Tag Archives: John Wimber

Is There a Theodicy Built into Kingdom Theology?

The above question was recently posed to me by a friend and it made me stop and think for a bit. Is there something inherent in Kingdom Theology that accounts for the problem of evil (i.e. theodicy)? And if so, what is it? It was – and is – a very good question.

(For those unfamiliar with the term ‘theodicy,’ I’ve included a brief overview at the bottom of this post)

If we are talking about generic kingdom of God theology (i.e. inaugurated eschatology), then I would have to say that there isn’t any one theodicy inherit to that theological system. This is because inaugurated eschatology is primary focused on answering the question of when the end-time promises of God will be fulfilled (i.e. is God’s rule and reign here today? Is it delayed? When is it coming, etc.?).

Accordingly, it is possible to add inaugurated eschatology onto whatever theological and/or theodicy worldview you might already have. This is how you get people as diverse as N.T. Wright, Wayne Grudem, Scott McKnight, Derek Morphew, Bill Johnson, Greg Boyd, and R. Alan Street all promoting different views on inaugurated eschatology while using kingdom language.

The definition of Kingdom Theology promoted by myself and others within the Vineyard worldwide movement (e.g. John Wimber, Derek Morphew, Don Williams, Bill Jackson, etc.) is one of ‘enacted inaugurated eschatology.’ This is a theological worldview that starts with the life and ministry of historical Jesus before building out other theological concepts. Meaning that everything is seen through a lens of the here and not yet of the ages. Being ‘enacted’, it is a worldview that requiring one to live out the inaugurated eschatology of the kingdom in every area of life rather than intellectual belief.

Under this definition of Kingdom Theology, I would say that there is a cosmic conflict (or warfare) theodicy presupposition that sees the age to come breaking into this evil age through Jesus’ defeat of sin, evil and death at the cross. As such, the followers of Jesus living in-between the ages are engaged in a war between God and Satan with suffering happening as a result of sin, death, and evil.

With that said, it is possible to layer theodicies on top of one another. For example, one could say that the cosmic conflict seen throughout the ages is part of God’s perfect plan or is exacerbated by free will. Greg Boyd, one of the top openness of God (i.e. Open Theism) proponents, combines the cosmic conflict with the openness of the future to the point they seem inseparable. The Vineyard being the Vineyard, you can find folks within the movement who hold to any of these theodicies along with a few others.

On a personal level, I combine the cosmic conflict theodicy with the consent and participation (i.e. God consents to free will and natural laws while staying personally involved in the world), suffering of God (i.e. Jesus suffers and weeps with us), and faith and trust (i.e. it’s a mystery so just trust Jesus) theodicies.

 


Theodicy Overview

For those who are unfamiliar with the term ‘theodicy’, here is a quick primer of some of the more famous answers to the problem of evil. Note that are lots of others theodicies and a TON of philosophical presuppositions behind the question of evil that I cannot get into here. Some of these overlap each other with folks (like myself) holding to a new of different theodicies at the same time.

 

  • Perfect Plan – Suffering and evil is all part of God’s perfect plan though he is not directly causing any of it. This theodicy is largely held by Calvinist which places a huge emphasis on the complete sovereignty of God (i.e. every action in the world was determined by God before the beginning of the world). However some branches of Arminianism will hold to this theodicy as they see suffering as part as a bigger, larger plan that only God can see.
  • Free Will – This view sees suffering as the result of the free will of humanity though God is still in control of the future. Largely held by Arminian believers who places an emphasis on the free choices of humanity.
  • Cosmic Conflict – There is a war happening in the cosmic realm that affects the physical world in which we live. Also called the “Warfare Theodicy”, this view sees suffering and evil as the result of the battle between Satan and God. As in, bad things happen because of Satan and his demons actively seeking to hurt people.
  • Soul Making – Suffering is seen as a way to grow one’s soul. As in, God allows suffering so that humanity overcome obstacles and improve our souls (e.g. endurance, courage, compassion, etc.). Some version will include the purging of sin from our lives within this theodicy.
  • Openness of God – The future is open with God allowing things to develop according to the actions of created beings. Since the future is open, suffering and evil is the result of free agents interacting with the world. Open Theists would be the primary proponents of this view.
  • Consent and Participation – God consents to free will and natural laws while staying personally involved in the world. I don’t know if “consent and participation” is the scholarly term for this view…but it is the one I’m using. =) The core of this theodicy comes from the Eastern Orthodox Church which has a different view of the fall, original sin, free will and divine omnipotence.
  • Suffering of God – The view that God suffers and weeps with us rather than standing above pain and suffering.
  • Faith and Trust – Suffering in the world is a mystery with no real answer so we are just to trust Jesus. I see the book of Job as a backdrop to this view in that at the very end of the book, God tells Job to trust in him and not to all the other theodicies proposed by his friends. (Granted, the book of Job can also be used to support other theodicies like the cosmic conflict view).

Experiential Spirituality: William Seymour and Don Williams (Part 6 of 7)

William J. Seymour
William J. Seymour

The focus on experiential spirituality dramatically increased within Protestantism at the beginning of the 20th century with the start of Pentecostalism through William J. Seymour.  The son of former slaves freed at the end of the Civil War within the United States of America, Seymour (1870-1922) passionately pursued God at an early age and “found his identity in Jesus Christ” [Liardon 1996, 141] in such a way that he oozed the Spirit of God. John G. Lake, an early Pentecostal leader, said that Seymour had “more of God in his life than any man I had ever met up to that time” [Liardon 1996, 154].

This passion for experiencing the Living God captured the hearts of thousands of people as Seymour lead the Azusa Street Revival (1906-1915). Early Pentecostal historian Frank J. Ewart, who was also an eyewitness to the revival in its later years, later wrote that Seymour’s ministry was “not built on a new system of doctrine, but on an eminent scriptural experience” [1975, 69]. The inmate ongoing relationship promoted by St. Thérèse and other mystics within the Roman Catholic Church had finally found a home within Protestantism.

The tenth travel guide along our experiential spirituality journey is Don Williams (1937-Present). Williams was a Presbyterian pastor who had a personal encounter with the Living God through the ministry of John Wimber, the leader of the Vineyard Movement, which challenged his Calvinist education that had taught him “not to expect any powerful work of the Holy Spirit after conversion” [Williams 2011, 5].

Building upon this experience, Williams went on to influence the direction of Christian worship and church practice towards experiential spirituality through his writings and leadership within the Vineyard Movement [Geraty 2014]. His message of “intimate communion” with Jesus [Williams 2004, 116] would help blend together the spiritual experience of the Pentecostal world started by William Seymour with the personal transformation Christianity of John Calvin to create a new paradigm Protestantism that has come to shape 21st century Christianity [Luhrmann 2012, xx].

To be continued….

 

Bibliography

Ewart, Frank J. 1975. The Phenomenon of Pentecost. Hazelwood, Missouri: Word Aflame Press.

Geraty, Luke. 2014. Don Williams: Shaping the Theology, Praxis, and Culture of Worship in the Vineyard and Beyond. Master’s essay, University of Birmingham.

Liardon, Roberts. 1996. God’s Generals: Why They Succeeded and Why Some Failed. Tulsa, Oklahoma: Albury Publishing.

Luhrmann, Tanya M. 2012. When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Williams, Don. 2011. Signs, Wonders, and the Kingdom of God: A Biblical Guide for the Reluctant Skeptic. Woodinville, Washington: Sunrise Reprints.

…………… 2004. 12 Steps with Jesus. How Filling the Spiritual Emptiness in Your Life Can Help You Break Free from Addiction. Ventura, California: Regal.

Remembering Dr. Bill (Jax) Jackson

bill jacksonI went camping this past weekend, relaxing under a shade tree while my son dug holes in the ground (LOTS of holes and tunnels, mustn’t forget the tunnels…).

Keeping me company on this trip was Dr. Bill Jackson’s “A History of the Christian Church: Book 1: AD 70-1730.”  Ever since last fall when I heard that Bill (or Jax as those in the Vineyard called him) was publishing a book on church history, I have been wanting to read it. Some extra birthday cash gave me the excuse to download the book to my Kindle and, well, the rest is history. =)

In a kind of sadly odd way, this reading of Jax’s book turned out to be a tribute to him as Dr. Bill Jackson passed away while I was camping (June 7, 2015) after a long battle with his health.

questradicalmiddleA tribute… yeah, I think I can call reading Jax’s book on history a tribute as he spent his life telling the story of the scriptures through the lens of a pastor/historian. His first book was a history of the Vineyard movement called “The Quest for the Radical Middle.” This was one of the first books I read when I joined the Vineyard Movement twelve years ago. Published in 1999, this book told the story of the Vineyard, warts and all. Lite on fire by the Spirit during the Jesus Movement of South California, the founders of the Vineyard (Kenn Gulliksen, John Wimber, Bob Fulton, Lonnie Frisbee, and others) tried hard to walk the line between Pentecostalism and Evangelicals, having traits of both but belonging in neither group. In reading this book and experiencing the radical middle through the Vineyard Boise, I found that I had stumbled upon a tribe of people I could run after Jesus with. It was a good feeling.

Years later I read Jax’s second book, “Nothins Gonna Stop It.” For decades Jax went around the nation telling the Bible story from beginning to end as most Jesus followers don’t know or understand how all the smaller Bible stories fit together. This book was originally a study guide for his video class under the same name. Later on Jax would publish a shorter version of this book (“The Eden Project: A Short Story”) as well as a longer version (“The Biblical Metanarrative: One God – One Plan – One Story”). The latter book along with the original were both VERY influential on my understanding of Kingdom Theology.

In addition to reading the above books, I had the pleasure of reading several of his papers – both pastoral and scholarly. Most notable, his pastoral teaching guides “Learning to Ministry Like Jesus” and “Notes on the Holy Spirit and Spiritual Gifts” were EXTREMELY helpful on my journey towards the radical middle from a Pentecostal/Charismatic upbringing.

NGS003.176I also had the honor to meet and chat with Jax on a number of occasion. He was a regular at the Missional Leaders Meetings hosted by the Vineyard USA Missions Office for many years, allowing a young mission minded pastor the opportunity to bump into him. Rather than being standoffish, Jax was kind, caring, loving and more than willing to answer the questions of a rookie pastor trying to find his way in the world.

One of the things that stood out to me the most was an email exchange I had with him in the summer of 2011. I had just read his “Nothins Gonna Stop It” book and was thrilled to find that he had listed out some of the different gods the Creator King had conquered during the ten plagues. This was something I had been searching for and could not find… in an effort to find out where he had gotten the information from, I emailed him. Not only did he get back to me quickly, he also shared with me his “Nothins Gonna Stop It” notes with the full bibliography as well as his recent PhD dissertation on Luke-Acts!! It was like I had won the jackpot at Vegas!! Here I was, an unknown young man in the back hills of Idaho, receiving notes from THE Bill Jackson!!!!

Thank you Jax for sharing your love of the Kingdom with me. May you enjoy dancing before the King as we await the blessed hope of the resurrection.

ἐλθέτω ἡ βασιλεία σου γενηθήτω τὸ θέλημά σου, ὡς ἐν οὐρανῷ, καὶ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς

A Vineyard View of the Poor

The following text is an excerpt from the recently released “Remember the Poor” booklet published by the Vineyard USA.

remember the poorWho are the poor?

Today, we often see poverty through the lens of economics or personal financial weakness. In the New Testament, however, the poor are generally seen as those who are powerless in society, and who therefore lack the basic necessities they need to sustain their lives. Without resources, and without a voice, they lack not only power, but also social respect and material goods. Because of the daily stresses of survival, relationships often break down. Poverty is a disease of society, and the remedies for all our social ills are found in the life and teaching of Jesus.

In the Scriptures, it seems that God has a special place in his heart for the poor. Poverty is mentioned, directly or indirectly, more than 2000 times in the Bible. Reminding us of the Church’s call to care for the marginalized and impoverished among us, Jesus said words that pierce us to this day:

“…‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’” (Matt. 25:40).

The Vineyard family of churches leans toward the poor, the outcast, and the outsider with the compassion of Jesus. From the beginning of our movement, Vineyard churches have worked to actively serve the poor in the most practical ways possible – in our towns, cities, and spheres of influence. John Wimber, the founder of the Vineyard, was personally committed to calling us to a radically compassionate life in the way of Jesus.

In the Vineyard, we believe that faithfulness to Jesus means that we are faithful to remember the poor, serve the poor, build community among the poor – and love the poor compelled by the love of God.

“Go Ahead – Pray This Prayer. Your Life Will Never be Dull Again.”

The following text was written by Steve & Cindy Nicholson, Evanston Vineyard pastors, for the recently released Come Holy Spirit” booklet  published by the Vineyard USA.

“’Come, Holy Spirit.’ We remember the first time those words were used by us as a conscious invitation to the Spirit to come, with an expectation that we might see evidences of the Spirit’s presence. It was at our young church’s annual dinner-come-slide-show-come worship celebration. Everyone was standing. There was a deep, unnerving, very long silence.

steve and cindy nicholsonThen in the cavernous acoustics of a church gym, the sound of a metal folding chair flipping over and the unmistakable wail of a man whose emotional pain had just gotten uncorked by God. More flipping chairs, more crying, laughing, shouting, people shaking, people ending up under folding chairs, and all through the room, such a sense of purposefulness to it all, of God doing things and saying things, as though we had finally opened the door and let Him in. Which we had!

‘Come, Holy Spirit’ did not originate with John Wimber. We are merely the latest generation to embrace it. It has its roots back in the earliest prayers of the first Church Fathers and Mothers, the first generation after the apostles to carry the flame of the gospel forward. This prayer is not just some oddity of 21st century Western Christianity. It is part and parcel of Trinitarian theology, a beloved prayer of every generation of believers before us. You are in very good company when you pray, ‘Come, Holy Spirit.’

‘Come, Holy Spirit’ is a direct, bold request for the Spirit to do the work the Father wants to do in us, and to be the fire that propels us out to do the work the Father wants to do through us. The words are not magic (oh, how many times have we found that out the hard way!); we have to actually expect the Spirit to accept our invitation! Otherwise it’s a bit like standing inside our home saying ‘Come on in!’ to someone standing outside, but never actually opening the door.

‘Come, Holy Spirit’ is a prayer best prayed with willingness to welcome surprise and unpredictability. When we pray this prayer, we never know what will happen next! Most of us love the image of Aslan, in the C.S. Lewis Narnia books, as ‘good but not tame.’ It’s another thing entirely to be met by this not-tame Holy Spirit in real life! But nothing beats the joy of seeing the Spirit come and do what we are powerless to do in our own strength. Go ahead – pray this prayer. Your life will never be dull again.”

The Third Person of the Trinity

The following text is an excerpt from the recently released “Come Holy Spirit” booklet published by the Vineyard USA.
Who Is The Holy Spirit?

Who is the Holy Spirit? In many churches you will hear messages on God as Father, and God as the Son. But how often will you hear a message about God as the Holy Spirit? The truth is that the Holy Spirit may be the least understood Person of what church history calls the Trinity – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

The Vineyard story is driven by the reality that God eagerly desires us to experience his presence. The presence of God is expressed by the Spirit of God, and it is the experience of the presence of God that empowers us to do the work Jesus has called us to do in the world.

Recognizing The Person Of The Spirit

holy spiritWe are committed to being “functionally Trinitarian” in all our church activities, recognizing that the presence of the Holy Spirit among us means everything to the church Jesus is building.  Recognizing the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives and communities, we are softened in our desire to become “change (coins) in God’s pocket” (John Wimber) – people ready to be spent by the Lord and led by the Spirit into any act of kingdom service he desires.

According to church history, the Holy Spirit is God, and as such, shapes our lives as God indwells us, by his Spirit through the work of Christ (Col. 1:27). In the Bible, the Holy Spirit is called by many names including the Comforter (Jn. 14:26), the Advocate (Jn. 14:16), and the Spirit of God (Gen. 1:2).

The Spirit is given to us as a deposit guaranteeing God’s goodness to come (2 Cor. 5:5), to assure us of Christ’s presence within (1 Jn. 4:13), to speak through us to one another (1 Cor. 12:18), to guide us in our understanding of God’s gifts to us (1 Cor. 2:12), to empower us to impact nonbelievers (Mk. 1:11), and to give us rest (Is. 63:14).

Jesus And The Spirit

It is by the power of the Spirit of God that Jesus ministered:

“One day Jesus was teaching, and Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there. They had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal the sick” (Luke 5:17).

The Spirit also empowered Paul and the other disciples to do the works of Jesus, and touched those to whom they ministered:

“As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?” (Acts 11:15-17).

In the Vineyard we believe that the Holy Spirit, likewise, distributes gifts among us, his Church today. These gifts of healing, prophecy, prayer languages, miracles and many other gifts enable us to experience God’s presence personally and corporately. These gifts enable us to minister to the world around us imbued with the power of God.

Come, Holy Spirit: The Story Behind the Prayer

The following text is an excerpt from the recently released “Come Holy Spirit” booklet published by the Vineyard USA.

Sometimes, the simplest prayers are the best prayers. One prayer that has been prayed by the church in many forms over the past 2000 years has become very important to us in the Vineyard family of churches.

It is the prayer “Come, Holy Spirit.

come holy spiritOn Mother’s Day, 1980, John Wimber had a unique experience at the church he pastored in Yorba Linda, California. John was from a Quaker tradition, and was a respected voice teaching leaders about Church growth through evangelism.

John had invited a guest speaker named Lonnie Frisbee to teach at their evening service. Lonnie was a hippie who was a part of what became known as the Jesus People Movement in the late 1960s in Southern California.

John’s church was filled with young people, and they gathered to worship as usual that night. Lonnie got up to speak, and at the conclusion of his message he prayed a prayer that has been prayed by many throughout church history.

It was a simple prayer, one that has become one of the most important prayers we pray across the Vineyard family of churches. The prayer was simply:

Come, Holy Spirit.”

It is a prayer the church of Jesus Christ has been praying in many forms over many centuries. That night, when that three-word prayer was prayed, all heaven broke loose in John Wimber’s community. An entire movement of churches has, in many ways, grown around that prayer. After that gathering, deeply encountered by the Holy Spirit, young people poured into the streets, leading hundreds, then thousands, to faith in Jesus Christ. Miracles followed their simple prayers, such as healings of bodies and minds, as well as deliverances from addictions.

Since that time, tens of thousands have come to faith in Jesus through the work of the Vineyard. Our belief in “Power Evangelism” – reaching people by participating with God in the miraculous – centers us on the Holy Spirit’s work in drawing the heart to God.

Today, you will hear this simple prayer, in some form, being prayed in virtually every Vineyard church around the world. It is because we are learning in the Vineyard what the Body of Christ has had to learn again and again throughout history – that with the power of the Holy Spirit at work within us, we can do the works of Jesus. We can join him in the advancing of the kingdom of God to the ends of the earth.

We are a people of the presence of God. So we pray “Come, Holy Spirit.”

Spiritual Experts or Kingdom Disciples?

The following text is an excerpt from the recently released “Everyone Gets To Play” booklet published by the Vineyard USA.

everyone gets to playIs being a Christian about believing the right things, or living a new way?

One of the weaknesses of the Church in the 20th century was the direct result of what scholars call modernism. Modernism was based on the idea that if we just  gave people the right ideas, the right knowledge, they would then have happy and satisfied lives.

In the 21st century, we are coming to terms with the emptiness of this argument. Simply having intellectual knowledge does not lead people to live meaningful, satisfying lives.

John Wimber, the spiritual father of the Vineyard Movement, intuitively understood that much of the church had given in to this error of modernism. That is, they were more concerned with telling people what to believe than showing them how to live.

There’s a famous anecdote about Wimber going to church for the first time after coming to faith in his friend’s living room. After a fairly dry sermon and singing time, he asked his friend, “When do we get to do the stuff? The stuff in that book? I gave up drugs for this?”

This intuition goes to the heart of one of the most important distinctives of the Vineyard: that we are a movement of people who want to learn to live like Jesus lived, not simply believe what Jesus believed. And we don’t want this limited to the professional clergy — we believe that anyone can learn to live the kind of life that Jesus did.

The phrase that has come to embody this value is everyone gets to play – which is another way of saying that the Holy Spirit will empower anyone to do what Jesus did.

The Vineyard is God’s Idea

The following text was written by Phil and Jan Strout, Vineyard USA National Directors, for the recently released “What is the Vineyard?” booklet published by the Vineyard USA.
Phil and Jan Strout
Phil and Jan Strout

“There are a number of things that come to mind when we are asked ‘What is the Vineyard?’ We are going to attempt to express our thoughts in a very simple way, from our point of view.

“The Vineyard is God’s idea. We often refer to the Vineyard as a ‘movement of people’ that God initiated and invited, among many others, to join His mission. In other words, we are recipients of and participants in God’s great grace and mercy.

“We are a people who have responded to this invitation to join God’s mission, for His greater glory and the well being of people. In responding to the invitation of God, men and women like the Wimbers, the Fultons, and numerous others found themselves swept up in a Holy Spirit avalanche. These people who were at the beginning of this movement did not sit in a boardroom and draw up a five-part plan to form a movement that would spread around the world. This is very important for our present understanding of the Vineyard.

“We were called into being as worshippers and Jesus-followers, grateful and humbled by God’s inclusion of people like us. As we understood early on, we received much from God in relation to his presence – his power, his favor, his fruit. We all heard: “We get, to give.” What God had done in the people of the Vineyard, he wanted to do through these people. We have not moved very far from that simple understanding, nor should we.

“Church, church, church! John Wimber’s clear instruction to ‘Love the whole Church’ was a refreshing and liberating invitation. Worship songs with lyrics such as Help Me to Love The Things You Love by Danny Daniels reflected this emphasis. The Vineyard taught us all to not only appreciate, but also to embrace, the great historic traditions of the Church.

“God has always had a people. Despite our penchant for viewing ourselves as innovators in the 21st century, we must realize that we aren’t as vogue as we think. Instead of blazing trails with our faith, we have taken the torch that has been passed down to us from generation to generation. We are a family of torch-bearers.

what is the vineyard‘Find out what God is doing in your generation and fling yourself (recklessly) into it.’ That is a paraphrase of a Jonathan Edwards quote that caught our attention during the Jesus Movement in the ‘70s. It is not that God changes, or that his message changes. Rather, it is often that a vital truth has been lost or disregarded – and it needs to be rediscovered, revived, and made alive again.

“During the time of the birth of the Vineyard, the church was rediscovering the charismata, or gifts of the Spirit. Incorporating them into the life of the church, with all of us participating (‘everyone gets to play’), was one of the highlights of Vineyard understanding. Instead of the ‘one’ getting to play, ‘everyone’ was getting to play. There was no special person, no superstars. Even in our music, the simplicity of the chords and words took music that might have headed into performance back to intimacy, without hype.

“First generation Vineyard people came from an incredibly varied set of backgrounds. We ranged from burned-out church leaders from many denominations, to those who had never stepped foot in a church building. Some showed up in suits and ties, only to find out that the casual mode (in dress and attitude) of the Vineyard atmosphere was actually an intentional piece of our liturgy. In those days, the wide range of doctrinal statements was of little importance. We said, ‘Come as you are, you’ll be loved.’ God was gathering a people made up of ordinary people.

“The Vineyard Movement has a very unique opportunity to pass on a healthy template of what it means to be the Church to another generation. We will stay flexible and pliable in what is negotiable, as we stay the course in our main and plain, divine assignment to be worshippers of God and rescuers of people.”

– Phil & Jan Strout