Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Reader

Ronald J. Feenstra

Second Reader

John Bolt

Third Reader

Lyle D. Beirma

Fourth Reader

Michael E. Wittmer


This dissertation fills a gap in the current scholarship by describing Stanley Grenz’s and Kevin Vanhoozer’s postconservative evangelical understandings of authority, meaning, and truth as they are related to Scripture and the community of faith. Acknowledging the postliberal influence of George Lindbeck, scholarship is further needed to describe whether theological authority ultimately rests in Scripture or the community of faith. Furthermore, scholarship needs to address the manner in which we seek, participate in, or determine meaning and truth within postconservative evangelical theological method. This dissertation provides this scholarship for Grenz’s and Vanhoozer’s thought while also providing a more extensive description of Vanhoozer’s canonical-linguistic method and its relationship to the questions of authority, meaning and truth than is available elsewhere in a single work. This dissertation argues that Lindbeck’s cultural-linguistic turn in theology helped pave the way for current postconservative evangelical theological methods. Grenz follows Lindbeck in placing authority squarely with the community of faith. The church, in part, determines meaning and truth through her use of Scripture in particular cultural and linguistic contexts. Through his novel use of speech-act theory, Grenz locates the Spirit’s illocutions apart from the actual illocutions of Scripture. He is therefore unable to adequately answer how Scripture’s actual content is related to the Spirit’s accomplishing his perlocutionary effect of world-formation. In stark contrast, Vanhoozer places authority in the biblical canon as Spirit-inspired text. He argues that meaning is to be found within the text through the illocutionary acts of the biblical authors. Vanhoozer understands the entire canon to be God’s communicative act which carries meaning potential for truthful community performance. This work contends that Christian theology should embrace a robust understanding of accepting Scripture as the norming norm and fundamental authoritative source for the task of theology. It further argues that there must be an understanding of the biblical text as a world-forming narrative from which and in which we participate in the theological task. While the primacy of narrative should be accepted when engaging biblical revelation, we must acknowledge truth in propositional form within the narrative. In contrast to Scripture’s magisterial authority, this dissertation describes the church as a community of faith that has ministerial authority for making theological statements and living out theology in communal praxis. Christian theology should assert that truth determines the community of faith and that the community of faith interprets, but does not determine truth. This work furthermore argues that the church’s theological truth claims should both cohere internally and correspond to what in fact is.



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