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Below are two lectures on video--along with their outlines--from Kevin Vanhoozer on “Doing Faith: Seeking (and Showing) Understanding in Company with Christ.” The videos are from the Page Lectures at Southeastern Seminary, from Nov. 10-11, 2009.

Here is one of the lines I appreciated:

I believe the pastor-theologian should be evangelicalism's most conspicuous public intellectual, ministering understanding by theologically interpreting the Bible, bringing text in canonical context to bear on contemporary context. In this great task, doctrine is the pastor's best friend.

In the course of the lectures, Professor Vanhoozer conducts a thought-experiment:

I want to suggest that the gospel and theology alike are dramatic: that the gospel is something done; that the Bible is a script, that doctrine is theatrical direction, and that we all, as members of the church, form a great "company of the gospel" with important speaking and acting parts to play. The dramatic metaphor has become for me, my family, and my students a bracing challenge to integrate doctrine and life under the rubric "faith seeking and showing understanding."

I found the two hours stimulating and helpful, both spiritually and intellectually:


The Theater of the gospel: the stage, the script, and the director

Prologue: The pastor-theologian as minister of understanding
I. The stage
II. The Christian control story: theodrama

  1. The Christian theodrama is eucatastrophic
  2. The Christian theodrama involves divine entrances and exoduses
  3. The Christian theodrama is Trinitarian

III. The script

  1. The nature of Scripture: Spirited discourse
  2. The function of Scripture: cultivating canon sense
  3. The authority of Scripture: cultivating catholic sensibility

IV. Doctrine as direction

  1. Knowing God is itself dramatic.
  2. Understanding the theodrama: fitting participation

V. The director and the dramaturg

  1. The dramaturg
  2. The director
    1. The Holy Spirit
    2. The pastor
  3. Church as company of players

Gospel Theater: Rehearsing, Improvising, Performing

I. Role-playing: from Stanisklavski to sanctification

  1. Doctrine and identity
    1. Role-playing: the problem of hypocrisy
    2. Person or persona? the self in theodramatic perspective
  2. The "System"
    1. Hypocrisy as mechanical acting. Through-lines and super-objectives
    2. Through-lines and super-objectives
  3. The disciple's vocation: being real

II. Discipleship as improvisation

  1. Spontaneity
  2. Accepting and blocking "offers"
  3. Narrative skills
  4. Reincorporation

III. “Doing" church: the theater of the gospel

  1. Performing the Scriptures: the costumed interpreter
  2. Performing the doctrine of atonement
    1. Practicing union with Christ
    2. The church as theatre of martyrdom
  3. A plea for amateur theology: acting in parables
    1. For the love of it
    2. Rehearsing the kingdom

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11 thoughts on “Vanhoozer on Redramatizing Theology”

  1. AerodynamicPenguin says:

    This outline makes the lectures look like they follow the structure of his fantastic book, The Drama of Doctrine. Can’t wait to listen! Thanks, JT!

  2. JK says:


    Any chance of getting the audio? I tried the SEBTS website and the link didn’t work.

  3. Justin Taylor says:

    JK: Not that I know of, but the same lectures—plus a new one—were delivered last week at Covenant Seminary. You may want to keep an eye on their site to see when they are uploaded:

  4. ? says:

    This seems like it might be much ado about nothing. Like a tempest in a teapot. And, like Jaque, he dives down and comes up with nothing. But, as you like it, even when these labours are lost.

    So, are you saying “all the church is a stage”? I think I’ve heard that somewhere before, but it was somehow different…

    1. Andrew Cowan says:

      Methinks the ? doth protest too much!

  5. What a thought-provoking idea! And when you think about it, it completely explains that state of the American church – everyone’s running around with different versions and interpretations of the script!!
    I’m assuming he doesn’t extend the analogy to the “audition” process, however. ;)

  6. Evan C. Hock says:

    Having known of Kevin Vanhoozer when he first arrived at Trinity as a younger ST professor, while I was a doctoral student, this theme of the “drama of doctrine” was already showing itself, at least to me (now that I’ve read much of his main text on it). The more I ponder it, however, the more I think he is offering and guiding a powerful metaphor for us. Maybe it is not an exclusive metaphor by which to drive all our thinking, which is not the purpose of a single metaphor, but a necessary and strategic metaphor nonetheless. It also gives is a missing “activist” link and touchpoint in moving from confession to mission. Theology that remains orthodox, yet static like a trellis, and as a result, permits us to remain static and merely informationally oriented, falls short of reflecting NT theology as pictured through the words and teachings of Jesus and the apostles. The metaphors of Jesus and Paul supports this wider proposal Vanhoozer present to us. Let the parable be a case in point. It is not merely an example of genre, or a literary devise to carry truth, but a way of thinking theologically. If theology has a living, dynamic element – a story element – then it has a dramatic, displaying element also.

    This could be a big help to orthodoxy that tends to “circles the wagons” to wait out attacks, compared to turning defense into offence and engaging the peril, and then pursue it. With such theological motivation the church does become a stage, but in a necessary way as light is taken out from under its cover. We do not need more churches that “circle the wagons” theologically every time there is a new secularized threat, or rise in some religious counterfeit. This mindset is particularly needed as the Islamic drama (the term intentionally used) in our land, and in missional contexts elsewhere, steps up its voice and means of outreach and societal influence.

  7. Timothy says:

    This post illuminates reservations that I have had about a recent earlier post, 17th March, Levels of Doctrine. The earlier post seems to posit a situation in which doctrines are, first, isolatable and then allocatable to a series of distinct concentric rings. I realise that this is to press the illustration perhaps much further than intended but I think that the drama illustration provides two important qualifications to the concentric circles illustration. First, it shows that doctrines are not isolatable; they belong in an organic whole. Extract a doctrine and to a greater or lesser extent the truth of that doctrine is compromised. Secondly, doctrines are not exclusively or even perhaps primarily cerebral things. They are intended to be lived out and only receive proper exposition when the cerebral and the physical are combined. This is more than just saying doctrines need to be lived out; it is to say that until the doctrine is lived out it is not understood.

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Justin Taylor, PhD

Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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