Archives For Pneumatology

G.K. Chesterton noted that ‘an adventure is, by its nature, a thing that comes to us. It is a thing that chooses us, not a thing that we choose.'[i]

The homeschool journey is no exception.

Field trips are by far the most interesting and adventurous aspects of all our educational activities. Whether its teaching kids or living life, God-given opportunities exist at almost every turn. All we need to do is tune into them. The world around us is vast. Knowing where to begin is daunting, but actively giving the Holy Spirit a role in our Homeschooling has the potential transform it.

Locomotion

Of course, in the long sustained fog of this epoch – fast, instant and time-poor – noticing God-given opportunities can be difficult. External expectations line up outside and beat on our door. They place stress on our internal expectations. Routine loses flexibility, meeting a schedule winds up meaning the worship of one.

Balancing this external and internal dichotomy becomes a grind, it runs us down and becomes a chore. Sometimes this has a paralysing or stifling effect. It hinders our ability to discover, wonder and let-go just enough so that God has room to surprise us.

This week our homeschool crew was blessed to participate in some living history. Lachlan Valley Railways brought one of their working locomotives and carriages to town. We’ve been doing this every time they visit our area. This year, however, we almost missed out because it wasn’t advertised as loudly as it has been in the past.

Train

On a random nature walk, we heard the whistle and saw the black smoke. So, we booked some tickets, organised some other family to come along for the ride, and found ourselves traveling in a different direction to the one we had planned.

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God is worthy of invitation. The presence of the Holy Spirit transforms the adventure. It’s Jesus Christ meeting the effort we put into our work, calling us to walk, rely and live. All we need to do is make room, acknowledge and be prepared to be moved beyond ourselves. Handing over our worry over external pressures, meeting inflexible schedules and pride.

Some of the learning outcomes covered by this hands-on history lesson: transportation, steam power, train safety, technology, fossil fuels, God’s grace and fun.

The adventure chooses us.

Veni, Creator Spiritus.


Notes:

[i] G. K. Chesterton Heretics Catholic Way Publishing (p. 101).

Lachlan Valley Railway

 

Easter Sunday is an anticipation of Pentecost.

Karl Barth writes of the human response being one of ‘unconditional gratitude…because baptism of the Holy Spirit is the active and actualising grace of God. This is because humanity is now ‘free for decision. A decision that conforms to our liberation’ which has come about in the gift of reorientation handed to us in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. (Barth, C.D IV.4.1, pp.33-3).

forevergrateful_one

Maturity moves forward through humilitySpeaking on Spirit and Truth in his 1996 book, ‘Flame of Love’, Clark Pinnock writes that ‘maturity’[i] moves forward through humility.

According to Pinnock, biblically speaking, Mary is ‘our example’. Like her, we need time to ponder ‘profound matters and make them our own’[ii].

Pinnock also writes that the ‘Spirit helps us develop our understanding’[iii].

He suggests that ‘revelation is not a closed system of propositional truths but a divine self-disclosure that continues to open up and challenge’[iv].

Pinnock looks at revelation in terms of the Spirit revealing truth; truth being Jesus Christ, the Word, who is presented to us and present with us, the former ‘’being’’ revealed in the Biblical accounts[v], the same and latter ‘’being’’, acknowledged by the God-who-is-with-us in the present activity of the Holy Spirit.

For example:

‘Divine activity enables believers to interact in the course of their Bible reading. The Spirit causes the Word to be heard and opens up the truth, helping readers experience and communicate it’[vi].

In similar terms, for Pinnock, the humility within our response to the Spirit is what allows us to see.

Having a teachable attitude (read: heart and mind) empowers our learning and becoming; this employs an idea of theosislike Christ. Those who have responded to the call of grace understand the call to repentance, as they embrace total accountability before God.

Simply put: ‘human responsibility’ is to learn what the ‘Spirit wants to teach us’. Pinnock writes: ‘if hearing and receiving are undisciplined, teaching may come to naught…The Spirit wants to teach us, but human responsibility is required if real learning is to occur’[vii].

Of importance to the Christian here is that Pinnock points us towards the value of humility in the Spirit led life of a Christian. Such as:

‘The Spirit, as the one who interprets the meaning of Jesus in the community over time’[viii].

For me this reading has been a reminder of the Holy Spirit’s ability to work through our humility in order to mature us. In sanctification the Holy Spirit develops within us an understanding of just-justification, and as a consequence, a full acknowledgement of how God’s grace is received, and how God’s grace is rejected.

Pinnock, in a similar tone to that of Ambrose of Milan states that ‘humility is fundamental for growing as hearers’ of the word; therefore ‘always be open to improved insight’[ix].

This consideration is not far from Karl Barth’s thought when he writes:

‘Revelation is a movement…This movement is the divine act of Lordship – God-present-with-us… here divine time is in the midst of our time. When revelation takes place, it never does so by means of our insight and skill, but in the freedom of God to be free for us and to free us from ourselves, that is to say, to let His light shine in our darkness, which as such does not comprehend His light’[x]

According to John, Jesus once said “The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day” (Jn.12:48, ESV).

Could this only mean then, that those among us who reject grace, instead, earn for themselves just-judgement?

With this in mind, is it fair then to propose that we reject grace when we reject the opportunity to learn? And then if we reject the opportunity to learn, do we unwittingly reject the Holy Spirit?

One possible answer is that whether grace is received or rejected, it ultimately rests first in the Spirit. Secondly, in humility , and thirdly, in the response of gratitude for God’s movement towards us, as understood and taught by Barth.

If God is able and I am not, then:

‘Let us, with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need’

(Hebrews 4:16, ESV).


[i] Pinnock, C. 1996, Flame of Love InterVarsity Press pp.218, 219
[ii] Ibid, p.219
[iii] Ibid, p.221
[iv] Ibid, p.221
[v] Ibid, p.242
[vi] Ibid, p.229
[vii] Ibid, p.244
[viii] Ibid, p.233
[ix] Ibid, p.222
[x]  ‘God’s time in our time’, Barth, K.1938 Church Dogmatics 1.2:65, Hendrickson Publishers & see Webster.J, 2000 Cambridge Companion to Karl Barth, Cambridge University Press, p.13

This was one of four items that found its way onto my desk this week:

 ‘The Dungeon’ – Coleridge

And this place our forefathers made for man!
This is the process of our love and wisdom,
To each poor brother who offends against us –
 Most innocent, perhaps and what if guilty?
Is this the only cure? Merciful God!
 Each pore and natural outlet shrivelled up
By Ignorance and parching Poverty,
His energies roll back upon his heart,
And stagnate and corrupt; till changed to poison,
They break out on him, like a loathsome plague-spot;
Then we call in our pampered mountebanks –

And this is their best cure! uncomforted
And friendless solitude, groaning and tears,
And savage faces, at the clanking hour,
Seen through the steam and vapours of his dungeon,
By the lamp’s dismal twilight! So he lies
Circled with evil, till his very soul
 Unmoulds its essence, hopelessly deformed
By sights of ever more deformity!

With other ministrations thou, O Nature!
 Healest thy wandering and distempered child:
 Thou pourest on him thy soft influences,
Thy sunny hues, fair forms, and breathing sweets,
Thy melodies of woods, and winds, and waters,
Till he relent, and can no more endure
To be a jarring and a dissonant thing
Amid this general dance and minstrelsy;
But, bursting into tears, wins back his way,
His angry spirit healed and harmonized
By the benignant touch of Love and Beauty.

The other three being my careful reading of Elshtain’s ‘Democracy on Trial’, a brief discussion with someone about the freedom of the Holy Spirit and my recent attachment to a song from Canadian three-piece band, Thousand Foot Krutch.

This may all sound a little dislocated, as in all four genres are unrelated; if so it is because they are and yet they aren’t. The themes within each are similar and it is this discernible connection that has me intrigued.

I have settled on labelling this link ‘permission to speak freely’.  It is a loose category but one that seems to best fit the interwoven nexus observed here.

When I am encountered by something like this I generally make an effort to slow down enough in order to hear what is being said. Some readers will know right away that this repeated and discernible “voice” before us can be the Holy Spirit unveiling some truth, delivering correction or affirming a direction. Although I have some reservations I would agree with that conclusion.

Of course this means that we need to actively discern and then determine whether or not this “word” is free from the manipulation of others or that it isn’t just a construct of our own imagination. Something which might occur because of excessive anxiety or some other ailment.

To do this we examine content critically. Matching what we hear and the form of it with an authority such as the Bible, theology and community. Keeping in mind that: ‘scripture is the primary organ of the voice of God in the church. Thus, it will stand over-against the church; and the voice of God must not be confused with the voice of the church’ (2010:1752-1753, Kindle Ed.).

When we are being constantly made aware of a particular “something”; such as a discernible pattern, theme, consistent word or message, it is likely that God is whispering something sweet as well as potentially transformative into our lives.

The statement ‘permission to speak freely’ is itself to be regarded as being both political and theological. The former, because it is grounded in the promise of the democratic right to freedom of speech (classical liberalism), and the latter because the Christian understanding reveals a reconciliation affected by the incarnation of Christ, between a rebellious and therefore unfree humanity and our free creator.

Humanity can as a consequence, speak and approach Him freely. Realising a living relationship with God can exist, does exist and is one that God longs for. For example the covenant formula: I will be your God and you will be my people.

In sum, the four working theses which can arrived at here:

First: Gagging God may serve to fuel denial of His existence, but in the end it just perpetuates ignorance. This falls in line perhaps with Coleridge’s lament – Humanity ‘lies circled with evil, till his very soul, unmoulds its essence, hopelessly deformed
By sights of ever more deformity!’.

Second: Gagging God does not delegitimise the potency or reality of what He has spoken and still speaks today.

Third: Gagging God as he speaks to us through the Biblical documents is hypocritical and unscientific. Eliminating the possibility for us to hear God, as he speaks, serves a narrow political agenda in much the same way that name dropping Christ in the malicious service of confusing rights with wants does.

Fourth: In gagging God we fall prey to a ‘politics of resentment, the collapse of distinctions where we gradually lose the right to call things by their real names’ (Elshtain 1995:38).  There are multiple examples of this happening. Particularly from the 20th century where citizens in “free” countries have fallen victim to superstition, oppressive regimes, and mundane routines brought about by impersonal industrialization and excessive-sometimes-murderous consumption.

We must allow the God of the Scriptures the same permission to speak (His word) as freely as we allow ourselves to speak. Coleridge’s ‘benignant touch of love and beauty that heals and harmonizes an angry spirit – calls for confession – a bursting into tears’; (benignant: a kindness and warm courtesy from a King to His subjects). If `God speaks to us through communism, a flute concerto, a blossoming shrub, or a dead dog. We do well to listen to Him…the church in its commission must then seek to obey by listening and responding’ (Karl Barth, CD 1.1, 1936:55).

Do you agree with my tentative conclusions here? Rhetorically: If so is there any discernible evidence this week, where the Holy Spirit might have been or is perhaps still speaking to you?

Sources:

Barth, K. 1936 Church Dogmatics 1.1: the doctrine of the Word of God , Hendrickson Publishers
Coleridge, S.T The complete Poems Penguin Classics
Elshtain, J.B 1995 Democracy on Trial, Basic Books Perseus Books Group
Jensen, M &  Wilhite, D. 2010 Church: A Guide for the Perplexed Kindle Edition.

©RL2013

There are times when the text of a book takes a hold of you. It leaves you changed for the better. Thinking clearer.

If there were any recent events that might exemplify this for me I would have to say that it occurred with my reading of Tom Smail’s book, ‘The Giving Gift: the Holy Spirit in Person’.

April May 2012 192_Suncloudwater

Source: RL2012

Smail’s text is 214 pages long. Which is still a considerable work even when matched against other texts regarding the study of the Holy Spirit (Pneumatology).

My initial thoughts about this book were fraught with caution. Mainly because of negative experiences with Pentecostalism, experiences, which frankly, far outweigh any positive stories worth sharing. (Yeh. Not being melodramatic – they are bad.) They don’t read well for some Charismatic’s who claim to be a conduit of ‘’physical manifestation’’ for the Holy Spirit every Sunday.

In a lot of ways though I still lean towards a Pentecostal understanding of ecclesiology. In fact I’d say I favour its focus on God’s freedom, the Holy Spirit and ecumenical dialogue. So I don’t deny that these physical responses can exist in a genuine way.  I do however remain sceptical about how often the focus turns towards the individual experiencing them as a ‘’move of God’’, and how the focus ends up being directed away from Christ, the cross and the life-giving journey that follows (eternal and otherwise – discipleship).

You would be right in thinking that an unhealthy focus on “manifestations” is totally inconsistent with the charisma (gift of the Spirit) poured out on the church as a whole by the Father, and not just on individuals who seem to project a superior spiritual connection to God.If this is so and Smail is right, how does the distraction, caused by ”manifestations” not become misdirection?  Surely community is lessened the more an individual takes centre stage in this context.

Needless to say, I found it difficult to travel further into the subject. However this critical enquiry was a crucial encounter as it affirmed some of my conclusions, and challenged me to dig deeper.

From the start Smail insists that the Holy Spirit is not about showmanship or glorifying select individuals.

He uses a floodlight analogy (2002:31) asserting that the Spirit’s purpose is not to outshine the Son or blind people from seeing the Son. We are reminded that the Holy Spirit is not about putting on a show to draw attention to itself. Smail asserts that the Spirit’s purpose is twofold. He invites us into the light that is illuminating the Son directing our attention to Christ. (Ps.36:9)

He points out:

‘A Christian becomes charismatic NOT when he or she speaks in tongues and prophesies but when they confess the Kurios (Lord) and Abba (Father)’ (Smail 2002:13 & 46).

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Source: RL2013 ‘Hunting for fireflies’

In other words, according to Smail, if you are a Christian you are a Spirit filled charismatic – empowered (Jn.3:8). Just not in the stereotypical sense now attached to the word.

A little further into the text and Smail relates this empowering with Peter’s response to Jesus in Matthew 16:17. Here there is an ‘explicit contrast between the one confessed and the enabler of the confession’ (Smail 2002:48). Ergo the Spirit empowers our Yes to God (2002:46). I.e.: We do not answer this by ourselves; we confess this for ourselves (Smail 2002:49) because God is for us.

It is helpful that Smail attempts to map out the Spirit’s identity and purpose stating that:

‘the Spirit’s action is personal’ (2002:33); the ‘Spirit acts in the service of the Son who receives from the Spirit; a mutual subordination’ (2002:25).The Spirit is distinct from us and the Son but is connected through its own life-giving presence.[1]

In a controversial, but useful statement Smail writes that the ‘Father and the Son, each in his own way are the givers of the Spirit’ (Smail 2002:15 & 49[2]). The Spirit is then understood as the ‘primary gift’ (2002:16); the one who enables ‘repentance and faith’ (2002:19). Other than Jesus, Mary (and probably Joseph) is the quintessential New Testament example of this response; the human “Yes” to God. The Spirit is a gift; charisma, and like Mary, a response to this gift is required.

Secondly, any ‘new beginning in Christ takes a ‘creative act of God’ (2002:27).

This implies that I cannot force the gift onto others or manipulate the creative act to suite my own purposes because the ‘Spirit (breath of God) is in us, with us, but never becomes part of us’ (2002:21).

When our attention is most focussed on Christ, we honour the Spirit’ (2002:31). ‘Our relationship to Him is always a relation of persons not a merging of spirits; the One who gives Himself to us is one who is and remains other than us and distinct from us’ (Smail 2002:35).

It was not easy to be redirected towards a right theological position. Affirmation mixed with correction was welcome even though it was difficult to process.

Consequently, Smail’s discourse allowed me to see things a little clearer.Thankfully any conditioning in this area was worked out in the struggle to reconcile what I was seeing with what I was reading in the scriptures. Smail’s text had great deal to do with providing some solid theological grounding here and for that I am grateful.

Related reading:

Borlaise, C. 2006 William Seymour: Azusa Street Revival, A Biography Chrisma House, Strang LM. FL (Recommended)
Chan, S. 1998 Spiritual Theology: A Systematic Study of the Christian Life InterVarsity Press Downers Grove IL
Spurgeon, C. Holy Spirit Power Whitaker House 1996 NK PA (Recommended)
Pinnock, C.H. 1996 Flame of Love: A theology of the Holy Spirit InterVarsity Press Downers Grove IL

Source:

Smail, T. 2002 the Giving Gift: The Holy Spirit in Person First Academic Renewal Press Ed. Limo, Ohio


[1] ‘Christ as the object of relationship and the Spirit its enabling subject’ (Smail 2002, p.46)
[2] ‘The Spirit is the gift, the Father is Giver and the Son is the recipient of that gift’ (Smail 2002, p.49)

To move towards twilight is to move towards sunrise. These words are more than just mere metaphors for atmospheric [slash] astronomical observations. Hidden between the lines lies a deeply powerful theological statement inspired by Adrio Konig.

The three pictures below were taken by phone sometime last week.

Hope.

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‘Spring’s’ awareness and anticipation.

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Towards Jesus Christ, the Eschatos whose Spirit graciously  dwells with us, in joy-filled expectation of the eschaton that was, and is, and is to come (Adrio Konig, 1989 ‘The eclipse of Christ in Eschatology’)

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…’I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man and woman. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people,  and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new” (Rev.20:3-5, ESV)

Is Jesus the restorer of worlds and all that this implies?

Significant provision

May 31, 2013 — 1 Comment

Watchman Nee explains that the Spirit, ‘is like a light; it will flood and illuminate the interior’ (Nee 1990:326).

Karl Barth supports this stating:

‘there is no more intimate friend of sound human understanding than the Holy Spirit’
                                                                                                                                 (C.D. IV.4:28).

Barth also writes that:

‘What God does in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit is exclusively His action…Let us be grateful that there is a necessary and firm connection between God’s action and ours, between ours and His!  Let us be grateful that we are liberated and summoned by the divine change to make the corresponding and ensuing human decision!

Let us do this in the gratitude of obedience, nothat we have to effect the divine change along with God, that in, with and under our work- the work of our faith, love and hope, the work of our service – we have to do the work of God Himself! Our human work has to acknowledge the work of God, to bear witness to it, to confess it, to respond to it, to honour, praise and magnify it’ (C.D.IV.4 1961:72)

Without the conviction of the Spirit I could not acknowledge my need for a saviour or my brokenness.

Holy Spirit 35

Holy Spirit 35 (Photo credit: Waiting For The Word)

Nee writes, ‘the basic condition of a sinner’s salvation is not belief or repentance, but just honesty of heart towards God’ (Nee 1990:327). This is because the basis of a sinner’s salvation is the life, death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ.

The work of conviction initiated by the Holy Spirit frees us to be honest with God. Conviction can be found in the loud, quiet,  subtle or repetitive.

God’s provision through the Spirit has had a significant impact on my journey of faith in Jesus Christ.

I agree with Nee.

He rightly affirms that the ‘Holy Spirit has been poured out on all flesh, to bring to pass in us the conviction of sin, repentance, and faith’ (Nee 1990:324).

Without the work of the Holy Spirit, we would not be open to the counsel, or the comfort God. The Spirit intercedes on our behalf.There is hope here. What God has done is provide significant provision. It is enough.

‘Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words’
                                                                                                                        (Paul, Rm.8:26, ESV)

The Holy Spirit empowers me to bring my brokenness before the cross.

There the depth of gracious conviction permits me to bring my whole forgiven self to worship, rather than a vain, artificial image of who I think I am.

Sources:

Barth, K. 1961 Church Dogmatics.IV.4 1961 Hendrickson Publishers
Nee, W. 1990 Evangelism in Foster, R. 1990 Devotional Classics