Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Only God We Ever Know

Last Sunday the pastor at the church I attend spoke about the Holy Spirit. It was an appropriate topic for Pentecost. He made a statement that has been echoing in my mind ever since. He said, "The Holy Spirit is the only God we ever know." He did not mean that we don't know the other persons of the Trinity. He meant that we know the Father and the Son only through the indwelling Holy Spirit.

It is a very experiential thing to say, which is why it resonated with me. It is increasingly important for me to experience doctrines and not just believe them. What good are doctrines if they are only known in theory? My theology is becoming more practical than theoretical, more physical than metaphysical, more incarnated than interpreted.

Therefore my experience of God has been much more focused on the Holy Spirit. In scholarly terminology, my theology is becoming more pneumatological. My Christology is intact, but the doctrine of the Holy Spirit is coming out of the closet to claim its proper place in my life and thought.

In the Hebrew Old Testament, Spirit is feminine; in the Greek New Testament it is neuter. Yet the Holy Spirit is referred to with the masculine pronoun "he." In other words the Spirit is both inclusive of and surpasses the limitations of human gender. That makes the experience of the Spirit very different than the Father and the Son - who are both very male personae.

The Spirit can be both very subtle and very dramatic in his work. I experience the Spirit in prayer. The phrase "in the Spirit" is very descriptive of my prayer life. I am immersed in the Spirit and dwell in the Spirit. I pray in the Spirit and walk in the Spirit. The world is imbued with Spirit for me. The Kingdom of God is the Presence of the Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is God within us as humans, yet never appears in humanoid form. When the Spirit appears, it is as a dove or wind or fire. He is both personal and impersonal, yet transcends both. As God no humanly concepts can contain him. He is beyond comprehension, yet by the Spirit we comprehend.

He is the Wind hovering over the face of the deep before creation. He is the Breath of Life breathed into man at creation. He is the Spirit who inspired the prophets and filled the apostles. He is the Spirit of revelation. By the Spirit we understand. Without the Spirit, we understand nothing. The Spirit mediates God and interprets God to our understanding. Yet the Spirit transcends understanding.

"No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him, but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words."

The Spirit is God to me, in me, through me - the only God I know.
Image is "Holy Spirit Come," prophetic art by Janice Okubo

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