Archive for April, 2013

From “Empowered Evangelicals” & “Radical Middlers” to … ? The Society of Vineyard Scholars and the Renewal of the Vineyard

Monday, April 22nd, 2013 by Amos Yong

These past few days I have been privileged to have been a guest at the fourth annual conference of the Society of Vineyard Scholars (SVS). As a renewal movement in its second generation, the Vineyard as a whole is both confronting the various challenges attending to and also embracing the many opportunities opened up by charting a way forward that builds and expands on the legacy of its charismatic founder John Wimber. A number of observations stand out for me as someone who is an outsider to the Vineyard but one sympathetic to its quest, at least as played out in the SVS, for a robustly charismatic and renewalist theological identity and self-understanding.  Read the rest of this entry »

Interruptions of the Spirit & the Future of Mission 2

Monday, April 15th, 2013 by Amos Yong

This past three days, I have been inspired at the Missio Alliance conference. My own role in the conference was fairly modest: a workshop on mission in a pluralistic world originally slated jointly with Dallas Willard, but given his ill health – pray for him! – with a Willard scholar, Gary Black Jr. from Azusa Pacific University, and a plenary session on mission with Jo Saxton.  Jo and I were invited to focus on the role of the Spirit, the gospel, and the future of mission.

The title of our plenary was inspired by Jo, who wanted to foreground how the mission of the gospel oftentimes irrupts in and through our lives, for those of us willing to embrace and live into such, through the unexpected and unanticipated work of the Holy Spirit. While Jo did the “pentecostal thing” of testifying to the Spirit’s intruding work in her life, I did the “theologian thing” by reflecting on the “interrupting Spirit” of Pentecost in Acts 2: a phenomenology of interruption (2:5-13), the unbounded scope of the Spirit’s interruption (2:17-18), the personal identity of the interrupting Spirit as the Spirit of Christ (2:22-24), the diachronic identity of the Spirit from David Israel to Jesus (2:25-31), the radical interruptions of crucifixion and resurrection (2:32-36), the eschatological interruptions across space and time (2:37-39), and the interruptions of our status quo (2:40-47). Those interested in the details of this will need to wait for my extended commentary on Acts 2 (with Vince Le) that will appear in the World Bible Commentary later this year edited by Michael McClymond.

What I found, however, was that my thoughts on the ways in which the Spirit disturbs our conventional ways of life was consistent with the major thrusts of the conference. David Fitch of Northern Seminary, one of the primary organizers of the conference, summarized it well in some ad hoc remarks by saying that Missio Alliance was about finding a missional way between those who take a my-way-or-highway approach on the right and those who adopt an accommodationist stance toward culture on the left. Hence this was not about attempting to find a via media for its own sake, but in order to preserve the missional task of the church in a post-Christendom world.

My own thoughts on the interrupting Spirit from Acts 2 resonate with this missional vision. The work of the Spirit in Acts unfolds the mission of God for our times, if nothing else. Yet it does so precisely by establishing a people of God, indeed a fellowship of the Spirit, that lives into the footsteps of Jesus, himself the paradigmatic exemplar (in the Gospel of Luke) of what it means to lead a Spirit-filled, Spirit-empowered, and Spirit-interrupted life. Jesus proclaimed and embodied the coming reign of God and those upon whom he pours out of his Spirit (Acts 2:33) are invited to participate in that proclamation and embodiment – which means simply living according to the apostolic instantiation of Jesus’ Jubilee message. Doing so will bring about the missional “results” of apostolic obedience: “day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47, NRSV). Focus on the work of the Spirit as inspiring a missional people will cut through the most difficult theological, political, and real-life issues of our time since it has to do with living out the redemptive witness of God in a hurting world. Yet doing so also requires that we be open to the interrupting work of the Spirit? We are ready for such disruption and commotion?

Easter and the Renewal of the Spirit

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013 by Amos Yong

Some say that the renewing work of the Spirit presumes a lukewarmness of sorts or a state of spiritual formalism (one lacking in vitality); only such a condition presumes or requires renewal. Others say that the renewal of the Spirit simply makes new, so that one can go not only from “death” to “life” (a negative to a positive state) but also from one form of life to another (a more or less positive state to another even more positive state). I think the truth is somewhere in between, and this was brought home to me in reflecting on the events of this past Easter weekend.

Jesus’ journey to the cross – was this led by the Spirit or not? Obviously yes – the Spirit led Jesus out into the wilderness and then from there through to Jerusalem and Golgotha – which suggests that the work of the Spirit is not always along the path of prosperity, peace, and blessing! This is especially the case if we also, as Jesus-followers, recognize that part of the call to discipleship is to walk in his footsteps that led to the cross. Yes, Good Friday brings to our remembrance that Christ took up our sins once for all; however, Good Friday also calls us to a renewed commitment to bear the cross of Christ through the valley of the shadow of death in the power of the Spirit.

Easter Sunday, of course, reminds us of the Spirit’s raising Jesus from the dead, thereby making possible also our rising with him over the powers of sin and death. Simultaneously, Easter Sunday also propels our hearts forward, in eager anticipation of the time when sin will finally subdued and death will be no more. Hence our present life in the Spirit unfolds in the light of Easter, but yet also yearning for its fullness of life at the second coming of Christ.

Often forgotten in the Good Friday to Easter Sunday weekend is Holy Saturday. That the renewing work of the Spirit today neither leaves behind Good Friday nor brings about the fullness of God’s new heavens and new earth means that life between the first and second coming of Christ is like that of Holy Saturday. In this liminal state between the resurrected/ascended Christ and his return on a white horse we experience the victory of Christ over sin while longing for the triumph of Christ over death. That we realize the Spirit’s renewing our hearts despite sin gives us assurance that we will undergo the final renewal of eternal life and union with God through the one who raised Jesus from the bonds of the grave.

The church’s liturgical calendar reminds us each year through Good Friday and Easter Sunday of the work of Christ that strengthens our resolve and emboldens our hope. These are also renewing works of the Spirit. The Spirit makes new as each spring time opens us up to a new season in the year. Holy Saturday meant for the disciples of Jesus that his crucifixion was in their past, although they were unsure of what was in their future. Our Holy Saturday invites us to ask once again for the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts so that we can persevere and rejoice in light of the past, and work in expectation of the future. Come Holy Spirit – gives us the means through which to bear witness to the world about why Friday is Good (beyond “TGIF”) but Sunday is coming!