When doing theology must we start with God, the Bible or hermeneutics? For postmodernism we must start with hermeneutics. God and the Bible as his Word are not seen as objective realities but only as realities with can only be discussed in the context of faith- and reading-communities. Already some years ago Kevin VanHoozer in a book with the title First Theology; God, Scripture & Hermeneu-tics argued that questions about these three issues belong together.
Kevin VanHoozer unashamedly identifies the Bible with the Word of God. When we do that, herme-neutics is governed by the self witness of the Scripture and can never be an activity that can be undertaken apart from this self witness. Reading the Scripture as the voice of God shows that our view of God is dependent on the Scripture and our view on Scripture is dependent on our view on God. God is not the construct of a faith-community and Scripture has a real and fixed meaning that is related to authorial intent.
In the context of the canon and the development of the history of revelation we can speak of an extended meaning in comparison with the original meaning. The extension is always in the line of the original meaning. I would say that we know more about the referent of Old Testament passages that readers or hearers could know under the Old Testament dispensation.
According to postmodernism there is nothing outside the text. According to the classical view on the Scripture and of God, the triune God really exists and is not dependent on the Christian community of faith. The text of Scripture cannot be really understood apart from the conviction that the triune God really exist and he speaks in and through the Scripture. The Scripture is the source of real and objective knowledge about God; knowledge that is not dependent upon the person who knows, but upon God who has revealed himself.
VanHoozer rightly argues that postmodernism is a radically new suspicion of hermeneutics itself. He completely disagrees with Stanley Hauerwas who maintains that the whole endeavor to interpret the Bible on its own term is vain nosense. VanHoozer defends a theological hermeneutics and a theolo-gical interpretation of the Scripture. This means that hermeneutics and interpretation is based on the view that God transcends the play of language in writing.
VanHoozer ends his study with the statement that a Christian theologian must be a truth teller, truth doer and truth sufferer. A real theologian makes Christian truth claims. Real truth complains always surpass the community to which the person who makes this claim, belong. Truth requires evangelical passion. The willingness to suffer is an indispensable element of this passion.
Kevin VanHoozer, First Theology: God, Scripture & Hermeneutics (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2002), paperback 384 p., price $40,– (ISBN 978-0-8308-2681-0)