What is unique about Vineyard hermeneutics specifically?

The following is an except from Vineyard USA’s conversation with Beth Stovell about Biblical Hermeneutics. Beth is Assistant Professor of Old Testament at Ambrose University in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. She holds a PhD in Christian Theology with a concentration in Biblical Studies from McMaster Divinity College and has authored many books and papers, including “Biblical Hermeneutics: Five Views” for InterVarsity Press. She is a member of North Calgary Vineyard.

Beth Stovell
Beth Stovell

I would say three key things make Vineyard hermeneutics unique. Vineyard hermeneutics is shaped by the fact that we are both evangelical and charismatic. This pairing creates a unique and fascinating blend of hermeneutics.

First, Vineyard hermeneutics are impacted by the fact that we are evangelicals. We have a strong belief in the centrality of the Bible as God’s word and authority in our lives. This in itself impacts what we think Scripture is and how it should be interpreted.

Second, Vineyard hermeneutics are also impacted by the fact that we are charismatic. We believe that God can do miraculous things like healing people, driving out demons, speaking to us in words and visions. This means that we don’t dismiss passages in the Bible that speak about the supernatural, and we don’t think of those passages as for some other time and not for us. We read Scripture expecting to do what we see being done by the disciples.

Being charismatic means that we believe in listening to the Spirit together and interpreting the Bible as a community. That can be seen in prayer ministry time. Being charismatic means that we believe that the Spirit speaks to us in new ways for our context today — but in ways that are also consistent with how God has worked in the past, based on what we see in Scripture.

Third, and perhaps most important, Vineyard hermeneutics are shaped by the core values that make us Vineyard in the first place.

In the Vineyard, we value kingdom theology in our beliefs and in our practices. This view of the kingdom as “already and not yet” also becomes an essential lens for biblical interpretation. We ask: “Where is the kingdom in this passage? How do I see God’s kingdom coming through?”

Another core value which affects our view of Scripture is the Vineyard value of experiencing God’s presence. Experiencing God’s presence in manifested ways impacts our interpretation of “what the Father is doing” and thus interpreting what Scripture means for us today. The authority of Scripture and its power to transform comes from its ability to push us toward God so that we are drawn into his presence again and again.

The core value of being culturally relevant in our mission is based on Vineyard’s interpretation of Scripture, but it also is facilitated by how we use Scripture. This core value demonstrates that within Vineyard hermeneutics, while we often see the message of the Gospel as being “for us,” we also understand the need for continuing reinterpretation of the message of Scripture for modern contexts.

Our Vineyard value of being a reconciling community comes directly out of Scripture, with passages showing Jesus as the one who breaks down dividing walls. But it also impacts how we read Scripture. In Vineyard, we have the goal of breaking down the walls that might divide us as we read Scripture together, with the goal that we would not only be reconciled among ourselves but also be a reconciling force for those around us.

The fifth core value is compassionate ministry. This ministry takes Jesus as the model for caring for the broken and the prophets’ role in proclaiming justice for the poor. Because of this understanding of Jesus’ example, those who focus on having a compassionate ministry within Vineyard often use this understanding as an interpretive lens to read Scripture with a focus on the needs of the poor, marginalized, and broken.

Ultimately, the DNA of Vineyard shapes how we interpret Scripture, how we value Scripture, and what we see when we look at the impact of Scripture on the life of the Church and in the world around us.