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Vanhoozer and Treier: Theology and the Mirror of Scripture

Kevin J. Vanhoozer and Daniel J. Treier, Theology and the Mirror of Scripture: A Mere Evangelical Account, Studies in Christian Doctrine and Scripture series (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2015), 298 pages.

Kevin J. Vanhoozer is Research Professor of Systematic Theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. He is the author of many books, several of which are recent works, including Remythologizing Theology: Divine Action, Passion and Authorship (Cambridge University Press, 2012), and Faith Speaking Understanding: Performing the Drama of Doctrine (Westminster John Knox Press, 2014). Daniel J. Treier is Blanchard Professor of Theology at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois. He is the author of three books, including Virtue and the Voice of God: Toward Theology as Wisdom (Eerdmans, 2006) and Introducing Theological Interpretation of Scripture (Baker Academic, 2008), and Proverbs & Ecclesiastes (Brazos Press, 2011).

The present situation of theology in general calls for a fresh, galvanizing account of the ways in which evangelical theology can, and should, “mirror” the teaching of Scripture. In spite of contemporary trends toward fragmentation and factionalism, these authors assert that we can preserve the elusive center of evangelical theology, and perhaps even redeem the label, by retrieving the original meaning of it. The most basic boundaries marking the way of this healthy center is formed around a theologically faithful, ecclesiastically habitable approach to Scripture and doctrine. This book seeks to do just that. Evangelicalism, in their understanding, refers to a guiding hope and eschatological reality, not an already-accomplished achievement.

Can the elusive center of evangelical theology be preserved?

The subtitle of the book, invoking “mere evangelical”, hearkens back to C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity, with the authors noting that it does not imply minimalism, but the greatest common denominator which ought to unify denominations instead. Moreover, mere evangelical theology is “first theology,” meaning that it pertains to what is most important: Christ’s death and resurrection, which makes the bible critically important to first theology. Christ is the supreme object of the witness of the Spirit, and he is the supreme content of the Scriptures. In fact, mere evangelical first theology treats theological prolegomena, the biblical gospel, and the church together by situating all three within the triune economy of God. They propose that mere evangelical theology should aspire to be anchored in the biblical, Trinitarian, and cruciform gospel. The book rests upon two overarching metaphors: first, the subtitle of the book evokes the image of the church as God’s household; second, the aspiration of the title, that is, mirroring, involves both imaging God by reflecting scriptural truth in our living, and the corresponding intellectual task of evangelical theology – reflecting the bible’s forms and content in our teaching. Because mirroring works two ways, the perspective of church traditions affects our ability to see the big picture, and vice versa.

Perceptions that evangelicalism is crumbling or chaotic reflect at least four recent developments, which identify challenges that any evangelical theology must address: 1) more robust academic engagement, 2) an increased awareness of the tradition in the creeds, texts, and practices of early Christianity, 3) an interest in global Christianity, and 4) interfaces with emergent Christianity and culture. A central challenge for evangelical theology involves pursuing newfound engagement with different traditions, as the era of Reformed hegemony is now over (35). While the doctrine of the Trinity, and God’s self-revelation by Word and Spirit are vital components of evangelical theology, the doctrines of Scripture and the Holy Spirit increasingly reveal rather than resolve differences within the large evangelical umbrella.

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Category: Biblical Studies, Winter 2017

About the Author: Bradford L. McCall, B.S. in Biology (Georgia Southwestern St. University, 2000), M.Div. (Asbury Theological Seminary, 2005), grew up on a cotton farm in south Georgia. A graduate student at Holy Apostles College and Seminary, Bradford has particular interest in teleology, causation and early modern philosophy.

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