Moving Beyond the Bible to Theology
Gary T. Meadors, ed. Moving Beyond the Bible to Theology. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009. 369 pp. with indices.
The task of doing theology requires us to move beyond the bare statements of Scripture. At minimum, we must take account of different scriptures that address the same topic, and we must try to understand how supplementary and sometimes seemingly-contradictory statements are related to one another. We are also required to find answers to questions that the Bible does not address directly. Occasionally we need to consider why the requirements of some biblical texts seem different and even opposed to our moral commitments today.
In short, no one develops an understanding of Christian faith and life that stops with the bare statements of the biblical text. The question is not whether we should move beyond the Bible to theology—we all do. The question is how we can move beyond the Bible while remaining faithful to it and continuing to recognize it as our sole authority for faith and practice.
That is the question that Gary Meadors is trying to answer in Moving Beyond the Bible to Theology. The book is part of Zondervan’s Counterpoints series, and Meadors has brought together four authors who articulate four answers to this question. These include Walter J. Kaiser Jr., who advocates a “principlizing” model, Daniel M. Doriani, who argues for a “redemptive-historical” model, Kevin J. Vanhoozer, who articulates a “drama-of-redemption” model, and William J. Webb, the principal salesman of the “redemptive-movement” model.
Unlike some of the Counterpoints books, this volume does not necessarily pit views against each other. The four models often turn out to be supplementary rather than contradictory. Each of the authors recognizes considerable value in the approaches of the other authors.
Not unexpectedly, the most controversial model is Webb’s. While it may be possible to see some sort of redemptive movement within the text of Scripture, the question is whether Webb’s applications of this movement actually go beyond the implications of the text. At this point I register personal reservations. It seems to me that Webb has not found any effective way of regulating his method. In the wrong hands (which may be Webb’s), the redemptive movement hermeneutic could be used to justify applications that are actually contrary to the conclusions of Scripture itself.
At any rate, the interaction within the volume makes for a very interesting read. Moving from biblical text to doctrinal or ethical formulation is one of the key problems of theological method. While I find myself in complete agreement with none of the four authors, each of them contributes something useful to the discussion.