I got to hang out with my buddy, Alan, for lunch on Sunday. It was a nice time talking about theology, church and life. One of the things that came up was how much our theology has changed.
Over the last several years, I seem to have deconstructed and, to varying degrees, reconstructed most areas of my theology. [Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying I’m “there.” I’m just further along on this journey than I was several years ago.] However, our conversation on Sunday made me realize how much my pneumatology hasn’t really been reconstructed yet.
In my past, I have been fairly open to the Spirit. I loved what I learned and experienced from John Wimber and the Vineyard. I also enjoyed some facets of the Toronto Blessing that swept through the Vineyard when I was involved. Despite some of the controversy, my wife and I enjoyed significant healing during that time. But along with the good experiences and theology, there also came the bad. I saw and experienced too much abuse along with the Spirit’s authentic work.
So, in all the areas of theological reconstruction that I’m experiencing, I feel like my pneumatology has become stunted. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m too burned from the excess and abuse. Or if it’s because I can’t find an adequate model that fits my newly formed theology. Or if it’s because of something else.
But here’s where I’m at from a “big picture” perspective. I believe the Spirit is the creating Spirit, breathing God’s life into his creation. I also believe the Spirit is the consummating Spirit. Although created good, the world was not created complete. So the same Spirit who participated in the world’s beginning, is also in the process of drawing the world forward toward God’s designs.
I also believe that Jesus was anointed by the creating and consummating Spirit to be the climax of Israel’s story — to vanquish evil, to renew God’s people, and to launch the New Creation. From this I believe that the Church is blessed with the continuing presence of the Spirit to implement what Jesus began. By the Spirit — the powerful and renewing breath and love of God — we are to continue overcoming evil with good, renewing God’s people and implementing the New Creation through our personal and communal lives.
What I’ve begun praying about is for God to show me how this looks on the ground. I don’t want to relegate the Spirit’s presence and work to Christian meetings as I have in the past. I really believe the Spirit needs room to work out on the streets in authentic relationships, evangelism and social justice. But he does his work out on the streets as those whom he fills go into the streets.
So in this light, where do manifestations such as tongues, prophecy, knowledge, and healing fit? Does ministering in the Spirit have to look as “weird” as it has in the past? Does it require hours of laying hands on people to see him actually move? People in Jesus’ ministry seemed astonished by the power and authority of his words and deeds, not by any weirdness.
As we work with God’s grace to become like Jesus in character, we shouldn’t forget we are also working with God’s grace to become like Jesus in power. The same Spirit who nourishes love, joy, peace, patience, etc., also brings healing, deliverance, justice, and powerful confrontations between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of darkness. And both the fruit and the gifts of the Spirit are for the sake of the world.
Come, Holy Spirit.