An Increasingly Common Analogy
I've read it in various books and heard it in several lectures. N.T. Wright has used it. Stan Grenz has used. Keith VanHoozer has used. John Franke has used it. Michael Horton has used it. And others as well. And I like it.
It usually runs something like this.... Living out biblical theology is like performing a drama. Our life in Christ is analogous to a group of Shakespearean groupies who have newly discovered a five act play by Shakespeare. It was previously unknown. But the problem is that the last act is missing. We only have the first four acts. The last act is lost. Suppose, however, these scholars, actors, etc., want to perform this play. How can they perform it without the last act? They will have to improvise. In order to do so, they have to "live and breathe" the works of Shakespeare. They will know all his other works, thoroughly know this present play, understand how his mind works, etc. With their "Shakespearean mind" they write and perform the final act as they imagine Shakespeare would have written it.
The analogy is.... We have Scripture which bears witness to the mind of God in Christ. We have the first act-Creation. We have the second act--Israel. We have the third act--Christ. We have the fourth act--the early Church (Acts & the Epistles). We are the fifth act. And we currently perform that fifth act as best we can imaginatively enter into the mind of God in Christ. We live out that mind--we perform the fifth act on the basis of the first four acts.
I like the analogy. I think it is quite useful. There is a sense in which we do not have a script for living in the 21st century as Christians. We don't have a script that tells us how to deal with gene therapy, nuclear war, software ethics, etc. We encounter many issues in the contemporary world that are not addressed in Scripture. Consequently, we seek the mind of God in Christ, and then seek to live out of that "mind" in the present.
But I would like to adjust the analogy a bit. While we are living out the fifth act, we do have the sixth act. What we are missing is not the end, but the time between Christ and the end. We know what the ending of the story is. We know how the drama climaxes. The act we are missing is the one between the fourth and sixth--between Christ in the Early Church (Acts and Epistles) and the Eschaton (the New Heaven and New Earth).
Consequently, we learn how to peform the present story of God through drawing on the mind of God in the past and the future. We know God's intent (creation) and we know his goal (eschaton). We know his acts in history (Israel) and we have seen him in Jesus. Knowing God in Christ, we perform his story in the present. We are the fifth act. We are the body of Christ in the world peforming the drama of God in a way that is consistent with divine intent (creation), goal (eschaton) and history (Israel and Church)--consistent with the one who embodied God in our midst, Jesus Christ.
Theology is only significant if it is performative. We must "do" the truth rather than simply intellectualize about it. The goal of theology is practical--to shape a people into the image of God, but not just in their thinking, but in their life. The trandformed life is the performative truth of the story of God.