At the heart of Christianity lies a series of vividly striking events that together make up the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel - God's self-giving in Jesus Christ for humanity - is intrinsically dramatic, a matter of speech acts and deed words. Why is it, then, that Christian doctrine so often appears strikingly dull by way of contrast? And what happens to doctrine when those inside the church and without become suspicious of claims to know like God, or of truth claims in general? "The Drama of Doctrine" argues that there is no more urgent task in the church than to reflect on and engage in living truthfully with others before God. Doctrine serves the church as an aid to truthful living, and is a vital aspect of the church's public witness in and to the world. Several recent proposals, post liberal and Radical Orthodox among others, advocate a cultural-linguistic turn, reconceiving theology in terms of church practices, and in the process making ecclesiology into a virtual first theology. At the same time, other theologians have stressed the importance of performing the Scriptures.;Combining these two emphases - theology as church practice and interpretation as performance - Vanhoozer sets forth a dramatic conception of the nature of doctrine and of the task of theology alike. In so doing, he mediates those, like Balthasar, who speak of theodrama but fail to discuss performance interpretation and those, like Ricoeur, who treat performance interpretation but typically do not mention theodrama. Doctrine is the suspension bridge between the gospel as the drama and theology as gospel performance. The drama of doctrine thus refers to the communicative action of the triune God as well as to the dialogue, in the canon and about it, about how best to respond to the divine initiative. The drama of doctrine, and of the Christian life itself, concerns how best to follow the way (to the Father), truth (through the Son), and life (in the Spirit) embodied in Jesus. Yet how do we know, Vanhoozer asks, that we are following the same gospel when we perform the Scriptures in contexts far removed from the original? Theologians have been quick to appropriate the philosophical insight that use determines linguistic meaning.;But whose use, or performance, of the gospel counts, and why? While welcoming the post liberal emphasis on church practices, Vanhoozer nevertheless sets out to reclaim the canon as source and norm, the raconteur and provocateur, of the church's communicative praxis, that is, its corporate witness and identity. Doctrine gives direction for one's fitting participation in the drama of redemption, direction for the rehearsals that comprise the church's life this side of the eschaton. Hence doctrine provides guidance for non-identical repetitions of faithful responses that are sensitive to the role of context and social location while at the same time insistent on the authority of the canonical script. Taking his cue from those who locate criteria of Christian identity in Spirit-led church practices, Vanhoozer suggests that the cultivation of such practices, while an appropriate ecclesial aim, is inadequate as a doctrinal norm. Instead, he locates the norm for Christian doctrine in the diverse canonical practices that keep contemporary practice both prophetic and apostolic, just and true.;Vanhoozer construes the literary forms of Scripture (genres) as large-scale uses of language (social action) with irreducible cognitive capacities that generate further communicative acts, habits of thinking, and forms of life. The central chapters of the book develop a canonical-linguistic approach to theology that is post liberal in its focus on communal practice but post-conservative with its emphasis on following the canonical script. Vanhoozer deals with theology both as a scientia that is postpropositional, postfoundational, and plural and as a sapientia that is phronetic, prosaic, and prophetic. He fleshes out these programmatic suggestions by taking the doctrine of atonement as an extended example. The overall aim is to explain how the church comes to share the mind of Christ, despite the difference of centuries, cultures, and conceptual schemes, thanks to the dramatic interplay of Word and Spirit. Vanhoozer describes the canonical-linguistic approach in terms of four marks.;It is evangelical in its understanding of the dramatic action at the heart of the Bible's authoritative witness, orthodox in its thinking about the divine dramatis personae, catholic in its attention to various voices in Scripture and in the traditions of its interpretation, yet protestant in its use of Scripture as a critical principle for discriminating between forms of ecclesial performance. The net result is a non-reductive or expansive orthodoxy that attends to the dialogue inside the canon and about it for the sake of the integrity of our contemporary renderings of the drama of redemption. Turning to the role of doctrine in the life of the believing community, Vanhoozer claims that the Christian's vocation is to discern and to play one's role in the drama of redemption with creative fidelity. The book concludes with a plea for amateur theology in which all members of the church take part together in a vital theatre that stages scenes from the kingdom of God for the sake of a watching world.
The Drama of Doctrine by Kevin J. Vanhoozer was published by Westminster in August 2005 and is our 30171st best seller. The ISBN for The Drama of Doctrine is 9780664223274.