Friday, April 17, 2009

Living out my doctrine - some thoughts on Thiselton's The Hermeneutics of Doctrine

I recently had to read the first two parts of Thiselton's The Hermeneutics of Doctrine. In it, Thiselton attempts to rescue "doctrine from its marginalized function and abstraction from life, and deliver it from its supposed status as mere theory" (xvi) by using hermeneutical theory. One way he does this is by continuously directing the reader to the practicality of doctrine and to the essential intertwining of intellectual belief and the believer's action. Looking at historical confessions of faith, Thiselton points out that they were "practical, participatory, [and of a] first person nature" (9). Thiselton states that these confessions not only "declare a content, but they [also] serve to nail the speaker's colors to the mast as an act of first-person testimony and commitment" (13). Therefore doctrine was not and should not be just theoretical, but practical. "The test of a 'real' belief, in contrast to what we may merely claim to believe, lies not in whether such a belief lies consciously in the mind, but in the course of action, or in the habituated actions, which proceed from the belief" (28). As Käsemann states: "In the bodily obedience of the Christian, carried out as the service of God in the world of everyday, the lordship of Christ finds visible expression, and only when this visible expression takes personal shape in our lives does the whole thing become credible as Gospel message" (47). This is why, according to Thiselton, Paul, in 1 Corinthians, focuses on God having lordship over our bodies; bodies which "give currency to what our beliefs, attitudes, values, and doctrines actually amount to" (50). Think of what would happen if all Christians actually lived out their doctrine. Lord, help me to live out my doctrine!

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