Note to My Readers: from mid-June to mid-August (6/18 - 8/20), I will be taking a summer break from posting new articles for my Thursday and Friday slots. This will only affect my Thursday series on the global growth of Christianity, and my Friday series, the "Theological Bestiary" of birds, both of which will resume in late August. During the summer, I'll be dusting off some of my best essays from the first few years of this blog (a decade ago), as well as my verse play "Thus Ends the World," and re-posting them in the Thursday and Friday slots. All other weekdays will continue to feature new material throughout the summer.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

95 Theses, #68-69: Pentecost and the Holy Spirit



To see the introduction and disclaimers for my 95 Theses, first go to: 95-Theses-Introduction


(Image: "The Pentecost," by an unknown Bohemian master, early 15th cent., tempera and gold on parchment)

68.) Pentecost and the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit - The next great event in the story is Pentecost. Jesus’ instructions to pray and wait for the coming of the Spirit are not simply a message for the disciples’ historical situation alone; it is his instruction for all Christian ministry everywhere. One of the main questions to ask about Pentecost is whether it actually initiated a new, previously-unknown form of the Holy Spirit's presence among God's people, or whether it was simply an experiential, outward sign of that already-present reality. I tentatively lean toward the latter. The reason for this is simple: because of Jesus, those who have faith in him are already part of the new humanity, already mystically connected to the Trinity in Christ and participating, at least at an elementary level, in the energies of the divine nature. Since the Trinity is a unity, a participation in one part (Christ) is a participation in all parts. As in the Old Testament, where it was possible for “the Spirit of the Lord” to come upon someone in a dramatic way, so now in the NT it is possible for Christians to have spontaneous events of the Holy Spirit which are experientially richer than normal experience, but the NT testifies that the community of Christ is always indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Since the Holy Spirit is the active element of the Trinity’s nature of eternal love, it would be meaningless to suggest that the people of God are within the love of God but without the Holy Spirit. Pentecost, then, is not the moment of indwelling, as if the disciples, though an authentic community of faith connected to the risen Christ, were still somehow cut off from the presence of the Holy Trinity between the Ascension and Pentecost. Rather, Pentecost is a symbolic, outward, experiential moment testifying to the Holy Spirit’s indwelling presence. It provides a transformative experience of empowerment for the disciples at the beginning of their mission and gives them a powerful “stone of remembrance” regarding the Holy Spirit’s indwelling for all the remainder of their ministries.

69.) The Holy Spirit and Human Nature - The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is both on an individual level and on a communal level. Because each one of us is able to participate in the divine nature through Christ, all of us are connected to the active principle of God’s love simply because we are persons in the new humanity. However, remembering that our ontological nature is not that of atomized individuals, but that we share one essential human nature—in Christ, a renewed human nature—it is also in connection with one another that we share the Holy Spirit’s indwelling power. As Paul teaches us, it is only in the community of saints that we experience the full gifting of the Holy Spirit, complementing one another and building one another up. Though each of us individually is connected to the Holy Spirit, it is only together that the full power and presence of God is made manifest.

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