I was planning on doing a couple more posts on Kevin Vanhoozer’s theory and methodology of cultural interpretation. (I still might, partly for my own benefit.) But for now, I’m going to cheat and cut to the end by laying out Vanhoozer’s 1o Guidelines for Everyday Theological Interpretation of Culture. Some of them need some unpacking, but since that would be too much work (and you really should go buy the book anyways), here they are:
- Try to comprehend a cultural text on its own terms (grasp its communicative intent) before you “interpret” it (explore its broader social, political, sexual, or religious significance.)
- Attend to what a cultural text is doing as well as saying by clarifying its illocutionary act (e.g. stating a belief, displaying a world).
- Consider the world behind (e.g. medieval, modern), of (i.e., the world displayed by the cultural text), and in front of (i.e., its proposal for your world) the cultural text.
- Determine what “powers” are served by particular texts or trends by discovering whose material interests are served (e.g.. follow the money!).
- Seek the “world hypothesis” and/or “root metaphor” implied by a cultural text.
- Be comprehensive in your interpretation of a cultural text; find corroborative evidence that makes best sense of the whole as well as the parts.
- Give “thick” descriptions of the cultural text that are nonreductive and sensitive to the various levels of communicative action.
- Articulate the way of being human to which a cultural text directly or indirectly bears witness and gives commendation.
- Discern what faith a cultural text directly or indirectly expresses. to what convictions about God, the world, and ourselves does a cultural text commit us?
- Locate the cultural text in the biblical creation-fall-redemption schema and make sure that biblical rather than cultural texts have the lead role in shaping your imagination and hence or interpretive framework for your experience.
Everyday Theology: How to Read Cultural Texts and Interpret Trends, pp. 59-60
Soli Deo Gloria
In other words, do it like Erich Auerbach.
But from an explicitly Christian viewpoint.