“The fear of the Author is the beginning of literary understanding”
– Kevin Vanhoozer –
This morning, I have the privilege of beginning a series of “studies” on hermeneutics and biblical interpretation among the men at my church. The title I’ve chosen is “Toward Doxology and Discipleship: Presuppositions and Principles for a Trinitarian Reading of Scripture.”
Influenced by the work of Kevin Vanhoozer, my aim is to lay out three presuppositions in the next three months concerning the three horizons of communications—author, text, and recipient(s). By taking a trinitarian approach—where we see the Father as speaker, the Son as the content of Scripture, and the Spirit as the One who enables people to rightly receive understand God’s speech—can are ready to rightly read Scripture.
Only after this triad of communicative presuppositions, can we employ biblical principles that cohere with God’s inspired Word. That’s the goal of the next three studies, where I hope to outline the three horizons of the biblical text to show how every interpreter of of the Bible must do justice to the textual, covenantal, and canonical horizons (so Edmund Clowney, Richard Lints, etc.). Only by reading texts with respect to grammar and history, covenantal or epochal placement in the Bible, and the final revelation of Christ in God’s canon can we fully appreciated all Scripture has to say to us, indeed what God is speaking to us even today (see Hebrews 3:7).
If you are interested, I’ve included my notes for this week and listed below my ten concluding “axioms” that show the cash value of starting with the doctrine of God, and more specifically why bringing his Authorship to the forefront is imperative for good hermeneutics. If hermeneutics is “your thing,” or if it is not, I’d love your feedback.
Ten Axioms About God’s Authorship
- The Author generates, creates, and upholds the Word of God. This is the doctrine of verbal, plenary inspiration. The nature of the Word is, therefore, defined by its author.
- The (nature of the) Author secures authority for the Word of God; without (knowledge of) the Author there is no resting place for God’s authority.
- Authorial intent depends on the existence and reliability of the Divine Author. If there is no Author, there is no use in searching for and defending Authorial Intent.
- The Author gives meaning to the text; without the Author words have no extrinsic meaning. Intent requires a personal author – sentences chosen at random from a bag of words don’t have meaning; words must have an author to have meaning.
- The Author unites words to the world; without the author there is only text. This is what Kevin Vanhoozer calls the “reality principle,” and thus Scripture is not solipsistic, but is the interpreter of reality. Rather, it speaks authoritatively about the world God has made.
- Made in the Author’s image, we have the ability to communicate with him and others; we also have the responsibility communicate for him. Vanhoozer again: “It is therefore no little part of our Christian vocation to bear witness to the trustworthiness of the institution of language by being responsible authors and responsible readers.”
- The Author decides the content of the Word. Hence, like the imago dei, the Word of God images who God is. In fact, the fixed referent of God’s Word is the Divine Son.
- Authors communicate however they chooses. In the Bible, the Spirit spoke through men to his community of faith. Hence, the Bible always possesses dual authorship. As Warfield famously said, “The Bible is the Word of God in such a way that when the Bible speaks, God speaks.” We discern God’s voice, as we rightly understand his prophets and apostles.
- The Author decides what is necessary and sufficient for those whom he is speaking. Finite humans make this decision whenever they write, but with varying degrees of perception. Therefore, the clarity and effectiveness of one’s speech depends on the wisdom, knowledge, understanding of the Author.
- The Author guarantees the power of the Word – in reality, all words work, but they do not all work with the same efficacy and power. God’s Word is given in time to accomplish the word (i.e., his decree) he spoke before time. Hence, the power of the word is carried by his personal presence, authority, and control (HT: John Frame).
May God help us worship him as we better understand his word and obey all that he has commanded us. In this way, may we seek doxology and discipleship whenever we open God’s word. To that end, I share these ten implications of an Author-centered approach to the Scriptures, and invite you to consider how your pre-understanding of God helps or hinders your reading of Scripture.
Soli Deo Gloria, ds
 Ibid., 207.