Monday, September 25, 2006

Following the Word

I'm still plowing my way through Kevin Vanhoozer's First Theology and am enjoying it immensely. Though it may not be an easy read, Vanhoozer is consistently insightful and remarkably quotable. His observations below on what it means to understand the text are worth quoting at length:

"What, then, is it to understand the Bible? As the Yale school has pointed out, there are many 'spirits' of understanding--historical, literary, sociological. The Christian understanding, however, is the one that follows the Word. 'Following' has at least two senses. We can follow an argument, or an explanation , or directions, or a story. But the other sense of following is the kind Jesus wanted when he said, 'Follow me.' The difference is, I think, the same as between explanation and application. The meaning of the Bible's promises, warnings, commands and so forth 'lies plain before their eyes,' but the are suppressed in unrighteousness. The most profound kind of understanding, however, has to do with cultivation of the ability to follow the Word of God, not just in our reading but in personal response to what we have read. 'One who understands a text will be able to make use of the text in ways that demonstrate--and in some sense constitute--understanding.'* Understanding is our ability to follow the Word."

-First Theology p. 228

* Wood, Formation of Christian Understanding, p. 17


MOsborne20 said...

Good stuff. Correct me if I am wrong, and I am open to other discussion, but it seems as if there is a "confessional movement" in evangelical theology. By that I mean that more and more scholars seem to be affirming the necessity of experiencing, truly experiencing, God in Christ through the Word. Is this a benevolent reflection of our post-modern times in which experience helps us determine understanding?

NWMihelis said...

I think you're right on target, but what blows my mind is the fact that guys running in the circles that Vanhoozer runs it can get away with saying it. His dialogue partners are within the academy far more often than they are in evangelical circles. As you say, postmodernism does have it's benefits!