Theology matters. Everyone has opinions about God. Theology provides the framework—the skeleton—for how we flesh out the way we think, how we live, and how we love. Christian theology has a long history, and though over the centuries there have been many orthodoxies, to this day and across the board, most of the Christian church adheres to the tenets of its oldest creed, dating back to at least 140 A.D.
I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.
The Apostles' Creed
I think of it (the Bible) like the score of a Beethoven symphony, but every time it is performed it comes out differently. So the Bible is open to many performances, and if someone knows enough about music, they will know how some of the performances contradict each other. So the way I want to understand it is the Bible is an invitation and a summons to take it seriously and to see what my life would be like if I were to be deeply and responsibly engaged with what this script is yielding. The Bible is an artistic articulation.
For us in the Vineyard, our theology is informed by the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. They are both sacred. However, we do not worship the book. We worship God: Father, Son, and Spirit. We believe that God is self-revealed in the Scriptures, culminating in the person of Jesus, the Living Word.
Our approach to the Biblical text is about reaching for (the) Truth more than catering to the need to be right. This involves giving due attention to history, science, hermeneutic and Biblical scholarship as well as theological framing. We are not know-it-alls. We expect to receive revelation and insight from each other, those we may even disagree with, and the voice of the Spirit within and among us—anchored to textual and communal discernment.
This, in fact, is key to our understanding of the entire Biblical narrative. It is God-breathed, yetdelivered through human agency. This helps us make sense of the broad scope of how the Bible is written. There are stories, historical accounts, prophetic utterances, poetry, and parables. This awareness is particularly important to understanding the Old Testament. Knowing this helps us see that much of it is descriptive as opposed to prescriptive. The Gospels and Acts of the New Testament are also a great reflection of this. These documents were written from several different perspectives, memories, and places of personal impact, which at times may appear conflicting. This does not water down the text in any way, but rather keeps the Word of God alive. Breathing. Tethered to story and journey. The Epistles of the New Testament stay in this vein. When the writings are disembodied from the journey of community trying to live out the Jesus Way, they become a set of rules and doctrine that are open for all kinds of "right" interpretation and resulting contradictions which often end up in unnecessary division. There is room for nuance without losing the divine revelation at its core. This in no way minimizes conviction. But we can hold conviction without certainty. We can hold to our understanding of how our obedience to Christ plays out, holding fast to the Bible as our guide without becoming overbearing and belligerent.
Christianity takes us far beyond behavioural modification and sin management, into a process of complete transformation. Worship becomes holistic—loving God with mind, soul, body, and spirit; loving others as we love ourselves. We are to be, in Jesus' own words, born again. This new and abundant life is shaped and sustained under God's dynamic and expanding reign, extending to all of creation and into eternity. The birth of Jesus signalled this Kingdom breaking into the human experience. His ministry of healing, hope, deliverance, forgiveness, compassion, and justice established the beach head for advancing the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. Light in darkness.
...Who is He, this King of Glory? The Lord...
"...The Kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!"
Life over death. Perfect love casting out fear. Continuing this Kingdom work, we long for the day of Christ's return, when the fullness of His Kingdom is realized. Theologians call this Inaugurated Eschatology. We refer to it as "the now and the not yet". One of the proponents of this understanding was George Eldon Ladd. He taught alongside John Wimber at Fuller Theological Seminary, and would subsequently have a significant impact on Vineyard theology. Ladd sums it up like this: "God's future Kingdom, where healing and justice and love will reign supreme for eternity, was being brought into the present through the ministry of Jesus. In Jesus, humanity was experiencing the presence of God's future."
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord.
"...These fellows (have) turned the world upside down...by saying that there is another king—Jesus!"
In the "world according to Jesus", most everything we've come to accept as normal is turned upside-down. The lame walk, the blind see, the poor are rich. The weak are strong, the servants lead, and the meek inherit the earth. Jesus is at odds with conventional thinking. This Servant-King challenges our understanding of authority and power, good and evil. His life, death, and resurrection reveal a radically different pathway to the wholeness, liberty, and flourishing that God intended for every human heart from the dawn of creation. The impact of this on our theological lens helps us see that a Kingdom perspective allows for tension.
Far from compromise, it requires leaning into faith that remains robust in the midst of uncertainty. It allows us to wrestle with models of leadership, ministry, and mission that often take us outside acceptable norms. Historically in the Vineyard, we have called this the radical middle, or the ability to see things as both-and, rather than either-or.
People often say "I'm not into church, I'm just going to do the Kingdom." I understand the sentiment, but the reality is, you can "do" church and not the Kingdom, but you can't "do" Kingdom and not end up with the church. The former builds on institution, which often results in people ditching "the church." It is sand that will most certainly be washed away. The latter calls us into the ecclesia Jesus builds—"His church"—a rock-solid and just community against which even the gates of hell cannot prevail.
Come to the Table | A reflection on the Eucharist
by Kris MacQueen
His Table as our Centre
Jesus shifted the central gathering point of the worshipping life from an altar for our sacrifice to a table of His setting. He is the host of the meal. This is a particularly poignant reminder in our context, we in the Vineyard being often centred, for practical purposes, around a stage. The stage may be a helpful tool for us, but it is a lousy centre.
In the elements, we have a reminder that creation is good. In the last supper, Jesus gets super practical. This isn't just about being "spiritual". He takes the elements on the table that are most deeply rooted in the physical creation—wheat and grapes—and infuses them with the promises of the Kingdom, the weight of the new covenant, and the sacrifice of His very body. We are invited to partake of Him, to ingest His substance. He is our sustenance.
The Power of Symbolism
It's also a helpful reminder that, though the bread and wine or juice is symbolic, the power of a symbol is that it carries the weight of the thing it represents. We take the elements as if they are the very body and blood of Christ.
The Spirit of the Lord will rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and power, the Spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord
Isaiah 11:2 — known as the sevenfold mystery
"...It's for your advantage that I'm going away, because if I don't go away, the Helper won't come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you."
"If you love me, keep my commandments. I will ask the Father to give you another Helper, to be with you always. He is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor recognizes Him. But you recognize Him, because He lives with you and will be in you."
If you hang around the Vineyard for any length of time, you will be sure to hear the prayer "Come, Holy Spirit." Fully recognizing that the Holy Spirit indwells all those who believe in Jesus, we also recognize that He is with us. The Spirit is often described throughout the Biblical narrative as "coming upon" people. Even Jesus relied on the Spirit in this way, proving the critical importance of our need of the third person of the Trinity as Helper. The early church was to wait for Him to descend upon them. The earliest followers of Jesus experienced a baptism of the Spirit in various and sundry ways, and a filling of His power that can only be described as overwhelming—not just relegated to a one-time event. All significant advances of the Church throughout history have been marked by what is often described as an outpouring.
These encounters are often accompanied by a demonstration of power, which can result in physical manifestations. It is not uncommon in our Vineyards to witness trembling, tears, laughter, groaning, and even falling down in response to the strength of these encounters. There are numerous other ways in which people respond to the weight of these encounters with the Spirit. Even the most sincere of these reactions are not to be replicated for their own sake. We see these as potential responses to the Spirit's presence, not prerequisites or a metric for spirituality. The fruit of the Spirit—character—is actually the goal of the Spirit's work, not the accompanying manifestations of His power.
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness, a light has dawned.
God has rescued us from the power of darkness and has brought us into the Kingdom of the Son whom He loves...
For our struggle is not against human opponents, but against rulers, authorities, cosmic powers in the darkness around us, and evil spiritual forces in the heavenly realm.
...The reason that the Son of God was revealed was to destroy what the Devil has been doing.
1 John 3:8
We are made in God's image and celebrate beauty in all of creation. When we categorize things as "sacred" and "secular", it creates unnecessary discord; however, we unequivocally affirm the existence of good and evil—and they are at war. In his book, God At War: The Bible and Spiritual Conflict, Gregory A. Boyd writes:"This is our part in spiritual war. We proclaim Christ's truth by praying it, speaking it and (undoubtedly most importantly) by demonstrating it. We are not to accept with mere pious resignation the evil aspects of our world as "coming from a father's hand." Rather, following the example of our Lord and Savior, and going forth with the confidence that he has in principle already defeated his (and our) foes, we are to revolt against the evil aspects of our world as coming fromthe devil's hand. Our revolt is to be broad—as broad as the evil we seek to confront, and as broad as the work of the cross we seek to proclaim. Wherever there is destruction, hatred, apathy, injustice, pain or hopelessness, whether it concerns God's creation, a structural feature of society, or the physical, psychological or spiritual aspect of an individual, we are in word and deed to proclaim to the evil powers that be, "You aredefeated." As Jesus did, we proclaim this by demonstrating it."
It may defy our human sensibilities to think and act in terms of existing in a supernatural theatre of war, but the reality is we are immersed in a cosmic battle. Evil never fights fairly, but our nemesis is not our neighbour. Our primary mode of engagement in this conflict is compassion, especially toward those who are the most demonized, oppressed, wounded, and ill. Our protection is in the place of humble, steadfast prayer. Our power lies in the gifts and discernment of the Holy Spirit. These encounters are often accompanied by a demonstration of power, which can result in physical manifestations. It is not uncommon in our Vineyards to witness trembling, tears, laughter, groaning, and even falling down in response to the strength of these encounters. There are numerous other ways in which people respond to the weight of these encounters with the Spirit. Even the most sincere of these reactions are not to be replicated for their own sake. We see these as potential responses to the Spirit's presence, not prerequisites or a metric for spirituality. The fruit of the Spirit—character—is actually the goal of the Spirit's work, not the accompanying manifestations of His power.
The Golden Sequence
Come, Holy Spirit; send down from heaven's height your radiant light.
Come, lamp of every heart come, parent of the poor; all gifts are yours.
Comforter beyond all comforting, sweet unexpected guest, sweetly refresh.
Rest in hard labour, coolness in heavy heat, hurt souls' relief.
Refill the secret hearts of your faithful, O most blessed light.
Without your holy power nothing can bear your light, nothing is free from sin.
Wash all that is filthy, water all that is parched, heal what is hurt within.
Bend all that is rigid, warm all that is frozen hard, lead back the lost.
Give to your faithful ones, who come in simple trust, your sevenfold mystery.
Give virtue its reward, give, in the end, salvation and joy that has no end.
Ascribed to St. Gregory the Great, 604 A.D.