Book Review: Living the Future, The Kingdom of God and Holy Spirit in the Vineyard Movement Part 2

Book Review: Living the Future, The Kingdom of God and Holy Spirit in the Vineyard Movement Part 2

This review was written by Dave Hanson Executive Director, Sunrise Outreach Center Co-Pastor, Vineyard Christian Fellowship of Yakima.

Part one concluded with this thought:

From a Vineyard Justice Network perspective, there are currently ministries to the poor, the oppressed and victimized, all across the country. Human trafficking, immigration, caring for the planet and many other ministries are also building throughout the Vineyard.

While there have been conferences which have focused on Justice and specific initiatives in the movement, “a comprehensive theology of justice has not yet been developed.”

I like Dr Ericson’s list of what would be needed: First, An Old Testament conception of the Kingdom of the “Lord that loves justice” (Is 61:8) which looks forward to the final triumph of righteousness. Secondly, there must be clear understanding of whom and what we struggle against; “for the battle for justice is primarily undertaken against ‘principles and powers’ that war against God’s good creation. This would make perpetrators victims to some extent. The suffering of bearing injustice must not be forgotten, but rather understood with empathy. It’s about imitating the compassion of Jesus. This kingdom of justice provides hope and strength for both the victim and the practitioner.

Third, an inaugurated eschatological theology of justice would need to be comprehensive. Subjects would include oppression, racism (and other hatred of peoples), modern day slave trafficking, the rights of women, economic issues related to globalization, etc. We’d also need to include Jesus’ critiques of empire, nationalism, and political identity for discussion. Regarding economic justice, issues regarding sexual oppression and other exploitation and injustice would need to be included. Add to that immigration, the plight of impoverished women in the developing world, and a real discussion regarding the privilege, power and reconciliation, both in and out of the church.

Finally, Erickson adds, a comprehensive Vineyard theology of justice would need to include concern for God’s good creation, as environmental issue are often linked to human well-being, as the poor and marginalized of the world tend to suffer the most from environmental upheaval and change. I’ll emphasis this quote: “Rather than seeing God’s creation as merely a “bag of resources” to be exploited for immediate gain, a theology of environmental justice would maintain that care for the earth and care for the inhabitants of the earth are inextricably linked.” I can see significant advancements being made with books written by Tri Robinson and the work of Boise Vineyards i61 ministries.

Then there’s the discussion on Anthropology

Regarding a Vineyard Theological Anthropology, historically Western culture was in agreement that a person was made in the image of God (imago dei), carrying with that an inherent dignity and worth.

The question is asked, “Can the Vineyard offer a picture of humanity that is biblically-grounded, theologically true, and relevant to the late modern Western culture in which we find ourselves?” Erickson argues A Vineyard anthropology would advance the idea of an already-not yet person, because we are eschatological people in the process of realization. This assumes a starting point, which in orthodox Christian theology has been the imago dei. So an intrinsic dignity of persons as image-bearers of God comes with it a particular ideal of human flourishing. Unfortunately, the reality of humanity falls far short of this ideal. This understanding of humanity should more realistically be seen as a transition between states. So the question is asked “What does a person who is living the future within their very person look like?” Erickson answers with “Humans belong to all that is created by God, and thus share in the essential dependent nature of all creation.” (Job 34:13-15) The thought here is social anthropologies could reinforce a commitment to practicing living the future together in our communities, and the “everyone gets to play” idea.

One more element would need to added, it would need to be conversant and intelligible to the spirit of the age, and empower Vineyard thinkers to speak into our culture which desperately needs a Christian witness. Growing awareness and activism are good things and should be applauded. In a world so in need of an enacted theology of justice, “the need for a concept of the person” to ground theological ethics is great says Erickson.

Beginning in the final chapter, it reads “This book has been a modest attempt to provide an introduction to the theology of the Vineyard movement, which we have characterized as a church living the future reality of the kingdom in the present day even in the midst of suffering, evil, and disappointments. In perusing the central thesis of the book ‘the inaugurated, enacted, eschatological kingdom of God’ as Vineyard’s theological distinctive, a number of things were required:

1. In order to both understand the Vineyard movement and it’s theology, and to preserve it’s DNA, it was necessary to include the history and thinking of its founder, John Wimber. His story, beginning with his coming to faith in the Friends church and its Quaker influence, George Eldon Ladd’s consensus perspective, all his many influences working through Pentecostalism and Evangelicalism and the empowerment of the holy Spirit, as he shed prior cessationist views. His work on Pneumatology, all became an essential element to his thesis.

2. What’s been developed are the essential qualities of Vineyard’s eschatology, Pneumatology and the way we practice our faith, all of which are most assuredly distinct. Erickson offers several suggestions at this point: It is crucial for the movement to hold on to its DNA. As new young pastors and scholars arrive at Vineyard and continue the dialogue of further development of ecclesiology, justice and anthropology, they can and must be engaged from the foundation of its central thesis as its primary distinctive. Also, Erickson adds this: “It has often been said that Vineyard leadership has had the unique ability to “exegete culture”; that is, to understand the fears and ideals that lay behind cultural trends and shifts.” He has made a great case that the in-breaking of the kingdom, and the enacted reality of the kingdom, cannot be divorced from Vineyard theology and practice, and the hope that has become visible in the lives of suffering humanity.

Vineyard pastors and scholars can continue to engage in the discussions around ecclesiology, justice, anthropology, and the environment, amongst many others, by maintaining a firm grip of this truly distinct and practiced thesis, the inaugurated, enacted eschatological kingdom and the vitalizing presence of the Holy Spirit. Living the future means boldly entering into these challenging conversations where consensus will continue with attempts to drown-out distinct and unique perspective.

I believe this is an important book, I hope I’ve done it some justice with this response; I believe this book is a must read for every Vineyard Pastor.

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