Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
BSac 161:642 (Apr 2004) p. 238
By The Faculty of Dallas Theological Seminary
Matthew S. DeMoss, Editor
First Theology: God, Scripture and Hermeneutics. By Kevin J. Vanhoozer. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002. 384 pp. $25.00.
Vanhoozer, research professor of systematic theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, is the author of a previous work on hermeneutics and biblical interpretation, Is There a Meaning in This Text? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998). He now offers this present work as an attempt to bring together various strands of theology and exegesis into a coherent whole. First Theology is a collection of his published articles and lectures from the last eight years.
As the subtitle suggests, the book is arranged in three parts. Part one is preceded by an introductory chapter that lays out some foundational aspects pertinent to his expressed goal. Here the author defines his term “first theology” as “an argument for treating the questions of God, Scripture and hermeneutics as one problem.” Part one consists of three chapters pertaining to theology proper, especially in contrast to other non-Trinitarian theologies. Vanhoozer defends the distinctive nature of God as Trinity, the ramifications of these distinctives, and the advantages of this theology over other religious concepts of God. To handle this task he engages a variety of thinkers from across the theological spectrum, and the result is his display of the Trinity as the crucial foundation for the task of theological construction.
Part two is a relatively short section comprising only two of the work’s twelve chapters, although it is viewed as the key section by the author. Here the author’s goal is to establish a paradigm for understanding God’s communicative action to His creation. To serve this need the author utilizes contemporary linguistics and speech act theory to argue that God’s communication is not merely propositional, but is also elocutionary in its nature. He emphasizes that God is not concerned primarily with relaying information but with performing actions leading to effectual results. For Vanhoozer, understanding language according to its elocutions is the key task of genuine interpretation.
The six chapters in part three discuss the relationship between special revelation and general hermeneutics (chap. 7), test cases from the Gospel of John (chaps. 8–10), the interplay of culture and hermeneutics (chap. 11), and issues of Christian mission, martyrdom, and “the epistemology of the Cross” for successfully staking truth-claims in the post-modern world (chap. 12).
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