up overextending it in the end. The book ultimately brings the discussion of doctrine-as-drama to focus upon the constituent metaphor of improvisation, and while Vanhoozer enlightens the idea of improvisation with interesting theory from a variety of sources, the practice of doctrine-as-improvisation remains frustratingly vague. For a book so concerned with the authority of Scripture-as-script, it leaves the reader with little direction for how practically to improvise "faithfully." In sum, Vanhoozer presents strong ideas about what should happen in "postconservative" theology but little guidance for how actually to do it.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jacob

    This is a really, really great book on theology. Vanhoozer presents "drama" as a metaphor for understanding how we as Christians talk about (and act out) God's redemption in the world. The theologian's task is to be the interpretive go-between as the Holy Spirit through Script(ure) directs our actions and our speaking. The Christian is called to be a Scriptural improvisor to the world, acting and reacting to other people in a way that is mindful of the truth as well as the expectations and needs This is a really, really great book on theology. Vanhoozer presents "drama" as a metaphor for understanding how we as Christians talk about (and act out) God's redemption in the world. The theologian's task is to be the interpretive go-between as the Holy Spirit through Script(ure) directs our actions and our speaking. The Christian is called to be a Scriptural improvisor to the world, acting and reacting to other people in a way that is mindful of the truth as well as the expectations and needs of the other actors in the play. The Christian is more like Ryan Stiles in Who's Line is It Anyways? than simply an actor who blandly repeats his dogmatic lines. It's kinda mind blowing. good stuff.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

    The contemporary book which shaped my understanding of what the Bible is, and what theology is, more than any other. Readers looking for a detailed study of hermeneutics (in the narrow sense of interpretive system) will be disappointed. The focus is not so much on providing a set of interpretive rules as exploring the relationships between God, scripture and doctrine, and what these relationships mean for Christian life and thought.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Giovanni Generoso

    Long story short: Christian theology is about a story, a story in which we participate, about God's reconciling the world to Himself. It is fluid, dynamic, in flux. The Bible is not a textbook, but a story book. And any attempt to construct theology into an unchanging systematic theory of propositional truth turns God into the god of the philosophers. We know God, and must think about Him and His revelation, as it has come to us, in the form of a personal story. Long story short: Christian theology is about a story, a story in which we participate, about God's reconciling the world to Himself. It is fluid, dynamic, in flux. The Bible is not a textbook, but a story book. And any attempt to construct theology into an unchanging systematic theory of propositional truth turns God into the god of the philosophers. We know God, and must think about Him and His revelation, as it has come to us, in the form of a personal story.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Bryan McWhite

    This was the best book I read in 2006. It bridges the gap between theology and practice better than anything I've ever read or heard of. It is simply brilliant work. Unfortunately, it will be read by few because of its length and complexity. One could hope for a simple presentation of its key points by Vanhoozer at some point - something for laity. This was the best book I read in 2006. It bridges the gap between theology and practice better than anything I've ever read or heard of. It is simply brilliant work. Unfortunately, it will be read by few because of its length and complexity. One could hope for a simple presentation of its key points by Vanhoozer at some point - something for laity.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    The Drama of Doctrine is an excellent piece to get you thinking of theology in terms of how God speaks and acts in Scripture. Vanhoozer can be a little shocking at times, and sometimes is a little vague too, but all in all this is an excellent book for any would-be theologian. For me, it was actually a page turner. I could never wait to read what he was going to say next. I definitely recommend!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Wells

    Love Vanhoozer, and I love this book. I believe Vanhoozer is largely right about the nature of Scripture and how it is to be read and applied. The working metaphors of drama, script, playwright are excellently and appropriately used throughout the book to describe the gospel, Scripture, and Christ. In many ways, Vanhoozer's work influences the way I bring Christians along in discipleship. Love Vanhoozer, and I love this book. I believe Vanhoozer is largely right about the nature of Scripture and how it is to be read and applied. The working metaphors of drama, script, playwright are excellently and appropriately used throughout the book to describe the gospel, Scripture, and Christ. In many ways, Vanhoozer's work influences the way I bring Christians along in discipleship.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Paul Penley

    Books about doctrine you expect to be stale. KJV thankfully introduces the most fresh and rewarding paradigm for how one puts his or her faith together in the 21st century. It's a long read and designed for a robust intellectual appetite, but there are gems all over the place for you to treasure. KJV has to be the most dynamic thinker in evangelical theology. Books about doctrine you expect to be stale. KJV thankfully introduces the most fresh and rewarding paradigm for how one puts his or her faith together in the 21st century. It's a long read and designed for a robust intellectual appetite, but there are gems all over the place for you to treasure. KJV has to be the most dynamic thinker in evangelical theology.

  27. 5 out of 5

    John Lussier

    With more than enough words Vanhoozer presents his thoughts on the nature and role of doctrine in the church. It turns out theologians are actors, directors, dramaturgists, and the audience! Sadly the book was too long, and Vanhoozer tends to turn Scripture into something like a person.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Crouch

    Vanhoozer can be frustrating at times; his expansive imagination always seems to settle on the traditional. But his vibrant and pun-filled writing style make up for many shortcomings, and his mastery of the interpretive task is always impressive.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Gary

    great for a fresh look at christian theology

  30. 4 out of 5

    Theron Mock

    I am on part two of the book thus far, and I wish I had more time to spend in it!

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