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Biblical Authority After Babel: Retrieving the Solas in the Spirit of Mere Protestant Christianity

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  163 ratings  ·  40 reviews
How the Five Solas Can Renew Biblical Interpretation

In recent years, notable scholars have argued that the Protestant Reformation unleashed interpretive anarchy on the church. Is it time to consider the Reformation to be a 500-year experiment gone wrong?

World-renowned evangelical theologian Kevin Vanhoozer thinks not. While he sees recent critiques as legitimate, he argues
Hardcover, 269 pages
Published October 18th 2016 by Brazos Press
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Douglas Wilson
Jun 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: theology
Really enjoyed the thesis of this meaty book. And when I say "meaty" I am talking about a thick-cut sirloin, and not talking about any watered down sloppy joes.

The Reformation was not responsible for unleashing interpretive anarchy into the world, and furthermore, on top of that, a "mere Protestant" approach to the issues revolving around the five solas is the only way out. This is a worthwhile book.
David Goetz
Jun 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: dogmatics
4.5 stars.

Another solid effort from KV. See this review for some helpful tables that show the coherence of Vanhoozer's argument. He tries to show, through a "retrieval" of the five solas, that the Protestant Reformation did not cause secularization, skepticism, or schism, at least not necessarily or in a way that undermines the Reformation itself. More specifically, he tries to show that the Reformation did not introduce a necessary and vicious "pervasive interpretive pluralism" (17)

Bob O'bannon
Aug 11, 2017 rated it liked it
Reading the introduction of this book got me very excited about exploring a common and very good question -- hasn't Protestantism unleashed a kind of interpretive chaos when it comes to understanding the Bible? How else do we explain that there are apparently 38,000 Protestant denominations? The phrase that Vanhoozer has coined to describe this phenomenon is "pervasive interpretive pluralism." Problem is, when I got done with the book, I still wasn't sure exactly what is Vanhoozer's proposed ...more
Alex Stroshine
May 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: theology
Approaching and in this, the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, many books have been released that assess the religious revolution/reclamation ushered in by the monk from Eisleben. Brad S. Gregory speaks of Protestantism's "unintended reformation" that inadvertently secularized Western culture. Sociologist Christian Smith has pointed out the impossibility of biblicism (both Gregory and Smith are converts to Roman Catholicism). Even Protestant scholars such as Hans Boersma and Peter ...more
May 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
How the solas of the reformation explain the real authority and unity of the church instead of being the foundations of a schismatic and subjective church (even world). Thats the question Vanhoozer brilliantly answers.
This is a great book ! Well written, with an excellent interaction with his sources.

Im proud te be protestant.
Feb 22, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: bible
Impressively researched but unconvincing. Like Leithart, Vanhoozer pretends at offering a generic Protestant view but in reality it is only inclusive of those directly descended from Luther and Calvin. Full review here:
Jan 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Vanhoozer doing the solas in his own creative, idiosyncratic way. Review forthcoming.
Mar 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Summary: A proposal that the five Solas of "mere Protestant Christianity" provide a framework to check the interpretive anarchy for which Protestant Christianity is criticized.

One of the most serious criticisms of post-Reformation Protestant Christianity is that it unleashed a kind of interpretive anarchy, a confusing of the languages similar to what happened after the tower of Babel incident in scripture. In fact, one of the major appeals of Roman Catholic Christianity is that in the Pope and
Aug 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016-reads
With the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation's accidental start coming up next year, we'll be seeing a lot of books celebrating and/or critiquing the movement (more than usual, that is). This is one of the former, but done mostly in the way of a defense against some of the most common critiques. There's a very real sense in which I'm not qualified to discuss this book -- and I'm really looking forward to reading reviews from those who are. But, there's another sense in which I am -- ...more
Steven Wedgeworth
Mar 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Vanhoozer has written a very thoughtful and engaging book on the issues of catholicity, ecumenical relations, and interpretative authority in the post-modern (or post-postmodern) Christian world. He concludes that Evangelical Protestantism is actually best suited to answer these challenges and that it answers them by recovering its own heritage. Vanhoozer uses the five solas as an outline, though he is quite liberal in which concepts and themes are allowed to pair with each sola. He has some ...more
I had high expectations for this book. Indeed, some of its parts were excellent. However, I disappointed at the overall argument Dr. Vanhoozer was attempting to defend. His arguments defending the 35,000+ Protestant denominations include pointing out at one historical moment, there were three competing claims to the papacy. When he severely downplays the problem with fissiparousness that has become Protestant Christianity, his following points ring hollow. For instance, by invoking the spiritual ...more
Feb 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Bible study teachers
Recommended to Eric by: Brandon Wolfram
This is the Kevin J. Vanhoozer book people should read. In a defense of the five solas, and the right of private interpretation even in the face of interpretive chaos, Vanhoozer puts forth a cogent, sustained argument that the Church, by and through its Spirit appointed prophets, pastors and teachers has been lead into all truth and has the authority and duty to interpret scripture, over time, for the Church universal. Is There a Meaning in This Text?: the Bible, the Reader, and the Morality of ...more
Aaron Cheng
Sep 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
In summary, Vanhoozer did a great job in casting a vision of unity churches coming together in faith, to dialogue, to share, holding fast to the gospel and to one another. The BAAB is indeed a timely book for today schismatic church. He sheds light to this depressing situation not by offering us something new that we have to learn, but he is redirecting us to look back to the Reformation the supposedly culprit to todays gloomy situation, and to rediscover again the good old gems of the ...more
Brian Thatcher
Dec 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
It was good. I think all people who self-identify as Protestants or evangelicals should read this. The most important aspect was how biblical authority isnt just individuals running wild with their own ideas. Tradition matters. Scholarship matters. History matters. Teachers and pastors matter. Interpretive communities matter.

Vanhoozer admitted he might be betraying people with his last chapter where he calls for evangelicals to be the main interpretive community when it combines powers with
Ryan Shelton
Oct 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Vanhoozer responds in good faith to the best of Roman Catholic objections that Protestantism unleashed individualism, isolationism, and interpretive anarchy on the Christian world by setting forward a vision of "mere Protestant Christianity" using the five solas of the Reformation as interrelated and mutually interpreting lenses. The much-contested Sola Scriptura, as intended by the Reformers, is best understood through the the logical, ecclesiological, and theological ramifications of grace, ...more
Christopher Hall
Sep 03, 2018 rated it did not like it
This is a book that should not be tossed aside lightly instead, it should be hurled with great force! In fairness, I am tempted to give it 2 stars because the introduction raised some great questions. However, the rest of the book gave terrible answers, some were not even answered at all. E.g., it was never answered how to decide truth when different denominations contradicted each other. Instead, he seemed to relate as if it were all various facets of truth, different emphases. Also, this book ...more
Samuel Kassing
May 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is not a lay level book. I thought it was going in but was quickly disillusioned of that notion.

Now, with that said this was an excellent work. Vanhoozer shows how the Solas together form a robust catholicity that Protestants shouldnt be ashamed of and should rejoice in! The evangelical gospel is beautiful.

He ably demonstrates how Protestant and Evangelical go hand in hand, and why the reformation didnt loose interpretive chaos on the church.

If youre a Protestant thinking about swimming the
Matt Crawford
Jan 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I cannot say enough good things about this book. My only issue with the book is that I had not read it sooner. Have a pen and highlighter handy. I take notes in the margin but if you don't then have a notepad handy as well. There is something to highlight or mark up on every single page. Vanhoozer takes the solas as they relate to one another, expounding on Sola Scriptura. He sees a parallel between the escape from Roman selfishness of the text and the pluralism of today's society. Sola ...more
Jul 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Love this book! Dr. Vanhoozer provides an engaging analysis of Protestantism and shows that it is not the cause of a Babel of biblical interpretations by arguing that the five solas of the Reformationsand a robust affirmation of the doctrine of the Churchserve as guard posts for mere Protestantism. I hope all Protestants will read this book and deal with the suggestions that Dr. Vanhoozer has humbly offered. ...more
Douglas Fyfe
Jan 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
I quite enjoyed this book. I also attended the lectures which were a precursor to this book and was pleasantly surprised to see a lot of humour come through into the book, making it an enjoyable read despite being quite thorough in places.
Ultimately the question is do Protestants have any authority to interpret the Bible without a Magesterium?, and the five solas are used to answer that.
So a good read, good length chapters, and very engaging.
Ian Howard
May 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Superb - I love the way Vanhoozer approaches theology, I don't agree with everything he proposes, but he writes in a way that forces me to rethink many of my own assumptions and conclusions in ways I find helpful - he also has a sense of humour that helps to lighten even the most dense of theological arguments.
Matt Pitts
Oct 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: theology, reformation
This is not your typical book on the solas. It will require your full attention (and a fair amount of imagination), but will richly repay the effort. Vanhoozer has given a resounding answer to the accusation that the Reformation has condemned us to radical interpretive individualism that needs to be heard by any who think Protestant unity is nothing more than a wish upon a star.
John Newton
May 10, 2017 rated it liked it
I think I agree with the authors basic argument: that true Protestantism was never intended to be individualistic (as it so often is today) but conciliar in nature. That being said, I found the title somewhat opaque, and the content of the chapters did not seem to match their headings. Also, I had never been aware previously of five solas. ...more
Nathan Douthit
May 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
An excellent read, one I would recommend to any student of hermeneutics. Understanding the authors point was quite difficult at times, but the last chapter and conclusion make things much more clear. Worth s read.
Noah Nevils
Feb 26, 2018 rated it it was ok
Not a big fan. I agree with what Vanhoozer is saying
for the most part, but it seems rather poorly said.
Perhaps I was expecting more specific answers to the question
of interpretive authority. I also don't think that his rubric of
the five solas helped him make his points.
Brandon Wilkins
Jan 24, 2019 rated it liked it
Good study of the 5 solas and Protestant identity, with emphasis on contemporary issues.

It's good, but it was more than I was looking to get into.

More for specialists than laity.
Lucas Bradburn
Aug 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Very insightful.
Kris Lundgaard
Jul 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
I loved the vision he presented of mere Protestantism and thought he argued it well; but, even though I'm not from Missouri, my reaction was "Show me." I'd really like to see what he described.
Jan 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
good reflections on the 5 solas, although I only give it 5 stars because his writing is often difficult to understand
Good Michigan Reads
I was overall unimpressed with the clarity of this book.
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Kevin J. Vanhoozer is currently Research Professor of Systematic Theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. From 1990-98 he was Senior Lecturer in Theology and Religious Studies at New College, University of Edinburgh. Vanhoozer received a BA from Westmont College, an M.Div from Westminster Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. from Cambridge University, England having studied under Nicholas ...more

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“It is well known that Pentecost reverses Babel. The people who built the tower of Babel sought to make a name, and a unity, for themselves. At Pentecost, God builds his temple, uniting people in Christ. Unity – interpretive agreement and mutual understanding – is, it would appear, something that only God can accomplish. And accomplish it he does, but not in the way we might have expected. Although onlookers thought that the believers who received the Spirit at Pentecost were babbling (Acts 2:13), in fact they were speaking intelligibly in several languages (Acts 2:8-11). Note well: they were all saying the same thing (testifying about Jesus) in different languages. It takes a thousand tongues to say and sing our great Redeemer’s praise.

Protestant evangelicalism evidences a Pentecostal plurality: the various Protestant streams testify to Jesus in their own vocabularies, and it takes many languages (i.e. interpretive traditions) to minister the meaning of God’s Word and the fullness of Christ. As the body is made up of many members, so many interpretations may be needed to do justice to the body of the biblical text. Why else are there four Gospels, but that the one story of Jesus was too rich to be told from one perspective only? Could it be that the various Protestant traditions function similarly as witnesses who testify to the same Jesus from different situations and perspectives?”
“For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (Rom. 13:1). God” 0 likes
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