Forum on the Holy Spirit

I posted an article on how the Holy Spirit has moved in the life of the Church, and it has generated some great conversation with Mike (http://mdmcmullin.blogspot.com/) and Matt (http://mtapie.blogspot.com/).  I would like to post that conversation here:

Mike said...

Enjoyed your post. I stumbled onto your blog. Pentecostalism was a breath of fresh air in the stagnation of modernity. Unfortunately, the pentecostal and charismatic movements traded their fresh intimacy with the Spirit for credibility and respect from evangelicals. I have several friends who are a part of the Charismatic Episcopal Church. I am intrigued by the symbolism in formal liturgy and enjoy seeing Christ presented as the great mystery in as done in so many orthodox churches. I'd love to know more about your background. I am an emerging pentecostal seeking to find ways to bring a new depth into the worship service. I don't mind using formal liturgy as long as it leaves room for the Spirit to interrupt.
Nate says...

Thanks!  And by the way... this guy is a thinker!  If you are in the Tyler TX area and want a Pentecostal Church that will challenge your brain as well as warm your heart, it looks like Mike's Church is your best bet...

Check out his blog and his comments below...

Mike said...

I'm not sure that I by "outbreaks" of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is the unseen worshipper who has been present and willing to move upon the church since pentecost. The fact that we only have "outbreaks" recorded throughout the medieval period does not mean that they were the only experiences happening, just the only ones recorded that we have today. Nor do they mean that the Holy Spirit was not willing to move when the church could present itself as a pure bride.

The gift of the Holy Spirit (the baptism of the Holy Spirit) is given freely but can only be received subsequent to a clean heart. The awakenings perhaps provided a vehicle by which the church could seek the holiness of God and be surprised to find His Spirit.

Concerning what role theology plays in all of this. A couple of books you might like "Theological Roots of Pentecostalism" by Donald Dayton; "The Everlasting Gospel" by William Faupel (JPT [Journal of Pentecostal Theology] Supplemental Series); and the "Holiness-Pentecostal Tradition" by Vinson Synan. Also, accepted by many (including Harvey Cox and Jurgen Moltmann) as possibly the defining work on "doing" Pentecostal Theology is Steve Land's "Pentecostal Spirituality: A Passion for the Kingdom" it is also part of the JPT supplement series and I believe there are several articles reviewing/responding to it by Cox and Moltmann in the JPT. There is a ton of things being written right now in both JPT and Pneuma that may help you on your journey.

Concerning 'the beauty of the gospel of Christ" being replaced by a forced experience or by what I interpret that to mean as a manufactured experience. I'm sure it happens. But I don't think it's wise to make a sweeping statement. I'm not sure of your tradition or if you are pentecostal or if you are even sympathetic to the pentecostal experience. Again I would say, the Holy Spirit, the unseen worshipper, is always waiting for an experience with us. To borrow from the eastern orthodox, if the Father is the "Lover", his Son the "beloved" and the Spirit the "love" between them which is given to us, then "love" is always waiting to express itself. Sometimes in a tender way, sometimes in a demonstrative way (which perhaps is manufactured at times by eager believers) but always he waits to show his affection to us.

Compare it to a love relationship on earth. I love my wife and show affection to her. I am more loving/affectionate at different times for various reasons (good day, bad day, sick, tired etc). But on my anniversary, I buy her flowers, a card, perhaps a gift, take her out to dinner and make sure she knows that I love her. That day is a celebration of our love and covenant. I don't wait for her to ask me, or for her to remind me, we do it every year. Sometimes are more memorable than others but always an experience of love happens. Is the beauty of our love replaced because I forced an experience on that day? Certainly we worship God everyday, and desire his Holy Spirit to be with us at all times, but during worship we celebrate that love and we seek an expression of it. It may look different from week to week, but we are right to be hungry for it and to seek it. That hunger that sometimes leads to manufacturing soemthing is often times a misquided response to the call of the Spirit (unless the person has ulterior motives of pride or greed).
Nate said...

Howdy Mike,

Yep, one of the things that I am is a "Pentecostal", and yes, I have received the gift of tongues and use it regularly, as well as intermittent experiences of gifts of healing, prophesy, word of wisdom, and the like.  So I am a card carrying member of the "spirit-filled" community and able to speak not only as a critic, but as an "insider".  

However, I am also Anglican and rooted in Catholic-Orthodox theology, and am a critic as well.  As such, I do have one correction and one question to make about your response:

First, the originator of the Lover-Beloved-Love analogy of the Trinity is Western, not Eastern.  It is found in "De Trinitate" by St. Augustine.  In actuality, there are some older Orthodox writers who have a big problem with this analogy, since it implies a "double procession" of the Holy Spirit from the Father AND the Son, instead of a single source for the procession of the Spirit in the Father.  The "love analogy" of the Trinity is actually one of my favorites and is mentioned on other articles on this blog, and I think it is compatable with Orthodox Theology, so long as one insists on "proceeds FROM the Father THROUGH the Son" instead of "proceeds FROM the Father AND the Son".

This gets really technical about why this is a big deal... and I may devote a future blog article to it... but not right now.

Second, here is my question to you: If the Spirit requires a "pure heart" in order to manifest Himself in signs and wonders, then how do you explain all the scoundrels and rascals throughout Church history who have been filled with the Spirit?

One might mention Moses, Samson, Samuel, Saul, and David (in the Old Testament) and Peter (in the New Testament) as people who had serious purity and holiness problems, and yet were used powerfully by the Spirit in signs and wonders.

Furthermore, one might mention the scads of morally questionable evangelists and faith healers in the last century.  Either you have to say that they are all fakes, or you must admit that the Spirit sovereignly chooses to use people who are not completely holy and pure for His work.

In short, you have to come up with a criterion for explaining WHY the Spirit uses some people and not others, if it can in fact be shown that he does use people who are impure and non-holy.

I think a better "criterion" to explain who the Holy Spirit uses is NOT holiness or purity, but rather yieldedness and surrender.  I think the broken and the humble are those used by the Spirit, and not the prideful (which is one of the main points of my article, however bad I may have stated it).

What do you think?

Mike said...

Thanks for the reply.

My apologies on not giving Augustine his do.  I agree with you on procession from the Father through the Son.

In response to your second point: "If the Spirit requires a "pure heart" in order to manifest Himself in signs and wonders..."

I don't think the Spirit requires a pure heart to do anything.  The Spirit is a pure heart and can manifest Himself, testifying of Jesus, regardless of the condition of those who he may use.  A pure heart allows the Spirit to be manifest within the believer.  The fruit of the Spirit may grow only on a branch that abides in the vine.  The manifestations of the Spirit move upon us and through us according to God's sovereignty.

How does Caiphas prophecy if purity is a condition? [Jn 11:49-52]   I guess I'm agreeing with your point here.  

Perhaps I'm splitting too closely the work of the Spirit within the believer, within the church and within the world.  I have not fully developed this enough but I think of the work of the Spirit in terms of purity, position and presence:

1 - I believe that purity of heart is required within the life of the believer to truly abide in Christ.  Fruit will not be produced within the believer without it.

2 - I believe that the Spirit often uses position to manifest himself in the church (the bishop, priest, deacon, tv evangelist).  While the person holding the position may not posses purity, the positions of authority set in God's church do.  ("do nothing without the bishop").  Baptism by a corrupt minister still counts.

3 - The Spirit is manifested in the world through the prophetic presence of the church.  Again, individually the church may possess no piety but as the bride of Christ we are spotless and stand as a prophetic presence even symbol of grace (sacrament) to the world. (Rahner is excellent on this topic)

I don't think this gives justification to the thought that the Spirit will move despite personal holiness, so why even try.  Our love for Christ will facilitate motivation to do his commands.  Just some thoughts.
Nate said...


Great reply!  I think we are close to saying the same thing...

I think you would agree that the Holy Spirit can AND does manifest Himself in powerful ways in individuals and in communities that are not completely pure or holy in some areas...

And I would agree that we should never, ever give up on striving to be sanctified and holy, AND I would also agree that the Holy Spirit is able to manfiest Himself MORE POWERFULLY in those who are more holy, specifically if one considers the most powerful spiritual gift of all: Love.

I think we would both agree that the most powerful AND most holy spiritual gift is Love, and those who are truly filled with agape love are those who are the most holy people.
Matt said...


I am still studying about this but can you group Pentacostalism with St. John of the Cross under the same "outbreak" of the Holy Spirit category? I think many of the movements you listed are very different from each other. Just curious for an explanation there.

And, what role does theology play in all of this? I believe that many of the "movements" of the Spirit that we see today are somewhat forced by those who lead them. They believe, as you mentioned, that an experience must happen and so they make it happen. It seems as if the beauty of the gospel of Christ is replaced, as in the days of the Montanists, with an experience. I think we hunger for and force authentic experience because we do not hear the theological "weight of glory" (as C.S. Lewis would say) that is in the basic Christ-with-us-life trumpted (from the teaching office) as the powerful, earth-shaking message that it is.

Great post.
Nate said...

First, I want to say that I think you have stumbled on a VERY IMPORTANT reason for the waning of the power of the Spirit after "institutionalization" sets in.  My hypothesis is that the Spirit wanes because of the spiritual pride that is bred in such movements, and that then "fossilization" comes from a lack of humility and lack of dependence on the Spirit.  I think this is partially right, but you add in another aspect:

Instead of God-in-Christ-through-the-Spirit being the "end" or the "goal" sought after in such movements, the Spirit becomes the "means" to gain the "goal" of personal experience, or "the Holy Spirit high".  Revival movements always start as Christ-centered outbreaks of the Holy Spirit, where people are hungry for God above all else.  When people hunger for God, he pours out His Spirit on all flesh to bring them to Him.  BUT, after awhile, once a certain "experience" gets associated with the movement, whether healing or tongues or ecstatic experience, people start seeking the experience rather than God.  They start seeking the effect, not the cause.  They start making God a means, not an end.  And God never honors being a means.  He demands (rightly) to be the end and goal of everything we think, say, and do.  And when an experience stops being about seeking God, and starts being about seeking the 'experience", God withdraws His Spirit from it.

Second, let me explain why I lump in John of the Cross with the Charismatic movement.  In my mind, I find four basic typologies of Church bodies and movements in history.  Each of them focuses on a specific aspect of the Divine-Human relationship found in the Nicene Creed.  That is to say, there is a stream of spirituality and theology devoted to each of the Divine Persons of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit, as well as a stream devoted to creation and humanity.  Each of these "streams" has various tributaries and sub-developments that also merge with other streams to form new developments.  My basic typology is this:

The Liturgical-Sacramental Stream:
+ Focusing on the glory and majesty of God the Father and the power of His grace
+ Strengths if used rightly: A Sacramental view of creation; The deep joy of liturgy and ritual; Connectedness with the Body of Christ through time and space;  Us-and-Jesus, not just Me-and-Jesus.
+ Drawbacks if used wrongly: Dead and rote traditionalism; Fear of excitement and imbalance; Frozen-chosen attitude
+ How we miss out if we ignore it: Beauty, mystery, and history.
+ If Christianity is marriage to Christ: Then this stream focuses on getting dressed to impress and go out on the big date
+ AKA: high church, catholicism, sacramentalism

The Protestant-Evangelical Stream:
+ Focusing on the salvation of the Son and the power of God's Word
+ Strengths: Centrality of Jesus and personal conversion; Love for Scripture; Passion for apologetics and evangelism; Reformation spirit: constantly making the Church better
+ Drawbacks: Protest-ant spirit of continual criticism of others; Religion of the head not the heart- Distrust of experience and non-rational movement of the Spirit; Christian bunker mentality of isolating the "elect" from everyone else; Lack of historical roots.
+ How we miss out if we ignore it: Conversion, commitment, and simplicity.
+ If Christianity is marriage to Christ: Then this stream focuses on getting to know each other personally and deeply enjoying each other's company
+ AKA: low church, reformed, "fundamentalist"

The Charismatic-Mystical Stream:
+ Focusing on the experience of the Spirit and the power of His gifts
+ Strengths: The freedom of the Spirit; The power of spiritual gifts; The victory of Jesus over forces of evil; Passionate music; Direct, personal, mystical connectedness with God through the Spirit
+ Drawbacks: Religion of the heart and not the head; Charismania, imbalance, and experience seeking; Christian elitism: we have the "experience" so we are better than you
+ How we miss out if we ignore it: Excitement, power, and praise.
+ If Christianity is marriage to Christ: Then this flavor focuses on the joy, the power, and the passion of making love
+ AKA: renewal, revival, Pentecostal, spirit-filled

The Liberal-Humanistic Stream:
+ Focusing on the needs of God's creation and the power of God's people
+ Strengths: Speak as prophetic voice to unjust social conditions; Helping the "least of these"; Relevance: honest engagement with the needs and concerns of culture and learning; Concern for salvation of creation and ecological justice.
+ Drawbacks: Revisionism; Bowing to the spirit of this age; Compromise with the world.
+ How we miss out if we ignore it: Compassion, social justice, and reason.
+ If Christianity is marriage to Christ: Then this flavor focuses on the needs of the kids and the extended family
+ AKA: progressive, modern, contemporary

Within this typology, you can see why I see John of the Cross and all of the mystics as carrying on a charismatic-mystical stream that has flowed through all of Church History.

1 comment:

Matt Tapie said...

Very interesting. May I request some things from your blog as a faithful blog visitor? Well I guess these could be suggestions too--I would love to see some of your reading lists as links; especially for your posts on the relationships between Scripture and tradition. I am reading Newman right now but am desiring more. Also, you have very thorough posts which are worth the time it takes to read through them and are excellent. The black screen tires the eyes! I know you don't have a suggestion box but I hope you don't mind my asking--let it be a testimony to my appreciation of your work. God bless,

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