The Drama of Doctrine: A Canonical-Linguistic Approach to Christian Theology by Kevin J. Vanhoozer. Westminster John Knox: Louisville, 2005. 493pp. $39.95.
According to the author, “The present book sets forth a postconservative, canonical-linguistic theology and a directive theory of doctrine that roots theology more firmly in Scripture while preserving Lindbeck’s emphasis on practice” (xiii). On the whole, this work is a fascinating piece that helps theologian and layperson grasp the energetic nature of Scripture. Lindbeck’s cultural-linguistic approach de-emphasized the autonomy of the exegete while heightening that of his enveloping culture – “the experience and the reasoning of the individual human subject is always already shaped by a tradition of language use” (10). By replacing “cultural” with “canonical,” Vanhoozer is able to say the same of Scripture – namely, it is the shaping subject for humanity. In this way, Vanhoozer reorients theology from theory to wisdom (13).
The author aptly shows how drama is a correcting foil for the theological endeavor. God is both the script(ure) writer and player in the drama. Humans are actors following a script. Theologians are the dramaturge for humanity. Regarding the script, Vanhoozer makes it clear that this is a not a wooden mimic of the script. Rather, it is likened to a dinner theater, where the audience plays a part in the action and shaping as well. The actors are given roles, and they are so intended to enter into the ethic of the role that their actions and words will reflect the kind of person the playwright intended. Further, the Church acts out her parts in front of the surrounding culture and draws them into the drama that God intended them to live. Poignantly put, “Neither the pastor nor the magisterium should be allowed to become the sole voice or actor in the church. On the contrary, the whole people of God is responsible for participating in and continuing the action. Only an active rather than passive audience can turn deadly theater into ‘ a rehearsal of revolution.’ At its best, the church, as the theater of the gospel, is revolutionary, overturning idols and ideologies alike as it displays the first fruits of eschatological reality” (404; original emphasis).
Vanhoozer’s work should be read by all those who seek to bring doctrine and practice together. While this is not the only model by which we can organize Scripture’s teaching, the author has powerfully argued for it as a major contender. Unlike Michael Horton’s work regarding Divine Drama, Vanhoozer helpfully incorporates the surrounding culture in his model of theology. That is, rather than just saying that he will organize his theology around an analogy that follows the Bible’s own intrasystematic categories (when drama itself is not a category given in Scripture), Vanhoozer helps further theology’s enterprise of incorporating culture and Scripture together.
I just finished listening to Piper’s biography of Martyn Lloyd-Jones at the 1991 Bethlehem Conference for Pastors. In a section of the biography, Piper elucidates Lloyd-Jones’ view of continuation of the spiritual gifts for the post-apostolic church.
I am a member of a relatively small group of Reformed people who believe that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is a distinct work of God from the incorporation by the Spirit at the moment of faith and repentance. In other words, I believe that God unusually blesses people with an enflaming passion and boldness for his glory at peculiar times. It is true, we are baptized into Christ at the moment of conversion (Rom 6:3; 1Cor 12:13; Gal 3:27).
Yet Jesus tells his disciples to tarry in Jerusalem until the Spirit comes upon them in power for witnessing. There are two arguments against affirming a special unction by the Spirit. First, people argue that to say power encounters accompany preaching detracts from the power inherent in faithful Gospel preaching (Rom 1:16). Lloyd-Jones commented that if the pre-eminent preachers of the Church (Peter, Paul, and Stephen) were endued with power in their preaching (in a way explicated in the Scriptures), then why should we not expect such power to come for present-day “average” preachers of the Gospel
Second, people have argued with me that there was a special authentication given to the Apostles to solidify their preaching in the beginning of the Church. This seems precarious because it raises the question as to how such primitive Gospel preaching is different than today’s situation within the context of a pluralistic society? Or even reaching back a few centuries, how was the authentication by Spirit-wrought power not necessary during Columba or St. Patrick’s ministry among the blood-saturated culture of the Celts? Is it not a problem to say that such pentecostal blessing was only necessary during the inception of the Church? Is that inception not still going on in Papa New Guinea or the Amazon or China?
I found that my bristling at such mention of the Spirit was rooted in my ignorance. I was far too worried about what people thought about Christians rather than longing for such blessing to be showered down from heaven. What magnificent things would happen if God brought revival to our world! Is your inclination to fear what people would think rather than seeing conversions?
Let me explain. Christians have so sought to be accepted by the world around them by planning financial seminars and community clean-ups – which are important to loving our neighbors – that it seems that to stick out like a sore thumb is a curse and not a blessing, Among those that have over-reacted to fundamentalism have we forgotten the strategic blessing of standing out? Have we married grass roots evangelism to the detriment of power encounters with the Holy One? It appears so.
“It is not moral education, even if it includes Bible study and memorizing Scripture verses, that makes people member of the kingdom of God. Nor is it personal reflection, a road travelled by Luther and Wesley in their early years. Instead, it is supernatural regeneration brought about by the Holy Spirit but always in conjunction with the reading or hearing of the word of the gospel as given in Holy Scripture. The Bible saves and converts not even because of its unique inspiration but because it is the sword of the Spirit, it is the sword that slays the demon of pride, it is the fire that consumes the old nature” (Donald Bloesch, “The sword of the Spirit: the meaning of inspiration” in Themelios 5(3, 1980), 19).
The above title comes from a section in John Frame’s Doctrine of God. This book is highly worth the money (would that be considered a pun?)…Anyway, the data I am going to share here comes mostly from that and I want to offer some more info you can go to in order to understand the third person of the Trinity.
First of all, there is no necessary contradiction between saying that God is Three in One. The way the church fathers articulated it was: One essence, Three persons. As goodwillhiking mentioned in one of his comments, “It is good to live with mystery.”
With regards to mystery, it is right to say you live with the mystery as long as it is prescribed in Scripture. For example, I have spoken with several people that say they are comfortable living with contradictions. You shouldn’t be comfortable with contradictions. A contradiction is “logical incompatibility between two or more propositions” (acc. to Wikipedia). This is not the case with saying one essence, three persons.
With that said, now for the Holy Spirit. Frame: “We are often inclined to equate ‘spirit’ with the nonmaterial realm, so that it amounts to a force that animates matter. But spirits in Scripture, human as well as divine, are persons, not impersonal forces” (p. 691).
“The power of God is never impersonal. It is a power directed by God’s intelligent plan to accomplish his purposes…The Spirit has a ‘mind’ (Rom 8.27). Often it is quite impossible to substitute power for spirit (see, e.g. Acts 10.38; Rom 15.13; 1Cor 2.4). The Holy Spirit is not a mere power; he is the personal bearer of divine power” (italics original; 691)
Lk 3.22 – the three distinct persons of the Trinity represented (voice, dove, Son)
1 Cor 6.19 – a temple of the Holy Spirit…would this be idolatry of the Holy Spirit if he were not God. In other words, Paul would be encouraging us to be temples to an idol!
Heb 3.7 – The Holy Spirit says, “Today if you hear his voice…” This is citing the Old Testament reference to Psa 95.9-11. In these verses YHWH makes it explicit that they sinned against him. This is YHWH speaking and the preacher of Hebrews says it is the Holy Spirit. (see also Heb 4.6-7)
Heb 10.15 And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,
16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them
after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws on their hearts,
and write them on their minds,”
17 then he adds,
“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”
Is this a mere slip of words? Doubtful. This is cited from Jer 31. The Lord speaks of a New Covenant that he will ratify and make effective by giving new hearts. This is done by God. The preacher of Hebrews makes it clear that the Holy Spirit is God in v.17 when he attributes remembering their sins and lawless deeds no more to the Holy Spirit’s activity. Additionally, the Holy Spirit is called “he.” I will discuss this aspect of spirit being equivalent to personhood in the next post.
I was contacted by someone in close proximity of the leadership of a group that I tagged as a group to stay away from (here). I was very appreciative for the e-mail – both for its humility and desire to explain the position of Pastor John’s House group.
I don’t carry on ongoing one-on-on correspondence with females who are not my wife. And I thought it best to respond to this person’s questions by addressing my readers so they are able to understand the third person of the Trinity better.
The e-mailer said:
“For some reason, I have been thinking about the Trinity a lot this week… just how it seems to me to have such clearly pagan roots. And I was thinking about Paul’s letters. I just recently noticed for the first time that all of them start off with something like, “Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.” It seems like if the Spirit was a person equal to Jesus and the Father that Paul wouldn’t have dared to leave Him out. What do you think?” (original emphasis).
As regards pagan roots, the same has been said of the Christians’ claim that Jesus is divine. Christians, however, submit to the Scriptures. So what do the Scriptures say about the Jesus and the Holy Spirit? Here are some scriptural attestations to the Holy Spirit’s person and equivalency to the Father and Son with some thoughts by your truly:
Acts 5.3 – Ananias & Sapphira lie to the Holy Spirit (who is God). Note that Peter tells them that they have lied to God in v.4, while in v.3 he tells them they lied to the Holy Spirit
Mt 28.18-20 – The Name of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Just as this Trinitarian formula has been one of the texts used to explain Jesus’ divinity, so it is used for the 3rd person of the Trinity. Note the use of the singular word “Name” of God…not names (highlighting their unity as God)
Jn 14.16 – A Helper of the same kind. The Greek word used here is ἄλλος , which means “another of the same kind” whereas the Greek word ἕτερος means “another of a different kind” (see Mt 6.24)
More to come…
Is this an oxymoron? Ministries like CJ Mahaney’s Sovereign Grace ministry has given viability to what it looks like to be Reformed and Charismatic.
Jeff Purswell of Sovereign Grace Ministries (Dean of the Pastor’s College) gave a talk in which he explains the contours of Sovereign Grace’s stance on the charisma/pneumatology. You can go here and download it for free. If you don’t have an account with them, get a new account and follow the instructions. When you get to the payment instructions, put in the special code “Free Download”. You will be charged $0.00 for the download. Enjoy!
Note: This free download is only free until April 1st.