Posts Tagged ‘Holy Spirit’

Anna and SimeonI am late to the game, but Joel Willitts has been posting Advent reflections from Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

So Was Fulfilled


At One with the Suffering and Joy of His People

The Message of Advent…Repentance

In the Face of the Manger

My own reflection on this season came as I discovered that indeed Advent has historically functioned as a season of self-reflection and repentance. Where one gives themselves to restraint, self-control, and seeking the holiness of God. It is preparatory. Our modern participation in this season has tended towards excess, self-pleasure, parties, and shopping.

The Lord has continued to challenge me that I would live in a manner ready for his soon coming. This is a call to holiness, self-control, and indeed, a life yielded to the Holy Spirit. After all, it was those saints of old (Simeon and Anna in Luke 2) who, led by the Spirit, were prepared in holiness to see the first coming of our Lord. They were righteous. They were patient. They were continually given to the work of the Lord. They were endowed by the Spirit. May it be so for us.

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If only Barth had finished his Church Dogmatics we would actually have this developing pneumatology.

συνεσταύρωμαι: living the crucified life

From Frank Macchia’s FB page:

A cautious but affirming response to Pentecostalism:

Barth“One could never have enough of Pentecost. This has to do with the Holy Spirit. For this reason, a little Pentecostalism — also again as salt of the earth (cf. Matt. 5:13)– cannot hurt any of us… It is quite necessary that someone draw attention to the fact that we all need the Holy Spirit. When one does that, and then something from Pentecost becomes visible again, how can we say something against it? There is nothing that can be said against it.”

– Karl Barth

(Busch, ed., Gasamtausgabe, Gesprache 1964-68, 430-32)

Someone responded:

A Barthian scholar and friend noted to me that Barth always left room for the surprising work of God, but did so only ‘out of the corner of his eye.’ Maybe that’s what he meant by ‘a little Pentecostalism.’

To which Macchia replied:


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Jesus resurrected and Mary Magdalene

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I have had several conversations over the last few days with different individuals about the notions of faith and historicity.  In one of those conversations the issue of Bonhoeffer was brought up.  This individual stated that they had heard Bonhoeffer denied the resurrection.  This, of course, took me aback and I quickly rebutted that I had never heard (nor read) such a thing either about or by Bonhoeffer.  So they directed me to his Christology lectures (DBWE12-Berlin: 1932-1933, pp.299-360).  So I looked up the references and discovered where this reading came in.  Bonhoeffer refutes the notion of Christian faith resting in the historicity of the resurrection.  This is considered under the rubric of the “stumbling block” to our believing.  His approach (from my reading) suggests that there can be no naked knowledge of the historicity of the resurrection.  One must still come to confess the Risen Lord because they have in fact encountered the Risen Lord.  An empty tomb is not a matter of historicity leading to salvation…it is a matter of faith that is testified to by the historicity of the events.  At no point does the historicity (one way or the other) actually determine our faith since it is the living and present Risen One who is determinative for faith.

I had come to similar sorts of conclusions as I was preaching on the final chapters of John this last year.  In my reading, there is no way to get behind faith in the living Christ and somehow found our trust on the historicity of the empty tomb.  While I take it as a matter of historical trustworthiness that indeed the tomb was empty, this does not in itself constitute faith in Christ (e.g., the soldiers who were bribed to not speak of it and instead spread lies about the removal of the body).  What really did it for me was recognizing that the there were no witnesses to the resurrection event itself…only witnesses to the resurrected Lord.  The moment of resurrection was hidden (as it were) from historical inquiry and belongs to the work of God incognito.  As such, even the resurrected Jesus belongs to such, but of a different nature than the moment and act of resurrection itself.  There is no verification process by which we may be “certain” of the testimony of the resurrection apart from the experience of the Resurrected One in our midst (and all of this in the testimony of the Spirit through the Scripture).  While I believe that the evidence for the resurrection passes historical testing, my faith does not rest on such at its foundation.  It is simply affirmed as true.

The question I was asked was how does this not devolve into a Bultmannian conception of faith apart from historicity?  An interesting question to say the least.  What are your thoughts?  Have I gone too far towards a form of existentialism akin to Bultmann?  Does the resurrection necessarily need historicity on its side to be believed?  Or does historicity become a false foundation for faith in Christ (even accepting the historical nature of the events recorded)?

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Cover of "Justification: God's Plan & Pau...

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Today I officially submitted my paper to the Society for Pentecostal Studies entitled “N T Wright’s Justification and the Cry of the Spirit”.  It was definitely a great relief to have it finished and sent off.  Hopefully it will meet the standards of the Society as I fly to Memphis this coming March to defend it.  While I did not so much choose to discuss my own personal take on N. T. Wright’s perspective of justification (nor really of John Piper’s which I also discuss), I did need to at least understand and present it and offer a “Pentecostal response”.  Hopefully I have done that in some regard.

It was my aim to propose a more fully trinitarian theology of justification by emphasizing the place of the Spirit in justification specifically within the context of the “cry of the Spirit” found in Gal. 4:6 and Rom. 8:15.  Understandably these are not normal texts for dealing with justification (which is actually why I chose them).  They are, however, related to justification in the matter of “adoption” and “sonship” and tie this directly to the Spirit…which is exactly what I was aiming for and thus the texts (despite telling Joel Banman I was intent on eisegesis ;-)).

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his little work entitled Life Together wrote about the Reformed perspective of “alien righteousness” (“fremde Gerechtigkeit”) which in Luther’s doctrine of justification was extra nos.[1] He explained the need, based upon this doctrine of “alien righteousness,” for community and the spoken Word of Christ.

If they are asked ‘Where is your salvation, your blessedness, your righteousness?,’ they can never point to themselves. Instead, they point to the Word of God in Jesus Christ that grants salvation, blessedness, and righteousness. They watch for this Word wherever they can. Because they daily hunger and thirst for righteousness, they long for the redeeming Word again and again. It can only come from the outside. In themselves they are only destitute and dead. Help must come from the outside; and it has come and comes daily and anew in the Word of Jesus Christ, bringing us redemption, righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. But God put this Word into the mouth of human beings so that it may be passed on to others. When people are deeply affected by the Word, they tell it to other people. God has willed that we should seek and find God’s living Word in the testimony of other Christians….They need them again and again when they become uncertain and disheartened….They need other Christians as bearers and proclaimers of the divine word of salvation.[2]

While I’ve been reading and reflecting on a recent book (Justified in the Spirit: Creation, Redemption and the Triune God; Eerdmans 2010) by Frank Macchia I was struck by the utterly non-pneumatic presence of Bonhoeffer’s statements.  So close and yet so far away.  What Bonhoeffer has to say rings true, but it should be added that we speak as the Church by the will and word of the very Spirit of Christ.  It is not simply a speaking words from the book which is the Bible.  That would not be “God’s living Word.”

The extra nos righteousness of Luther seems to fail to do justice (pun intended?) to the inward justifying of the Spirit within the believer in the very midst of the believing and confessing community.  I believe Bonhoeffer has in some ways redeemed Luther in this (though I haven’t read Luther so thoroughly that he may in fact do so himself) by reminding the Church that we speak the Word of God as righteousness…one to another.  We confess the forgiveness of sins as fully granted.  A community that is redeemed and redeeming by the Spirit which cries aloud “Abba, Father!” that others may believe and take heart.  That we may believe and take heart…together having been justified we may also be glorified with our Lord Jesus Christ.

[1] Dietrich Bonhoeffer et al., Life Together; Prayerbook of the Bible (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1996), 31fn10.

[2] Ibid., 32.

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I was doing some further reading in Barth for a paper I’m writing on Tom Wright (makes perfect sense doesn’t it???) and happened upon this gem that was related to the topic I was researching in a round-about-manner.  I’m researching Wright’s view of justification and the relation to the “cry of the Spirit” (Rom.8:15; Gal.4:6) and how this works out into a fuller pneumatological doctrine of justification.   I’m working on this project because it seems that too often the Spirit has been relegated to a second-tier role (at best) in justification, but Wright suggests this should be otherwise and I believe he suggests this correctly and pursue this idea further (hopefully beneficially).  Anyways here the quote:

It is not a twofold but a single fact that both Jesus Christ with His prayer and also the Holy Spirit with ‘unutterable groanings’ is our Mediator and Intercessor. This can and must be said both of Jesus Christ and of the Holy Spirit, and in both cases it concerns the one event of laying a foundation for prayer, i.e. for the cry, Abba, Father. It is He—Jesus Christ through the Spirit, the Spirit as the Spirit of Jesus Christ—who makes good that which we of ourselves cannot make good, who brings our prayer before God and therefore makes it possible as prayer, and who in so doing makes it necessary for us. For Jesus Christ is in us through His Spirit, so that for His sake, praying after Him as the one who leads us in prayer, we for our part may and must pray, calling upon God as our Father. And the Spirit who frees us for this and incites us to the power in which we are with Him the children of God and are addressed as such, so that irrespective of what we ourselves can offer and perform we can call God our Father and go to Him with our requests. (CD III.4.pg.94)

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