PhD Research


As a theologian I am interested in systematic-theological reflection on charismatic experiences and practices within Protestant churches. My PhD-research at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU) focuses on the charismatic renewal of New Wine, that sprung up within the Church of England in the 1980s.

Inaugurated Kingdom theology
New Wine theology can be labelled as “inaugurated eschatology”, or a “theology of the inaugurated Kingdom of God” – the Kingdom of God is believed to have been inaugurated in the person and ministry of Jesus Christ, but still to be consummated at Christ’s second coming. The Kingdom thus is both future and present, and the Church finds itself living “between the times.”
The salvation of the Kingdom of God is understood as wholeness of being, and though it awaits its consummation in the age to come, it surprisingly breaks into human history already, and the Church is called to proclaim and demonstrate this good news in words and deeds.

Supervisors
Prof. Dr. Kees van der Kooi
Professor of Western Systematic Theology at the VU University Amsterdam and Director of the Centre for Evangelical and Reformation Theology. Formerly holding the endowed chair for the theology of charismatic renewal at the VU University Amsterdam (2003-2007).


Prof. dr. Benno van den Toren
Professor of Intercultural Theology at the Protestant Theological University (PThU). Formerly holding the endowed chair for the theology of charismatic renewal at the VU University Amsterdam (2010-2014).

Prof. dr. Tom Greggs
Chair of Historical and Doctrinal Theology at King’s College, University of Aberdeen. Visiting Professor in Theology at St Mellitus College, London.

Dr. Maarten Wisse
Assistent Professor of Dogmatics and Ecumenics at the VU University Amsterdam.

PhD-proposal Living the Kingdom | The life of the church and the Spirit as down payment of future salvation


Summary

Within the Global Charismatic Renewal, salvation is often perceived in terms of “wholeness of life”, or “life abundant”. This translates in neo-Pentecostal and charismatic theologies that understand salvation in terms of social justice, and “health and wealth” in the present life. However, this raises serious questions – one of the most poignant being the overwhelming experience of not the presence but the absence of such wholeness.
In my PhD-research I will explore how a theology of the “inaugurated Kingdom of God” – as it surfaces within for instance the charismatic renewal of New Wine - could help to understand experiences within Global Christianity of both the presence and the absence of the transformation of life into a greater level of wholeness.
More specifically, I will explore how this charismatic theology of the “inaugurated Kingdom” can be enhanced by insights from recent theological debates on the Trinity, the Spirit and the Church:
  • How could a theology of the Spirit as the down payment (arrabōn) and first fruit (aparchē) of the Kingdom of God help to understand experiences of both the presence and the absence of future salvation in the life of the church?
  • How does this tap into recent contributions to trinitarian theology (perichoresis), suggesting a participation-oriented account of salvation?
  • And how would this translate to specific faith practices and experiences in the life of the church – such as experiences of God’s intimate presence, ministries of healing and deliverance, or the church’s engagement with social and ecological justice - in which the tension between the presence and the absence of salvation as wholeness is poignantly felt?

Research Question


How could – in the context of the Global Charismatic Renewal – a theology of the Spirit as the down payment of the inaugurated Kingdom of God help to understand experiences in the life of the church of both the presence and the absence of salvation as wholeness of life?

Background


1) The Global Charismatic Movement and salvation as wholeness of life
One of the major challenges for Western theology in the 21st century is to adjust itself to a new reality of Global Christianity: the emergence of a Global Charismatic Renewal, both in the Global South[1]  and within Western Christianity itself. [2] This charismatic Christianity often expresses a broad understanding of salvation in terms of “wholeness of life”, or “life abundant” (John 10,10). Salvation is supposed to comprise liberation, reconciliation and peace, healing and deliverance, and/or prosperity in the present life.[3]
However, this charismatic understanding of salvation also raises serious questions from the perspective of mainstream Protestant theology – one the most poignant being the overwhelming experience of not the presence but the absence of such wholeness. Experiences of liberation, reconciliation, prosperity and healing may even seem futile in the face of prevailing oppression, injustice, poverty, and physical and mental suffering, in a world that seems desperately broken. Even personal experiences of the intimate presence of God may be countered by evenly intense experiences of the eclipse of God.


2) Inaugurated eschatology, the Kingdom and the Church

One specific strand within the Global Charismatic Renewal seems promising when it comes to the ability to cope – both theologically and practically – with this tension between experiences of both the presence and absence of salvation as wholeness, as it is characterized by a theology of the “inaugurated Kingdom of God”. Taking up the proposals of Oscar Cullmann, Herman Ridderbos and most explicitly George E. Ladd, this charismatic Kingdom-theology emphasizes both the “now” and the “not yet” of the Kingdom and its salvation. [4] Within Global Christianity, this “inaugurated Kingdom theology” finds expression in the charismatic renewal of New Wine (that sprung up within the Church of England in the 1980s) and the Vineyard-movement, but recently it has also been picked up within Global Pentecostalism. [5]

When it comes to the role of the Church, this charismatic Kingdom theology argues that the Church is called to proclaim and demonstrate the Kingdom of God in the power of the Spirit, including ministries of reconciliation, healing and deliverance.[6] But whereas most neo-Pentecostal and charismatic theologies represent a “realized” or “triumphalist” eschatology – claiming future salvation (healing, prosperity) in the present – this Kingdom-theology holds an “inaugurated eschatology”: that the Kingdom has been inaugurated but not fulfilled, it has broken through in human history but it has not yet taken over. The church thus lives “in between times”, as Vineyard-theologian Derek J. Morphew argues,

“On the one hand we await the ultimate breakthrough of God into human history when this age will finally give way to a new age and God will rule supreme in a new heaven and a new earth. On the other hand, the end has already come in Jesus and through the outpouring of the Spirit. The church lives by the powers of the future are while the powers of this age continue around us.”[7]


3) A Soteriological Perspective on the Spirit and the life of the Church

The role of the Spirit obviously is a central theme of the charismatic renewal. Whereas traditional Pentecostalism understood this role primarily in terms of “empowerment” (and much of the charismatic renewal within the traditional churches followed in that trail, often emphasizing personal charismatic experiences such as praying in tongues), a theology of the “inaugurated Kingdom” induces a soteriological understanding of the role of the Spirit:
  • The salvation of the Kingdom of God – in terms of wholeness of life, comprising both “charismatic” experiences as tongues or healing and social and ecological justice  – breaks in on human history through the outpouring of the Spirit.
  • The inbreaking of the inaugurated Kingdom, then, must be understood in terms of baptism in the Spirit, Pentecostal theologian Frank D. Macchia argues in his innovative book in Global Pentecostal theology.[8]


a) The gift of the Spirit and the “perichoretic” understanding of the Trinity

The central role of the gift of the Spirit as the inauguration of the Kingdom taps into a wider interest in the crucial role of the Trinity – and more specifically a social understanding of the Trinity – for the Christian understanding of salvation: the fullness of life consists in the participation of believers in the divine life through the Spirit.[9]
Interesting at this point, is the contribution to this trinitarian debate of Thomas G. Weinandy – a charismatic Catholic. Our salvation, Weinandy argues, is defined by the divine trinitarian perichoresis and it is through baptism in the Spirit that the believer’s sharing in the divine trinitarian life “moves from the realm of theological doctrine to that of lived experience.”[10]

It would be worthwhile to further explore how a theology of the “inaugurated Kingdom of God” can be revised and enhanced through such recent trinitarian proposals (including contributions from Global Pentecostalism), inducing a renewed pneuma-ecclesiology.

b) The gift of the Spirit: “down payment” and “first fruit”

The gift of the Spirit is referred to in the New Testament as “down payment” (arrabōn) of future salvation, and as the “first fruit” (aparchē) of the new harvest of the eschaton.[11] Through the gift of the Spirit, the Kingdom of God has come and is coming still. Not only the Spirit, but also the church is referred to in the New Testament as “first fruits” (James 1,18; Revelation 14,4). In the church,  the Kingdom of God has come proleptically through the outpouring of the Spirit: new creation somehow has begun.

Could this theological notion of the Spirit as down payment (and subsequently, the church as first fruit), help to understand experiences of both the presence and the absence of future salvation in the life of the church?
  • What do these notions of “down payment” and “first fruit” hold for our understanding of the church and its vocation in the world?
  • How – and to what extent – is the church to mediate (or “enact”) the future Kingdom in the present?
  • How would this translate to the life of the local church – to specific faith practices and experiences in which the tension between the presence and the absence of salvation as wholeness is poignantly felt?


Academic Contribution and Practical Importance

My proposed research aims at contributing to both academic theology and church ministry in several ways.
  •      Firstly, when it comes to understanding the transformations of human life from the perspective of soteriology, promising insights might come from looking at inaugurated eschatology from a pneumatological focus. Recent developments in trinitarian theology and pneumatology seem to provide fresh perspectives for a soteriological understanding of Spirit baptism and a pneuma-ecclesiology.
  •      Academically I will also contribute to the development of a new form of intercultural theology that,

o   takes the theological voices from the non-western world more serious than is commonly done in the discourse of intercultural theology.[12]
o   takes non-academic charismatic texts serious not just as expressions of popular religion, but as sources for theological reflection.[13]
  •      Thirdly, the charismatic interpretation of the inaugurated Kingdom - widespread as it may be within the Protestant churches - calls for further systematic-theological reflection. Systematic theology has a threefold task, as it has a clarifying function, a regulative function, and aninnovative function.[14] In all three areas, work remains to be done with regard to charismatic  Kingdom-theology.
  •      The latter also has practical importance for the church. Through my research I seek to provide theological tools to help those inspired by charismatic renewal think through their experiences, and help the wider church see what this might mean for Christian practices. As this strand of charismatic renewal perceives “salvation as wholeness” to comprise charismatic experiences of the intimate presence of God, experiences of healing and deliverance, experiences of social justice and reconciliation, and experiences of ecological reconciliation, case studies may be done into such practices.



Footnotes



[1] Bram van de Beek, Van Kant tot Kuitert. De belangrijkste theologen uit de 19e en 20e eeuw (Kampen: Kok, 2006), 253; Kwame Bediako, ‘African Theology as a Challenge for Western Theology’, in: Martien Brinkman en Dirk van Keulen (eds), Christian identity in cross-cultural perspective, Studies in Reformed theology, Volume 8 (Zoetermeer: Boekencentrum, 2003), 52-67; Andrew F. Walls, ‘Africa in Christian History: Retrospect and Prospect’, in: Journal of African Christian Thought, 1/1 (June 1998). Philip Jenkins, The Next Christendom. The Coming of Global Christianity (New York, Oxford University Press, 2007 – revised and expanded ed.), and its sequel, The New Faces of Christianity. Believing the Bible in the Global South (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006).
[2] In the Dutch Protestant context, the Charismatische Werkgemeenschap Nederland (CWN), het Evangelisch Werkverband (EWV) and New Wine Nederland should be mentioned. CWN was initiated already in 1973, by two Dutch Reformed pastors, Karel Kraan and Wim Verhoef and was – partly due to the efforts of Jan Veenhof, a systematic theologian at the VU University – able to constitute an endowed chair for charismatic renewal at the VU University. This chair was held subsequently by Martien Parmentier (1992-2000), Kees van der Kooi (2003-2007), and Benno van den Toren (2010-2014). Also within the orthodox-Reformed strand in the PKN the charismatic renewal has been propagated by by prominent theologians, such as G. Boer (1913-1973), C. Graafland (1928-2004), Mart-Jan Paul, and Jan Hoek.
[3] See Ronald Westerbeek, ‘Framing the Issue of Salvation: Criticism from Global Christianity’, in: Life to the Full (research master thesis, VU University, 2014), 35-46; Gerrit Brand, Speaking of a Fabulous Ghost. In Search of Theological Criteria with Special Reference to the Debate on Salvation in African Christian Theology, Contributions to Philosophical Theology, Volume 7 (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang Verlag, 2002); Kwame Bediako, Christianity in Africa: The Renewal of a Non-Western Religion (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1995); Lamin Sanneh, Translating the Message: The Missionary Impact on Culture, revised and expanded edition (New York: Orbis Books, 2009); Diane B. Stinton, Jesus of Africa. Voices of Contemporary African Christology (Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 2004), 222-224; Mercy Amba Oduyoye, Hearing and Knowing: Theological Reflections on Christianity in Africa (Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1986); Zabon Nthamburi and Douglas Waruta, ‘Biblical Hermeneutics in African Instituted Churches’, in: Hannah Kinoti and John Waliggo (eds.), The Bible in African Christianity (Nairobi: Acton Publishers, 1997).
[4] Oscar Cullmann, Christ and Time (London: SCM, 1952) and The Christology of the New Testament (London: SCM, 1971); Herman Ridderbos, The Coming of the Kingdom (Kampen: Kok, 1950) and George E. Ladd (Crucial Questions About the Kingdom of God, 1952; updated in The Presence of the Future. The Eschatology of Biblical realism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996, revised edition). South African Vineyard-theologian Derek J. Morphew explicitly draws from these proposals in, for instance, Breakthrough. Discovering the Kingdom (Cape Town: Vineyard International Publishing, 1991).
[5] Ronald Westerbeek, ‘The Third Wave of Charismatic Renewal: Vineyard and New Wine’ and ‘Theological Roots: Inaugurated Eschatology and the Kingdom of God’, in: Life to the Full (Research master thesis, VU 2014), 13-25; the Report of the Committee to Study Third Wave Pentecostalism II (2009), Canadian Reformed Church (CRC); Pete George, The Origins of the New Wine Movement. An examination into the origins of the New Wine Movement in the UK and how its original objectives compare to those of the movement today (unpublished paper), (Westminster Theological Centre, 2013). For a concise account of developments within Pentecostalism, see Frank D. Macchia, Baptized in the Spirit. A Global Pentecostal Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006). Also Steven J. Land, Pentecostal Spirituality: A Passion for the Kingdom (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1993). Specifically on the Dutch context: Wilbert van Iperen, Balanceren in de kerk: Onderzoek naar presentie, profilering en receptie van het Evangelisch Werkverband binnen de Protestantse Kerk in Nederland, 1995-2010 (Zoetermeer: Uitgeverij Boekencentrum Academic, 2014); Ruben van de Belt, ‘”Leven blazen in dode botten”. De  presentie en profilering van New Wine binnen de kleine gereformeerde kerken en (delen van) de Protestantse Kerk in Nederland’, unpublished paper, VU University, 2014).
[6] The implied soteriology of this charismatic Kingdom theology is characterized by the following features:
·         Salvation is understood in terms of wholeness
·         Salvation is expected to be both future and present, and
·         Salvation is supposed to be mediated (“demonstrated” or “enacted”) by the church.
The theological notion of “wholeness” is multi-faceted within this strand of charismatic renewal, but should be understood to comprise at least four dimensions in the life of the church:
·         charismatic experiences of the intimate presence of God
·         experiences of healing and deliverance
·         experiences of social justice and reconciliation
·         experiences of ecological reconciliation.
See Ronald Westerbeek, Life to the Full (Research master thesis, VU 2014), 30.
[7] Derek J. Morphew, Breakthrough. Discovering the Kingdom (Cape Town: Vineyard International Publishing, 1991), 12.
[8] Frank D. Macchia, Baptized in the Spirit. A Global Pentecostal Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006).
[9] Gijsbert van den Brink, ‘Social Trinitarianism: A Discussion of Some Recent Theological Criticisms’, International Journal of Systematic Theology 16:3 (2014), 331-350.
[10] Thomas G. Weinandy, The Father’s Spirit of Sonship: Reconceiving the Trinity (Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 2010), 106.
[11] Benno van den Toren, ‘De gemeente als het begin van de oogst’, Geestkracht: Bulletin voor Charismatische Theologie 66 (2010), pp. 13-21; also Hendrik Berkhof, ‘De Geest als voorschot’ [1974], in: H. Berkhof, Bruggen en bruggehoofden. Een keuze uit de artikelen van Prof. Dr. H. Berkhof uit de jaren 1960-1981, Nijkerk: Callenbach, 1981, pp. 141-154.
[12] See Benno van den Toren, ‘Interculturele theologie als driegesprek’, Rede bij de aanvaarding van het ambt van Hoogleraar in de Interculturele Theologie aan de Protestantse Theologische Universiteit te Groningen (11 november 2014).
[13] In an essay on pneumatology and Pentecostalism, James D.G. Dunn urges traditional churches and their systematic theologians to do so, arguing “that the traditional churches need to be more open to the still growing third or charismatic dimension of Christianity [and] dogmaticians need to integrate the experienced Spirit more fully into their systems” (‘Towards the Spirit of Christ: The Emergence of the Distinctive Features of Christian Pneumatology’, in: Michael Welker (ed.), The Work of the Spirit. Pneumatology and Pentecostalism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006), 3-26). Also Diane B. Stinton, ‘Jesus Immanuel, Image of the invisible God: aspects of popular Christology in Sub-Saharan Africa’, Journal of Reformed Theology 1 (2007), 6-40; Michael Welker, God the Spirit (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1994), ix-xiii.
[14] Gijsbert van den Brink and Kees van der Kooi, Christelijke dogmatiek (Zoetermeer: Boekencentrum, 2012), 24, 37-40; also Kees van der Kooi, Goed gereedschap maakt het verschil. Over de plaats en functie van de christelijke dogmatiek (Amsterdam: Vrije Universiteit, 2008), inaugural speech, in which Van der Kooi distinguishes between “clarification”, the “normative and correctional task”, “exploration and innovation”, and “orientation and interpretation in daily life.”


MA thesis "Life to the Full. From Creation to Re-Creation" (cum laude)

As a first stage, my Research master thesis focused on the understanding of salvation as "wholeness". I explored resources within the systematic theologies of Jürgen Moltmann and Wolfhart Pannenberg, enhanced by contributions of Tim Chester, Thomas G. Weinandy, Ernst M. Conradie, and Frank D. Macchia.


The Outlines of a Theological Framework
Throughout this thesis the rough, sketchy outlines of a Protestant soteriological framework emerged, that indeed would be able to vindicate and asses the theological notion of salvation as wholeness as it is perceived within the charismatic renewal of New Wine.

Such a framework would have to be

  • eschatological
  • perichoretic-trinitarian, and
  • having the concept of the inaugurated Kingdom of God at its heart.


It understands salvation

  • in pneumatological terms (salvation is the coming of the Kingdom of God through the indwelling of the Spirit of sonship, through whom believers share in the divine life), and
  • eschatological terms (this indwelling of the Spirit in believers is to be understood from the perspective of God’s eschatological indwelling in creation, entailing wholeness for all creation).



1 comment:

  1. Nice post.Throughout searching phd proposal, you should to obtain clear ideas as well as creative thoughts... Occasionally phd research support provide proper suggestions.

    ReplyDelete