Our Approach to Theology
At Vintage, we don’t believe that all theological beliefs are of equal importance. Certainly, everything we believe needs to be well thought‐out and consistent. Theology matters at Vintage. However, we understand that some aspects of our theological network are more significant than others. In this vein, we join with those in the Christian tradition who are seeking to “major on the majors and minor on the minors.”
We classify our beliefs into three categories: Christian, Confessional, and Conviction.
Christian beliefs are those beliefs that are central and essential to historic, orthodox Christianity. If one were to deny one of these doctrines, that person would be standing outside of what the church has affirmed throughout its long and storied history. At Vintage, we would see beliefs such as the Trinitarian nature of God as Father, Son, and Spirit, the gospel of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, and the inspiration of the Bible.
Confessional beliefs are those beliefs that bind local churches and denominations together. Faithful followers of Jesus can and do hold differing beliefs about these doctrines but are still within the bounds of orthodox, historic Christian faith. Following the idea that “birds of a feather flock together,” it only makes sense that a person would gather to worship with other Christians who share the same Confessional beliefs. Issues of church polity, timing and mode of baptism, certain gifts of the Spirit are typically the kind of beliefs that would determine where a person goes to church and thus would be considered Confessional. Vintage tends to be an expressive yet non‐Charismatic church with a quasi‐elder form of church polity.
Convictions are beliefs that, while important and worthy of discussion, do not necessitate a follower of Jesus to leave a local church if they disagree with the church’s, pastors’, or other church members’ approach to such beliefs. These are beliefs in which fellow church members don’t always need to be in agreement about for them to function well together as a body. The types of beliefs Vintage puts in this category include eschatology (the end times) and traditional debates between Calvinism and Arminianism. Additionally, many methodological, political, and lifestyle issues are in the Conviction category at Vintage. These would include such things as Bible versions, creationism versus evolutionism, and use of alcohol.
In principle, Vintage values pushing as many things away from the center of the circle as possible. We are constantly exploring how we can find and model unity in the midst of disagreement. Our ultimate hope is to focus more on our agreement together in Jesus and less on our ability to come to ultimate agreement on every aspect of doctrine.
Furthermore, the dominant metaphor for theological beliefs at Vintage is a web, network, or spring. Rather than seeing individual doctrinal statements as bricks, we see them as an intertwined network. The brick approach to theology can produce a crippling doubt if one brick is removed or damaged. Further, it creates walls between people, dividing them up into those with whom we agree and disagree.
We prefer to think of our theology as a web of beliefs. Certainly, it has anchor points that keep it from being blown away. Yet, it has the ability to bind people together rather than alienate them. Thought of this way, our beliefs also have the ability to spring us into a greater and more joyful understanding of our God whose mysterious character and working we are attempting to grasp and articulate in our theological statements.
Our Theological Affirmations
The first thing we can say about God is also the last: God is beyond our comprehension. Human beings simply do not have the capacity to know God finally and completely. God is beyond us. Rather than being frustrated by this, we ought to embrace the mystery that is God. The divine mystery invites us to search for God, to seek God, to wrestle with the ways in which God has revealed the divine self, and ultimately to live by faith.
One of the most mysterious (to us) revelations of God with which we wrestle is that God exists as a community of Father, Son, and Spirit. We affirm that God is one and three, at the same time but not in the same way. At once, we embrace both the unity and diversity that is God.
God is uniﬁed in the divine character and nature.
God is diverse in personhood.
God is uniﬁed in the divine plan for creation.
God is diverse in how God does what God does.
At Vintage, these affirmations about God are not dry, dusty, and distant dogmas. Rather, they seed and water our passion for community. Because of God’s mysterious trinitarian nature, we are a community of faith. The human longing for deep and meaningful relationships is born out of being made in the image of a God who is characterized by deep and meaningful relationships. While we all seek to fulfill this need through a variety of avenues, we are endeavoring at Vintage to be the kind of community for which people are searching.
The mysterious trinitarian nature of God also makes us a community of faith. We are not bound together by common human societal constructs. We come from different backgrounds, ages, races, ethnicities, economic situations, and localities. We are not uniﬁed by politics. We are not even uniﬁed by the theological conclusions at which we arrive. At Vintage, we find our unity and oneness in our common experience of faithfully seeking together the one God who is revealed as Father, Son, and Spirit.
The Bible is God’s epic story of making, interacting with, and redeeming humanity. It reveals to us who God is and how God wants us to live. More often than not, this revelation takes the form of narrative rather than proposition. Our approach to the Bible is to read it seeking God and seeking to find ourselves in it.
We believe that the truth all people are searching for is found in Jesus. He embodies, incarnates truth. He is so compelling a figure to us because of the beautiful way in which he lived. The truth of the Bible is grounded in the fact that it faithfully testifies to who Jesus is and how he lived.
Movement One: Creation
God created all that is so that he could share the divine self with others. The universe, the Earth, and all that live on it, are designed to share in the goodness of the divine community. Shalom – peace – is known when we live in the reality of connection with God, each other, and the Earth.
Movement Two: Fall
Even though humanity was made to live within the goodness of God’s reality, we all have all moved away from God’s reality, living independent of God, determining for ourselves what is good for us. Sin is an ever‐growing and ever‐threatening alternative reality that seeks to draw us away from God by convincing us that we don’t need God and by ultimately controlling us.
Movement Three: Redemption
God did not want to leave us far away from the divine self, lost and dominated by sin, so God became a human being in the person of Jesus. Jesus lived the perfect life none of us can live. He died on the cross and rose from the dead so we could be forgiven of our sins and have the chance to live a whole new life. The death and resurrection of Jesus accomplished:
– Reconciliation – Jesus restored our broken relationship with God and brought us back into God’s family.
– Justification – Jesus scarified himself as our substitute so that the penalty for our sin would be satisﬁed.
– Ransom – Jesus cleared our spiritual debt by paying the debt we owed because of our sin.
– Martyrdom – Jesus defeated God’s enemies by absorbing their violence and overcoming it with love.
– Rebirth – Jesus began a process of new life for the entire world.
Movement Four: Kingdom
We look forward to a time in which Jesus will establish peace, making the world all that it was supposed to be. In the kingdom, justice, righteousness, and love will be valued above consumption, selfishness, and independence. We are seeking to live according to these values while we await the return of Jesus to establish his kingdom.
We think that what we do is as important as what we believe. Further, we believe that good theology (orthodoxy) will produce good actions (orthopraxy). The transformation we seek is both personal and global.
On an individual basis, our theology should foster humility and honesty. These are the hallmarks of faith. Additionally, at Vintage, we seek a generous orthodoxy that appreciates the variety present within the Christian tradition. Rather than dividing us and puffing us up, we endeavor to be gracious, forgiving, and loving because of what we believe about God and how God works in the world.
Our theology is more than a personal academic exercise. We recognize that what we believe has global consequences. Because we find ourselves in God’s story of redeeming the world, we are seeking justice and equality. We believe the church ought to be an agent of global good by mobilizing itself to fight poverty, consumerism, oppression, and inequality. We believe that this fight is not necessarily political and certainly not nationalistic. Rather, we believe in engaging the world as Jesus did ‐ subversively, counter‐culturally, and graciously.
The orientation of our theology is the future. We are looking forward. We see God as standing in the future drawing us into what he has for us and his world. This makes us optimistic and hopeful.
We dream of a day that is to come, a day
in which all things will be made new,
in which all things will be the way they are supposed to be,
in which nations live at peace and creation is unpolluted and thriving.
We dream of a day that is to come, a day
in which abuse, aggression, and arrogance are a distant memory,
in which all people depend on their God and each other,
in which sin is judged justly and grace is received lavishly.
We dream of a day that is to come, a day
in which Jesus Christ extends his rule to be Lord of all,
in which the Spirit of truth, peace, and love dwells within all,
in which the Father says to all, “You are my people, and I am your God.”
We long for and live for this day.