Vanhoozer Versus Communitarian Theology

Below, Kevin Vanhoozer dismantles John Franke’s communitarian theology. Vanhoozer provides a helpful corrective to those who uphold the absolute necessity of the community for interpreting Scripture:

Jesus says that the Spirit “will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears” (John 16:13 NIV). The Spirit’s role is to “remind you of everything I [Jesus] have said to you” (John 14:26 NIV). In light of these explicit passages, I am inclined to resist any attempt to “deregulate” pneumatology from Christology. The Spirit ministers the Word (who is Truth and Life), nothing else. As such, the Spirit is the executor of the living Word and the Word written. To be sure, Franke rightly says that the voice of the Spirit never speaks against the text. But this claim has purchase, and protects, only to the extent that the text has determinate meaning. I am not sure what to make of [Franke’s] claim that the Spirit speaking through Scripture and culture constitutes “one unified speaking.” Again, I would like to see biblical warrant for this claim.

The Spirit is also at work in tradition – but which one? Does Franke believe that there is a single Christian tradition? If so, where is it? How do we know which trajectories of tradition are Spirit-guided and which are not? The problem with nonfoundationalism is that the Scripture has meaning only when it is read by such-and-such interpretative community. My question, then, concerns the ability of the text to speak against and correct the interest and interpretative strategies of a community. My epistemology and ecclesiology alike are fallible, for all human beliefs and practices are distorted by the fall, even Christian beliefs and church practices. That is precisely why we need a “norming norm” that is independent of our systems of beliefs and practices. But this is precisely what a nonfoundationalist approach disallows, if I have understood it correctly. (Mryon Penner, ed. Christianity and the Postmodern Turn: Six Views).