“First Theology”

Anyone working on the boundary between a postconservative evangelical theology and the best of the more traditional theologians, needs the wise counsel of Kevin Vanhoozer.  A good place to start in his 2002 work, First Theology: God, Scripture, & Hermeneutics.  Vanhoozer's concern is for fidelity to the "sensus scripturalis."  He writes, "I am…advocating a distinctly Christian and theological, which is to say trinitarian approach to biblical interpretation that begins by recognizing God as a triune communicative agent and Scripture as the written locus of God's communicative action" (p. 38).  In a footnote, he instinctively adds, "Jesus Christ is, of course, the Word of God made flesh.  The life of the incarnate Jesus therefore is God's communicative act as well.  The point is, however, that one can begin with Christ only by attending to the apostolic (divinely authorized) testimony about him." 

Whether or not one agrees completely with Vanhoozer's use of speech-act theory [and I understand he may have some qualifying thoughts himself], his work is always astute, careful, and a joy to read.


3 thoughts on ““First Theology”

  1. In this application communicative agent and communicative action cannot be seperated due to trinitarian context -we are bound in a bundle of light with Jesus Christ at the center, revealing the Father, as the Spirit enables us to
    meditate on the written revelation of and in “the story we find ourselves in” (McLaren’s phrase).
    The agent is continually active…the incarnate Christ communicated by the life he lived and our mission is to continue that. It begs the question: What are we communicating by our life together as the Church universal?

  2. Along the lines of Trinitarian involvement in the hermeneutical spiral spoken about by Vanhoozer, a word from Carl Trueman’s The Wages of Spin is germane:

    The fallenness of human nature and the overarching sovereignty and freedom of God mean that words in themselves have no power to convert or to achieve the purpose which God intended. Instead, words are combined with the activity of God’s Spirit within a trinitarian economy of salvation which stresses the supernatural nature of God’s grace (p. 53).

    Later on in the same chapter Trueman makes a case that aligns with your previous comment:

    Such reflections on the person of Christ, within the context of the Trinity, hold answers which we need for the postmodern turn and beyond. (What is Man?)

    …to the effect that the only solution to the “death of the author” problem (just to use one example) in postmodernity is the recovery of the importance of God’s Words–a necessarily Trinitarian quest.

  3. Dr. Ebert,

    Have you ever read Wolterstorff’s “Divine Discourse”? His interaction with the issues (e.g., speaking is not revealing) and the major players (Austin, Barth, Ricoeur,et al) makes for a more extensive treatment then Vanhoozer provides. If application of the speech-act theory in philosophical hermeneutics is of interest, you can’t do better then Wolterstorff. I hope all at TCC/CCC is going well.



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