Despite its strengths in helping its members to learn how to discern the activity and intentions of the Spirit, the Vineyard theological tradition consistently stumbles and is forced to retreat into vague generalizations when faced with the question of why God’s kingdom becomes manifest in power in one situation but not in another apparently identical set of circumstances. This suggests the presence of a significant theological blind spot that interferes with our ability to discern “what the Father is doing” as clearly as we would like.
The root causes of this blind spot are two shortcomings of the classic formulations of inaugurated eschatology on which so much Vineyard theology and practice rely: a tendency to neglect the assumptive-redemptive element of NT theology in favour of the element of eschatological dualism, and a tendency to neglect the question of how God’s kingdom comes in favour of the question of when it comes. These two root causes produce the immediate cause of our theological blind spot: a tendency to see triumph over evil as the sign of God’s kingdom rather than as the ultimate result of his kingdom. This theological blinder prevents us from discerning what God is doing in situations where triumph over evil is not apparent.
Healing this blind spot requires incorporating our current formulation of inaugurated eschatology into a richer and more explicitly Christological framework—one in which the patterns involved in Jesus’ first and second advents provide the paradigm for the patterns of the kingdom subsequent to those advents. Such a model identifies the assumptive-redemptive pattern of kenosis and exaltation, or death and resurrection, as the mode in which the kingdom of God is present today. This removes the theological blinder that has obscured our recognition that the sign of the kingdom consists in suffering-unto-glory and not glory alone, and so opens our eyes to look and see what the Father is doing when it seems like he is doing nothing.
This paper was presented at the 2013 Annual Meeting of the Society of Vineyard Scholars.
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