The Subversive Spirit 2

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : May 1, 2007

In the beginning, we find the Spirit hovering over the unformed. While not explicit, it is safe to assume that the Spirit has a hand in bringing forth the light–the first spark of creation.

We all know what happens later in the Genesis account: innocence lost, murder, the deepening of human frailty and wickedness.

And it is into this world that the Spirit, almost behind the scenes, does her work…the work of Divine Re-creation. It is the Spirit who opens up new possibilities, new opportunities for God’s people to be restored and transformed. The Spirit subverts.

Many of you know that “subvert” is one of my favorite words. This Latin-based word comes from two words: sub (meaning “under”) and vertere (meaning “to turn”). Subvert means to turn under, to turn upside down, to overturn, to overthrow. The Spirit is all about subversion. The Spirit disrupts the status quo. She refuses to take the world as it is and, instead, flips it. She speaks into our reality, giving us eyes to see things as they REALLY are, so that we can deconstruct the world around us and embrace new realities.

The Spirit refuses to accept things as they are, and instead woos us down the dangerous path of restoration, re-creation, renovation. We see this throughout the Old Testament. Every time God brings about change, it seems that God is sending the Spirit to open eyes, inspire wisdom, reveal forgotten or new truths. It is by the power and influence of the Spirit that we have the great craftsmen and artists of the Old Testament shaping great works (Exodus 31:2-5). It is through this Spirit that we have wise leaders governing the land with justice (Numbers 11, Judges 3:10). It is with the voice of the Spirit that the prophets speak and challenge God’s people to be faithful (2 Samuel 23). And we are told that it is through the power of this Spirit that things will be made right…justice will come to the nations (Isaiah 42).

The Spirit subverts what is, deconstructing what is, so that we might embrace what might be. Without the Spirit, we cannot know God. As Catherine Mowry LaCugna suggests: “The Spirit is the ‘how’ of our knowledge of God.” (God For Us, 362) It is this Spirit that opens our eyes to see the world-as-it-might-be. It is this Spirit that opens our eyes to see the God-who-is-coming. It is this Spirit who then empowers us to over-turn the world as it is. The Spirit Subverts.

And so we see the Spirit of God breathing through this cycle:

The Spirit co-creates. The Spirit inspires. The Spirit reveals. The Spirit re-creates.

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2 Responses to “The Subversive Spirit 2”

  1. Anna on April 30th, 2007 10:51 am

    Subvert may also gain an agrarian meaning. Mold-board plows were revolutionary because they can both slice the earth and flip over the top layer to reveal the soft stuff below. This was helpful when plowing a fallow (resting) field that had weeds growing up.

    I have a harder time accepting “deconstruct” because it sounds too much like the chaos we are trying to fight as we live on earth. Maybe you could unpack that?

    Spirit=She….hmmm….I like it and it might be Christian-like. Hagia Sophia means Holy Wisdom. Sophia became a girl’s name….You could make the connection.

  2. markvans on April 30th, 2007 11:14 am


    When I say “deconstruct” I don’t mean “destroy.” What I mean is “dismantling”…and the Spirit dismantles what we see around us in order to re-create…out with the old, in with the new.

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