Reflecting on Pentecost Sunday Part 2 – Holy Spirit, Scripture, Humility

Yesterday was Pentecost Sunday and as mentioned in the previous post, it is an extremely important Sunday in the historical church. The day the Holy Spirit filled the disciples and fills believers still today (and is at work throughout all creation) is an essential matter of what Christ-followers should reflect on. I will be the first to say the Holy Spirit (and the theology of the Trinity) is a difficult doctrine to pin down. So years ago, I stopped “trying” because a theology that is living and breathing cannot be pinned down by mere mortals.  Take note, this does not mean I have given up studying Scripture, theology and the world around me, I just no longer buy into the notion that aside from a few loose ends that will be corrected when I get to heaven, I can have it mostly figured out ;-).

Having been educated in my college years in systematic theology (among many worthy disciplines), I had always been overwhelmed by the idea of trying to have perfect Biblical theology (a fruitless mission). That is part of the claim of modernity – that you can know it if you discover it all, accept it all, organize it all, understand it all, etc. The problem is “all” is too tricky for the flawed human mind and nature. As it turns out, one cannot comprehend it “all”. Feel free to try, you do not have to believe me but let me know when you stop trying, I think I have some solid brotherly direction for you.

God is not a subject. “World religions” might be a class but God is a person. He is not empirical, cannot be researched, organized and reduced to be “more understandable”. In other places, I have described this as dissecting the theological frog. The Holy Scriptures is a sacred thing that we are invited to partake in, one that we read, study, meditate, apply, converse with others, all in a Christ-like humility. And one of my favorite aspects of all this is Paul writes that the Holy Spirit will help us understand God’s will/word. Passages like I Cor. 2:14 & most of Eph. 1 have allowed some theologians to explain that the Spirit will “illuminate” these things to us. (“Illuminate” huh? Sure sounds good, throw that in the mix too). The Holy Spirit helping us to understand, that sounds like what Jesus promised in John 14. (He actually calls the Spirit a “helper”. Further, I have always found this to be so interesting because there was no New Testament cannon, only Old Testament and it would take centuries before his very writings would be canonized. Certainly they kept them, read them, copied them, etc. but there was no 3 ring binder, marked, “New Testament” that they threw them into it. What was being illuminated was the Old Testament and the present world in light of the work of Christ.  Sorry for the rabbit trail, I find that exciting).

I sometimes wonder what  the idea of “faith” would look like if it were not for the work of the Spirit.  I suspect that the Church would be obsessed with knowledge than anything else and therefore, “faith”, would be a meaningless term.  Which in looking at one of the most important aspects that I have underestimated in all the conversations about Scripture, accuracy, inspiration, the text, etc. is that the Spirit has always been at work in people’s hearts.   The Spirit at work in our hearts is even more important than proper doctrine. Don’t misunderstand me, the Church has suffered greatly from anti-intelluctualism and doctrine is extremely important  and as a whole, we may not be giving it its proper attention but loving God (and others – Mark 12) is even more important.   Again, don’t misunderstand, people have claimed the Spirit’s working in places where He was not – this is sinful but not a reason to dismiss the Spirit entirely, as some have seemed to do.  We need the Holy Spirit to realize, mature, and be at work in our faith and understanding of it all. And among other reasons, this is why Pentecost is so important.

(Part 3 hopefully tomorrow).


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