The term “evangelical” is an increasingly diverse expression that is often tossed around in Christian circles today with little meaning or understanding. What does it mean to be “evangelical” from a theological perspective? Can we actually accomplish a purely “evangelical” theology? Moreover, is “evangelical(ism)” even an appropriate label to be lobbying around today? Kevin J. Vanhoozer and Daniel J. Terier argue that it most certainly is, and their new book, Theology and the Mirror of Scripture: A Mere Evangelical Account seeks to present this reality in an engaging and persuasive package.
Theology and the Mirror of Scripture rightly understand the importance of the Scripture and its relation to the discipline of theology—specifically evangelical theology. Vanhoozer and Terier argue, a “mere” evangelical theology should encompass a “Protestant ecumenical range of motion while anchored to the biblical, Trinitarian and crucicentric gospel” (p. 20). This anchor is held in place by two theological foundations: (1) ecclesiology—the church as the representative household of God, and (2) bibliology—the Scriptures as a mirror reflecting the form and content of the Bible on our teaching.
For Vanhoozer and Terier, evangelical theology can be effectively distilled down to the pursuit of wisdom, via “theological interpretation of Scripture,” actively amid the drama of the church’s worship and witness (p. 40). The first part of the book, chapters one and two, seek to frame the discussion ontologically in an investigation into the gospel of God and the God of the gospel—specifically the reality that exists behind the mirror of Scripture in the triune Godhead—and epistemologically in the testimony of Scriptural knowledge, and the way that biblical truth is preserved as doctrines come into focus through time and across cultural space (p. 41).
This first section provides the reader with a working framework for understanding evangelical theology, and the second part seeks to helpfully furnish the empty house that was previously built. The second part of the book, chapters three to six, defines and defends theology as the wisdom of the people of God collectively—a wisdom that is ultimately dependent on a proper theological interpretation of Scripture. Moreover, the wisdom that arises out of a theological interpretation of Scripture has a primary goal of serving the people of God as they live on mission corporately.
Theology and the Mirror of Scripture concludes with a strong and appropriate call for the reader to live theologically within the context of the community of God’s people. It is here that theology, that is “mere” evangelical theology, finds its ultimate purpose—to help the church glorify and enjoy God forever (p. 255). Thus, the local church is the mirror of the evangel, proclaiming the gospel of the Triune God, and embodying a visible sign of the invisible grace of our transdenominational, multiethnic fellowship in Christ (p. 262).
Theology and the Mirror of Scripture puts forth a noble and admirable task. In a day where it may be easier to peg Jell-O to a wall than articulate an evangelical theology, Vanhoozer and Terier have produced a clear and compelling volume. Theology and the Mirror of Scripture has cleared much of the mud that once saturated the uncertain waters of evangelicalism. If you are looking for a careful engagement on the bedrock of evangelical theology Theology and the Mirror of Scripture is an indispensable introduction that you cannot ignore. It comes highly recommended!
I received a review copy of these books in exchange for and honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.