(November 1995 – Volume 2, Issue 1)
Last time we dealt with the background and leadership of the Vineyard Movement (VM). In this newsletter we would like to detail the VM’s actual teachings. It would appear that the VM is orthodox in much of its theology. The Trinity, deity of Christ, salvation by grace through faith alone, the inspiration of Scripture, and most other essential doctrines are taught. Therefore many within the Vineyard are not our enemies, they are our brothers and sisters in Christ. In addition, we are in agreement with them in most of what they espouse. Nevertheless, we are deeply concerned about some of their teachings that we believe are leading many astray.
Below we will discuss briefly some of the Vineyard teachings that trouble us in the light of Scripture:
1) The VM is noncessationist. As we saw in our last newsletter, one of the trademarks of the VM is their belief that God is actively revealing His word today through prophecies, words of knowledge, visions, etc. Of course, this opens the door to every kind of error and heresy imaginable.
2) The VM believes that the sign gifts are still being given today. Until the late 1900’s, orthodox Christianity believed that the sign gifts (prophecy, miracles, healing, tongues, interpretation of tongues) all had ceased with either the closing of the canon or the death of the Apostles. Only heretical groups such as the Montanists, Shakers and Mormons believed that such gifts were valid for today. Early Christians did not doubt that God could work miracles and heal people, but they believed that these gifts had ceased. The Pentecostals, then the charismatics, and now the Vineyard all make the present day use of these sign gifts an important part of their system.
3) The VM is a major participant in the Spiritual Warfare Movement. They believe that Christians can be demon possessed, that those demons must be forcefully cast out, and that we are to aggressively attack Satan in order to defeat him. Many do not realize that the SWM is a doorway to the VM.
4) The VM believes in “power evangelism” vs. “program evangelism.” Program evangelism is the presentation of the gospel message to a lost sinner. While not anti-program evangelism, the VM believes that it is an anemic way of bringing people to Christ, especially people in the Third World. What is needed is power evangelism, that is, signs and wonders. If, in conjunction with presenting the gospel message, we also heal a person, raise the dead, cast out a demon, or speak a word of knowledge, our message will be with authority and power. The results of power evangelism, we are told, are far superior to program evangelism. It is interesting, however, to examine the Scriptural record of the results of signs and wonders. It would appear that miracles seldom produced any true faith or lasting fruit. Even with Christ, we find people following Him in order to be healed or fed, yet rejecting his message (e.g. Jh 6)
5) The VM is highly ecumenical. Just as with charismatics, it is experience rather than doctrine that draws people to the Vineyard. Therefore, the VM people can work with anyone who claims to be a Christian, no matter what they believe. The VM actively encourages reunification with the Catholic church, and claim that the Pope is an evangelical Christian. We can see why the Promise Keepers, with its strong VM leadership, is so ecumenical and encourages the participation of Catholics even in leadership.
6) The VM has dominionist leanings. Dominion theology teaches that dominion over every area of life has been restored by the first coming of Christ. It is now the church’s obligation to redeem not only individuals, but society as well, in order to usher in the kingdom of God. The VM, following the teachings of George Ladd, believe that “the kingdom is, but not yet.” That is, we are now in the kingdom of God. Wimber says, “The kingdom of God created the church at Pentecost through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit” (Power Evangelism p34). As a result of this, Christians have “kingdom authority” (notice the words to the popular song “Majesty” with its charismatics teachings in this regard) that enables us to have power over sickness, demons and nature. What the VM does is to bring the characteristics of the Millennial reign of Christ to this present age. They reason that since we are in the kingdom now, we should manifest all the power that Christ had while on earth.
This is their theological foundation for the belief in the validity of the sign gifts today. The VM also believes that there is yet to come a physical kingdom on earth over which Christ will rule. But they believe that the church will usher in the final aspect of the kingdom as it takes dominion over the earth. Part of this will come in the form of a great last day revival in which the world will turn to Christ. This is known as the “Latter Rain” and is taught nowhere in the Bible.
7) They have an Eastern world view. Wimber dismisses his critics by declaring that they have been blinded by their two tier, Western world view. The Western mind-set has an “upper tier” that includes heaven, hell, God and eternity. Westerners also have a “lower tier” of science, the empirical world of our senses — those things that we see and experience in the natural, material order. In the Western world view, Wimber says, there is no interaction between the two tiers. But the Eastern world view includes another tier — the middle tier which “Includes the influence of angels and demons on everyday life, the Holy Spirit’s intervention in divine healing, signs and wonders, and spiritual gifts. Non-Western world views make room for all kinds of supernatural intervention in everyday life, so the idea that a Christian God can heal is easy for them to accept. But we Western Christians, by excluding this middle zone, usually make little or no room for what in Scripture is normal — the regular activity of both God and Satan in human life” (Ibid p138). Wimber says, “from earliest childhood, Western people are trained in deductive reasoning; we draw conclusions based on rules of logic to guide our lives. The presuppositions of our society encourage us to think this way.” (Ibid p129). So, it is because of our Western mind-set that Western Christians reject the supernatural signs and wonders of the Vineyard movement. Wimber’s thoughts on this subject are worth considering. The Western world view is no more accurate than the Eastern. What we must develop is a Biblical world view. Where Wimber errs is failing to distinguish between the Scripture’s approach to the supernatural and the superstitious, mystical approach of the Eastern mind-set. Just because a primitive people believe evil spirits live in trees, cause smallpox, and bring famines, does not make it so (Of course, it does not mean what they believe is false either. Truth can only be varified through the Scriptures). In the VM system, all problems, including sins, can be traced back to the demonic. The secular Westerner world view says that all of the above come from natural causes. The Biblical view is that God sovereignly controls all aspects of life. He uses angels, demons, germs, nature, and every other created thing for His purposes. We then must go back to the Scriptures to determine how God would have us handle these issues of life. And what do we find? The epistles, written to church age believers, advocate progressive sanctification, prayer, faith, feeding on the Word and even the use of medicine for illnesses. But the epistles say virtually nothing about casting out demons (or any other signs and wonders) in order to live for God and handle our problems.
8) The VM differs somewhat from Pentecostals and charismatics. One of the cardinal doctrines of the other two groups is their belief in the “baptism of the Holy Spirit” subsequent to conversion. They believe that this baptism is a second work of grace that enriches the life of the Christian and prepares him for ministry. The VM believes that it takes place at the moment of conversion. However they teach that there can be multiple fillings of the Spirit after salvation which would resemble what others thought was the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The VM also differs with respect to tongues. Although it is practiced by many within the movement, its importance is down played, and not all Christians are expected, or encouraged to speak in tongues. On the other hand, some Pentecostals and charismatics believe that speaking in tongues is the evidence of conversion. Others would say that it is something necessary to a fulfilled Christian experience.
One of the wisest things that we can do when examining any movement that claims to be of God, is to ask, “Does this movement place its emphasis on the same things that God’s Word does?” For example, what does the Vineyard movement emphasize? Is it not signs and wonders? Their churches are consumed with miracles, healings, casting out of demons, prophetic utterances. It is through these things that they believe people will be brought to Christ and discipled. They point people to dynamic experiences, and it is those experiences, rather than the truth of the Scriptures that bring people into their fellowship.
Now compare their emphasis with that of the NT epistles. Note especially the books of I&II Timothy and Titus. In those three books, we have the Apostle Paul instructing two young pastors on how to lead their churches. Paul is telling them what their churches need in order to move on to maturity. It is interesting to discover the complete absence of any mention of signs and wonders. He did not encourage these men to cast out demons, heal the sick or seek new revelation from God. Rather, he pointed them to the Scriptures that were adequate to equip their people for every good work (II Tim 3:15-17). He told them to preach the Word (II Tim 4:1,2), to exhort in sound doctrine and refute those who contradict (Titus 1:9). No mention is made of developing churches around emotional experiences and supernatural happenings. The emphasis of these pastor’s ministries was to be the written Word of God. They were to hold it fast, preach and teach it, apply it to every possible kind of situation, guard and defend it. In light of the NT instructions to the church, the VM should throw up red flags all over the place, for they do not follow the NT pattern.