Wednesday, January 20, 2010

95. The Drama of Doctrine

I must admit, when I first saw this title I could not help but but think of all the needless drama that swirls around frivolous doctrinal discussions. I will spare concrete examples so as not to get my self in trouble here, but I think we all know the needless time that can be devoted to arguing and scrabbling over doctrinal minutia and details. I have typically seen doctrine play a detached, dysfunctional and even damaging role in a lot of churches. For most people, doctrine ends up being more of a theory than a vehicle and tool to engage the world.

Vanhoozer offers us a redemptive model of doctrine. He re-frames it around the concept of Dramaturgy. This word is a bit technical, but it is a very cool concept AND practice. Dramaturgy is the art of dramatic composition and the representation of the main elements of drama on the stage. Some dramatists combine writing and dramaturgy when creating a drama. Others work with a specialist, called a dramaturg, to adapt a work for the stage. Vanhoozer says that doctrine and theology should play a similar role in the Christian community. It should help us re-present the story of Jesus to the world. He offers these 5 suggestions for the role theology and doctrine should play in the community of Jesus.

Celebrating - Theology and doctrine should lead us to celebrate who God is and his activity in the world.

Coping - Theology and Doctrine should give us the tools to cope with the evil, injustice and unnecessary chaos of the world.

Criticizing - Theology and Doctrine should play a critical function in helping us discern between what is good and what is evil. It helps us pinpoint what promotes shalom, and what damages shalom in God's economy

Communicating - Theology and Doctrine should point us towards models, paradigms, metaphors and linguistic expressions that help us communicate who God is and what he is up to in the world. It gives us a way of speaking about the gospel.

Continuing - Theology and Doctrine, if it is sound and healthy, become the vehicles that allow us to continue the story of Jesus. It becomes the framework that gives structure to, and channels our energy.

Vanhoozer says that theology and doctrine, rather than being about theory, it should about Theater. It shold lead us onto the stage of the world and help us figure out our role in the story as we both speak and re-enact the story of Jesus in the world. Doctrine should be closely linked with Drama.

This has a lot of application to the apostolic as the primary vehicle for calling new communities into existence is the gospel, a story. But it is not just a spoken gospel, although the gospel was meant to be spoken! It is also about re-enacting the story of Jesus. Apostolic ministry is a lot like the  Dramaturgy. Apostles help new (or existing if they are Petrine) communities to learn how to find their role in the drama, and re-enact the story on their local stage with both words and actions, using the script-ures as their primary guide. It is not enough to indoctrinate people in the old sense of the term. Doctrine must be connected to practice. It must lead to an ethos. The literal meaning of doctrine is teaching.

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