Sunday, June 09, 2019

Knowledge in the Spirit

"In Jesus Christ God has embodied in our human existence the mutual knowledge which the Father and the Son have of one another and in the Holy Spirit he gives us communion in the mutual relation of the Father and the Son and thus makes us share in the knowledge which the Father and the Son have of one another."

Thus T.F. Torrance, The Trinitarian Faith, 55.

That's a pretty dense sentence, and in urgent need of some punctuation, but there are two truths here that Torrance is getting at which are of vital importance for us.

Firstly, in the incarnation of the Son, God has given us a point of access, a way in which we can truly know him.  In the context of his discussion, Torrance is making the point (drawn from Irenaeus and particularly Athanasius) that God can only be known from himself.  An attempted knowledge of God that began from created things would not get far; it could only really be speculative.  But there is a problem: we can't know God in himself.  Because he is beyond creation, beyond our way of being, he is also beyond our knowing.  God overcomes this problem (for we surely can't overcome it) by making himself present in Christ.  Now we have, within the human world of space and time, a genuine way in - not to an abstract knowledge of God as Creator, but to the relational knowledge which Father and Son have of one another in the eternal Godhead.  Jesus relates to his Father as he always has done eternally, but now he does so as a man, and in so doing establishes the 'objective' knowledge of God for us all.

Secondly, the out-poured Holy Spirit unites believers to Christ, such that they share in that relationship between the Father and the Son.  They know themselves to be alongside Christ as brothers, adopted as the children of the Father.  Being involved in this relationship, believers necessarily have knowledge of God.  But note again: this is knowledge of God which is also knowledge from and through God.  The Spirit, if you like, establishes the 'subjective' knowledge of God for us who believe, by involving us in the relationship between the Father and the Son.

The central thing, I think, which is implied by the incarnation on the one hand and Pentecost on the other, is that there is no second hand knowledge of God.  To know God is to be involved in God's own self-knowledge.  This is very clear biblically in 1 Corinthians 2:6-16.  Only the Spirit knows the deep things of God, and he knows them in the way that a human's spirit knows the deep things of that human person.  And yet, we have the mind of Christ; we are made, by the Spirit, to participate genuinely in this self-knowing of God.

What we celebrate at Pentecost is not just power, not just mission, not just the church, but God catching us up into genuine relational knowledge of himself, into the very relationship and knowledge of the Father and the Son in the eternal Godhead.

Good news.

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