The Theodramatic Imagination: Spirit and Imagination in the Work of Kevin Vanhoozer

In: International Journal of Public Theology
Justin Ariel Bailey Assistant Professor of Theology, Dordt College Sioux Center, Iowa United States

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This article situates and evaluates the cultural hermeneutic method of theologian Kevin Vanhoozer. His “theodramatic imagination” sets forth a method for rightly interpreting both Scripture and culture. Fellow theologian William Dyrness criticizes Vanhoozer’s model as theoretical rather than theatrical, focused on extracted ideas instead of embedded imaginaries. The article argues that, although Dyrness’ critique misses its mark, the true disagreement is pneumatological in nature. In the view of the author, this is the real limitation for Vanhoozer’s method: he prepares us to recognize and respond to the Spirit at work in shaping the Church’s “theodramatic” imagination, but we are less equipped to recognize the same Spirit outside the walls of the church, where much of the drama of redemption is set. Constructively, this article develops Vanhoozer’s cultural hermeneutic with a stronger connection to the presence of the Holy Spirit in the wider world, employing an underdeveloped concept from Vanhoozer’s theology.

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