Thursday, May 31, 2007

Vanhoozer's Cultural Intelligence Operation: An Interview

Gary Shavey of Resurgence has interviewed Kevin Vanhoozer in relation to his book Everyday Theology: How to Read Cultural Texts and Interpret Trends. The book is a collection of essays from Vanhoozer's cultural hermeneutics class. Some of his students convinced him to make a book of the best essays in the class and he did (must be nice).

In the interview, Vanhoozer talks about his involvement with the local church (very interesting), the origin of the book, and the necessity for the engaging of culture by Christians.

When asked about his intended audience in his writings (laymen, pastors), Vanhoozer replied in a typically Vanhoozerian way, "Well, I try to tailor the message to the appropriate level of cognitive development of my intended audience." Despite this, he admits that

The fact of the matter is that I tend to write on the "high" end of the readership spectrum. The issues I tend to take on are often difficult, but I try to compensate for the density of the matter by the clarity, creativity, and energy of the writing. Alas, too often the matter gets the better of the energy….

In describing Everyday Theology, he states that the book is "all about preserving the integrity of our discipleship in a world where even the church is increasingly being influenced by cultural trends." He argues that "in the so-called "Culture Wars," the church must neither be too quick to condemn nor too quick to condone. Before we attack, or surrender, we need to mount an intelligence operation. We need to find out what is actually going on in culture and what it means." Vanhoozer asserts that the main goal of interacting with culture is "to be faithful disciples to Jesus Christ in the "strange new world" of modern/postmodern culture."

Vanhoozer ends the interview by addressing the question of whether we are living in a crisis moment in relation to the spreading of the gospel:
There is crisis in every generation and in every culture, for each day brings with it the challenge to be faithful to the way of Jesus Christ in the here and now. Having said that, the present is a particularly important moment as we seem to be on the verge of certain tectonic shifts: the modern to whatever comes after the modern; the balance of Christian power (or at least numbers) from the West and North to the global South and East . . . we are in the unique situation of having to evangelize a culture that has had its Christian moment then rejected it.
It's an interesting interview, as it is always nice to read Vanhoozer when he speaks on my "appropriate level of cognitive development."

Alas, I may have to add Everyday Theology to my summer reading list.

Update:
An equally interesting part two is now available: pt. 1, pt. 2.

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