Kevin J. Vanhoozer
Brazos Press, 2016. 269pp.
How do we face the plurality of Protestant interpretations of Scripture? According to Kevin J. Vanhoozer, some suggest we unwind the Reformation and admit sola scriptura a failed project. Taking those charges seriously inspired Vanhoozer’s most recent work, Biblical Authority After Babel: Retrieving the Solas in the Spirit of Mere Protestant Christianity. If Babel as metaphor does not evoke curiosity then the play on C.S. Lewis surely will.
Biblical Authority After Babel grew out of a series of lectures. That may explain the gripping metaphors and the adept analogies as the book took its shape from a speaking where it is necessary to keep the rapt attention of an audience. Sometimes lectures do not translate well into book. Vanhoozer makes the transition from spoken word to print quite well.
Rather than admit the defeat of sola scriptura, Vanhoozer aims to retrieve the Solas. He views the Solas as interdependent, not stand alone ideas. Vanhoozer’s aim is not a return. Instead he takes the reader back to consider the epistemological (knowing), ontological (being) and teleological (aim) aspects of each of the Solas.
Many times a book like this, written from a particular Christian perspective, relies on cartoonish, caricatured descriptions of ideas and perspectives of those representing differing conclusions. Vanhoozer avoids said pitfall. With irenic charm Vanhoozer makes his way between those through whom he weaves his own telling of the solas.
Whether or not a reader believes Vanhoozer succeeds in pointing a way through the maze of Protestant interpretations of Scripture may be determined by where the reader stands in the broad streams of Protestant Christianity. Then again, one wonders if Vanhoozer does not himself create of the broad Protestant stream of his own, Mere Protestant Christianity.
Benefit for Pastoral Ministry
What Pastor would not benefit from thinking through his regular negotiations with the Text? Even more, what pastor would not benefit from advice when considering the variety of interpretations found within their own congregation? Not one.
The plurality of Protestant interpretations is a constant source for defensiveness, internecine squabbles and denominational battles. No matter whether a pastor aligns with Vanhoozer’s Reformed frame of reference, this book will provide a good resource, even a refresher for many, for thinking through the interdependent doctrines that comprise an argument for the authority of Scripture.
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