Archive for May, 2013

Boasting Heresy: The New Ignorance

Saturday, May 25th, 2013 by Wolfgang Vondey

heresyIf you have spent any time lately in theological discussion you surely have come across the label “heretic.” No, I don’t mean the derogatory use of the term to denounce someone else’s beliefs as unorthodox or unacceptable. Surprisingly, I mean the use of the term to label one’s own position. “I am probably a heretic but …” or “This is probably heretical …” and similar phrases now introduce theological positions and beliefs in which the speaker is not quite clear or certain about what is to be believed. I see these phrases regularly in my classes, on discussion boards, Facebook posts, and in any conversation that goes beyond a mere superficial chat to probe the deeper theological questions. Not surprisingly, “I am called a heretic but …” and similar phrases start a position that is rarely heretical but more often ignorant, incoherent, and amateurish. Often I find in these phrases also a sense of discomfort with existing positions or a sense of pride, a boasting in heresy as if to say: “I do not conform to the tradition” and “I have found a better way no one has thought of before.” I find this trend alarming. Boasting heresy is a threat to the renewal of Christian theology! Read the rest of this entry »

Global Renewal: A View from (Western) Canadian America

Saturday, May 18th, 2013 by Amos Yong

canadaThis past week I have been spending time – courtesy of my friend and current second vice-president of the Society for Pentecostal Studies, Michael Wilkinson – on the campus of Trinity Western University (TWU) and with its Associated Consortium of Theological Schools (ACTS), including the Canadian Pentecostal Seminary (CPS), lecturing on global renewal theology. So be sure, when the apostles were told that the outpouring of the Spirit was to empower them to bear witness to the gospel to the ends of the earth, they were thinking certainly of Rome rather than of Vancouver, British Columbia, much less Langley, BC, and even Abbottsford, BC (where I preached last Sunday, at Christian Life Community Church – for the sermon see here). Yet equally to be sure, the winds of the Spirit have blown north, as one scholarly volume is aptly titled so that Pentecost and the renewing work of the Spirit has also – indeed, even! – occurred above the US border (Americans from the US may find hard to believe)!

Yet the renewal movement in Western Canada certainly has its own distinct flavor. British Columbian renewalists see commonalities stretching up and down the Pacific Northwest (PNW) rather than eastward across the vast Canadian expanse, meaning that there may be more in common to PNW renewalism than there is a more homogeneous Canadian pentecostalism stretching from the central to the Maritime region in the far Eastern shore. But what are some of the characteristics of pentecostal and charismatic renewal Christianity in this area that is quite secular but also very cosmopolitan and multicultural?

While there is much to talk about, one feature that stands out is how renewalism can flourish as a minority tradition. By this, I am referring to the demographically minute segment of the population that is pentecostal, charismatic, and evangelical Christianity in a pluralistic (Western) Canada. Yet even with these constraints, some renewalists are forging new conversations and pathways. The CPS, for instance, realizes that graduate theological education in the (Western) Canadian context can only succeed when intentional and strategic collaboration across evangelical and even ecumenical and traditional lines are forged. ACTS thus includes pentecostal, evangelical, Baptistic, Mennonite, Reformed, and even Roman Catholic partnerships. The future of renewal within this matrix is less an us-versus-them phenomenon but a matrix of more-or-less charismatically oriented or at least informed traditions in which each member or tradition of the theological community (body) has specific gifts that edify the whole for the common good (1 Cor. 12:12ff.).

So renewal and revival may not be exploding across Western Canada like it is numerically in other parts of the world. However, sometimes being a part of a minority tradition teaches us some important lessons and opens up possibilities that we might not otherwise consider when our numbers are stronger and we are part of or have access to the dominant social order. So while renewal Christianity in (Western) Canada may lack some of the pizzazz of what is occurring in the global South (or even south of their border), I would not underestimate its potential to demonstrate leadership in certain venues going forward. That is surely a mark of the Spirit, of whom we “do not know where it comes from or where it goes” (John 3:8).

Graduation as Renewal

Thursday, May 9th, 2013 by Amos Yong

graduationOn May 2,  I participated for the first time as dean in the School of Divinity’s 2013 graduation commissioning service. The image that came to my mind was that of Elijah’s “graduation.” The scriptures tell us of course that Elijah was taken up to heaven in a whirlwind on a chariot of fire (2 Kings 2:11). Let me be clear: I was not envisioning that some or any of our graduates would so disappear! (Although I am also sure that for some, if not many, the events of the commissioning service last evening and of commencement tomorrow morning will be nothing short of rapturous!) However, it occurred to me that Elijah “graduated” from a geographically bound ministry to one that has now been cosmic in scope. The New Testament writers document ongoing expectations by the people of God that Elijah would reappear to herald the messianic age; that he did appear with Moses on the occasion of Jesus’ transfiguration; and that, as Christian tradition understands it, he will be one of two eschatological prophetic witnesses who will perform great wonders during a time of great trouble (Rev. 11). What I see is that Elijah graduated from a historical to a cosmic ministry, one that is trans-temporal, spanning dispensations in the Lord’s scheme of things. Read the rest of this entry »

Evangelicalism — and the Renewal of Christianity

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013 by Amos Yong

evangelicalThe question of What is Evangelicalism? rages on. For me, David Bebbington’s by now classic “quadrilateral” definition – in which the defining features of Evangelicalism include its biblicism, crucicentrism, activism, and conversionism – remains an adequate starting point. However, so many other variables come into play, which lead to disputes, even among those who can agree on these four elements, about what else is requisite to an evangelical identity. I want to suggest what might be called a pentecostal or renewalist spin on these Bebbingtonian characteristics. (I use “pentecostal,” “charismatic,” and “renewalist” synonymously in what follows and in the rest of this blog series.) Such a twist, as will be clear, does not negate these central markers but is indicative of their evolving character. Read the rest of this entry »

Regent, Renewal, and Transdenominationalism

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013 by Dale M. Coulter

denominations-610x3201George Marsden suggests that a characteristic of evangelicalism is its transdenominational nature. What he means is that evangelicals seem at home in parachurch ministries and organizations that transcend any particular denominational structure. Transdenominationalism is about cooperation across denominational lines through mediating institutions like InterVarsity Fellowship. The point is that evangelicalism does not exist apart from the cooperation of persons and local churches across denominational lines. As a school that is not officially connected to any particular denomination, Regent School of Divinity (SOD) sees itself as transdenominational insofar as part of its mission is to serve as many ecclesial traditions as possible. Can one find this transdenominationalism at the SOD?

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