During Kevin J. Vanhoozer’s itinerant time at Wheaton, word of this book, his magnum opus, was buzzed as the book to read for eager students of theology. So, desperately wanting to learn more, I bought the book, read the first few pages, and closed the book. I thought, “What in God’s name is he talking about?” His verbosity dwindled my fragile excitement.
Now years later and having just finished the book, I both bemoaned my prior weak grit and celebrated how much I have learned since then. His verbosity, rather than being stifling, was a delight to thumb through — he’s a fun (albeit wordy) read!
The purpose and thesis of the book are fairly simple: to restore the Bible and doctrine as trusted twin sources of authorities for the glocal (global + local) church. The scope and the means by which he staked his claim, however, are vast and deep. Personally, I felt him to be a bit redundant. But I can imagine that Vanhoozer even shortened his work due to the immensity of the project. Again, it was impressive how he juggled and argued on multiple fronts: against anti-intellectuals, reductionistic accounts, liberals, postliberals, modernists, and more. He constantly returned and re-tested his hypothesis, at times, to his readers’ grief and, at other times, to their enlightenment.
One of Vanhoozer’s great concerns and, consequently, the book’s strengths is the broken bridge between theology and praxis, theory and practice. As systematician and committed Church member, he bends over backwards to convince readers and fellow “in Christ” members of the role and benefits of doctrine for the local church. Originally, doctrines are meant to expand the mind and heart to overlap one another into truth, so that what Paul said of “renewing one’s mind” (Romans 12:2) is fundamentally a sanctifying endeavor. In other words, the more you know is not merely for knowledge’s sake, but for holistic integration of the Christian self to itself, to others, and, most importantly, to God.
At first, I thought this book was related to drama and acting, and it is on some level. One of the book’s repeated metaphors is performing the drama of Scripture with doctrine’s aid and the Spirit’s guidance. Christians take the script—Holy Script—and act as God’s actors and actresses on God’s stage—the world. Performance is integral to unlocking the meaning of Scripture: there’s no theology without praxis.
Just as I heard The Drama of Doctrine as the book to read for budding theologians five years ago, I cheer the buzz to this day.