This book brings together a set of related studies on the nature of Scripture and Christian theology by one of the most prominent representatives of Protestant theology of our time. After a brief introduction to the setting of the book and its major themes, the first part of the volume examines topics on the nature and interpretation of Scripture. A comprehensive proposal about Scripture and its interpretation is followed by a study of Scripture as the embassy of the risen Christ and by three related chapters analyzing the ways in which major modern theologians (Barth, T. F. Torrance, and Rowan Williams) have understood the nature and interpretation of the Bible. The second part of the volume makes a cumulative proposal about the nature and tasks of Christian theology, examining the fundamental principles of systematic theology, the distinctive role and scope of reason in Christian theology, the relation of theology to the humanities, and the vocation of theology to promote the peace of the church.
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“Christian theology is biblical reasoning. It is the redeemed intellect’s reflective apprehension of God’s gospel address through the embassy of Scripture, enabled and corrected by God’s presence, and having fellowship with him as its end.” (Page 128)
“The Holy Trinity is the ontological principle (principium essendi) of Christian theology; its external or objective cognitive principle (principium cognoscendi externum) is the Word of God presented through the embassy of the prophets and apostles; its internal or subjective cognitive principle (principium cognoscendi internum) is the redeemed intelligence of the saints.” (Page 135)
“This is not to say that Scripture is merely a stimulus for limitless debate; against such indeterminacy the Reformed scholastics properly insisted that: sacra scriptura locuta, res decisa est. But that locuta and decisa do not eliminate the intelligence, the will or the affections but direct them, putting them to work by freeing them from the pretence that they are at liberty to command themselves.” (Page 122)
“To sum up: there is such an entity as Scripture; it is the biblical writings as they are elected, formed and sanctified by the risen Christ for service in his self-declaration. In this service, the biblical texts have their being. Not to recognize this, to deal with the biblical texts as if they were not Scripture, is not to read them as what they are.” (Page 41)
“Holy Scripture is the prophetic and apostolic sign of divine revelation, that is, of God’s benevolence in granting rational creatures a share in the supreme wisdom proper to him alone; Christian theology is reason’s recognition, contemplation and articulation of this divine wisdom ministered to us by these servants of God.” (Page x)
In ten elegantly crafted and precisely written chapters on Scripture and theological reason, John Webster shows himself to be the master of the domain he surveys and serves—and of which he is arguably the prime English-speaking minister. Taken together, these essays represent a bracing manifesto and compelling model of how to do theology with care, competence, and good cheer by situating one’s thought in the broader sphere of the triune God’s loving address. May its domain (of readers) increase!
—Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Blanchard Professor of Theology, Wheaton College and Graduate School
John Webster is a dogmatic theologian in the classic sense: he is seeking God’s face. Knowing in faith that God has lovingly addressed us in the Scriptures, he seeks this loving God therein, trusting in the light that shines from the risen Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit. Disarmingly modest, wonderfully clear, and always attentive to the human weakness and repentance that accompany theological speech, Webster gives us a taste of the joy that is to be had in knowing and loving the triune God through his Scriptures.
—Matthew Levering, professor of theology, University of Dayton