The Subversive Spirit 1

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : April 27, 2007

My problem with most pop evangelical pneumatology (of the Protestant sort) is that it relegates the Spirit into a odd sort of secret decoder ring. Once, in the legendary past, the Sprit got to help write Scriptures. But soon the Spirit worked “its” self out of a job. With the important stuff written down in a special book (the Bible), the only real job left is to help the individual Bible reader to understand the Bible. The Spirit becomes like Grandma, looking over your shoulder as you look through family albums, explaining things as you flip through page after page.

Some evangelicals also give the Spirit the added job of helping individuals understand that he or she is a sinner and to help said sinner find his or her way to Jesus.

In this way of thinking (which I know is a overly-simplified caricature), the Spirit seems like a sort of glorified carrier-pigeon. The Spirit helped deliver the Scriptures to humanity from God…and helps deliver “interpretations” of Scripture to individuals from God as well. The Spirit also helps deliver the message that we’re sinful. We can also assume that the Spirit can not only deliver messages FROM God (but only if if we have the special book with us), but also, from time to time, deliver our prayers TO God.

Charismatics and Pentecostals don’t improve upon this that much, it seems to me. They basically agree with everything I’ve written, but instead of making the Spirit a sort of decoder ring or a carrier pigeon, they add batteries and make the Spirit an ELECTRICAL decoder ring or add fire and make the Spirit a FLAMING carrier pigeon. This explains why charismatics seem so fond of saying that we need to “plug into” the power of the Holy Spirit. Basically, the Spirit is not only able to deliver special messages, but magical powers as well.

And while most Christians scarcely think about the Holy Spirit….feeling rather comfortable in their knowledge that the Spirit is kept safely in its gilded cage, the joke is on them. In reality, the Spirit is dangerous–always at work subverting our expectations, upsetting our realities, and tearing open new possibilities. The Spirit isn’t a tame bird. The Spirit is a wild bird. And she won’t be held in a cage.

This weekend, I hope to begin to tell the Spirit’s story…at least an overview. We the Church need to embrace the Presence of the Spirit in our midst…and be transformed by her wild nature. If we do so, we will be able to speak with the voice of Prophecy, to see with eyes of Faith, and to attack the Powers with the Sword of the Spirit. More this weekend.

NOTE: My beloved wife has reminded me that I have a bad habit of setting up strawmen when writing posts like this.  In other words, before I launch into a post or series setting forth my own particular take on something, I often set up the “conventional” view in a ridiculous manner that few would agree with.  I can’t think of a single evangelical or Pentecostal that really would agree with my characterizations in this post.   Nevertheless, I hope my exaggerated picture of the typical approach of evangelicals and Pentecostals has the glow of truth…like most good satire or jabbing hyperbole.  End disclaimer.

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One Response to “The Subversive Spirit 1”

  1. len hjalmarson on April 27th, 2007 3:11 pm

    Lol.. Mark, its hard to get anything past our wives eh? But your caricature rings true in too many cases. Would be interesting to work this out for each member of the Trinity. Too often Jesus is just the door man at heaven’s gate.. or maybe our heavenly Santa? And the Father.. the guy who gives us a good self image?

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