About five years ago, while Kevin J. Vanhoozer had his itinerant time at Wheaton, word of this book, his magnus opus, was buzzed as the book to read for eager students of theology. So, wanting desperately to learn more, I bought the book, read the first few pages, and closed the book. His verbosity dwindled my fragile excitement.
Now years after the fact and having just finished the book, I both bemoaned my prior weak grit and celebrated how much I have learned since then. His verbosity, rather than stifling, was a delight to thumb through — he’s a word-wizard.
The purpose and thesis of the book are fairly simple: to restore the Bible and doctrine as trusted twin sources of authorities for the glocal church. The scope and the means by which he staked his claim, however, are vast and deep. To be fair, I felt him to be a bit redundant, yet knowing the projected scope suggests to me that, perhaps, Vanhoozer even condensed and shorten some! Again, it was impressive how he juggled and argued on multiple fronts: against anti-intellectuals, reductionistic accounts, liberals, postliberals, modernists, and more. He constantly returned and re-tested his hypothesis, at times, to his readers’ grief and, at other times, their enlightenment.
One of Vanhoozer’s great concerns and, consequently, the book’s strengths is the broken bridge between theology and praxis, theory and practice. As systematician and committed Church member, he bends over backwards to convince readers and fellow “in Christ” members of the role and benefits of doctrine for the local church. Originally, doctrines are meant to expand the mind and heart to overlap one another into truth, so that what Paul said of “renewing one’s mind” (Romans 12:2) is fundamentally a sanctifying endeavor. In other words, the more you know is not merely for knowledge’s sake, but for holistic integration of the Christian self to itself, to others, and, most importantly, to God.
Just as I heard The Drama of Doctrine as the book to read for budding theologians five years ago, I cannot help but continue the buzz.