Exegesis and Doctrine

Greg Strand – February 8, 2013 2 Comments

D. A. Carson addresses the gap that exists between exegesis and doctrine in his recently published book, Jesus the Son of God: A Christological Title Often Overlooked, Sometimes Misunderstood, and Currently Disputed (Wheaton: Crossway, 2012), 11.

Moreover, for some time I have been thinking through the hiatus between careful exegesis and doctrinal formulations. We need both, of course, but unless the latter are finally controlled by the former, and seen to be controlled by the former, both are weakened. The ‘Son of God’ theme has become one of several test cases in my own mind.

The intimate connection between exegesis and doctrine is critical. In a previous day, there was such an emphasis on propositional truth scientifically determined that it came at the expense of the story. Moreover, one’s doctrinal formulations were equated with Scripture. In our present day, related to the postmodern turn and in response to modernism, there is such an emphasis on the story experientially determined that it comes at the expense of propositional truth, such that the discipline of theology or formulating doctrine is called into question, by some, and by others it becomes relativized such that the best one can do is simply refer to theologies (plural).

Though a focus on the story is a helpful corrective in many ways, it is my concern with the postliberal reading of Scripture, i.e. an emphasis on the story (that consists of historical events that may or may not be true) that has affected/influenced Evangelicals. This emphasis on story has come simultaneously with the rise of the Theological Interpretation of Scripture (TIS), a necessary corrective to the historical-critical method of exegesis, which places the Scriptures back in the church with the people of God, not only in the academy. But for some this has become an over-corrective such that ultimate authority resides in the church not the biblical text. With these helpful moves, it is necessary to affirm that the ultimate authority resides in the Scriptures, along with some clear hermeneutical guidelines, as, for example, those espoused by Kevin J. Vanhoozer in many of his works, cf. e.g., “Introduction: What Is Theological Interpretation of the Bible?,” in Dictionary of Theological Interpretation of the Bible (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005).

Though Carson acknowledges that he addresses the current translation disputes, his ultimate goal for this book is stated as follows, which finally centers in Jesus Christ, the telos of exegesis and doctrine:

This book . . . is meant to foster clear thinking among Christians who want to know what we mean when we join believers across the centuries in confessing, ‘I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and in his only Son Jesus, our Lord.’

May it be so!

Greg Strand

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Affectionately called “Walking Bible” by his youngest daughter, Greg Strand has a ministry history that goes back to 1982. Since that time, he has served in local church ministry in a variety of ministry capacities: youth pastor, associate pastor of adult ministries and senior pastor. He is currently the EFCA's Executive Director of Theology and Credentialing. Greg reads voraciously and never stops learning — a passion reflected in the overflowing bookshelves that spill from his library to multiple offices. And he could tell you about each of those books! His hunger for learning pales in contrast to his great love for God and for teaching the Word of God.

2 responses to Exegesis and Doctrine

  1. Greg,

    You would have loved attending the first annual Los Angeles Theology Conference held at Talbot in concert with Fuller Seminary and Zondervan. The theme this year was Christology, next year it will be hosted at Fuller, I believe with the focus on Trinitarian Theology.

    I had a choice between going there or the mid-winter EFCA ministerial conference. Chose the 80 temps o southern California! ;o)

    • Randal, I did miss you at our EFCA Theology Conference. We all have to make these sorts of decisions of what Conferences to attend with limited time and budgets. There are many excellent Conferences these days! Though you did not attend the EFCA Theology Conference, you chose an excellent Conference to attend.

      There is great need and benefit to host a Conference as we did, and those who attend gain immensely. We also intend that these Conferences will have a longer shelf-life and be a greater resource to those beyond those in attendance so we record them. Here is the link to the recordings and notes from the Conference, “Sex Matters: The Theology of Human Sexuality”: http://www.efca.org/about-efca/sex-matters-theology-human-sexuality

      By the way, our next year’s Theology Conference will address the theme “Christian Faithfulness in a Changing Culture”. You can read more about it at this link: http://www.efca.org/about-efca/2014-efca-theology-conference-%E2%80%9Cchristian-faithfulness-changing-culture%E2%80%9D I have considered doing a pre-conference on Trinitarian Theology, which parallels the theme of next year’s LA Theology Conference. This is an important issue for Evangelicals to know and understand, as there are many changes taking place in Trinitarian theology, and not all are good!

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