The following is minor paper completed in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the course ST 7505 Use of Scripture and Theology taught by Dr. Kevin Vanhoozer at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL in December, 2015. Please note that the focus of this paper (and the class) is not hermeneutics, but the use of scripture in making dogmatic and moral theological proposals.
- One’s use of scripture for dogmatic and moral theology must be in keeping with the nature (ontology) and purpose (teleology) of scripture itself.
- One’s use of scripture for dogmatic and ethical theology must share the very aims of scripture itself (and, by extension, theology), lest it distort and subvert the very nature of theology. This means that a proper use of scripture—in line with the very equipping-aims of scripture itself—must be, for example:
- Theological (directed towards knowledge of and relationship with God), answering, “How does this text enhance knowledge of God and foster appropriate relationship with God?”
- Doxological (directed towards the worship of God), answering, “How does this text fuel the worship of God?”
- Mathetesical (directed towards Christian living), answering, “How does this text form disciples (mathetes)?”
- Ecclesiological (directed towards the life of the church), answering, “How does this text shape God’s people to realize its calling?”
- Missiological (directed towards equipping for mission), answering, “How does this text equip God’s people for mission?”
- If one’s use of scripture to authorize theological proposals is actually going to authorize those proposals with the authority of scripture itself (a derivative authority), one’s use must be born out of the very claims—which, one must remember, are communicated in a variety of ways through a variety of discourse forms—of scripture itself (the locus of authority). Consequently, one’s appropriation of scripture for dogmatic and moral theological proposals must be based on the purpose, intent, or underlying reasoning of Biblical content, not its accidental, attendant, or purely descriptive features.
The following was originally formulated in partial fulfillment for the requirements of an independent study course on Reformed Baptist heritage for completion of the M.Div. at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, IL, November 2014.
Download Statement of Faith here.
This is one of my favorite passages in Calvin’s writings.
Doctrine is not an affair of the tongue, but of the life; is not apprehended by the intellect and memory merely, like other branches of learning; but is received only when it possesses the whole soul, and finds its seat and habitation in the inmost recesses of the heart …. To doctrine in which our religion is contained we have given the first place, since by it our salvation commences; but it must be transfused into the breast, and pass into the conduct, and so transform us into itself, as not to prove unfruitful. If philosophers are justly offended, and banish from their company with disgrace those who, while professing an art which ought to be the mistress of their conduct, convert it into mere loquacious sophistry, with how much better reason shall we detest those flimsy sophists who are contented to let the Gospel play upon their lips, when, from its efficacy, it ought to penetrate the inmost affections of the heart, fix its seat in the soul, and pervade the whole man a hundred times more than the frigid discourses of philosophers?
Institutes III, vi, 4.