Wednesday, May 29, 2013

I (think I) believe in the Holy Spirit

I've been tying my reading into the calendar recently - I spent some time in Church Dogmatics IV/1 over Easter, especially looking at the section on the resurrection (which, incidentally, shows that Barth moves a long way from the existentialism of the commentary on Romans, and is not all the theologian that his opponents and many of his 'friends' consider him to be - but that is by the by); since Pentecost I have been re-reading Simon Ponsonby's book on the Holy Spirit, God Inside Out.  It is a good read, from a Biblical charismatic perspective, and I've enjoyed it as much this second time through as I did the first time.

But, if I'm honest, the closest I can come to a ringing confession of the faith of Pentecost which is expressed in Simon's book is something along the lines of 'I'm pretty sure about the Holy Spirit.  Most of the time, anyway'. Not a faith to move mountains.

Here's the thing.  When it comes to what God has done, then and there, I find my brain quite useful.  The more I look into it, the more I think it is as certain as anything in history ever can be that Jesus rose from the dead.  Okay, it takes faith to get from that to saying 'and it was for me', but still there is investigation I can do.  On top of that, I can view the problem from philosophical and theological points of view, and I can say: of course, the cross and resurrection of Jesus.  That is what we need.  It makes sense.  Even when it doesn't make sense, I can understand that the theology of the cross cuts across my understanding - crucifies it, as it were - to get me to the truth.  I get it, or it gets me, even when I don't really get it.  I have no problem, either, with saying that some things - the most important things - are taken on faith, and are not seen.  People who live under the sign of the cross must expect to live by faith and not sight; sight is for the resurrection, sight is for the time when we know as we are known.

But the thing with the Holy Spirit is that the Bible leads me to believe that I should be able to see him at work.  Ever noticed that in Acts the proof that people are converted is that they obviously receive the Spirit?  Think about Peter with Cornelius.  It is the visible reception of the Spirit that persuades him that these people have come to believe in Christ.  It would be very different in the churches I frequent.  We infer the Spirit - someone appears to believe, so they must have received the Spirit.  Peter's reasoning is the other way round - someone received the Spirit, they must believe.  Maybe this was a special case.  Maybe.

What evidence is there in conservative evangelical circles that the Spirit is at work?  Is it just that I find it hard to see it, and easy to explain it away?

How does the faith/sight dichotomy feed into this?

I'm not sure.  But in the meantime, I do believe in the Holy Spirit.  I'd just like to see him out and about more, that's all.