"Hearers & Doers" by Kevin J. Vanhoozer. A Review
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
At 58, I still love physical fitness. I run 4 miles three times a week, lift weights, and keep up with my Tae Kwon Do. Though it doesn't come easy, it did come early, and it came with loads of guidance and instruction. In my Junior High and High School years I received instruction and coaching on various aspects of running and lifting. I also received years of training from three martial arts instructors patiently guiding me through routines, sparring and weapons drills. These experiences and my present pleasure in physical conditioning has attuned my ears to the analogies in Scripture that picture discipleship as something of an aerobic fitness program. Kevin Vanhoozer, research professor of systematic theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, picks up this work out theme in his new 296 page hardback, "Hearers and Doers: A Pastor's Guide to Making Disciples Through Scripture and Doctrine". The author writes mainly for pastors as coaches who enable their parishioners to become "fit for purpose" because the "church itself is a gym with its own fitness culture" (43). But there's more in these pages than simply an athletic analogy.
"Hearers and Doers" is "intended to help pastors fulfill their Great Commission to make disciples, with emphasis on the importance of teaching disciples to read the Scriptures" (xi). Yet it is not a book describing some yearly Bible Reading plan. Rather, Vanhoozer encourages us to help our people to read with an eye to the way the gospel reshapes and redeems our imaginations in a social milieu that is trying to capture and control our imaginations. Also, reading Scripture theologically with and for the people of God, instead of academically. And reading with a view to being a new people, since the "end of orthodoxy, its final purpose, is not an orthodox compendium of doctrine but an orthodox community of disciples who embody the mind of Jesus Christ everywhere, to everyone, at all times" (127-8).
To bring us to these desired actions, Vanhoozer guides readers to understand their story in a different vein. We no longer try to fit the Bible into our story, our place in history, our world, but rather read "our world in light of the story of the Bible" (112). We no longer buy into the wellness gospel that promises "you can make yourself well - save yourself - by following this or that program" (20), but rather embracing the "theological meaning of wellness: to live in accordance with true doctrine about Jesus Christ. Knowing the story of Jesus Christ, his cross, resurrection, ascension, and heavenly session, is the proper context for determining whether we are doing well as mortal beings" (24). All of this means that we must reclaim the Reformation concept of Sola Scriptura, which the author unpacks in a hardy, hale and hygienic manner!
Throughout the book the author addresses numerous aspects of what it means to be hearers and doers. He looks into the significance of sound and solid doctrine. He delves into the role and realm of the local church. He tackles Protestantism, schism and genuine unity. He brings us into the church's worship and liturgy, even claiming "Ancient worship trains us for contemporary discipleship" (162). He further guides us into the ways humility and biblical interpretation go hand in glove, "In matters of biblical interpretation, humility is next to godliness" (197). There are some real gems in this volume!
"Hearers and Doers" is a robust manual written for pastors. But if parishioners were to pick up a copy and peruse it thoughtfully, they will not only be spurred further up and further on, but they will know better (1) what kinds of pastors they should seek out, or (2) what to appreciate in their present shepherds. This volume definitely needs to be in the hand of every Christian minister. I highly recommend the work, and leave you - my fellow pastors - with this closing thought: "Helping people understand who they are, why they're here, and where they should be going on the journey that is life is perhaps the most important ministry there is" (117).
My huge thanks goes to Lexham Press. I requested a copy of this book for review and they happily sent the one I used, making no demands nor placing any commands on me. This review, therefore, is my own assessment, all mine! And I freely give it.
The book can be picked up here: Hearers and Doers
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