LATC 2017: Can I Get a Witness? Analytics, Poetics, and the Mission of Dogmatics – Kevin Vanhoozer

 

Here are some lecture notes from Kevin Vanhoozer’s plenary session at LATC 2017kevinvanhoozer1200x1800

A-Introduction – the discourse of dogmatics: saying what is “in Christ”

  • Who God is and what God is doing – “in Christ”
  • For most of the 20th century Dogmatics is in the doghouse
  • Which comes first in dogmatics? A experience, community, language?

 

B-The issue: experiencing/thinking/speaking-of/living-to God

 

1.The Man Who Saw Infiinity

  • “The Man Who Saw Infinity” – Poetics vs. Analytics in Math
    • A feeling for form – poetic sensibility
  • What about dogmatics?
    • Where should we locate it on the spectrum? Analytic or Poetic?
      • Perfect being theology
      • Apophatic theology
      • Cataphatic theology
    • Dogmatics is a response to a prior divine communicative initiative
      • It exists under the domain of the Word
      • The communicative agency of the Triune God is what makes theological reflection possible. Christ is the human surface who mirrors the Father.

 

2.Dogmatic Discourse: the task

  • Barth: Dogmatics about how well church proclamation lines up with Revelation of the Word. The church must embody and proclaim the truth of the gospel. It was a science of the Word of God whose form and content is JC. It is scientific in the sense that it is the object that determines the practice.
  • Bavinck: Distinguishes symbolics from dogmatics (what it actually confesses and what it should confess). Dogmatic theology dogmatizes.
  • Webster: Focus is still on God’s communicative agency. Identity b/w God’s inner and outer works. Theology was under house arrest of modernity. Webster doesn’t deny the ectypal nature of human knowledge of God, yet this does not necessarily result in the deconstruction of dogmatics. Rather it acknowledges the limitations of human intellect, but places them under the sphere of God’s communicative action.

 

3.Dogmatic Discourse: The Challenge

  • Not all God talk constitutes dogmatic discourse
    • e. Jesus’ encounter w/demons. When demons speak. True, but not dogmatics.
  • Dogmatics not only involves words, but a doxastic attitude
  • The Latinization Thesis
    • Language change was crucial in refashioning the mentality of eurpoean thought process
    • Goal: have a humanist schoolboy speak and think like ciceronian Latins
    • Should we say something similar about dogmatics? i.e. to train to speak, write, and think as if they were in the same speech community as Athanasius and Calvin
  • The Globalization Thesis
  • The modern barrier to the thing-in-itself and God-in-himself

D.Dogmatic Discourse, part 1: Analytics

1.Dogmatic Discourse, Part 1:analytics

  • Language as a tool or language as what makes inter-subjectivity possible in the first place
  • Webster sounds an analytic note
    • Dogmatics is a species of reasoning. It involves viewing reason as created, fallen, redeemed. Caught up in an economy of grace. Dogmatic reasoning yields a conceptual representation to what reason has learned from following the exegetical text.
  • Is Webster an analytic theologian?
    • What is AT?
    • Its clear that Webster makes use of conceptual distinctions: i.e. Creator and Creature.
    • Dogmatics begins with economic works, and traces back to God in himself.
    • Webster insists again and again that theology proper is directed towards things unseen, but not necessarily unheard. It offers conceptual analysis of biblical discourse.

2.Linguistic Phenomenology

  • Webster may be a kind of phenomenlogist of the Triune God. Not the “thing in itself” but God in himself. Attempt to ID the essential components of phenomena. Webster even sounds like Husserl when he speaks of reducing elements to their founding principles. Webster – contemplation requires the mind to move through created things to the Trinitarian things themselves.
  • JL Austin compared his method to a phenomenology of ordinary language. Is dogmatics a sort of phenomenology of biblical language? It sort of resembles this.
  • Is analysis the task of dogmatics?

3.Warnings to reducing dogmatics to analytics

  • Webster’s Warning
  • Vos – Biblical theology considers the form and content, Systematic theology examines these same contexts as the material for a human work of classifying and systematizing according to human principles.
  • Webster: says this suggest two problems
    • Makes Bible raw material, hence the idiom of systematic theology drifts away from Scripture. It operates at a distance from the idiom of scripture.
    • Gives rise to the dangerous idea that dogma is an improvement upon Scripture.
    • Webster prefers a more “light-weight” understaning of the dogmatic task

 

E.Dogmatic Discourse, part 2: Poetics:

1.The Poetics of Dogmatics: a brief historical sampling

  • Not just content, but Form
  • David Tracy describes theology as the triumph of logos over theos.
  • Some examples:
    • Gregory of Nazianzus: Poemata Arcama
    • Schleiermacher: Christmas Eve Celebration: A Dialogue
    • Von Balthasar: Theo-Drama
    • Vanhoozer: Theodramatics

2.The Poetics of Dogmatics, part 2: biblical reasoning revisited

  • Webster’s exhortation to not let dogmatics drift away from the idioms of scripture
  • The imagination is a cognitive capacity: its important then to harken to the different ways Scriptures speaks of Christ. Given recent critiques of the designative function of language, we ought to pay more attention the the shaping of a biblical imagination, which includes also forms and content. Stories are not just delivery systems for delivering propositional content. They do something else too.
  • We needs poets and novelists, how much more do we need biblical narrative, to not only cultivate right opinion but also right affections.
  • What’s the moral for dogmatics? Should dogmatic theology look more like a science textbook or a story?
    • Lets not confuse propositional content and form
      • Some forms i.e. analytic excel at form
      • Some forms i.e. narrative excel at content too
    • Lets not think that dogmatics needs to adopt the styles of biblical discourse in order to think biblically
  • Gunton – Dogmas are summary of gospel material
  • Dogmas provide direction for doing, seeing, tasting, everything that is the drama of relation
  • The dogmatic imaginary is the social imaginary of the church generated and governed by the biblical imaginary

F.The Mission of Dogmatic Statements

  • Dogmatic indicatives: statements on a mission
    • Task: say what is happening in the mission of the F, S, HS
    • Dogmatics bears witness to this
    • Saying of what is in Christ, that it is
      • Many forms of IS (metaphorical, eschatoalogical, poetic, eternal)
    • Dogmatics guides the church in saying what “is” in Christ.
    • Dogmatic theologians are part of the cloud of witnesses
  • Dogmatics at Jerusalem: a mission(s) statement
    • Acts 15 – an example, Luke even uses DOGMATA to describe what happened in Acts 15
      • Judgement about “fittingness” of action to what we know is true about what God is doing in Christ
    • Dogmatic discourse and confessional statements
    • Confession is responsive and not spontaneous

G.Conclusion – the discourse of dogmatics and the gestures of discipleship

  • Why is there dogmatics rather than nothing?
  • Importance of including gestures in dogmatic discourse. Saying what IS in Christ involves action too. Action of what is true in Christ. The evangelical task is not just a finger pointing to Christ, but a whole BODY gesturing towards Christ.
  • Gestures are language too.
  • Dogmatics helps the church make Christly gestures.
Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s