Wine. Vineyards. Grapes. Vines. Branches. Imagery related to wine is deeply embedded in the Bible stories. The first recorded miracle story about Jesus is the changing of water into wine at a wedding feast. Jesus used such images in some of his most important teachings. Jesus once asked, “Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?” (Matthew 7:15-20). To illustrate how his disciples are to relate to him, Jesus used vines and branches as his analogy (John 15:1-17).
The Bible stories warn against the abuse of wine: “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit…” (Ephesians 5:17-19) and at the same time exhort readers to enjoy the benefits of wine: “No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.” (1 Timothy 5:22-24).
One famous teaching from Jesus involves wine and wineskins. “He also told them a parable: “No one tears a piece from a new garment and puts it on an old garment. If he does, he will tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.’” (Luke 5:36-39)
Three Guiding Principles
While there is risk involved with binding a theology too strongly with any one theme found in the Bible text, I am willing to take that risk. Why? I take the risk of being too narrowly focused for the sake of clarity and because no theology will be all-encompassing. We all die with flawed theology. No one will create a theological system so comprehensive as to cover all aspects of the divine nature. No one will propose a theology that completely explains humanity. Therefore, I choose to build my theology on one of the major themes of the Bible–wine. Wine and its related topics are in fact just as prevalent as prayer in the Bible stories. And since wine was good enough for Jesus to begin his public ministry at Cana, I contend wine is good enough for me.
My purpose here is not to present my prepared theology, but to discover my theology and share it with those who wish to partake in this journey from time to time. As such, I have three guiding principles.
- New wine theology is adaptive.
- New wine theology is relational.
- New wine theology is effervescent.
I’ll explore what these principles mean in future posts. For now, what I know is that my starting point for my theology is the person called Jesus the Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, found in the sacred stories of the Bible text. In those texts, Jesus is called the way, the truth and the life. These are my three guiding principles. I see the way of Jesus as being adaptive–his approach to different people and situations is rarely the same. I see the truth of Jesus as being relational–he related his teachings to common things such as wine and grapes, as well as to the existing religious system of thought. I see the life of Jesus as being effervescent–he was humorous at times, explosive at times, unpredictable and yet enjoyable and oh so good.
Three Guiding Elements
My perspective on theology stems from a Christian background because Christianity is the religion I grew up with. I want my theology to be rooted in Christianity, but shaped by other religions and thoughts, including those who reject God outright. I do not fear such external influences, but welcome the good they bring to the theological table.
My primary guides come from the three major components of Christianity.
Three times the primary Bible author, Paul, emphasized these three elements of Christianity. They are, in my opinion, critical landing points for any Christian theology (1 Corinthians 13:13, 1 Thessalonians 1:3, 1 Thessalonians 5:8)
And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.” –Acts 2:12-13