Editorial: Reflecting Upon The “Theological Interpretation Of Scripture” -- By: Stephen J. Wellum

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 14:2 (Summer 2010)
Article: Editorial: Reflecting Upon The “Theological Interpretation Of Scripture”
Author: Stephen J. Wellum


Editorial: Reflecting Upon The “Theological Interpretation Of Scripture”

Stephen J. Wellum

In the last decade a “movement” known as the “theological interpretation of Scripture” (TIS) has made a lot of waves in academic circles. Whole study groups at the Society of Biblical Literature have debated its merits; Baker Books has published a dictionary devoted to the subject (Dictionary for the Theological Interpretation of the Bible, ed. Kevin J. Vanhoozer [2005]) and is in the process of publishing an entire commentary series devoted to TIS (Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible); academic journals have discussed it at length (e.g., International Journal of Systematic Theology [2010]); and numerous books and articles have broached the subject from a variety of angles. Numerous names and even schools of thought are associated with the movement—names and schools that represent diverse theological backgrounds and communities: the so-called Yale school associated with Hans Frei, George Lindbeck, Brevard Childs, and others; Francis Watson, Stephen Fowl; and evangelicals such as Joel Green, Kevin Vanhoozer, Daniel Treier, and so on. Given the attention TIS has received, we thought it wise to devote an issue of SBJT to introducing our readers to TIS by noting what it is and why it has arisen, what it proposes, and its overall value for the church in our study of Scripture and doing theology.

First, what is it and why has it arisen? All those involved in TIS admit the difficulty in defining precisely what it is. In our articles and SBJT Forum a number of definitions are given which attempt to nail down precisely what TIS is. Probably at this point, it is best to characterize TIS as a broad and diverse movement comprised of biblical scholars and theologians who are mainline Protestants, Roman Catholics, and evangelicals and who are attempting to recover the authority of the Bible and to return it to the church. Obviously this raises the question as to what TIS is recovering the Bible from and the answer to this question helps describe why it has arisen. In a nutshell, TIS

is attempting to recover the authority of the Bible for the church from the debilitating effects of the “assured results of biblical scholarship” identified with the Enlightenment and modern eras which sought to squeeze the Bible within the alien worldview assumptions of methodological naturalism (e.g., Deism, naturalism, process theism) associated with the historical-critical method. That is why, a majority of those in the TIS movement arise out of non-evangelical circles since, like Karl Barth before them (who is often viewed as the “founder” of the movement), they are attempting to recover the Bible...

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