Sunday, August 10, 2008

God the Spirit

One of the best books I've encountered thus far in my recent studies is God the Spirit, by Michael Welker. There is so much to say about this book that is important. Let me begin by just saying that Welker's study is a fairly comprehensive look at the person and work of the Spirit throughout all of Scripture. He calls his reading a realistic reading (which I will talk about in another post), and its yield is impressive.

Welker notes the dramatic growth of Pentecostal movements on the contemporary world Christianity scene. This phenomenon is to be welcomed, but also tested against the biblical testimony.

Much of what we associate with the work of the Spirit is often highly individual and internal (the Spirit led me or encouraged me), and/or the special or supranatural (tongues, healing, prophecy). Welker denies importance to none of these, but when the entire biblical witness is taken into account, these are not the things that rise to the top of the list.

Welker's work demonstrates the very public and communal nature of the work of the Spirit. The Spirit is always working to create a new public reality which brings deliverance and new solidarity to human communities.

I've taken some liberties with one of Welker's summaries toward the end of his book. These are the things typical of the Spirit of Christ.

The Spirit of Christ...
Brings help when individuals and communities feel powerless, captive, and trapped.
Gathers people to the emerging, public reign of God.
Acts to deliver from human distress and sin.
Restores community solidarity and the capacity for communal action.
Acts to preserve life in the midst of conflict.
Transforms and renews people and opens them to God’s creative purposes.
Makes it possible to recognize lying or deceiving spirits.
Provides a focus on God’s work even in an overwhelming and confusing world.

I like this list a lot. I want to spend some time looking at a few of these over the next few days. I want to start from the bottom. It's often the hardest part of the Christian faith, at least for me, to find evidence for the reign of God in the world. The victory of God is hidden in the cross of Jesus, and the evidence is not always obvious or apparent. Welker suggests that this is one of the tasks of the Spirit, to help us recognize the rule of God in an overwhelming and confusing world.

More on that in the next post.

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