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Practical Pneumatology

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : December 8, 2004

It seems fashionable these days to disparage "authority"–and with good reason.  Authority, as traditionally conceived within the Church is rather mechanistic and role-based.  But we ought not reject authority all together; instead we need to reconceive how authority is conveyed.  Jesus Christ is still the Lord of His Church.  And I, for one, would like to believe that he makes His Lordship known, through the Holy Spirit.  Most good ecclesiologies would affirm this.  And so should any emerging ecclesiology. 

Those inclined to the postmodern rejection of absolutes and A metanarrative are right to point out the destructive and coercive effects of hierarchical authority structures.  These things are tendencies that must be rejected.

But what is the alternative?  Do we become Quakers–making decisions by unanimous decision?  Are we congregational–making decisions by majority.  This moves the authority away from the few (hierarchy) and to the many, but is no less prone to be divorced from the Lordship of Christ communicated by the moving of His Spirit.

In Acts we see examples of the will of God being communicated through the few (Apostles) and from the many (congregations).  In both sorts of "authority", it seems that the deciding factor wasn’t the decision making structure, but the moving of the Spirit.  If we agree that it is the Spirit who conveys authority, how do we, as the Community of the Spirit, the Body of Christ, engage in "Practical Pneumatology"–which is, therefore, the heart of Ecclesiology?

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2 Responses to “Practical Pneumatology”

  1. jeff on December 9th, 2004 4:29 am

    “If we agree that it is the Spirit who conveys authority, how do we, as the Community of the Spirit, the Body of Christ, engage in “Practical Pneumatology”–which is, therefore, the heart of Ecclesiology?”

    Good question. I think that’s why there isn’t such a thing as “practical pneumatology” (critically speaking). “Practical” is often equated with “objective” and “pneuma” with “subjective.” But what if the subjective working of the h.s. is objectively known by the collective community? The problem for church leadership & authority structures is that the Spirit still blows when it blows and falls where it may. What if you walked into a board meeting and the only agenda item was “wait on the Spirit?”

  2. Van S on December 9th, 2004 9:26 pm

    Well how about “applied pneumatology?” We have some ideas from Scripture as to what this looks like (Scripture is deliciously decentralized and a bit vague).

    I think starting with “waiting upon the Spirit” is a great starting point for decision-making.

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