Exploring the World; Following the Word: The Credibility of Evangelical Theology in an Incredulous Age -- By: Kevin J. Vanhoozer

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 16:1 (Spring 1995)
Article: Exploring the World; Following the Word: The Credibility of Evangelical Theology in an Incredulous Age
Author: Kevin J. Vanhoozer


Exploring the World; Following the Word:
The Credibility of Evangelical Theology in an Incredulous Age1

Kevin J. Vanhoozer*

I. Introduction:
Mapping, Mission, and the Ministry of the Word

My choice of topic has been influenced by my recent sojourn among the Scots, a race of intrepid explorers. I find particularly inspiring the example of David Livingstone, the Scottish map-making missionary-explorer, whose great vision was to make a coast-to-coast trek through Africa that would open up the continent to Christianity.2

Africa, indeed the whole planet, has now been meticulously mapped, at least in its physical characteristics. Yet the world’s intellectual and cultural contours are rapidly changing. We are approaching the end not only of the twentieth century, but the end of the modern era. We are in a state of flux; the old maps may no longer be adequate as the church navigates her way into the next millennium. For two centuries now, the church has been reacting to modernity. Can we be more pro-active when confronted with post-modernity? Livingstone’s “missionary-explorer” is an appropriate paradigm for the theologian trying to navigate a vast uncharted continent: “postmodernity.”

How shall we “plot” evangelicalism’s position with regard to the modern and postmodern worlds? In what follows, I shall indicate what course I think evangelicals should set, and what provisions they should take. The theologian, as missionary-explorer, is first and foremost a biblical interpreter. For we must interpret both the world and the Word, and we must put our interpretations into

* Kevin Vanhoozer is a Lecturer in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at New College, University of Edinburgh, Scotland.

practice. Theology is about reading and following biblical maps into new worlds.

II. Two French Revolutions:
From Descartes to Derrida

A massive intellectual revolution is taking place “that is perhaps as great as that which marked off the modern world from the Middle Ages.”3 Whatever else it is, it is “the quest to move beyond modernism.”4 But what is, or was, modernity? Two French revolutions—those associated with the names of Descartes and Derrida—may serve as important intellectual landmarks. Each of these revolutions has proven to be “Copernican” in its effect. Just as Copernicus changed the way we think about ourselves when he suggested that the earth ...

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