The SBJT Forum -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 14:2 (Summer 2010)
Article: The SBJT Forum
Author: Anonymous

The SBJT Forum

Editor’s Note: Readers should be aware of the forum’s format. Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Keith E. Johnson, Graham Cole, and Everett Berry have been asked specific questions to which they have provided written responses. These writers are not responding to one another. Their answers are presented in an order that hopefully makes the forum read as much like a unified presentation as possible.

SBJT: As One Who Has Written On The Theological Interpretation Of Scripture, Can You Summarize What People Are Saying About It And Why It Is Important For The Church?

Kevin J. Vanhoozer: Philip Schaff began his 1844 inaugural lecture on “The Principle of Protestantism” with the intriguing suggestion that every period of the church and of theology has its own particular problem to solve, and that every biblical book and doctrine has its special time when it first comes into its own. According to Schaff, the Reformation was the time when the principle of sola scriptura first came into its own. In the same Protestant spirit, and principle, I wonder whether ours is the time when the theological interpretation of Scripture might come into, or perhaps return to, its own.

Defining the individual terms “theological,” “interpretation,” and “Scripture” presents no special difficulty. However, to paraphrase Augustine on time: if no one asks me what they mean when put together — as in “theological interpretation of Scripture” (TIS) — I know what it is; however, if you ask me, I do not know. While that may be something of an overstatement, it is no exaggeration to say that as many people are confused about the meaning of TIS as are enthusiastic about it. Many are talking; few are cohesive. What are they saying about TIS, and what does it all mean?

A first observation: TIS is presently more a conversation about the nature and function of reading the Bible in and for the church than a unified approach or finished method. One of the first things children learn is how to read. Yet proponents of TIS wonder whether and to what extent general rules of reading apply to the Bible as well. Should we read the Bible “like any other book” (Benjamin Jowett)?

Almost everyone involved with TIS agrees on the inadequacy of reading the Bible merely as a

document to be picked apart, perchance to be put together again, with the tools of historical criticism. There is a widespread sense that the attempt to reconstruct historical backgrounds, “what actually happened,” and the history of the text’s composition has more or less played itself out. How much more background do we need to hear the Bible as the word of God and respo...

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