Theology is inherently theatrical — there’s a stage (creation), a script (Scripture), a main Actor (our Triune God), secondary actors (the Church), and a historical plot (creation, fall, redemption, and restoration). Which is to say the work of theology is more than the right formulation of orthodox principles. By following the contours of redemptive history, theology serves the Church by helping her understand her identity and role in the world, and in the cosmic drama in Christ.
The Christian life is theatrical — we act the miracle.
Making this point is Kevin Vanhoozer, research professor of systematic theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Vanhoozer is a plenary speaker at next month's Desiring God National Conference and the author of the book The Drama of Doctrine: A Canonical Linguistic Approach to Christian Doctrine which explains why theology is theatrical. There he writes, “The drama of doctrine has nothing to do with pretending but everything to do with participating in the once-for-all mission of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit” (366).
And what is this mission? “Jesus’s life, death, resurrection, and ascension are the embodiment of all God’s promises of creation and covenant alike,” he writes. “For Jesus’s death on the cross is the victory of God not merely over Israel’s covenant rebellion but over the cosmic powers of sin, Satan and death (Colossians 2:15)” (55).
And so, within this cosmic storyline, we discover “the ultimate dramatic function of doctrine is to rip away our socially constructed masks and show us who we truly are ‘in Christ’” (364).
In other words, doctrine is dramatic, and the Church is on a cosmic stage, living out the life-changing gospel and displaying the victory of Christ. And everyone who is “in Christ” has a role to play.
On the Line
By nature, this theo-drama gets worked out in very practical ways, and following his more academic-level book, The Drama of Doctrine, Vanhoozer has just recently finished explaining how this works in a more popular-level book titled, Faith Speaking Understanding: Performing the Drama of Doctrine, which is scheduled to be released on October 31, 2014.
I caught up with Dr. Vanhoozer in his home office, and I put him on the line to talk about the drama of redemptive history, or what he calls the theo-drama, and what it means for the Christian life.
In what ways will this dramatic approach to theology keep Christ at the center? What function does creation play in our communion with God? How does this theo-dramatic approach keep us from reducing theology to abstract universal principles? And what role does the imagination play in how the Church participates in the drama?
Other recent Authors on the Line podcasts —
- Porn, Pride, and Praise: An Interview with Heath Lambert
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- Spurgeon’s First Five Years in Ministry: An Interview with Tom Nettles and Christian George
- The Bible as One Story: An Interview with Tom Schreiner
- Why the Ascension of Jesus Matters: An Interview with Gerrit Scott Dawson and Jonny Woodrow
- Meaning and Metaphor: An Interview with Doug Wilson
- From Radical Lesbian to Redeemed Christian: An Autobiographical Interview with Rosaria Champagne Butterfield
- Enjoying God’s Beatific Beauty: An Interview with Kyle Strobel
- Marriage on the Cosmic Stage: An Interview with Greg Beale