November 22, 2017

Jesus Poured Out the Spirit — So What? (2)

Holy Cross Catholic Church. Photo by David Cornwell

Note from CM: This week, on Monday through Wednesday, we are focusing on the meaning of Pentecost and the coming of the Spirit. Last week, we spoke about the Ascension and presented it as the climax and culmination of the gospel of King Jesus. The Ascension was when Jesus was enthroned with God in the heavenly realms, and then Pentecost represents his first action as King. On this day he fulfilled his promise to send the Holy Spirit to indwell and empower his people. What was the significance of this act? What implications does this have for our lives as Christians today?

• • •

Jesus Poured Out the Spirit — So What?
Part Two: Vitality, not Spirituality

In the new creation the ancient human mandate to look after the garden is dramatically reaffirmed. …The resurrection of Jesus is the reaffirmation of the goodness of creation, and the gift of the Spirit is there to make us the fully human beings we were supposed to be, precisely so that we can fulfill that mandate at last.

• N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope

The Spirit of God is called the Holy Spirit because it makes our life here something living, not because it is alien and estranged from life. The Spirit sets this life in the presence of the living God and in the great river of eternal love.

• Jürgen Moltmann. The Spirit of Life

• • •

One of the surprising things to me about both N.T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope and Matthew Bates’s Salvation by Allegiance Alone, both of which I cited as excellent examples of theologians paying attention to the neglected teaching about the Ascension, is that they both leave out (or under-emphasize) the next great event in salvation history. For example, here is Bates’s outline of the gospel on page 194 of his book:

Jesus the king:

  1. preexisted with the Father,
  2. took on human flesh, fulfilling God’s promises to David,
  3. died for sins in accordance with the Scriptures,
  4. was buried,
  5. was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,
  6. appeared to many,
  7. is seated at the right hand of God as Lord, and
  8. will come again as judge.

This is an excellent outline, save for one huge gap between points 7 and 8. Having ascended to God’s right hand as Lord of all, Jesus poured out the Holy Spirit. The “finished work of Christ” was not “finished” until he fulfilled the Hebrew prophets’ eschatological expectation and his own promise to send the Spirit to his people.

Wright does the same thing in his otherwise brilliant book. His chapter on the Ascension is followed by the chapter, “When He Appears,” a discussion of how the “absent” Jesus will one day become fully “present” to us and the world once again. And while he does speak a little bit about “the presence we know at the moment — the presence of Jesus with his people in word and sacrament, by the Spirit, through prayer, in the faces of the poor,” he moves quickly from that to emphasizing Jesus’ return.

So, I had to look elsewhere for detailed insights about the significance of the Spirit. And boy, did I find a resource. The Spirit of Life by theologian Jürgen Moltmann is as rich a book as I’ve ever read when it comes to thinking about the Holy Spirit. I’m working through it, and will be for some time, meditating on its profound discussions of how the Spirit, from creation to new creation, enlivens and invigorates not only people but also all facets of life and creation, liberating them and overcoming the death instinct that is found throughout our fallen world. Molten calls this book “a holistic pneumatology” and “a way of deepening the concept of life.”

One of the book’s great contributions is its fulsome discussion of the Hebrew concept of the Spirit (ruach), in all its earthy, creational senses. This is also the Spirit the prophets foretold would come, the Spirit Jesus promised, the Spirit poured out at Pentecost, and the Spirit discussed in the epistles as the life-force in the early Christian congregations and in the church’s mission. In order to grasp what the Spirit is all about, we must not begin at Pentecost, for this is a wind we have felt before throughout the story of Israel, and when he comes upon the church, he comes carrying all the rich, creational life-giving power he displayed in that story.

As the Old Testament shows, the operations of God’s Spirit precede the workings of Christ; and the New Testament tells us that they go beyond the workings of Christ. They relate Christ’s liberating and redemptive efficacy to the life which streams everywhere from its source and is moved by `the Spirit of life’; for it is this life which is to be liberated and redeemed. The operations of God’s life-giving and life-affirming Spirit are universal and can be recognized in everything which ministers to life and resists its destruction. This efficacy of the Spirit does not replace Christ’s efficacy, but makes it universally relevant.

• From the Preface

Moltmann contends that the Western Church, rooted in Augustine, made a false move when taking the journey from Yahweh’s ruach to pneuma ton theon, then to Spiritus Sanctus, and then to what we today call spirituality. That move has led the church down many fruitless paths.

We are at least no longer at the source, as anyone who reads and loves the Old Testament can immediately see. We have in fact moved from the vitality of a creative life out of God to the spirituality of a not-of-this-world life in God. (Location 1186, Kindle edition)

He suggests that what we should be talking about is vitality and not spirituality. Life in all its bodily, earthy, creative fullness in this world and in this life, not a life apart, separated from the world, seeking an inner “life” in God and looking forward to an ultimate release from this world into an other-worldly paradise.

Is this biblical? We find nothing of this kind in the Old Testament or Judaism. There, God’s Spirit is the life-force of created beings, and the living space in which they can grow and develop their potentialities. God’s blessing does not quench vitality. It enhances it. The nearness of God makes life once more worth loving, not something to be despised. We do not find anything comparable in the New Testament or Christianity’s original messianism either. There God’s Spirit is the life-force of the resurrection which, starting from Easter, is `poured out on all flesh’ in order to make it eternally alive. In the tempest of the divine Spirit of life, the final springtime of creation begins, and the men and women who already experience it here and now sense that life has come alive again and is worth loving. The sick, frail and mortal body becomes `the temple of the Holy Spirit’. `The body is meant for the Lord, and the Lord for the body’, proclaimed Paul (I Cor. 6.13). ‘Glorify God in your body’, he demanded. It wasn’t Paul who talked about ‘God and the soul’. It was Augustine; and he did so in order to leave the body, nature and society behind him so that he could ‘separate himself from this world’.

• Locations 1203-1210, Kindle Edition

Moltmann asserts that we have misunderstood Paul when he writes about the conflict between “spirit” and “flesh.” Paul has an apocalyptic understanding of these terms: the flesh represents this world with all its limitations, all its flaws, and in all its transitoriness. In contrast, the Spirit is the vital force which has been poured out in order to bring about resurrection life in a new creation. As Moltmann says, “This means that we shall be redeemed with the world, not from it” (Location 1277, Kindle Edition). We look for the redemption of the body, not release from it. Our hope is not in the immortality of the soul, but the resurrection of the body. Our hope, our home is not in heaven “up there” or “out there.” We look for all creation to be set free from its bondage so that we may all share together in the freedom of a new heavens and earth.

It is in Augustine that we find the theological and anthropological basis for Western spirituality. The concentration of his theology on ‘God and the soul’ led to a devaluation of the body and nature, to a preference for inward, direct self-experience as a way to God, and to a neglect of sensuous experiences of sociality and nature. Knowledge of the self is a more certain affair than knowledge of the world. `Close the gateways of thy senses and seek God deep within’, wrote Gerhard Tersteegen. Human beings are related to themselves, yet at the same time they are withdrawn from themselves. In their souls they find their immanent transcendence. `Infinitely does man transcend man’, said Pascal, in true Augustinian fashion. Augustine calls this inner self ‘the heart’ or ‘the soul’. `Our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee’, he writes in his Confessions, for ‘Thou hast made us for thyself’. This spiritual self-transcendence in the direction of the infinite God means that the innermost nature of the human being is desire, and nothing but desire. Men and women are by nature on the search for happiness, but nothing finite can satisfy their infinite yearning. So everything finite points to the unending craving of the human heart, which reaches out beyond itself to the infinite God.

• Locations 1303-1304, Kindle Edition

We’ve come a long way from “The Spirit of God brooded over the waters” and “I will put my Spirit within you so that you will walk in my ways,” “Walk in the Spirit,” and “The fruit of the Spirit is love.”

I’ll give Jürgen Moltmann the last word today:

The attractive power and inner force of the Spirit of the new creation of all things are not orientated towards `the world beyond’. Their direction is the future. The Spirit does not draw the soul away from the body, nor does it make the soul hasten towards heaven, leaving this earth behind. It places the whole earthly and bodily person in the daybreak colours of the new earth. That is why Paul can also describe the raising of the dead as `giving life to our mortal bodies’ (Rom. 8.11). Anyone who experiences the Spirit of the new creation in fellowship with the risen Christ already experiences here and now something of the `life given’ to his mortal, sick and repressed body. If hope looks forward to the final spring-time of the whole creation, then in the Spirit the charismatic quickening of one’s own body is already experienced even now. In the experience of the Spirit, the spring of life begins to flow in us again. We begin to flower and become fruitful. An undreamt-of love for life awakens in us, driving out the bacillus of resignation, and healing painful remembrances. We go to meet life expecting the rebirth of everything that lives, and with this expectation we experience our own rebirth, and the rebirth we share with everything else.

• Locations 1357-1365, Kindle Edition

Comments

  1. Robert F says:

    Interestingly, Moltmann is considered a liberation theologian, which makes his theology emphatically political. How could life in this world under the Lordship of Christ and in the power of the Spirit of Life be anything but emphatically political? The Kingdom of God is, after all, a realm.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      Agree.

      I seems rather obvious – if you believe very concretely that The Spirit is a dynastic occupier or an insurgent force – it cannot be unpolitical.

      Ok, … I am with it, but I am still unclear as the process/mechanism/structure/method…

      “””We go to meet life expecting the rebirth of everything that lives, and with this expectation we experience our own rebirth, and the rebirth we share with everything else.””” – is beautiful poetry. But, is The Spirit nothing more than Hope? I recall reading Pentecostal literature for the first time; impressive stuff, moving, but … slowly … disappointing. Where is this Power they speak of? How carefully and narrowly, if not even tediously, the “something” is defined – as used in: “””Anyone who experiences the Spirit of the new creation in fellowship with the risen Christ already experiences here and now something of…””

      Don’t get me wrong; I am there. But I hold this loosely – as I cannot answer even my own questions, let alone those of anyone else.

      > his theology emphatically political

      vs. an emphatically Apolitical theology? [which must be the Theology of the Asocial Gospel].

      • Robert F says:

        A political theology as opposed to a sectarian theology, one of withdrawal and inward-looking. Sects are also political, of course, but their politics involve withdrawing from the world to control a cordoned off religious enclave; they engage the rest of the world to the degree they have to in order to achieve this goal. And the political theology of the realm of God, it seems to me, uses the Magnificat as its visionary expression and the outline of its intentions.

        I do understand your lack of clarity concerning the way we are to realize living together in the Kingdom. I think Moltmann’s words in connection with this are vague. I own and have read his The Spirit of Life, and find much of it similarly vague throughout.

        But on the positive side, he does look for and identify places in the world where he believes the Spirit is already active in human affairs, much of it not specifically church related. He sees all projects of human liberation, whether social, psychological or religious, as inspired by the Spirit. He supports joining those efforts wherever we find them, rather than insisting on making them into specifically Christian endeavors. His emphasis seems to be on finding the Spirit’s activity in the world, and joining it, rather than trying to light the fire oneself. I think this actually makes a lot sense, theologically and practically.

        • Adam Tauno Williams says:

          > think this actually makes a lot sense, theologically and practically.

          Agree.

  2. John 3:8. The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.

    I once heard John Ortberg refer to the Holy Spirit as the shy member of the Trinity. He said that the Holy Spirit stands behind Jesus and whispers to us, “Look at him, listen to him, learn from him, follow him, worship him, be devoted to him, serve him, love him, be preoccupied with him.” Ortberg then continues saying that actually all members of the Trinity are shy, as they all don’t look to glorify themselves, but each other.

    And so the wind blows.

    • This past Sunday was Pentecost Sunday in the United Methodist Church, and I was asked with very little notice to be substitute pianist at the little church I attend. Red was the liturgical color of the day, the scripture reading and congregational hymns all emphasized the Holy Spirit, but I remembered John 16:13-14 and so played “Jesus, The Very Thought Of Thee” as the prelude, “No One Understands Like Jesus” as the offertory, and “Jesus Paid It All” during communion. I do believe the Holy Spirit, not speaking of himself but glorifying Jesus, guided my choices.

    • Rick Ro. says:

      Thanks for this, Linda. I think I got more out of this than the writings of the other theologians of today’s post…LOL.

  3. I have always thought (well, maybe not always but for a long time now) that ruach kodesh and pneuma hagion and Spiritus Sanctus and Holy Spirit are the same concept expressed in different languages. I suppose we can blame the builders of the Tower of Babel for different languages, but should we really blame Augustine alone for the shift in meaning that Moltmann cites? Lots of theologians over the years have played a part, as do we ourselves in looking to them for answers.

    • Augustine is seminal to western theology. Unfortunately, he’s often seminally wrong, and from that foundational misstep a thousand bad theological steps have been taken.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        I chalk that up to Augustine the Theologian eclipsing Augustine the Man (with all the baggage he brought into his conversion).

  4. Burro [Mule] says:

    I’m sorry, but all the quotes from Moltmann with their gusty imprecision reminded me why never cared for German theology in the first place. I remember when I first read The Church in the Power of the Spirit, and I felt like maybe it contained the answers to GodLifeAndTheUniverse, but then I realized it was a giant Rorschach-blot of a book and I was projecting the contents of my own aspirations onto the great swirling clouds of language.

    ¡Olé, olé! Now Juan can dance with Maria in the plaza because the landlord is dead! is basically what I got out of Moltmann, but maybe I was gaslighted.

    It was the same feeling I had when Walker Percy betrayed me, and I realized that for him the answer to all that Southern Catholic existential angst was to fall in love with a younger woman.

    • Mule, unfortunately, what you say is true of almost everything I’ve ever read on the subject of the Holy Spirit. But at least Moltmann leads me back into the stuff of real life and doesn’t try to convince me that I have to chase some mystical or ecstatic experience to be in the game. Nor does he restrict the Spirit to the Bible or churchy limitations. Instead, he reflects the robust, creational language of the Psalms and the Prophets.

      • Then if he experiences the Holy Spirit in the consumption of a pork pie or the wink and smile of a village girl or in the smell of tilled soil he should just come out and say so, and not futz about so much.

        Try this on for size, CM. It is a two page conversation, and it is long, but I think you will find it redolent of “the robust, creational language of the Psalms and the Prophets.” St. Seraphim was, like Luther, one of the ‘am ha’aretz, a man of the earth, not one given to abstractions.

        • Thanks, I’ll look at it. And BTW, I think the Orthodox are on target about the Spirit in a way that we westerners can only dream of.

        • Höllenfeuer und Teufelscheiss

          There’s more of the Holy Ghost in twelve pages of Dickens than in Moltmann’s entire oeuvre.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Story narrative often has strengths a dissertation of ideas doesn’t.

            Did that Rabbi from Nazareth speak in story (parables) or expositional theology?

          • Robert F says:

            Moltmann has lived the theology he writes. He has been socially active for a long time, and that’s many years, since he’s quite old now. But he keeps going.

            • Robert F says:

              I meant to say that he’s been involved in social activism for a long time. Have no idea how “socially active” he is!

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        It’s like conversion stories — some have “mystical and ecstatic experiences”, some do not.

    • Stephen says:

      “… the answer to all that Southern Catholic existential angst was to fall in love with a younger woman…”

      Maybe it was.

      • Robert F says:

        It wouldn’t be the worst thing, unless one doesn’t believe romance and sexuality are fit channels for the Spirit’s activity. I suspect that the sense that these things are not spiritually fit or adequate drives the spiritual restlessness of many former evangelicals, even after they’ve joined the Roman Catholic or Orthodox Churches.

      • Burro [Mule] says:

        No man is old who can love a woman his own age.

        Robert F Heinlein, I believe

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      I’m sorry, but all the quotes from Moltmann with their gusty imprecision reminded me why never cared for German theology in the first place.

      Paraphrasing Chesterton, The Absurdity of Germany unbalanced by the Insanity of France?

      • Burro [Mule] says:

        According to God’s Anointed Prophet PJ O’Rourke the best thing about the Germans is that they go crazy every fifty years or so and kill a lot of Frenchmen.

  5. The discussion yesterday and today seems to be predicated on the assumption that the Holy Spirit is to be found in a book, if anywhere, a rabbit hole with no end. That said, the basics are to be found in the Bible, and again we want to intellectualize something that can not be attained or realized with mental effort. The Bible has enough information to get you from “You Are Here” to whatever you actually find in that box labelled Holy Spirit when you get there, but we would rather spend a thousand years arguing and fighting and shunning over whether the Holy Spirit was given by the Father or by Jesus or by both or possibly neither, and no soup for you, heretic.

    My impression is that the sticking point for most people here and most people in the west is that what we are talking about is something supernatural, and thus to be equated with ignorance and superstition and gullibility, something that uneducated peasantry might fall for but not someone who has inherited the freedom of the so called Enlightenment. And thus the whole kit and kaboodle of this interim period of learning and practice and reclamation of the Garden is thrown out the window and replaced with philosophical jousting to pass the time and appear like we are doing something useful.

    If something is supernatural, that does not mean it has to outperform the latest Halloween Haunted House or action movie. In my experience over forty years, the presence and guidance of the Holy Spirit occurs mostly in nudges and whispers and pointing, occasionally as certitudes of feeling with emotional backup, rarely with full blown Hallelujah choruses, but always sure and certain, this is the way, walk in it, no room left for doubt or argument unless that is how you get your jollies.

    • Rick Ro. says:

      Wonderful! I agree!

    • Burro [Mule] says:
    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > the presence and guidance of the Holy Spirit occurs mostly in nudges and whispers and pointing

      I reject this notion entirely; utterly. What you are describing is Biology; indistinguishable from bias, vanity, or a bad bit of cheese. It is certainly nothing “Christian” in any consequential sense.

      • At least Marley’s ghost, when presented with that line of argument, had the good sense to throw a tantrum that no amount of rationalization could write off.

    • Charles, for the me the sticking point is that there simply is no guide to what a “supernatural” experience with the Holy Spirit is like. Indeed, perhaps that is the point, but it makes it awfully hard to talk about with any sense that we know what we’re talking about. I actually find scripture itself remarkably unhelpful here. Apart from narratives about the Holy Spirit falling like fire and power and ecstatic utterance and conviction of sin, which sounds like the old time revival hour to me, what does it mean to be “filled” with the Spirit, “led” by the Spirit, to “walk” in the Spirit?

      The more blatant “supernatural” outpourings seem only to happen in groups that have a tradition of promoting them, and some of them even have classes which teach you how to have the experience! How “supernatural” is that? And in other groups, are the more intuitive and expressive people examples of Spirit sensitivity and fullness, or can someone who is analytical and sober in character experience the Spirit’s presence? And what’s that like? I’ve heard it said that the Holy Spirit is the “experienced presence of God,” but why then do churches who stress the Spirit feel they have to “work up” the fervor through music, shouting, dancing, and other (to me) transparently manipulative methods? If this is God’s work, why do I have to provide all the muscle?

      Will someone just “know it” when the Spirit comes? And what about the universal tendency we all have to deceive ourselves? What’s to distinguish the way I sometimes feel moved in worship from the tears I shed when the Cubs won the World Series last year?

      And if it’s up to each one of us to decide these things, is there any sense of talking about them at all?

      • APIB (Amen Preach It Brother). If the work of the Spirit is by nature undefinable, how can we really know it IS the Spirit at work, and not our own feelings and desires?

        • Adam Tauno Williams says:

          +1

          And I would level the same charge at “calling”.

          All one can say is “eh, ok. How about those Cubs?”.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Charles, for the me the sticking point is that there simply is no guide to what a “supernatural” experience with the Holy Spirit is like.

        It appears to have a large subjective component, varying from person to person having the experience. In such a case, how can one describe it to another? How can that another “know it when it comes”? “Shiver in the Liver”? “Burning in the Bosom”?

        An experience of someone “analytical and sober in character” would be very different than an experience of someone enthusiastic and mystical. How would a description of that experience transfer over? Or can it?

        • Dana Ames says:

          HUG,

          That’s why in the East we are encouraged to go to a trusted, spiritually mature person (usually our confessor, but doesn’t have to be) and get their feedback, to help us discern what’s God and what’s not. We need one another.

          Reality is, there are experiences that are simply beyond our ability to encapsulate in words. Yes, that makes it difficult to communicate. That’s why we have to resort to the language of analogy. It’s not a perfect medium, but it’s the best we can do. We have to trust God to sort out a lot of this.

          Dana

          • Robert F says:

            How do we acquire the wisdom to know what guide to trust? God knows, I have a hard time finding therapeutic counselors I can fully trust for very long; when I was actively seeking a spiritual director years ago that difficulty was multiplied greatly. It just didn’t work out. Maybe that was my fault, but even if it was, it still leaves me directorless and having to fend for myself in these matters.

            • Dana Ames says:

              Robert,

              consider a visit here: http://www.holymyrrhbearers.com/aboutus.html

              The two founding nuns who started the monastery came to Orthodoxy from the Episcopal church, IIRC. Their daily services include a lot of Gregorian chant, and it’s all in English.

              My experience is that nuns are very good listeners.

              Dana

            • Hey Robert, have you tried contacting a couple of your local RC priests. They could also refer you to the local nuns or some other route.

      • SottoVoce says:

        THANK YOU.

      • Dana Ames says:

        Ch Mike,

        I think the problem is in our expectations as fed by the 2-storey Enlightenment dualistic view. Because the Holy Spirit and all connected with him are relegated to the “God zone”, the “upper storey”, we can’t imaging how it would be or even look if there actually only were One Reality. The two-reality view is really hard to shake, because it has infiltrated every nook and cranny of our mental processes. We somehow think that an experience from the upper storey MUST be “supernatural” – somehow above nature. But if Christ’s death and resurrection have freed us from the limitations imposed by death and fear of death, then the doors have been thrown open for us to proceed on to becoming the human beings we were meant to be, in union with His Spirit bestowed, living in accordance with our human nature, which God created good but which has been darkened and diseased as we seek to insure our own survival apart from God.

        In the theological anthropology of the Eastern Church, our human nature is connected with the Divine Nature through the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. Therefore, humanity is forever changed. Every human throughout history has now been forever linked to God. How could God have united himself to humanity if our nature were a “sin nature”? One of the most egregious NT translation errors ever has been translating “sarx” as “sin nature” or some variant thereof. We don’t have a “sin nature” – we have a human nature. Nowhere in Scripture is it ever said that the nature of created beings, including humans, ever lost its goodness. Our nature is simply that about us which makes us human, nothing more or less.

        The whole sweep of what we call Salvation History is God’s rescue plan to deliver us from the disintegration and nothingness of death, so that we are free to act in accordance with our nature. St Maximos the Confessor says that if we acted according to our nature, we would always choose the good and act that way; it would be one motion, so to speak. So it seems to me that we don’t need to look for some kind of “supernatural experience”. All we need to do is learn how to live in the mode of life that God laid before us in the beginning and confirmed in the Incarnation, life, teaching, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension and bestowal of the spirit of our Savior (recapitulation): union with him, partaking of the divine nature which sustains life, loving him and loving others. The thing itself is pretty simple. It is complicated figuring out the ins and outs of it because of our disease and delusion, especially in the face of inevitable suffering.

        The language of “filling” is analogous, and not necessarily strictly emotional. “Walking” is simply moving from place to place. “Being led” is simply putting one foot in front of the other in a sober manner. The difference in your tears is the difference between a psychosomatic reaction at your favorite team finally winning (and there’s NOTHING wrong with that!) and your physical body being connected to your deep love for God and those around you. People think they have to “work up the fervor” because of the dualistic understanding of reality. But one of the things I’m here to say is, Reality is One Thing. And this issue is one where that really matters.

        Dana

      • Burro [Mule] says:

        As someone who has been around Pentecostals for the better part of 50 years, I see that hand, brother. Every accusation you level at them is justified, and yet…

        When everything is said and done, I think it is easier to discern the operations of the Spirit in others than it is in ourselves. We have to be r—e—-a—l quiet in order to be aware of the Spirit inside ourselves. The communion of the Holy Spirit is after all a corporate thing, an us thing rather than a me thing. The Holy Spirit was poured out on the Church, not on individual disciples, but since we’re all Nominalist bugmen these days, it’s hard for us to think of the Church as anything except a roll call.

        • I find the spirit to be persistent in the way of conviction and a still and peaceful voice that hits the heart like a tidal wave. There is no fanfare and great celebration with the need of music and work to make the spirit move. Sorry all you Voice of the Apostle people it isn’t a grand experiment that you can go on whenever you want. I’m not surprised though when the spirit chooses to anyway. I’m not God.

          The biggest difference I have seen from old to new testament is the spirit rested upon and the spirit ind welled. ( whatever spell check). So what…….. Paul filled with the spirit still made enough mistakes. If you see between lines it’s there. Convinced that no thing can separate us from the love of Christ.

          Never gave an oral report in school. Wouldn’t do it and failed classes because of it. That and I usually worked more than forty hours a week besides school. Spoke in front of 600 people or more and as I walked out through them they fell over. I don’t know why exactly except I know I was doing something I wasn’t capable of doing all because I was willing to say I will to a voice that said do it. It happened a few times. Sometimes the things coming from my mouth were teaching me as well as those I was speaking to. I could only break out into praise and thankfulness after it all and would shake for quite awhile. Yet while I spoke I was as calm as could be. Then I understood Quakers….lol William Penn and his great experiment. I digress sorry…… I am fairly certain that it never is the same as everyone is unique. Experiences I have had were unique to me and it never has mattered whether anyone believes me and I would hope that it would be the same for everyone who reads this. Here is treasure that doesn’t perish. So what?

        • Mule you are the church. The sanctuary, The altar, and anything else I missed. It’s within you. I always liked the fact when a man said the gifts are for the building up of the saints so what does tongues do. I said back is not the one speaking in tongues a saint. Another says tongues is the least of the gifts. Good place to start I think. Instead I said I’ll take the least as oppose to none but I would like them all too.

          I have heard tongues and interpretation in corporate settings. I was still trying to take it in as things moved on and mostly it isn’t life shattering or earth shaking as some might imagine. Life has to go on.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      My impression is that the sticking point for most people here and most people in the west is that what we are talking about is something supernatural, and thus to be equated with ignorance and superstition and gullibility…

      Then call it “Paranormal” instead of “Supernatural”. You’ll shed that baggage for a whole new set.

      And if the Reformed have completely discounted the Holy Spirit, the Pentecostals have gone out-of-balance in the opposite direction, tunnel-visioning on The Spirit and chasing Spectacular Signs & Wonders.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Maybe the Pentecostals leaning far out in one direction balances the Reformed leaning way out in the opposite direction, but what of the rest of us caught in the middle? Extremes can be scary and fatiguing, even when they balance each other out.

  6. >> the sticking point is that there simply is no guide to what a “supernatural” experience with the Holy Spirit is like.

    Mike, it might be more accurate to say that there is no consistent and uniform guide in the pages of the Bible or the various teachings, but the Bible story is supernatural from its first page to its last, and to try to understand or get closer to God while using intellect and rejecting the supernatural seems preordained to futility and frustration. There is no one size fits all here to be had. Each of us is unique in the universe and God meets us in that uniqueness. At the same time, if you take the whole Bible story into account and don’t just focus on a few episodes, there is a chance for balance and some solid footing. In the end, all I can tell you is what’s there in black and white in the Bible and what I have found along the way, not to be taken as your path but as an example of a path walked. It seems to me that one of the basic jobs of the Holy Spirit is to point out your best path to you, and to try to do this on your own using the intellect strikes me as a guaranteed disaster and waste of life, the buried talent story writ large.

    You ask some very good questions, and they need answering, answers that would take a lot more than could fit in the Speak Your Mind box. What they really need is some face to face with a six pack of hearty craft beer and no one needing to get up early in the morning. Be that as it may. Maybe the first thing to be settled is that Spirit is not confined or copyrighted by the Christian Church. You find Spirit at work all thru the Bible in all sorts of ways all thru the ancient near east, and still so today thruout the world. God goes wherever He pleases and is not bound by our doctrine or misunderstanding. However one of the few distinctives the Christian Church has to offer the world, and rarely does, is the promise of the Holy Spirit to ALL of the followers of Jesus. This is different from God acting here and there to influence certain events. This is basically a guarantee, and it was taken for granted in the early church. But it is not automatic. When Jesus gave Spirit to his followers BEFORE Pentecost and BEFORE his Ascension, he simply said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” and breathed on them. That was it. Implicit in this transfer of spiritual power was the necessity of each follower to receive what was given. It wasn’t jammed down their throat, but at the same time they couldn’t just stand there with closed heart and mind and hands and expect to get anything. Same is true today.

    Does it need some official mediator with their collar on backwards to dispense this gift? Not any more than it needs one to say yes to Jesus, but the saying yes to Jesus is assumed first in that Spirit is given to the followers of Jesus. There are folks here who have never said yes to Jesus, and that is what those wretched Evangelicals do. First things first. As to details of how this happens, if the Bible is any guide, it happens like it happens, and if you are looking for rules or procedures, you probably aren’t going to get along with Spirit very well anyway. Where a lot of the Pentecostal wing has gone wrong is in devising rules and procedures for this natural occurrence, and where the rest of the church has gone wrong is in looking at the Pentecostal wing and then throwing the baby out with the bath water.

    How do you recognize it when it happens? I dunno. How does a small child recognize the joy and the import of that first successful moment in life when they let go and walk upright on two legs without hanging on to something and without falling down? Some kids make twenty feet the first time, some make two steps, people are different, thank God. Part of this gift is finding out just what particular aspect of the whole shebang you are best suited for and can do like no one else in the universe. Again, there is no one size fits all, and if that is what you are looking for you’re in for a lifetime of frustration and disappointment. Again, this is not something that can be attained thru the intellect, in fact this can be a hindrance and barrier. I found it helpful to be around people who took for granted the reality of the gift of God’s Spirit, but at the same time I discovered the pitfalls and misunderstandings of official doctrine thru these same people.

    Here are some things I take for granted. You have at least one guardian angel looking after you and trying to get you the most bang for the buck out of this life, and you need to pay attention. Where your angel leaves off and Spirit begins is an exercise in futility, as is where Spirit leaves off and Jesus or our Father begins. Listen, and don’t confine God to using wide screen movie special effects. Sometimes its like tuning in a short wave broadcast from the other side of the globe. A faint whisper does not mean something is wrong with your receiver. There can be static. You have to listen, be open, be receptive. Like Jesus said, receive, and assume he was not pulling your leg. My trip is not your trip, but any trip starts with the first step and will never go anywhere without that. Or, you can take the long way round and use nothing but your intellect, good luck with that, you’ll need it.

    • I just can’t get around the likelihood that, for most believers in most times in history, all they had was the covenant records (OT back in Israel, OT + NT in the Church) and their fellow believers. The wisdom of the past and the wisdom of the present community. Whatever faults you can lay at the feet of the Reformed, at least they give high priority to the higher likelihood that God will speak through these channels more often than not, for most of us.

  7. >> I just can’t get around the likelihood that, for most believers in most times in history, all they had was the covenant records (OT back in Israel, OT + NT in the Church) and their fellow believers.

    For believers before Jesus they also had the priesthood of the Temple and in later times, teachers. They also had the records of the prophets and the writings. Still and all, they were for the most part limited to this, as you say. The situation is entirely different after Jesus with the ready availability of Spirit to all followers of Jesus who choose to take advantage of this amazing offer. You are quite right that historically most of us have chosen not to follow Jesus down this path, but that choice lays with we people, not with God. When you say that you can’t get around the likelihood and so on, what I hear you saying is that you choose not to get around the likelihood, as is your right and prerogative under the free will we’ve all been given. That does not mean the path is not there, as it has been ever since Pentecost.