How can it be that in a charismatic generation we’ve forgotten the Holy Spirit?
Love Ravenhill. No one cut to the chase better than he did. That’s the kind of thinking I pray gets exhibited on Cerulean Sanctum daily.
I wrote on the Holy Spirit last Thursday, but driving home from church today I got overwhelmed with a similar message, so I’d like to go into more detail.
Many people already know that I claim to be a charismatic, though I dislike the term immensely, and hate much of what the charismatic movement has transmogrified into in recent years. You can’t be around charismatics very long and not run into some—for want of a better phrase—serious wackos. Loyal readers will know that I routinely hold the spiritual feet of the charismatic movement to the fire. I simply possess no tolerance for charismania, as I call it.
On the other hand, this post addresses the other side of the issue.
A few questions:
1. Why is it that you can surf a hundred Christian blogs and not find a single mention of the Holy Spirit?
2. How is it possible that you can go to your average Christian bookstore and buy a dozen Christian books and find virtually no mention of the Holy Spirit?
3. Why is it that the institutional churches have either turned the Holy Spirit into a “fairy godmother” or gutted His power to do anything more than help us remember a few Bible verses?
4. In fact, how is it that some Christians routinely allow the Bible to replace the Holy Spirit in the Trinity?
5. How can it be that we can talk about eschatology, soteriology, epistemology, and a hundred other Christian -ologies, but someone casually asks to define pneumatology and entire swaths of mature Christians will scratch their heads?
How are any of these possible?
The inescapable truth is that every aspect of Church that we practice today existed before the Holy Spirit was given, yet we had no Church! The Church exists for one reason only, and that’s the Lord placed His Spirit inside us! Community existed, religious practice existed, love existed, service existed, even the Scriptures existed, but the Holy Spirit did not make his dwelling place in human beings.
Folks, the mark of the Church must always be the Holy Spirit in us. Everything else can be copied by other religions. But they do not have the Holy Spirit. He’s the promise. He’s the seal. He’s the power!
How then can we talk about everything else BUT Him?
One of the most compelling reasons for the Western Church’s comatose state can be found in our non-existent pneumatology. We’ve reduced the Holy Spirit to some index cards with a few memorized Scriptures on them. We’ve taken the Holy Spirit and accepted His seal on us for salvation, but then we move on as if He’s done with us.
Consider this well-known verse:
…Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts.
We’ll quote that till we’re blue in the face and then go right out and minister from the flesh.
I’m not a supporter of the Emerging Church, but I’m sympathetic to some of the reforms they’re calling for in the Church as a whole. Yet I’m utterly mystified that a reform movement could be so lacking in any concept of the Holy Spirit. Pneumatology in the Emerging Church? I’ve not heard one peep about it. As far as I’m concerned, any reform movement that perpetually leaves out the mention of the Holy Spirit is nothing but flesh-centered hogwash.
And you, the institutional church guys. Stop laughing, because you’re the ones who forgot what the Holy Spirit is all about. No wonder your spiritual offspring in the Emerging Church are clueless about the Holy Spirit. You gave them nothing to work with. You’re the one’s who shoved the Holy Spirit in a closet and forgot about Him!
Yeah, I’m a little peeved about this. I hear a lot of pointless talk on the Web about revival and how to rouse the sleeping Western Church, yet almost nothing about the Holy Spirit. I promise this: if we start preaching on the necessity of the Spirit to empower our lives to holiness, evangelism, and true manifestations of the Spirit’s power to a generation unimpressed with talk without walk, we’ll see revival.
Ask yourselves how the Church grew from a couple hundred disciples at Pentecost to around 20-25 million adherents by the time of the First Council of Nicaea in 325. Most people couldn’t read, no NT canon existed, the Gentiles had passing references to the Scriptures, persecution of Christians flourished, Christians didn’t meet in megachurches, and yet Christianity flourished. How?
Not by might, nor by power, but by the Spirit!
How is that we’ve forgotten this? Worse, how is it that we’ve forgotten the Third Person of the Trinity altogether?
112 thoughts on “The Holy Who?”
Amen! I am still learning myself because He was neglected as I was growing up. I preached an introductory series on the Holy Spirit last fall and found a great thirst among the congregation. People have heard so little that they soak up anything that is said. That may also be why there are some misinformed views, but anyway.
We need the Spirit just as much as we need the Father and the Son.
thanks for your post
Yes, we assume people know about the Holy Spirit by osmosis, but unless we teach about Him, I fear most people cling to strange ideas. Thanks for writing.
About 3 years ago I dropped into a black hole †“ four months of absolute terror. I wanted to end my life, but somehow [Holy Spirit], I reached out to a friend who took me to hospital. I had three visits [hospital] in four months †“ I actually thought I was in hell. I had been seeing a therapist  on a regular basis, up until this point in time. I actually thought I would be locked away †“ but the hospital staff were very supportive [I had no control over my process]. I was released from hospital 16th Sep 1994, but my fear, pain & shame had only subsided a little. I remember this particular morning waking up [home] & my process would start up again [fear, pain, & shame]. No one could help me, not even my therapist [I was terrified]. I asked Jesus Christ to have mercy on me & forgive me my sins. Slowly, all my fear has dissipated & I believe Jesus delivered me from my “psychological prison. I am a practicing Catholic & the Holy Spirit is my friend & strength; every day since then has been a joy & blessing. I deserve to go to hell for the life I have led, but Jesus through His sacrifice on the cross, delivered me from my inequities. John 3: 8, John 15: 26, are verses I can relate to, organically. He’s a real person who is with me all the time. I have so much joy & peace in my life, today, after a childhood spent in orphanages [England & Australia]. Fear, pain, & shame, are no longer my constant companions. I just wanted to share my experience with you [Luke 8: 16 †“ 17].
Peace Be With You
Thank you so much for sharing your dramatic encounter with the Lord. I pray you continue to grow in grace and knowledge of Him.
Great post. Another thought provoking theme and content. I have often been speaking in my Sunday School class and saidsomething like “being in tune/ step with the Spirit” and gotten blank stares of wonder and confusion. Not that it is a real excuse in any way for neglecting the Spirit but at least in my corner of the Evangelical world there often seems to be a fear that if we emphasize the Spirit we will be lumped in with the “Charismania” crowd.
Keep up the great work, I enjoy being made to think. That is one of the truly lost arts in the Church today.
It’s odd how some people fear the Spirit unreasonably, yet others act like fools around Him with no fear at all. Once again, reality lies somewhere in the center.
I have nothing to add but a hearty AMEN! Thanks for saying what needs to be said!!!
Thanks for being such a dedicated reader.
I have always wondered at the vacancy left in the Trinity by the excused absence of the Holy Spirit-especially in Southern Baptist churches. When the “battle for the Bible” was “won,” an unintended consequence was the neglect of the Holy Spirit’s ministry to the intended purpose of “preaching with power.” I think the self-satisfaction gained caused a fleshly turn with the emphasis on what man has accomplished rather than what the Spirit intends.
There is a strong emphasis on expository preaching in Southern Baptist churches, as well it should be, but it is often to the detriment of the Spirit’s ministry in that same preaching; well illustrated, heartily explained, but oftentimes just sound and fury, devoid of “power.” A hundred power-packed illustrations and stories do not substitute for substance and the fingerprint of the Spirit upon the message.
One of the most influential books I’ve read on the subject is the late Stephen Olford’s Anointed Expository Preaching.
I will need to look up that book recommendation. We don’t talk about “unction” at all in the Church today. I had that kind of unction on me as I lay in bed unable to sleep Saturday nine days ago as the post on conferences just burned in me.
Too many churches have an underdeveloped view of the Holy Spirit. I suspect this is because we don’t do a good job teaching what we fail to understand! Perhaps if we knew Him better, we’d have a more robust pneumatology.
I basically have no argument with anything you have said here and am commenting (a) to respond to some of your thought-provoking questions, and (b) because I’m as narcissistic as anyone and think my opinion matters or makes a difference. But, hopefully, I’ll clarify a few things here and there.
Responses to your numbered points:
1. At least in my cybercircles, most of the blogs I frequent are authored by Reformed individuals; they, for reasons I’ll speculate upon in a minute, steer clear of the Holy Spirit.
2. Most “Christian” bookstores are more trinket shops than they are bookstores. The only way to find any books that reflect actual scholarship is to order them online. Otherwise, books on the Holy Spirit are sensationalistic, experiential, and exegetically bankrupt ramblings – but they sell! Thank you, Benny Hinn.
3. A lot of “institutional” churches (which is not the same as churches needing to be institutionalized) don’t mention the Spirit who is God out of reaction to charismania. This would include the aforementioned Reformed churches, Baptists, Bible churches, and a host of others. Believing that charismatics have fallen from the port side of the boat, they promptly fall off the starboard side. Pretty common in church history, actually (and sadly).
4. For at least 25 years Americans have been referred to as “bibliolators” by European believers, believing that we have begun to worship the Bible rather than He who is the subject of the Bible. I’m a member of a Bible church and frequently stir things up by announcing that, if God were to cease to exist, the Bible would be just another book. They don’t like that idea but it is true: it is the Holy Spirit that makes the Bible the living word; the Bible does not possess aseity, i.e., life in itself. That is an attribute of God alone.
5. The silence re the Holy Spirit may be a function of what one reads or listens to. The systematic theologies I read – and even the brief doctrinal surveys – are quite thorough in their treatment of the Holy Spirit. The ST classes I have taught and now teach spend more time on Him than on eschatology – and I’m a dispensationalist! (Sounds almost heretical, I know.)
By and large, the relative silence about the Holy Spirit doesn’t bother me as long as people are knowledgeable of Him, i.e., who He is and what He does. His purpose, after all, is to draw attention to Jesus Christ and not to Himself. To the extent that people are talking about Jesus, He is being allowed to achieve His purpose. To the extent that people are talking about themselves and who they are or what they possess, He is being grieved and quenched.
Careful: you are sounding almost dispensational when you make such a claim! Covenantalists believe that the church includes believing Israel in the Old Testament (just by a different name) and not that the church first came into existence on the Day of Pentecost. Dispensationalists maintain that the church started in Acts 2 and that the age in which we now live is – even more than the Age of Grace – the Age of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit certainly came upon people in the OT but only after Acts 2 does He take up permanent residence in believers and thus establish the institution of the church.
But I digress. My apologies for the length of this comment but your post was heuristic, to say the least. Thanks for the post and the space.
The distinguishing characteristic of the Church is the presence of the Holy Spirit indwelling and among those within the Church. The Spirit may have rested on the patriarchs, but I don’t believe He did so in the same way that He indwells today. The prophecy of the Church in Joel makes this clear to me.
Why then are we so weak? That’s a good question each of us must examine carefully.
You are right about the patriarchs: what distinguishes believers on this side of the Cross is the fact that the Spirit permanently indwells us and seals us in the Body of Christ. I don’t think believing Hebrews (the people, not the book) had any less of the Spirit available to them but He was not permanent and there was no sealing. Samson is probably the clearest example of both the power and the impermanence of the Spirit back then.
Why so weak? To me, it comes down to two things: ignorance of the Bible and ignorance of (better, unfamiliarity with) the Holy Spirit. Since those are the two vitals factors in spiritual growth, our growth is stunted accordingly. How do we know if we’re grieving or quenching the Spirit apart from Scripture? We pay a high price for our lowly ignorance.
Dan, I agree with you, but just to an extent. Before Jesus ascended, He said that the Spirit would glorify “Him.” (John 16:14). Some years ago, a pastor friend and I discussed how today’s church does not speak of Jesus and I don’t see where that has changed. When the church does speak of Him, it is in the sense that He is still back at Calvary. The strength of the early Pentecostals was that they preached “Jesus, the same yesterday, today, and forever.” That is consistent with what we see in Acts where the disciples gathered in His Name and preached in His Name. When and if the church returns to the “mystery of Christ,” the Holy Ghost will confirm the Word as we see in Acts.
No doubt that the Holy Spirit points to Christ! I still think our pneumatology needs a serious bolstering. If it’s not robust, then we miss what He has to say to us about Christ.
Great article! But, you could have least let some of us off the hook. 😉
You are absolutely right. Apart from the Holy Spirit, there is no church – no institutional church, no charismatic church, no emerging church, no house church, no simple church. Without the Holy Spirit there is simply religion and ritual. We seem to be very good at religion and ritual.
Why do you think we have such an underdeveloped understanding of the Spirit today?
I don’t think there is a simple answer to your question. First, there is probably some overreaction against misuses and abuses in the name of the Holy Spirit. (This probably goes all the way back to the Montantists of the 2nd century.) Second, it is probably also due to an overemphasis on the written Word. Third, the enlightenment and the age of reason probably play a role in an underdeveloped pneumatology. There are probably other reasons as well, such as the subjectivity involved in following the Spirit.
Where I would agree with much of what you’ve said here, I would suggest, as a post-charismatic, that charismania plays a rather large role in the apparent missing third member of the Trinity in much of the Western Church.
However, let also me say that you have broad-brushed painted the emerging church as devoid of the knowledge of the Spirit – calling it “nothing but flesh-centered hogwash”. Which sounds an awful lot like the ill-informed prognostications on the emerging church of John MacArthur – using language that Jason Hughes would be very comfortable with.
Many leaders of the missional/emerging movement in the church are keenly aware that absolutely nothing can happen in the church without the Spirit of God at work. In fact, the very definition of missional is to look and see what God (by his Spirit) is doing in your community and align yourself with that. Rather than the apparently more common modern decision to start something and hope God blesses it.
My comments on Emergent and the Holy Spirit come from my own experiences:
1. I’ve read several of the most prominent books within the movement. Without exception, they are loaded with a preponderance of reliance on scientific rationalism and nothing on the Holy Spirit. It’s almost a foregone conclusion that if I pick up the hottest Emerging church tome, I’ll find nothing said about the Spirit, His work, or anything. Whenever the author discusses why something needs to be done within the Church, it’s never the Spirit prompting the move, but some response to some survey, demographic study, or sociological analysis. It’s almost pathological. Yet the Church is simply not meant to operate in that way. The science may be helpful at times, but only by the Spirit’s leading. I don’t see this reflected in the books I’m reading, though. In many cases, missional means trying to discern the times with charts and graphs straight from the latest institutional study instead of relying on the Holy Spirit. Bill, I see this constantly.
2. I’m NOT saying that all emerging churches operate this way. But if we jettison the Spirit in favor of scientific rationalism, we’ve lost the Lord’s built-in guidance. We fall back on the arm of flesh that will certainly fail.
3. I know solid emerging churches that operate by dependence on the Spirit to lead in everything they do. And I know ones that get their leading from whatever speaker or study is hot, regardless what he might or might not say about the role of the Spirit.
4. Even within the Emerging Church, some well-known leaders are decrying the underdeveloped pneumatology that afflicts the movement in general. You can read the sites of these leaders. Yet I see next to nothing done to fix the problem. People address it, but then don’t know how to proceed. (This problem doesn’t just afflict the Emerging Church, however. But as a reform movement, the very fact the problem exists calls some of the reforms into question.)
Perhaps it would do us well to remember a few verses from the mouth of Christ Himself:
John 14:26, ESV: “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”
John 16:14, ESV: “He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”
I am not meaning to deny or diminish the importance of the Holy Spirit’s work, but we must remember the Spirit will always draw our attention and affection to Christ and His Word.
The major problem with contemporary charismania (in your words!) is the overwhelming tendency to emphasize the Spirit Himself without ever getting to where the Spirit is pointing (and the One whom the Spirit is glorifying) — to Christ!
A truly Christ-centered ministry then will be a Holy Spirit-driven and empowered ministry … at least in theory anyway!
Thanks for the reminder! I sincerely appreciate your work!
Everything you said is true. I still believe our pneumatology is lacking. The ignorance of the Holy Spirit in our churches today more than proves this. Most people in the seats can’t provide even a rudimentary apologetic on the Holy Spirit. And that’s a crime.
Even Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit.
A better understanding of the Trinity would have us understand this more thoroughly.
Forgive me, I’m a Canadian so perhaps my understanding of American conversation is lacking but this:
Doesn’t seem to line up with this:
What am I missing?
One is general and one specific. On the whole, the Emerging Church is a loose affiliation of churches. Some of the churches themselves might be stronger in their pneumatology than others. A few charismatic emerging churches exist, but even leaders within the movement note their rarity.
As I read the leaders within the movement, they either seem to leave out mention of the Holy Spirit in their materials, or they do mention the Holy Spirit in the context that Emerging Churches have a woefully underdeveloped pneumatology. The problem comes when no leaders from the Emerging Clan are attempting to remedy that lack. If there’s a book on the Holy Spirit from an Emerging standpoint, I have yet to see it. Nor do I see any action being taken to developing an Emerging pneumatology. Any other -ology, yes, but why the lack of discussion of the Spirit? I find it curious.
“curious” vs “flesh-centered hogwash” – one is a legitimate concern the other a rather harsh indictment of an entire “movement” in the church. And, for the record, I would not identify myself as “emerging”. I’m horribly allergic to scented candles, for one thing. 🙂
But you didn’t actually respond, Dan. You said one is general and one specific. You say you haven’t heard “one peep about it” and then say (on my blog) that Andrew Jones – one of the loudest voices in the emerging church conversation – “has lamented the woefully underdeveloped pneumatology in the Emerging Church”. Andrew’s voice isn’t “one peep?” Or Scot McKnight? Or Dan Kimble.
My concern with your “charismatic” perspective would be that many of us who self-identify as post-charismatic would label the charismatic movement overly focused on the Spirit with little focus on the Father and the Son. The Pauline letters would be at the centre of much charismatic ecclessiology rather than Jesus and the Gospels. Many in the e.c. have been attempting to restore the balance – without ignoring the Spirit. (See Alan Hirsch’s book The Forgotten Ways.)
Very good post, Dan, and I like Dr. Mike’s take on the matter as well; I especially like how you both write in word-pictures. It makes for interesting and (probably unintentionally) entertaining reading for someone like me whose brain seems to be hard-wired to translate words into images. I got a definite chuckle out of the boat reference.
I have a question, though. I believe it ties into the discussion at hand so perhaps someone can shed some light…? My question is this: If a particular person had, in the past, received a particular gift of the Spirit through the laying on of hands (and yes, I know there’s a great deal of controversy coursing through that subject to begin with) and at a later date decided against using that gift because he/she became uncertain/confused about the whether or not the gift was a). received appropriately and b). really and truly intended for today, have they or are they sinning by deciding to refrain from the use of the gift? Are they quenching the power of the Spirit in their own life and demonstrating an attitude of unbelief – OR – is the exercise of the gift optional once it is given?
I am referring to the gift of “tongues” exercised privately in prayer time with the Lord – AND (while we’re at it) – is this an appropriate way to exercise the gift, inasmuch as it seemed to be a very “public” means of edification in the early Church?
Thanks in advance.
(Almost notWonkyhead anymore!)
In his book Born After Midnight, A.W. Tozer tells of a man he knew who had a powerful ministry with the gift of healing. The minister received a call in the middle of the night, and deciding he’d rather sleep, did not come to the aid of the people who called him. He found, in the aftermath, that the Lord had stripped him of that healing gift and his ministry was never the same.
I believe that a few people have a gift that stays with them. I believe that more people can have any of the gifts as long as they stay open to the Lord using any of the gifts in them.
I also believe it is possible that if we neglect or despise a gift, the Lord will take it away from us.
As to tongues, I believe that this gift has both a public and private expression. Praying in tongues in private has meaning for the pray-er, plus it can edify the Church when done publicly. Rarely do I see it in that latter context today, though. At least tongues I would consider to be genuine, and not rambling sounds.
Thanks for the response, Dan. I am asking because I know of several people (one of whom is in ministry as a pastor) who were raised with or exposed early in their walk with the Lord to some of the excessive practices of the Pentecostal movement, and eventually reacted by doing a 180 and walking away from everything. I think there was a great deal of confusion in their minds about the gifts – and how to reconcile their experiences with what the Scriptures say about the Holy Spirit, as well as how to best honor God with their lives. I also believe they were the recipients of some poor teaching and were fearful that either their flesh was involved, or the gift was counterfeit and they were deceived, and so decided the “safest” course would be distance and plenty of it.
I just wonder if they are actually sinning, if God is displeased with their decision and if their walk with God must be affected in some way as a result. I confess I don’t have a lot of theologically sound teaching in this area either, and most churches (at least in my experience) either do not believe in the charismata and so don’t address the issue, or they do believe but don’t provide adequate teaching on issues such as the one I have raised before they encourage people to seek the gifts. A real disservice, either way.
Why then are we so weak?
to which Dr.Mike answered…
To me, it comes down to two things: ignorance of the Bible and ignorance of (better, unfamiliarity with) the Holy Spirit.
To the first point, I heartily agree. To the second, a slightly different, but I think significantly different perspective…
Ignorance and obedience are different things. When we are born again, we become indwelled with the Holy Spirit. It becomes part of us, and it counsels us daily. Hard to be ignorant of something that we are filled with. Whether we listen, or obey, is another matter.
We either obey its voice, or we don’t. The more we do, the more we receive His power. The more we ignore it, the weaker the power becomes.
Why are we so weak?
We choose not to exercise the power. The Thessalonians received the Holy Spirit and exercised its power through obedience to turn from their idols. Our distracting idols are as alluring these days as they were then. Many who have been given the gift set it aside because it counsels them against their idols of preference.
The entire Bible tells us we receive strength through obedience; the Holy Spirit confirms that. His grief is that we reject Him daily, in so many “little” ways.
I don’t believe Christ would leave His sheep ignorant of the staff of their shepherd. I do believe some of the sheep will ignore the staff and run off in pursuit of their pleasure.
Great post, Dan, thanks…
To obey is better than sacrifice, yes. God rewards obedience. He will not contend with Man forever. While He is gracious and slow to anger, He will not tolerate someone who perpetually thwarts His purpose. I had a relatively well-known NT prof in college who contended that God might very well take out disobedient Christians. That’s stuck with me till this day.
Cognizant of the risk of having this deteriorate into a semantic debate, I’ll nevertheless offer the following response to SirChuck’s correction of me:
1. I was not equating ignorance with disobedience, as you imply with your statement, “Ignorance and obedience are different things.” I equated ignorance with lack of familiarity, which I could say is evidenced by your referring to the third Person of the Godhead as an “it.” He is a senient, verifiable Person. Please get this right: you can call me an “it” if you like – many are those who have questioned my humanity – but there is no question about He who is the Holy Spirit. He is not an “it.”
2. Sir Chuck wrote,
Two things: first, you seem to be equating indwelling with filling, something the NT does not do; second, assuming knowledge as a result of indwelling is a non sequitur: a person can be filled with wine just as one can be filled with the Spirit, but being filled with wine doesn’t mean they automatically know anything about wine or even how the wine is affecting them. If they knew the latter they wouldn’t abuse it; if they knew the former they might open their own distillery.
3. To the NT mind, obedience was implied in knowledge. To truly know something, you had to do it; not doing it was proof that you did not truly know. I’m not delving into the Greek words for knowledge; I am just reflecting how the term was used during the age when the NT was written. Knowledge was – and should be – proven by obedience.
4. You say, “We choose not to exercise the power.” How exactly does one do that, i.e., choose to exercise? The command to be filled with the Spirit is a passive imperative: that suggests that I do not so much choose to “use the power” as I choose to allow myself to be a vessel through whom the Spirit can work – if He chooses. I don’t dictate to the Spirit; He dictates to me. I am to be compliant, like clay. I can choose whether or not to become more informed about God through His revelation but I cannot choose to exercise His power. It is His power and will always be His power.
5. At the end of the day, however, I do agree that we need to be obedient. But we need to know (1) to what we are obedient and (2) to Whom we are obedient. Obedience – like zeal – is useless if not wedded to both the written word of God and He who is the Spirit of God.
I whole-heartedly agree with your point #5, and in agreeing with you to avoid the “semantic debate” I’ll pass on points 1-4. 🙂
No “correction” was needed or intended, only a different perspective.
Your brother in Christ,
This is great Dan. My blog today talks about what you’ve said. But I really couldn’t add much – you said it all…:)
Thanks, Diane. I couldn’t find the post you’re referring to, though.
Very true… bring that revival!
Good thing we have the Holy Spirit too…
I know I need revival!
Wow I love your blog. I always go away thinking about my walk with Christ. Thanks! I was asked at chruch to preach on the Holy Spirit and I went to look for books at my local Chrstian bookstores and found nothing of value on the Holy Spirit. I can not wait to get started I have it setup to start after Easter.
Thanks for making us look at ourselves
Thanks for the kudos and for being a reader.
If you want a good book on the Holy Spirit written by one of the old schoolers, look up R.A. Torrey’s The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit.
My book on Post-Charismatics will be out later this year. I am but a wee tiny minnow in the larger emerging/missional ocean, but I would definitely qualify as a pro-Holy Spirit writer within the emerging/missional stream. You would also find numerous posts on the Holy Spirit at my blog.
I may be in the minority, and I may not be (in)famous, but I’m here and I’m writing about the Spirit nonetheless!
What do you make of Andrew Jones’s comments that the Emerging Church has been neglecting the Holy Spirit?
I am a third-wave girl (shaped by time in independent charismatic/Vineyards/influenced by Int’l House of Prayer in KC) who has logged time in evangelical and fundamentalist churches, who loves to read theology and eccelsiology, writes about the parables, works in a bookstore at one of the flagship evangelical seminaries in the U.S. – and I have emergent sympathies. Do I need medication? 🙂
Weary of charismania. Weary of crusty-dry religious ritual. Growing weary of the talk-talk-talk of some among the emergent movement.
The weariness tempts me toward cynicism.
This is not the life God has for me – for any of us!
Keep bringing this topic to your readers. May it spark a hunger to go beyond our need for control and manage the Spirit (in all the camps of Christendom) to a willingness to surrender.
And robbymac – I visited your site last year, and was impressed at your analysis of the Charismatic world’s recent history. I’ll have to visit again.
I absolutely understand that weariness. I get weary, too. Strength in numbers, though. If enough of us get weary, we’ll be forced to do something about it!
Excellent stuff as usual. I remember reading a book recently about church and committment to the church, which included a list of things to look for in a church. There was absolutely no mention of the Holy Spirit or a church’s committment to fervently pursue an experience of God’s presence through the Spirit. This disturbed me especially since the book was written by a ‘charismatic’.
I would like to say that I often mention the Holy Spirit on my blog (when I get time to write, that is). Now I have to do a search on there to see if I’m telling the truth hehe… I agree wholeheartedly that we lack teaching in this area. I still remember a moment at Bible college when God revealed to me that I didn’t have a proper understanding of the Spirit. If I said out loud “the Holy Spirit is God” it felt and sounded wrong to me. At that point I knew I needed to study Scripture about him and experience more with him. I still feel I have a great weakness in this area.
Your “the Holy Spirit is God” confession is an interesting one. I wonder how that would work for other people who struggle with this?
Thanks for a good post. I’ll go with you and Ravenhill on this.
I’d use stronger language, like an ill-formed, under-developed, anemic pneumatology. And I might go a little farther and say we don’t want it any other way. I think there is a willful side to this which needs investigation. I might even go a little farther and say we ought to be ashamed of ourselves. I am not sure how we get away with it. Can you tell I am a lot irked?
We tell God, “Thank you Father. Thank you Jesus.” and then we go on our merry way or we replace the Holy Spirit with the Holy Bible and go on our merry way. Do we ever stop for a moment and even let God tell us how He feels about that kind of treatment?
I just graduated from one of the world’s best know seminaries. It has a great reputation but when it comes to the Holy Spirit and conversing about Him, eyes glaze over and fear mounts. Charismatics are either dissed or patronized along with Pentecostals. There’s something amiss if some of the greatest biblical scholars we have find difficulty getting the words “Holy Spirit” out of their mouths unless they are teaching a systematics course on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. There’s something wrong when some of my teachers felt it necessary to patronize, gloss over and marginalize a part of the Church. When anybody has to patronize somebody else or their convictions just to prove a point it usually means their own argument is weak and under-developed and perhaps just not worth the breath. Is this kind of stuff supposed to happen in a place where we ought to be free to learn, discuss and experience the reality of the third Person of the Trinity?
I hear what you’re saying about seminary. It goes on in undergrad, too. When I was at Wheaton, no one really talked about the Holy Spirit. When people found out I believed in modern-day speaking in tongues and healing, you would’ve thought by their reaction that I was a Martian or something. People constantly poked and prodded me theologically in class to see if I’d suddenly burst into glossolalia or something.
Very, very, very odd.
I hear what you are saying, but I have to wonder why you haven’t come across my blog when you mention a hundred that don’t mention the Holy Spirit. I do and regularly acknowledge his leading of my life. Have a check for yourself. http://mylifeministries.org/blogs/fireknights/.
Love in Christ,
The Christian blogosphere has a HOST of blogs. In a random sample, you’d get plenty debating a Bible passage or some aspect of morality or some ritual or practice, but not many that routinely discuss the Holy Spirit. I’m not saying NONE exist, but the general silence is pretty alarming.
Now I know what my next Bible study is going to be on.
I am aware of the Spirit in my daily walk and look for His promptings. But in no way am I knowledgeable.
One time I was going to read a book on the Russian leader Lenin.. As I opened the book I had a deep sense of forboding. I took this as the Holy Spirit saying don’t read it. I never did.
When I wake up in the morning there is at times a song of praise in my heart. I take this as from the Holy Spirit. I have asked the Holy Spirit to give me a praise song when I woke durning a hard time in my life and He has.
When I do something and I have peace I take this as a conformation I am on the right track from the Holy Spirit. If I don’t have peace I take this as a signal that I could be on the wrong track, if I have prayed and meditated on the scriptures.
When something keeps coming back to my mind, I take this as from the Holy Spirit.
If something comes to me that is against the Scriptures I take this as NOT from the Holy Spirit.
Sound to me like you’re doing fairly well! In my own life, I find those days when I wake with a song of praise on my lips to always be the best days of all.
I too have seen a lack of emphasis on the Holy Spirit in emerging circles. I consider myself sympathetic to the emergent cause and conversation but one of my earliest observations was that some practices might be replacing the work of the Spirit.
I would call for a continuation of the emergent conversation but a fresh call for the Holy Spirit’s work to accomplish what needs to be done.
It’s not just me or you. A number of Emerging Church leaders have commented on the lack of noise concerning the Holy Spirit. Andrew Jones of Tall Skinny Kiwi fame especially has noted this, wondering why so few charismatic churches exist among emerging churches.
Let me throw this out there.
Time for a cliche. It’s a 2-way street. I think without saying it, the emergent folks are saying, “Get lost!” Some of them have old and unhealthy habits.
The charasmatics on the other hand, are afraid of stepping into the fray for a couple of reasons. They fear the charge of “charismania” and don’t know how to deal with it because there are real whack jobs out there that have done enormous damage. Second, charasmatics (and I am speaking as one, like you) tend to have a weak or too experience-based pneumatology and the non-charismatics can smell it a mile away (like sharks drawn to blood). Would you want to swim in that kind of water?
Perhaps this is a little simplistic, but I think the solution is as simple as beginning to invite the Spirit to lead the emergent conversation.
Bill’s comment above is a valid one. Emergent folks right to be cautious. I hope emergent folks are able to embrace the genuine work of the Spirit despite the abuses.
Hopefully we can take our cues from Scripture not denominational social branding from either side of this issue.
I agree with your closing remark. We have a huge opportunity to exhibit oneness to the world.
Let me propose this. The Holy Spirit did start the conversation but we like to converse on our own terms. While the emergent side has the right to be cautious I still am not convinced based on some of the conversations I’ve had with some of the Emergent folks, that they are properly equipped. Old habits. Also, I suspect the emergent conversation is not as inclusive as they like to advertise. The Holy Spirit opened the door but we may be sticking our foot in the way.
I recently stumled across your blog and was intrigued by the title…so I have been “lurking” a while.
I think, at heart, we avoid the Holy Spirit because we are scared. I know I am guilty of that at times. The Father and Jesus, the Son…we can get our minds around those ideas…but a Spirit that blows where it will…that’s a whole different ball game. People like to feel safe. Faith and “safe” are contradicitons, really…and relying on the Holy Spirit means getting on a roller coaster that you cannot control. We get scared of things we cannot control or understand. It isn’t right, but it does happen…even in the Church…
As for the emerging church…I am not sure if this falls into that category or not, but I just bought THE BEST book from http://www.relevant.com (geared towards high school/college ages/young adults)…anyway, the book, called “Red Moon Rising” has the Holy Spirit all over it…and it is coming out of the emergent church–or at least, a similiar movement. So, the Holy Spirit is alive and at work in younger generations. The book is an AMAZING testimony to the Spirit’s movements. I heartily recommend it.
Thanks for reading. I hope you become a regular. We have great conversations here. (Oh, and check the About tab at the top of the blog, inside that tab is an explanation of the name.)
Yes, I think that people get freaked out when God truly moves. I think that deep down inside, we just want our salvation and nothing else. The Holy Spirit moving in His people doesn’t allow us to passively await heaven. He shakes us up and demands something from us!
I’ll have to check out that book. I can’t recall coming across anything like it in Emerging circles. Thanks!
I’d say he was right. I’ve said the same thing more than once on my blog, but as I noted earlier, I am a very small voice in a large blogging continuum. 🙂
But just because we’re not a “popular”, doesn’t mean that people like me, Brother Maynard, Len Hjalmarson, Emerging Grace aren’t very involved in discussing pneumatology on a fairly regular basis. Some have suggested that we avoid creating a “charismatic blogging ghetto”, which I would agree with on one hand, but also recognize the need for some consistent voices in the emerging/missional movement(s) that are clearly charismatic — hence my use of the term “charismissional” (defined by Emerging Grace as “Spirit-led MIssional Living”).
You can access all of the blogs I’ve just mentioned from my site. I’d encourage you to check them out — they’re all good writers, as well as varying degrees of post-charismatic/charismissional.
Here is a link to an article written by one of my favorite voices, Gordon Fee. It’s about the Holy Spirit and worship and it is at the missional site Allelon. The article is part 2 of a series.
I’ll try to read that this evening. Thanks.
Yes sir, you are correct. Many churches today forget about what happened at Pentacost, the day the church really came alive! As I took the youth group from my church to an Acquire the Fire event this past weekend I experienced a tangible Holy Spirit, as did most of the kids we took – and they are asking about what it was that they felt. That said, I have a lot of explaining to do with this new group of believers and help train them; not only in the scriptures, but in the Holy Spirit. I personally crave that feeling and enjoy being in the Spirit – my heart, soul, and my entire body cry out for that presence in my life daily.
It’s funny, that “What is this experience?” question, because in many ways that’s the same question that bothered some at Pentecost.
Listening to the Holy Spirit is a hard thing to teach, but we must. Teens prove to be some of the most earnest listeners. In many ways, I was still a teenager at heart helping on a retreat weekend for teenagers when the Holy Spirit fell on me and I first spoke in tongues (albeit at age 22). Still, I think the further we retreat from the wonder of youth, the more we become calcified, and the less we’re open to God moving in new ways in our lives.
I’m watching the conversation here somewhat, and have a few thoughts… typical of postmodern waffling, I’m going to both agree and disagree, and then change the question before I sum up ;^)
Agree: your observation that the Emergen™ovement is largely void of conversation about the Holy Spirit is unfortunately correct. The Holy Spirit is certainly present in the theology, but not necessarily in the actual practice of the emerging church… at least, not as we charismatics have known such practice to look like.
Disgree: several of us Post-Charismatics have just landed on this post to illustrate the exception that proves the rule… we could all point out examples of emerging bloggers, thinkers, or churches who are intentionally mindful of the Holy Spirit in practice and not just in theology. Robbymac’s book is forthcoming as well, as he mentioned. The book itself is something of a critique of the charismatic movement and some of its facets, but at the same time is a plea for keeping the Holy Spirit involved in the emerging church.
Changing the Question: Robbymac’s book is being published this year by — pay attention to this — a publisher in the UK, despite the fact he’s writing from Canada. In North America, nobody wants to talk about this. I suggest part of the reason is that the emerging church is not a revolution of theology or practice concerning Pneumatology, but one concerning Ecclesiology, Christology, and perhaps Soteriology. The Reformation wasn’t really concerned with every -ology in the superset, certainly not at first. In one sense, we can’t fault emergents for this, but in another…
To sum up: one of the open questions for the emerging church movement is how it matures. Part of this maturation, while we’re busily “re-imagining” all our theology, is going to be the role of the Holy Spirit. If the movement refuses to fully deal with every one of the -ologies, it won’t mature properly, and in a few years’ time, there’ll be yet another reactionary movement to correct the correction of the correction against which the former movment reacted… you get the picture. Has the movement fully dealt with Theology Proper, or with Eschatology? I would say not yet, on both counts. Pneumatology is not unique in this area.
Personally, I feel like I’ve been talking about the Holy Spirit for the past decade and a half in the charismatic movement. At the end of that period, I woke up one morning scratching my head and saying, “Hey, you know who I really miss? Jesus.” I’ve been trying to rediscover him and his centrality to the gospel story, but at the same time, I’m also beginning to say, “Hey, I’m Post-Charismatic. Let’s talk about the Holy Spirit.” Mine is but one small voice (as Robbymac also notes) in the conversation, but I’m hopeful that a growing chorus of small voices will begin a tide from the grassroots to quietly spread through the emerging conversation, with the Holy Spirit just naturally taking his place in the theology and practice of emergents. He did this in the charismatic movement, and wouldn’t it be just like him to quietly show up on the doorsteps of a new movement that is so formally concerned to proclaim Christ by following his incarnational example? Oh, now I’m talking missional…
I’m still mulling this all over, and if I get any more longwinded than this, I’ll follow Michael Spencer’s example post the further thoughts on my blog ;^)
Thanks for visiting and for adding some history to topic.
Rather than casting general aspersions, it would perhaps be useful to give a couple of examples of specific teachings on the Holy Spirit that you wish were more prominent that you haven’t been able to find.
A few things I’d like to see:
1. You simply don’t see EC history or thought processes that go back to “We were praying and the Holy Spirit led us to….” Instead, you get a lot of “We were looking at the cultural shift and decided to….” This is not to say that the Holy Spirit cannot inspire someone through a demographic study, but the fact that so little of the former type of attribution shows up in EC history or current conversation makes one wonder the source for all this reform.
2. Several EC leaders have noted little penetration of a theology of the charismata within the EC. In fact, some have even noted some outright hostility. You just don’t see many charismatic or Pentecostal EC churches. The “baptism of the Holy Spirit” isn’t talked about hardly at all. This is not to say that charismatic EC churches don’t exist; the predominent EC church in my are is most definitely charismatic and unashamedly so. But they are in the minority.
3. As for specific teachings, I think even some of the ECers would turn this around and ask where ANY teachings on this issue are.
That’s a start. Can anyone add to that?
I think we’ve failed to connect the dots – those little points of light in scripture that illuminate the Spirit behind it.
He’s on the first page of the collected canon. He’s on the last page.
He’s a subtext running throughout the whole thing.
And the whole thing is a lot to bite off and chew to learn about one holy Personage … so we just put it off or give up or find something easier to study and pray about and ask for.
Just like we’ve ignored a comprehensive worldview based on Scripture from beginning to end, we’ve done the same with the Spirit.
Dan wrote: I hear a lot of pointless talk on the Web about revival and how to rouse the sleeping Western Church, yet almost nothing about the Holy Spirit.
Sorry I came to the party late. My comment: sure, there’s a lot of pointless talk on the Web about how to “rouse the sleeping Western Church,” because a great part of the Western Church is already too roused as it is. It’s practically foaming at the mouth, and I’m not just talking about the Toronto Blessing wackos.
The choice seems to be between churches where the congregation aren’t rationally engaged because either the hierarchy or the history are doing all the mental work, and a growing number of churches (and TV-based Christians) where mental work is considered unnecessary and discouraged altogether.
The Church doesn’t need revival. It needs lessons in critical thinking.
Can you give us concrete examples of what you intend?
Great post as always! Being Apostolic (Pentecostal) I frequently wonder how other Christians, indeed other human beings period, get by without the Holy Ghost. Of course, being of the Oneness doctrine, it is impossible for us to leave Him out. The Holy Ghost is God. And through the precious gift of His salvation, He dwells inside of us. Now He doesn’t automatically dwell inside of all Christians. Acts 2:38 explains that His Spirit is a gift we receive upon being baptized in the name of Jesus. He speaks to us, comforts us, and guides us in our daily walk with Him! It’s a glorious way to live, and the greatest day of my life is the day He saved my soul, and filled me with the precious gift of the Holy Ghost. I pray all get to have such an experience. Be blessed!
You and I have to part company on Oneness theology. I don’t support it.
Up to Jay H: I don’t think it’s a matter of critical thinking skills people lack today. Many churches, as Dan has said, just don’t include that third party into their teachings. We sing about it in the songs from time to time, but beyond that, many new believers aren’t aware of the power that can be unleashed upon them by the Holy Spirit. God created. Jesus came as the atonement, once for all. The Holy Spirit has been given as a power source for us, but many fail to acknowledge or accept it. And, sadly, many “Christians”, when faced with someone who actually speaks in tongues, freak out because they are ignorant to what can truly come from being connected into that power source. Those who know need to share with those that do not know – training is everything. If we fail to pass on the knowledge that we have about the Holy Spirit to believers, new believers, and non-believers we fail to take the Great Commission to heart and loose the battle. All denominations, holding to trinitarian beliefs, need to help their congregations in the understanding of, the power of, and the belief in the Holy Spirit; if they do not, then perhaps, they should take a look at their theologies and decide if, in fact, they are trinitarian churches.
Lastly, we, as mere mortal humans do not ignite revival. We can accept the tug of the Spirit on our hearts and do what God would have us to do – the Holy Spirit enganges us to “scramble the troops” and rally around a common cause. If you take a look at what is happening from generation to generation in the US, you might find that revival is way overdo. WWII generation was just above 50% believers, the current generation of young Americans is below 5% for believers. If that isn’t cause for alarm and isn’t a sign that we need revival I don’t know what would be.
Sorry for the rant, but this whole thread has got my head spinning.
I’m a United Methodist from birth onward…so this conversation fascinates me! Not to say there aren’t some charismatic Methodists, because there are…but the churches I’ve grown up in and worked at are the kind where you sit quietly, don’t move, and don’t make any noise. If you make noise, people will give you the “look”. Growing up in that context, as a teenager–after attending a very charismatic church with one of my friends–I used to pray that God would not make me speak in tongues (I didn’t understand the gift or its purpose). I just pictured the Holy Spirit taking over and making me stand up and speak in tongues in the middle of my incredibly uptight church; I may have been stoned to death if that happened! (I did not yet realize that the Holy Spirit does not force Himself on people who resist Him–or do things in a corporate setting that will distract from true worship and focus on God). The irony: just recently, I had a private prayer experience that I cannot even describe, other than it wasn’t speaking (more like sounds and groans that only the Spirit could interpret)…and I am convinced that the Holy Spirit was actually praying through me on behalf of my church….because that is what I asked for…go firgure, if you ask the Holy Spirit to pray through you on behalf of others (or even yourself, I’d assume), He answers. I had run out of words to pray for my people…and I invited (really, begged!) the Spirit to pray through me. I never knew such prayer existed. Is that tongues? (forgive my ignorance…this is all very new…seriously, I am an ordained United Methodist pastor, and no one ever taught me about any of this! In fact, a lot of people in my world get VERY uncomfortable if you talk too much about this).
All this is to say that, for me, a pastor…highly educated, very cerebral…what seems to be missing in my denomination is a vital, life-changing relationship with God, Father, Son, AND Holy Spirit. All we do is talk and think (and pray briefly at the beginning and ending of meetings)…tired of all the talking and lack of radical dependence on the Spirit!
Out of ignorance: what is the Oneness theology that someone referred to a few comments back?
Thanks for writing. I worked for the Northern Illinois Conference back in the late 80s, so I know some of the craziness in the Methodist Church. I’m still trying to figure out how the denominations holds together considering the vast differences between the churches.
As to your experience, I can’t tell you what occurred. All I say is to keep seeking God. When I was in my searching mode on this issue, my hangup was I didn’t want anyone to lay hands on me. I didn’t want things to feel like they were manufactured, if you know what I mean. I just wanted the Lord to do a work, just like he did in Cornelius’s household when the Spirit fell on them.
I discussed Oneness theology a couple weeks ago in my post “Dissing Discernment.”
p.s. Dan, did you go to Wheaton College? I am a ’97 graduate of Wheaton! Go Wheaton Thunder! ha ha ha
–speaking of revival, I was a sophomore during the Wheaton Revival of ’95…life-altering in more ways than I dare attempt to describe.
Graduated in ’92 along with Rob Bell, currently a well-known pastor in MI. Don’t know any others from my class to “hit the big time.”
I’ve written about my Wheaton experiences before, and have mentioned some of the revivals there. However, when I was there, I could not believe the antagonism toward charismatics and Pentecostals. They’d have posters for their churches torn down in the student union. I’d be perpetually grilled about speaking in tongues or other gifts of the Spirit, and not in a good way. That soured my entire Wheaton experience, sad to say.
As a Methodist myself I understand your frustrations with having people give “the look” while at church. Oddly enough, it was a Pastor in the Northern Illinois Conference that I first heard speek in tongues. He was a Methodist Pastor, which struck me as odd – and at first I didn’t understand. Keep in mind this was during an Emmaus weekend and he was praying over the leaders for that weekend, and like me, many had never experienced tongues. Like you, I resisted. However, something changed in me within seconds. And, while I didn’t understand (as I’m not gifted in interpretation of said tongues), I felt that tangible presence I mentioned in an above comment. That was my first experience in tongues – but not the first in experiencing the presence of the spirit. Like Dan said, keep seeking God. Pray in the spirit and seek, cerebrally & spiritually, the knowledge that can come only from God.
As a youth director in the Methodist church I have the honor and privilidge of growing and teaching those teens that I come in contact with. This includes teaching about the Holy Spirit, in spite of what many in the denomination would like me to do. Change is coming.
I met some truly fine pastors in the Northern Illinois Conference, and I could never understand the Methodist habit of shifting pastors around like crazy. I knew guys totally frustrated at starting something great in a church only to be shipped off a few years later to a congregation that utterly clashed with their ministry vision. I knew a Methodist pastor very keen on liberation theology who got moved into an ultra-conservative, rich, white church and I had to believe that the sparks flew the second he opened his mouth!
Dan, Thanks for your responses…I will soon read through your other posts (that you linked) which address my questions (that’s the problem with being new to the site; I’ve “missed” so much! Some day, I’ll get caught up!). I am so sorry about your experience at Wheaton. Unfortunately, I am not surprised…though I would have expected a little more grace from fellow Christians. I was very quiet about being a United Methodist and, especially, about being a female who felt called toward pastoral ministry…if I had been more forthcoming about those things, I am sure my experience would have been tainted as well. Very sad how we can supposedly love Jesus so much and yet treat our brothers and sisters so poorly.
As for the United Methodist Church, it is a miracle that we exist at all…yet, I continually encounter faithful people who love Jesus and are relying on the Spirit. The thing with the UM church is that we really have no set theology (John Wesley’s sermons are as close as we have to a written theology…but many ignore those, to their detriment). Each pastor determines, for their own church, the worship style and tone of the theology. That is why we never look a alike…very bizarre, really!
I always found it disturbing that even years afterwards, whenever I got called for alumni giving, they’d always ask me what denomination I was a part of. When I said Vineyard (at the time the fastest growing denom in the country), they’d never heard of it! Even ten years afterwards, it still wasn’t on their list of denominations. Unbelievable!
Dan, let me throw this in the ring. In E.W. Bullinger’s book, Word Studies on the Holy Spirit, he presents a sound argument that we have confused the person of the Holy Ghost with His gifts and operations. In a nutshell, the born-again Christian is one who has the “spirit of Christ” and that is the indwelling, the “hope of glory.” The Holy Ghost functions much like He did with Jesus in Acts 10:38 and the Old Testament prophets in Hebrews 2:4 – the baptism is the “upon” baptism and not the “within” baptism. Checks out in the Greek and gives a large amount of consistency to the Epistles.
I’m missing the subtlety of your argument. Can you unpack that more?
Excellent post. I’ve been posting lately about how we must be scared of the Holy Ghost and asking some of these same types of questions and it has raised quite a conversation. Good stuff. I’m sory I’m so late to the conversation.
I read every comment. You’re never too late!
Aaron Mundy writes: The Holy Spirit has been given as a power source for us, but many fail to acknowledge or accept it.
Or, looking at it from the other side, many Christians are walking around in a psycho-emotional haze and credit the Holy Spirit with their constant high. “Get drunk on God!”
Hank Hanegraaff’s Counterfeit Revival was eye-opening for me in this regard.
In response to Dan: I’ll try to get back and respond to your question in the next day or two. I’ve come back to this late at night, and would rather be rested. If I don’t respond, you can take that to mean either that I can’t succinctly formulate what I want to say, or that I’m having a crisis of self-doubt about my position. 😉
Hank Hanegraaff’s Counterfeit Revival was eye-opening for me in this regard.
Or was it heart-hardening, Jay?
While Christians express themselves, and their realization of the Holy Spirit in different ways, those who would deny the current powerful movement of God in His Church risk denying the power of Christ in its glorious manifestations.
The “Bible Answer Man”, while as well-versed as most men can be, needs to to step back and let the Holy Spirit provide a few answers.
Here are some things I asked on a recent post in response to some comments I had received about the Holy Spirit and the argument that God speaks pretty much only through His Word.
Here’s what I really don’t understand, if the Holy Spirit does nothing but point us to the Word and we need nothing but the Word, then why do we listen to preaching? What do preachers do? Shouldn’t they just read the Word and say nothing else?
Why would we need to pray?
And, how are we supposed to live by the Spirit or be filled with the Spirit?
Does it just mean that we should be great students of His Word and memorize as much of it as possible and that by so doing we are filled with the Spirit?
Does that mean that great faith and great Christianity is reserved for those who are more intelligent than others and who can better understand the letter of the Word?
And, does this mean that I and millions of others who believe that God speaks to them on a personal level are deceived? Whose voice are we hearing? If we are deceived would those who would argue what Josh has presented say we are not believers?
Going back and reading your wheaton revival post, I realized that is how I found your website in the first place. Several months ago, I did an internet search on the wheaton revival and your site came up. I think I even sent you an email–because the comments were closed–but you probably get tons of email from random people all the time!
I work with a lot of college kids on a regular basis. Their focus is very myopic…partially due to their stage of emotional development and lack of significant life experience. That is the only excuse I can make for someone not knowing about the Vineyard Church!
One of my closest friends at Wheaton was/is very charismatic…from a FourSquare church and attended a Pentecostal church close to Wheaton while we were in school. He didn’t have the experience of exclusion that you describe…maybe a few years made a difference in the climate (though, I’m skeptical). What I experienced at a “Christian” college is that not every one there is Christian–especially not in the sense of Jesus being absolute Lord of everything I do, say, think and am. Makes me sad…burdens my heart even more for college kids. My dream job would be able to work at wheaton as a chaplain and really help kids learn how to live out their faith in every aspect of their lives…not to intellectualize everything to the detriment of vital faith and piety…not to make faith into a “who’s the perfect christian” competition…to learn to strive less and surrender more…
ok, sorry to get so off topic!!!
This discussion has caused me to jump,
“The Holy Spirit My Senior Partner” by Paul Yonggi Cho
to the front of my reading list.
Does anyone have any comments on this book?
I liked Cho’s book “The Fourth Dimension”
I also want to do a Bible study on the Holy Spirit. I have stacks of Bible notes and studies that I want to search through and find the ones on the Holy Spirit.
I’ve had mixed feelings about Cho. He lets some charismania slip in at times. Plus, he tends to sometimes drift into a man-centered Gospel that makes it sound like we are little gods. I understand what he’s trying to say, but he verges too close to that error, in my judgment.
I wrote:Hank Hanegraaff’s Counterfeit Revival was eye-opening for me in this regard.
Sir Chuck responded: Or was it heart-hardening, Jay?
Honestly, I don’t think so. I don’t think this is an issue of me resisting God; I think this is an issue of people ascribing things to God that aren’t properly His movement.
Let me be clear about both my doubt and certainty in this: I know it’s happened and that it’s continuing to happen. I just don’t know to what extent.
And while I’d like to say the reason I haven’t responded at more length yet is because I’ve been busy with work (which I have been), the bigger reason is that I’m just so frustrated about the situation, my haziness about its boundary, and my inability to articulate it.
I really do hope to get back to writing about this, when I can take a deep breath and summon the strength.
Hey, Dan, I blogged on this a wee little bit tonight and in the course of my analysis, I discovered not only this post but also an interesting results: Pentecostal bloggers mention the Holy Spirit more frequently than the rest of the blogosphere.
No surprise there, really, but perhaps all is not lost within the overtly charismatic/Pentecostal portion of the church which is more intentional about its pneumatology.
Check it out:
Ranking the Divine: The Holy Spirit and Search trends
Wow. Great stuff!
I come from a church segment where the Holy Spirit is used as a prop for whatever their political or sociological action is. “Change!!” they say. The Spirit is there behind much change — but not all, or even most. One of the questions of the day is how to know when such change is really powered by the Holy Spirit. I suspect that the answer lies with our relationship to Jesus, and to our fellow believers (where the Spirit is even when not noticed).
What church is that?
Dan, obviously at this post really, really late. Doing some basic research trying to see what’s going on in emerging church theology, and especially on the Holy Spirit. There’s still a pretty big lack of study on the Holy Spirit in emerging/missional circles, somewhat intentionally in fact. A lot of emerging church thought is reactionary, pushing back against what is seen as excess in various churches. A lot of emerging/missional people have come out of Pentecostal/charismatic churches and so have lingering frustrations they want to avoid.
Add to this too the fact that the contemporary church really itself doesn’t have a holistic pneumatology, and has essentially ceded the topic of the Spirit to the Pentecostal/charismatic world.
This isn’t true in academic thought, but broadly throughout the church if the Holy Spirit is mentioned or sought, there is an immediate reaction related to opinions on Pentecostalism.
The topic has also been, from this, basically limited to ‘spiritual gifts’ or other churchy add-ons rather than a substantive theological topic in its own right.
I did write an emerging pneumatology of sorts titled It’s a Dance: Moving with the Holy Spirit that takes the basic traits of the emerging churches and shows how these are broader, and Scriptural, expressions precisely of the Holy Spirit. An emphasis on Jesus, community, giving, welcoming strangers, participation, non-hierarchical leadership, transformative worship, and creativity are the works of the Spirit in the Bible, going beyond the more exciting emphases focused on in a lot of charismatic communities. To this I also added the emphasis on holiness.
I’m pushing for a more substantive study in this direction, presenting on this same topic in an academic style last year at the Society of Pentecostal Studies conference.
There’s definitely a burgeoning interest from the Pentecostal side, as they see a need to broaden their understanding of the Spirit in a holistic way. But there’s not too much interest yet from the emerging side.
But, I think this is something that emerging church folks are really going to be addressing more and more, especially as the movement matures and begins to produce more overall theological reflection.
Before posting this note I read about the accident in your family. I pray there is substantive healing–physical and emotional–and substantive answers to the needs this provokes.
I still read new comments on old posts, so coming late to the game is okay.
The whole world is going Pentecostal, mostly because the Pentecostals are the most dedicated to missions and evangelism.