Hermeneutics as Disciple-Formation

Christ in OTThe one who follows Jesus to the cross (but no further) is an admirer; the one who takes up the cross is a disciple. The admirer, unlike the disciple, follows Jesus only up to a point. . . . The Emmaus road admirers did not recognize Jesus; he was a stranger to them. They were incapable of reading the Scripture or the situation rightly. . . . Admirers [users and critics] of Jesus are able to follow the biblical testimony up to a point; they are able neither to recognize what it means for them nor to appropriate its perlocutionary effect [i.e., the way the word ‘works’]. Similarly, for many readers, the text is a ‘stranger,’ to be admired or followed only ‘up to a point.’ Like the Emmaus travelers, the itinerant reader may be familiar with the text without ever having a moment of recognition, without ever coming to a personal knowledge of the ‘strange new world of the Bible,’ without ever deciding whether the stranger [i.e., the triune God] is friend or foe.
 Kevin Vanhoozer, Is There a Meaning in This Text? —

Hermeneutics, technically defined, is “the science that teaches us the principles, laws, and methods of interpretation” (Louis Berkhof). Since college, this subject has been a passion and a pursuit. And so it is with great joy that I continue to consider this topic with the men of Occoquan Bible Church today.

Because the ‘science . . . of interpretation’ is actually part of God’s wise and gracious process of making disciples, it is vital we learn more than interpretive skills and techniques when we study hermeneutics. We must begin with the right posture of heart, which is to say the Holy Spirit must grant new eyes and new affections, so that as born again disciples of Christ our biblical studies bring us into greater communion with the triune God.

Keeping this personal knowledge of God at the center, I have tried to frame our study around the Father who Speaks, the Son who is that Spoken Word, and the Spirit who empowers us to believe and receive the Word of God. Most, if not all, of these thoughts are unoriginal, but novelty for novelty sake is never the goal of interpretation. Rather, the goal of Bible reading, I believe, is beholding Christ in all Scripture. With in mind, I share the notes here on three presuppositions (read: postures of the heart) disciples need to rightly understand the Word of God.

  1. Author — The God Who Speaks
  2. Text — The Word God Writes
  3. Audience– The Spirit Who Empowers Understanding (today’s lesson)

In these, my hope is to consider how faithful interpretation enhances doxology and discipleship. For any other aim misses the point of Scripture.  As Kevin Vanhoozer has wisely written, we must be disciples who receive the Word of God not mere admirers, dubious critics, or pragmatic users of God’s Word. To that end we pray and study.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

Let’s Increase the Drama: Kevin Vanhoozer on the Church as Gospel Theater

drama.jpegWhy should you commit to, participate in, become a member—or however you want to describe it—of a local church? Because Christians are called to gather to “dramatize” the gospel of Jesus Christ.

While “drama” in the church is often a troublesome condition related to strife and gossip; rightly understood, drama is the very reason why the church exists. Consider the insightful words of Kevin Vanhoozer (The Drama of Doctrine), who describes the communion of the church as a theater troupe called and commissioned to interpret God’s Script through their faithful living and Word-based improvisation.

The church has to celebrate what no other institution can celebrate: communion with God and communion with others. The Lord’s Supper is a communal act of solemn, yet ultimately joyful, thanksgiving. The shared bread and wine recall the theo-drama’s climax and rehearse the play’s conclusion. It is a key scene to the meaning of the whole, and it ought to affect our interpretation of all the other scenes. The Supper cannot, however, be performed by individual actors, no matter how virtuosic their talent; it takes a company. A company is, in the first instance, an assembly. The church is that singular assembly that keeps company gospel and with one another, not least by breaking bread together (com panis = “with bread”). But the church is a company, second, in the theatrical sense: a troupe of speakers, singers, and actors. It is the company of the forgiven, and this is why the company communicates, indeed radiates, joy.

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Hearing the Voice of God: Ten Axioms About God’s Authorship of Scripture

bible“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”
– Proverbs 1:7 –

“The fear of the Author is the beginning of literary understanding”
– Kevin Vanhoozer[1]

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. Continue reading

Postmodernism and Evangelical Thought (4): A Wise and Selective Appropriation

After surveying many of the key figures and concepts that make up postmodern thought, the question becomes: Is postmodernism salubrious or toxic for evangelical theology?

The answer, not surprisingly, differs depending on who is speaking.  In what follows, I will list three postures to take towards postmodernism.  In today’s evangelicalism, some like Stanley Grenz, John Franke, and Roger Olson have gladly appropriated postmodern thought, others like Douglas Geivett and Scott Smith have rejected it. Still others, most sensibly, have selectively and wisely incorporated some but not all aspects of postmodernism.  We will consider these in turn as they explain how postmodernism has impacted evangelical theology. Continue reading

Taste and See the Sweet Layers of Scripture

My wife is an excellent maker of cakes. My favorite is the homemade chocolate cake she makes. What makes it so good? Well, the sweet, moist cake is a good starting place, but it moves from good to great when she adds the frosting, and it goes from great to ‘out of this world,’ when she makes a double-layered cake with a large portion of frosting in the middle.

Makes you hungry, doesn’t it?

Well, the richness of a double-layered, chocolate is not unlike the word of God, which the Psalmist described as sweeter than honey (Ps 19:10). If he had chocolate in his vocabulary, I bet he would have made that comparison, as well.

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For Your Edification (3.15.13)

For Your Edification is a weekly set of resources on the subjects of Bible, Theology, Church, and Culture.  Let me know what you think or if you have other resources that growing Christians should be aware.

Walking Wisely WHEN and WHERE You Work. Phillip Bethancourt, a friend of mine and the Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management at Southern Seminary, posts some wise words on making job decisions and orienting your vocation around the gospel of Jesus Christ and the way that Jesus has made you.

The Doctrine of Inerrancy Kevin Vanhoozer has provided a helpful defense and explanation of an important theological concept–the doctrine of inerrancy.  This is the belief that “Scripture, in the original manuscripts and when interpreted according to the intended sense, speaks truly in all that it affirms.”  Vanhoozer’s piece nicely outlines what inerrancy is and is not.

Bonhoeffer Question & Answer. Eric Metaxas, author of Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy and social media lobbyist for religious liberty, converses with Jason Meyer and John Piper on the person, ministry, and influence of German Pastor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

For Your Edification, dss