Re-Imagining Vineyard Distinctives: Creating Theological Space for Biblical Engagement


If the Vineyard movement is to move into some theological space for exploration and re-imagination, I think we must be anchored in our Kingdom of God and centered-set trajectories.  In terms of a passion for, and centrality of the Bible and confidence in it, my hope is that we broaden our interpretive and theological boundaries.  I think one of my favorite theologians - Walter Brueggemann - maps out some helpful theological space for this kind of inclusion and 'being expansive' without falling into the derision of so many academic biblical scholars that undermines confidence in our scriptures, yet presses on to maturity with respect to scripture as scripture.  What is the space that Brueggeman clears for us to humbly enjoin this new theological exploration of our sacred scriptures?  Here are a three:


  • Biblical Inherency - the word of God is living, not frozen in the texts.  This living word is where the authority lies, and where eternal life is found (not just in the text as Jesus mentions in John 5).  As Dan Steiger once observed about Brueggeman's thoughts on inherency: "...inherency is an acknowledgement that the divine is lurking within the text, but it's not easy to pinpoint exactly where," it can be elusive, much like the Spirit, and it comes and goes as it wills.  I know people who have memorized significant portions of the Bible, and I know academics who can break down passage in original languages...yet they have no faith, no confidence that it has significance beyond some vague claim to history.  But many of us can witness to reading scripture and have portions of it "jump off the page" and into our hearts...or we somehow recall scripture in a moment when we need it...this is the biblical inherency that Brueggemann maps out that welcomes people to join the search for this "Living Word".
  • Biblical Imagination - we can employ the gift of our imaginations (that God created us with) redemptively in creatively interacting with our sacred scriptures.  Biblical imagination creates space for bringing back communal and personal lectio divina, a redemptive and imaginative experiencing of scripture, and not just analyzing and fragmenting every piece down to some flattened and rote proposition.  This is bringing imagination back into teaching and preaching - bringing together the charismatic and the contemplative around the text of scripture creatively - which by the way was a (if not the) primary tool for teaching and preaching in the early Church before the printing press and proliferation of common language translations and the more recent proliferation of study tools. 
  • Biblical Inspiration - what Brueggemann is getting at here is not the traditional inscripturation of God's revelation (i.e. recording in written form). What he means is that the Spirit of God actively breathes through the text and "blows past all our critical and confessional categories of reading and that the text yields something other than an echo of ourselves." This happens as we approach the Bible in prayer and study, or even in times when we may not expect it, when the living Word strikes a special chord in us, individually or corporately that resonates with how the apostle Paul describes scripture in 2 Timothy: able to make you wise unto salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. This seems a nuance once removed from biblical inherency, but I think it does provide some clarification when he says: "The script of the book is a host and launching pad for the wind among us that the world cannot evoke and the church cannot resist."  

As a pastor and teacher, I do feel like all three of these explorations can challenge people to go deeper into our scriptures, and it challenges me to be humble enough to trust God to be working in people.  I also believe this space propels us all into discipleship via the scriptures, which keeps the main thing, the main thing: following Jesus.

It's not about being overly intellectual, but it does embrace being both fully intellectual and fully practical...fully orthodox and fully charismatic, if you will.  Perhaps this is in the vein of a "generous orthodoxy".  Personally, I have experienced how this creates some space to theologically engage at perhaps a deeper level and perhaps different ways with the Bible, while exploring this newfound freedom beyond some of the reductionist tendencies of the past.  There is also an embracing of interpretive openness and moving creatively beyond the typical 4-point sermon into stylistic freedom for releasing the "divine Word" in the text of our sacred scriptures as well.  This really stokes my passion for communal spiritual formation engaging the underlying themes of scripture and embracing tools that biblical authors used to communicate this “living Word” in our scriptures to speak forth anew the whole counsel of God in my own context beyond monologic ways of pastoring via a singular "Bible Answer Guy" to communal response via dialogic/multi-logic endeavours that risk responding to biblical communication: powerful imagery, tragic and glorious poetry, provocative parable, invitational narrative, and generous prophetic critique.    What do you think?  How does this sort of theological space for exploration make you feel?