Category : Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology)

Ambrose on the Holy Spirit for his Feast Day

The Holy Spirit, since He sanctifies creatures, is neither a creature nor subject to change. He is always good, since He is given by the Father and the Son; neither is He to be numbered among such things as are said to fail. He must be acknowledged as the source of goodness. The Spirit of God’s mouth, the amender of evils, and Himself good. Lastly, as He is said in Scripture to be good, and is joined to the Father and the Son in baptism, He cannot possibly be denied to be good. He is not, however, said to progress, but to be made perfect in goodness, which distinguishes Him from all creatures.

The Holy Spirit is not, then, of the substance of things corporeal, for He sheds incorporeal grace on corporeal things; nor, again, is He of the substance of invisible creatures, for they receive His sanctification, and through Him are superior to the other works of the universe. Whether you speak of Angels, or Dominions, or Powers, every creature waits for the grace of the Holy Spirit. For as we are children through the Spirit, because God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts crying, Abba, Father; so that you are now not a servant but a son; Galatians 4:6-7 in like manner, also, every creature is waiting for the revelation of the sons of God, whom in truth the grace of the Holy Spirit made sons of God. Therefore, also, every creature itself shall be changed by the revelation of the grace of the Spirit, and shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God.

Every creature, then, is subject to change, not only such as has been changed by some sin or condition of the outward elements, but also such as can be liable to corruption by a fault of nature, though by careful discipline it be not yet so; for, as we have shown in a former treatise, the nature of Angels evidently can be changed. It is certainly fitting to judge that such as is the nature of one, such also is that of others. The nature of the rest, then, is capable of change, but the discipline is better.

Every creature, therefore, is capable of change, but the Holy Spirit is good and not capable of change, nor can He be changed by any fault.

–Saint Ambrose On the Holy Spirit (Book I), Chapter 5

Posted in Church History, Theology, Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology)

Kendall Harmon’s Sunday Sermon-The Comprehensive Claim of Christ on all of our Lives (Hebrews 13:1-8)

You can listen directly there and download the mp3 there.

Posted in * By Kendall, * South Carolina, Christology, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Sermons & Teachings, Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology), Theology: Scripture

A Kendall Harmon Sermon for their Feast Day–Martha, Mary and the Grace of God in the Gospel (Luke 10:38-42)

You can listen directly there and download the mp3 there.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology), Theology: Salvation (Soteriology), Theology: Scripture

(JE) New Maine Episcopal Bishop Unilaterally Transitions Holy Spirit to “She”

The Rt. Rev. Thomas James Brown was consecrated Saturday as the 10th bishop of the Diocese of Maine at the Cathedral Church of St. Luke in Portland. The service was led by the Most Rev. Michael Curry, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church.

A video posted on the diocese’s YouTube channel showed participants, including Brown, calling the Holy Spirit a “she” during the recitation of the Nicene Creed. It is unclear if Curry said “she.”

An order of service provided by the diocese lists an unaltered version of the creed, but video of the service, in which only Brown and Curry are shown with microphones, captures the creed being recited as, “We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. Who with the Father and the Son, She is worshiped and glorified. She has spoken through the Prophets.”

The original language for the Holy Spirit was adopted by the First Council of Constantinople in the year 381.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, TEC Bishops, The Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology)

A Kendall Harmon Sermon on the Trinity–3 Basic Questions about the Doctrine of the Holy Trinity

You can listen directly there and download the mp3 there.

Posted in * By Kendall, * Christian Life / Church Life, * South Carolina, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Sermons & Teachings, Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology)

Basil the Great on the Nature of the Holy Spirit for his Feast Day

Let us now investigate what are our common conceptions concerning the Spirit, as well those which have been gathered by us from Holy Scripture concerning It as those which we have received from the unwritten tradition of the Fathers. First of all we ask, who on hearing the titles of the Spirit is not lifted up in soul, who does not raise his conception to the supreme nature? It is called “Spirit of God,” “Spirit of truth which proceedeth from the Father,” “right Spirit,” “a leading Spirit.” Its proper and peculiar title is “Holy Spirit;” which is a name specially appropriate to everything that is incorporeal, purely immaterial, and indivisible. So our Lord, when teaching the woman who thought God to be an object of local worship that the incorporeal is incomprehensible, said “God is a spirit.” On our hearing, then, of a spirit, it is impossible to form the idea of a nature circumscribed, subject to change and variation, or at all like the creature. We are compelled to advance in our conceptions to the highest, and to think of an intelligent essence, in power infinite, in magnitude unlimited, unmeasured by times or ages, generous of Its good gifts, to whom turn all things needing sanctification, after whom reach all things that live in virtue, as being watered by Its inspiration and helped on toward their natural and proper end; perfecting all other things, but Itself in nothing lacking; living not as needing restoration, but as Supplier of life; not growing by additions; but straightway full, self-established, omnipresent, origin of sanctification, light perceptible to the mind, supplying, as it were, through Itself, illumination to every faculty in the search for truth; by nature unapproachable, apprehended by reason of goodness, filling all things with Its power, but communicated only to the worthy; not shared in one measure, but distributing Its energy according to “the proportion of faith;” in essence simple, in powers various, wholly present in each and being wholly everywhere; impassively divided, shared without loss of ceasing to be entire, after the likeness of the sunbeam, whose kindly light falls on him who enjoys it as though it shone for him alone, yet illumines land and sea and mingles with the air. So, too, is the Spirit to every one who receives it, as though given to him alone, and yet It sends forth grace sufficient and full for all mankind, and is enjoyed by all who share It, according to the capacity, not of Its power, but of their nature.

de Spiritu Sancto, Chapter IX (my emphasis)

Posted in Church History, Theology, Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology)

John Stott on the Spirit-Filled Christian for Pentecost

Our attitude to our fallen nature should be one of ruthless repudiation. For ‘those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires’ (Gal. 5:24). That is, we have taken this evil, slimy, slippery thing called ‘the flesh’ and nailed it to the cross. This was our initial repentance. Crucifixion is dramatic imagery for our uncompromising rejection of all known evil. Crucifixion does not lead to a quick or easy death; it is an execution of lingering pain. Yet it is decisive; there is no possibility of escaping from it.

Our attitude to the Holy Spirit, on the other hand, is to be one of unconditional surrender. Paul uses several expressions for this. We are to ‘live by the Spirit’ (Gal. 5:16, 18. 25). That is, we are to allow him his rightful sovereignty over us, and follow his righteous promptings.

Thus both our repudiation of the flesh and our surrender to the Spirit need to be repeated daily, however decisive our original repudiation and surrender may have been. In Jesus’ words, we are to ‘take up (our) cross daily’ and follow him (Lk 9:23). We are also to go on being filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18), as we open our personality to him daily. Both our repudiation and our surrender are also to be worked out in disciplined habits of life. It is those who ‘sow to the Spirit’ (Gal. 6:8) who reap the fruit of the Spirit. And to ‘sow to the Spirit’ means to cultivate the things of the Spirit, for example, by our wise use of the Lord’s Day, the discipline of our daily prayer and Bible reading, our regular worship and attendance at the Lord’s Supper, our Christian friendships and our involvement in Christian service. An inflexible principle of all God’s dealings, both in the material and in the moral realm, is that we reap what we sow. The rule is invariable. It cannot be changed, for ‘God cannot be mocked’ (Gal. 6:7). We must not therefore be surprised if we do not reap the fruit of the Spirit when all the time we are sowing to the flesh. Did we think we could cheat or fool God?

Authentic Christianity (Nottingham, IVP, 1995)

Posted in Pentecost, Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology)

Kendall Harmon’s Sunday Sermon–What is the heart of the meaning of Pentecost (John 20:19-23)?

You can listen directly there and download the mp3 there.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * By Kendall, * South Carolina, Preaching / Homiletics, Sermons & Teachings, Theology, Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology), Theology: Scripture

Ireland Archbishop Richard Clarke on the Surprises of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost

From there:

And we would therefore do well to remind ourselves that all our planning and all our strategising is of little avail if we do not also place ourselves at the disposal of the Holy Spirit. Cardinal Leo Suenens, one of the great Roman Catholic proponents of the modern charismatic movement memorably commented that he would have liked to add a phrase to the creeds. Not only do we believe in the Holy Spirit, he suggested, but we should also express belief in ‘the surprises of the Holy Spirit’. I might perhaps suggest an addition to Cardinal Suenens’ phrase. We should believe in the surprises of the Holy Spirit, and our belief should be as much in the surprises of the Holy Spirit that are unwelcome, as in those surprises that we might welcome! In the Church of Ireland, we are not keenly attuned to the possibility of surprises, not even welcome surprises. But if we truly believe in the Holy Spirit, we must believe in surprises, and certainly General Synod and our participation in this Synod can never be all about us, but rather centred and focussed on the glory of God

.

Posted in Church of Ireland, Pentecost, Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology)

John Calvin on Pentecost

[At Pentecost Peter] intendeth to prove…that the Church can be repaired by no other means, saving only by the giving of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, forasmuch as they did all hope that the restoring drew near, he accuseth them of sluggishness, because they do not once think upon the way and means thereof. And when the prophet saith, “I will pour out,” it is, without all question, that he meant by this word to note the great abundance of the Spirit….when God will briefly promise salvation to his people, he affirmeth that he will give them his Spirit. Hereupon it followeth that we can obtain no good things until we have the Spirit given us.

–Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles

Posted in Church History, Pentecost, Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology), Theology: Scripture

ThyKingdomCome – The first Pentecost

Watch it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Pentecost, Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology)

Charles H Spurgeon on Pentecost–‘How absolutely necessary is the presence and power of the Holy Spirit!’

How absolutely necessary is the presence and power of the Holy Spirit! It is not possible for us to promote the glory of God or to bless the souls of men, unless the Holy Ghost shall be in us and with us. Those who were assembled on that memorable day of Pentecost, were all men of prayer and faith; but even these precious gifts are only available when the celestial fire sets them on a blaze. They were all men of experience; most of them had been preachers of the Word and workers of miracles; they had endured trials and troubles in company with their Lord, and had been with him in his temptation. Yet even experienced Christians, without the Spirit of God, are weak as water. Among them were the apostles and the seventy evangelists, and with them were those honoured women in whose houses the Lord had often been entertained, and who had ministered to him of their substance; yet even these favoured and honoured saints can do nothing without the breath of God the Holy Ghost. Apostles and evangelists dare not even attempt anything alone; they must tarry at Jerusalem till power be given them from on high. It was not a want of education; they had been for three years in the college of Christ, with perfect wisdom as their tutor, matchless eloquence as their instructor, and immaculate perfection as their example; yet they must not venture to open their mouths to testify of the mystery of Jesus, until the anointing Spirit has come with blessed unction from above. Surely, my brethren, if so it was with them, much more must it be the case with us.

–From a sermon in 1863

Posted in Church History, Pentecost, Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology)

(Ian Paul) The many meanings of Pentecost

There is an extraordinary, powerful and multi-dimensional Christological focus to Peter’s preaching. At a trivial level, Peter’s speech talks about Jesus a lot—but it is worth pausing to see exactly how he understands him. First, it is Jesus, in his death and resurrection, who has brought about the fulfilment of God’s purposes as set out in Scripture. Second, the climax of all that has happened is the ascension—Jesus is now seated at the right hand of the Father, and it is to this reality that we must respond. Thirdly, this means that Jesus is now Messiah (the fulfilment of the hope of Israel) and Lord. But earlier, the ‘Lord’ is Yahweh, the God of Israel—now Jesus shares in this title, and he is the Lord whom the people call on to be saved. Again, we find this incorporation of Jesus into the person of the God of Israel, creating a kind of Christological monotheism, all through Paul’s theology, from his adaptation of the Shema in 1 Cor 8.6, through his identical use of Joel 2 in Romans 10.13, to his application of the monotheism of Isaiah to Jesus in his ‘Christ-hymn’ in Phil 2.9–11.

Luke reinforces this Christological focus in the very way he structures his summary of Peter’s speech. The late Martyn Menken observed:

There are also several instances of isopsephia in Acts, where the number of syllables of an episode or speech is equal to the numerical value of an important name or word occurring in or related to the passage in question (such as we found concerning John 1.1-18, where both the number of syllables and the numerical value of monogenes are 496). Peter’s speech in Acts 2.14-b-36 is made up of two equal halves: 444 syllables in 2.14b-24, and again 444 syllables in 2.25-36. Their sum, 888, is the numerical value of the name Iesous, a number which was famous in this quality in the second century, witness Irenaeus’ Aversus Haereses 1.15.2.

We also need to note that, in a Christian theological context, we consider the Holy Spirit the third ‘person’ of the Trinity. But in Peter’s context, and the understanding of those he is listening to, the Spirit is simply the presence and power of God himself at work amongst his people. If Jesus is the one who is able to dispense the Spirit (as Peter claims), then Jesus is the one who mediates God’s own presence and power, again assuming Jesus is incorporated into the person of God himself.

Posted in Pentecost, Theology, Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology), Theology: Scripture

(CT) Andrew Wilson–why do we differentiate between the Sacramental and the Charismatic when the Early Church did not?

The eucharismatic both/and has the potential to increase both the height and the depth of our worship at the same time. Many (if not most) Christians today would be inclined to think in terms of a spectrum when it comes to church practice, with the historical-liturgical-reflective-sacramental at one end and the charismatic-Pentecostal-expressive-celebratory at the other. For various historical reasons, these two forms appear to be in tension with one another: If you want depth, come this way, and if you want bounce, go that way. The truth, however, is quite the opposite. If you want more height, you need more depth. Ask any trampolinist. Or tree, for that matter.

Without depth, height is unsustainable. If we have an anemic liturgy, then inspirational messages, emotive music, and cathartic experiences can only take us so far; whether or not they produce a short-term emotional response, they cannot build the kind of faith that, like Habakkuk, rejoices in God even when there is no fruit on the vine or herds in the stalls (3:17–18). Rather than attempting standing jumps in the center of the trampoline, which is exhausting as well as ineffective, we need to plunge ourselves into the depths of our tradition, so as to spring to new heights. Down, into historic prayers. Up, into spontaneous ones. Down, into confession of sin. Up, into celebration of forgiveness. Down, into the creeds. Up, into the choruses. Down, into knowing God’s presence in the sacraments. Up, into feeling God’s presence in song. Call and response. Friday, then Sunday. Kneel, then jump.

Yet this metaphor cuts both ways. Going deeper also requires going higher. We are embodied and emotional creatures, and people who dance for joy, as opposed to merely singing about it, are more likely to be people who fall on their face, as opposed to leaning forward and putting their head between their knees for a few seconds. This both/and is precisely what we see in Leviticus, when fire comes out from the presence of the Lord as the priesthood is consecrated: “And when all the people saw it, they shouted for joy and fell facedown” (Lev. 9:24). Those who laugh in church are more likely to cry there. If you are captivated by the presence and gifts of the Spirit in worship, you will probably find the presence and gifts of the Spirit in the sacraments more wonderful, not less. If you go further up, you go further in.

As such, this is an invitation to be eucharismatic. Worshiping God with both sacramental and spiritual gifts can deepen our joy, enrich our lives, and remind us that there are things we can learn from the worship practices of other church traditions.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Sacramental Theology, Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology)

John Stott–Paul’s message to the defeated and the complacent: ‘Let the Holy Spirit continuously fill you’

But when Paul says to us, ‘Be filled with the Spirit’, he uses a present imperative, implying that we are to go on being filled. For the fullness of the Spirit is not a once-for-all experience which we can never lose, but a privilege to be renewed continuously by continuous believing and obedient appropriation. We have been ‘sealed’ with the Spirit once and for all; we need to be filled with the Spirit and go on being filled every day and every moment of the day.

Here, then, is a message for both the defeated and the complacent, that is, for Christians at opposite ends of the spiritual spectrum. To the defeated Paul would say, ‘Be filled with the Spirit, and he will give you a new love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness and self-control.’ To the complacent Paul would say ‘go on being filled with the Spirit. Thank God for what he has given you thus far. But do not say you have arrived. For there is more, much more, yet to come.’

—-John Stott, The Message of Ephesians (Bible Speaks Today) [Downer’s Grove, Ill. IVP Academic, 1984), p.121 to be quoted in my adult ed class this morning

Posted in Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology), Theology: Scripture

Ambrose on the Holy Spirit for his Feast Day

The Holy Spirit, since He sanctifies creatures, is neither a creature nor subject to change. He is always good, since He is given by the Father and the Son; neither is He to be numbered among such things as are said to fail. He must be acknowledged as the source of goodness. The Spirit of God’s mouth, the amender of evils, and Himself good. Lastly, as He is said in Scripture to be good, and is joined to the Father and the Son in baptism, He cannot possibly be denied to be good. He is not, however, said to progress, but to be made perfect in goodness, which distinguishes Him from all creatures.

The Holy Spirit is not, then, of the substance of things corporeal, for He sheds incorporeal grace on corporeal things; nor, again, is He of the substance of invisible creatures, for they receive His sanctification, and through Him are superior to the other works of the universe. Whether you speak of Angels, or Dominions, or Powers, every creature waits for the grace of the Holy Spirit. For as we are children through the Spirit, because God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts crying, Abba, Father; so that you are now not a servant but a son; Galatians 4:6-7 in like manner, also, every creature is waiting for the revelation of the sons of God, whom in truth the grace of the Holy Spirit made sons of God. Therefore, also, every creature itself shall be changed by the revelation of the grace of the Spirit, and shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God.

Every creature, then, is subject to change, not only such as has been changed by some sin or condition of the outward elements, but also such as can be liable to corruption by a fault of nature, though by careful discipline it be not yet so; for, as we have shown in a former treatise, the nature of Angels evidently can be changed. It is certainly fitting to judge that such as is the nature of one, such also is that of others. The nature of the rest, then, is capable of change, but the discipline is better.

Every creature, therefore, is capable of change, but the Holy Spirit is good and not capable of change, nor can He be changed by any fault.

–Saint Ambrose On the Holy Spirit (Book I), Chapter 5

Posted in Church History, Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology)

Scott Sauls–When Pastors Crash and Burn

Many of us pastors, including Spurgeon and including me, have fallen into the emotional abyss—not in spite of the fact that we are in ministry, but because we are in ministry.

Studies show that pastors experience anxiety and depression at a rate that is disproportionately high compared to the rest of the population. Due to the unique pressures associated with spiritual warfare, unrealistic expectations from congregants and oneself, the freedom many feel to criticize and gossip about pastors with zero accountability (especially in the digital age), failure to take time off for rest and replenishment, marriage and family tensions due to the demands of ministry, financial strains and self-comparison, pastors are prime candidates for relational isolation, emotional turmoil, and moral collapse.

Studies also show that some pastors face unreasonable, even impossible, demands placed on them by their people. I am NOT one of those pastors, thanks to a church that both receives my gifts and embraces my limitations. All in all, the people of Christ Presbyterian Church treat me with extraordinary love and kindness. But, sadly, not all pastors are as lucky as I am.

Dr. Thom Rainer, a leading pastoral ministry guru, once conducted a survey asking church members what they expected from their pastors. Specifically, Dr. Rainer wanted to know the minimum amount of time church members believed their pastors should give each week to various areas of ministry, including prayer, sermon preparation, outreach and evangelism, counseling, administrative tasks, visiting the sick, community involvement, denominational engagement, church meetings, worship services, and so on. On average, the minimum amount of time church members expected their pastors to give to the ministry was 114 hours per week.

Read it all.

Posted in Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Stress, Theology, Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology), Theology: Scripture

Kendall Harmon’s Sunday Sermon–Are We Living Wisely? Are we Making the Most of the Time? (Ephesians 5:15-20)

You can listen directly there and download the mp3 there.

Posted in * By Kendall, * South Carolina, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Sermons & Teachings, Theology, Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology), Theology: Scripture

Basil the Great on the Nature of the Holy Spirit for his Feast Day

Let us now investigate what are our common conceptions concerning the Spirit, as well those which have been gathered by us from Holy Scripture concerning It as those which we have received from the unwritten tradition of the Fathers. First of all we ask, who on hearing the titles of the Spirit is not lifted up in soul, who does not raise his conception to the supreme nature? It is called “Spirit of God,” “Spirit of truth which proceedeth from the Father,” “right Spirit,” “a leading Spirit.” Its proper and peculiar title is “Holy Spirit;” which is a name specially appropriate to everything that is incorporeal, purely immaterial, and indivisible. So our Lord, when teaching the woman who thought God to be an object of local worship that the incorporeal is incomprehensible, said “God is a spirit.” On our hearing, then, of a spirit, it is impossible to form the idea of a nature circumscribed, subject to change and variation, or at all like the creature. We are compelled to advance in our conceptions to the highest, and to think of an intelligent essence, in power infinite, in magnitude unlimited, unmeasured by times or ages, generous of Its good gifts, to whom turn all things needing sanctification, after whom reach all things that live in virtue, as being watered by Its inspiration and helped on toward their natural and proper end; perfecting all other things, but Itself in nothing lacking; living not as needing restoration, but as Supplier of life; not growing by additions; but straightway full, self-established, omnipresent, origin of sanctification, light perceptible to the mind, supplying, as it were, through Itself, illumination to every faculty in the search for truth; by nature unapproachable, apprehended by reason of goodness, filling all things with Its power, but communicated only to the worthy; not shared in one measure, but distributing Its energy according to “the proportion of faith;” in essence simple, in powers various, wholly present in each and being wholly everywhere; impassively divided, shared without loss of ceasing to be entire, after the likeness of the sunbeam, whose kindly light falls on him who enjoys it as though it shone for him alone, yet illumines land and sea and mingles with the air. So, too, is the Spirit to every one who receives it, as though given to him alone, and yet It sends forth grace sufficient and full for all mankind, and is enjoyed by all who share It, according to the capacity, not of Its power, but of their nature.

de Spiritu Sancto, Chapter IX (my emphasis)

Posted in Church History, Theology, Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology)

Ireland Archbishop Richard Clarke on the Surprises of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost

From there:

And we would therefore do well to remind ourselves that all our planning and all our strategising is of little avail if we do not also place ourselves at the disposal of the Holy Spirit. Cardinal Leo Suenens, one of the great Roman Catholic proponents of the modern charismatic movement memorably commented that he would have liked to add a phrase to the creeds. Not only do we believe in the Holy Spirit, he suggested, but we should also express belief in ‘the surprises of the Holy Spirit’. I might perhaps suggest an addition to Cardinal Suenens’ phrase. We should believe in the surprises of the Holy Spirit, and our belief should be as much in the surprises of the Holy Spirit that are unwelcome, as in those surprises that we might welcome! In the Church of Ireland, we are not keenly attuned to the possibility of surprises, not even welcome surprises. But if we truly believe in the Holy Spirit, we must believe in surprises, and certainly General Synod and our participation in this Synod can never be all about us, but rather centred and focussed on the glory of God

(and, you guessed it–also quoted in the morning sermon).

Posted in Church History, Church of Ireland, Pentecost, Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology)

John Calvin on Pentecost

[At Pentecost Peter] intendeth to prove…that the Church can be repaired by no other means, saving only by the giving of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, forasmuch as they did all hope that the restoring drew near, he accuseth them of sluggishness, because they do not once think upon the way and means thereof. And when the prophet saith, “I will pour out,” it is, without all question, that he meant by this word to note the great abundance of the Spirit….when God will briefly promise salvation to his people, he affirmeth that he will give them his Spirit. Hereupon it followeth that we can obtain no good things until we have the Spirit given us.

–Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles

Posted in Pentecost, Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology), Theology: Scripture

(TGC) Samuel Alberry–Only Messy People Allowed: Toward a Culture of Grace

The problem, I suspect, is something of a misstep in our formula of what it means to live for Christ. We think we’re his PR agents: If I look good, then Jesus looks good.

So we hate the thought of not looking good. It’s Christian failure.

If this mindset permeates a whole church family, however, our life together becomes a matter of performance. We put on our best Christian mask, take a deep breath, and head to church. If Christian parents adopt this mindset, parenting becomes about trying to perform well in front of the kids, making sure they only see the highest standard of Christian behavior from us.

This may be a common way of thinking, but it’s disastrous. It leads to hypocrisy. The fact is, we’re not good, and we can only keep up the façade for a little while before the cracks begin to show. Our children see it right away. They know what we’re really like and can immediately tell when we try to put a Christian sheen over it. And when we really make a mess of things, the last place we want to go is church. We’re supposed to look Christian there, so when we know we can’t remotely pretend things are together, it’s easier simply not to go. Best to keep the mess away from the sanctuary.

All this is a sign that while we may be professing grace, we’re not actually inhabiting a culture of grace. We’re not Jesus’s PR agents, and he is not our client. We are broken men and women, and he is our Savior. It’s not the case that I need to look good so Jesus can look good; I need to be honest about my colossal spiritual need so he can look all-sufficient. I don’t increase so he can increase; I decrease so he can increase (John 3:30). That means being honest about my flaws, not embarrassed about them.

Read it all.

Posted in Christology, Ecclesiology, Pastoral Theology, Soteriology, Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology)

(AAC) Mark Eldridge–Preaching for a Change

There’s a difference in preaching and teaching. Certainly, preaching contains teaching, however preaching is more – at least it should be. The goal of preaching is the transformation of lives. I once heard someone say that “preaching goes for the guts.” I liked that and often have that in the back of my mind when preparing sermons. Please don’t be offended if you are a teacher. Teaching is essential and as I just wrote, preaching must contain teaching. It’s just that preaching takes good teaching and adds to it the “so what” that will turn the transfer of information into the transformation of life.

Changed lives is what we are preaching for, right? It’s not about impressing people with our speaking ability or intelligence. It’s not about passing on head knowledge about the Bible. It’s about transforming lives for Jesus Christ. Right? Pews full of people who only know about Jesus won’t be the missional disciples that North America desperately needs. We need pews full of people who intimately know Jesus and are daily being changed into his likeness – people who are living as Jesus would in the world around them. In our pulpits we must be preaching for a change. A change of life. A change into mature, missional disciples of Christ.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Preaching / Homiletics, Theology, Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology), Theology: Scripture

Kendall Harmon for Easter–Cry Freedom

How shall we understand freedom? Perhaps because I am in a state, South Carolina, where candidates….[not long ago] were running around saying “you are free so vote for me!” this has been much in mind.

There is a lot of sloppy thinking about freedom these days. For too many it only means the ability to choose a candidate or a product. Or it is understood to be the removal of external constraints, as in I need the government out of my—then fill in the blank: my business, my body, and on and on.

Christian thinking about freedom is a totally different animal.

For one thing, in the Scriptures, freedom has an interesting relationship to time. Freedom is something which was present in creation, and which will be fully present again at the end of history when God brings it to its conclusion. But what about the present? The people Jesus spends time with—say, for example, the woman at the well (John 4), or Zaccheus (Luke 19) are not free but constrained, imprisoned, and encased. When Jesus rescues them, freedom begins, but even then it is lived out in the tension between the already of new life in Christ and the not yet of the fullness of the eschaton.

So apart from Christ people who think they are free need to hear the bad news that their perceived freedom is an illusion. One would like to hear more from preachers these days on this score, since they are addressing parishioners who are workaholics or poweraholics or sexaholics and/or addicts to heaven knows what else. Why is it that a group like AA seems to know more about real freedom than so many churches? Because they begin with the premise which says their members are enslaved—that is the first of the twelve steps.

And there is so much more to freedom then even this. In the Bible, real freedom moves in not one or two but three directions.

Freedom from is one piece of the puzzle—freedom from sin, from the demands of the law, from the tyranny of the urgent, from whatever constricts us from being the people God intended us to be.

Equally important, however, is freedom for, freedom for Christ, for service, for God’s justice, for ministry. Paul wonderfully describes himself as a bondservant of Christ Jesus, and the Prayer Book has it right when it says God’s service is “perfect freedom.”

Freedom with should not be missed, however. For Paul in Galatians Christian freedom is not the Christian by herself changed by the gospel. This has too much in common with the individual shopper in Walmart deciding exactly what kind of popcorn or yogurt she wants. No, real freedom is to be liberated to live for Christ with the new pilgrim people of God who reflect back a little of heaven’s light on earth. A real church is one where people enjoy koinonia, fellowship, the richness of God’s life shared into them which they then share out in Christ’s name by the power of the Holy Spirit to the world.

Paul says it wonderfully in Galatians: “For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Do not settle for anything less than this real freedom, freedom from bondage, freedom with our fellow pilgrims, and freedom for the God who made the heavens and the earth.

–The Rev. Canon Dr. Kendall Harmon is the convenor of this blog

Posted in Anthropology, Christology, Easter, Ethics / Moral Theology, Theology, Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology), Theology: Scripture

Diocese of South Carolina to offer Basic Christian Theology Class this Easter


Beginning April 4 and for the following six Wednesdays, the Diocese of South Carolina will offer a course on Basic Christian Theology taught by Canon Theologian Dr. Kendall Harmon with Bishop Mark Lawrence and others. The first five classes will be held at St. Philip’s Church, Charleston, and the last two will be held at St. Michael’s Church, Charleston. The classes will be held in the church parish halls.

The format of the evenings will be to have a teaching from 7 to 8 pm (after which people who need to leave may do so), with an open Question and Answer session to follow for those who wish to stay from 8 to 8:30 p.m.

The class will cover the following topics in order:

  • Authority and Revelation
  • The Holy Trinity
  • The Person and Work of Jesus Christ
  • The Nature of Human Beings
  • The Christian Life
  • The Church
  • Eschatology, or the Last Things

Though there is no charge for the class, participants are asked to register online at www.diosc.com and obtain the book, Know the Truth: A Handbook of Christian Belief, by Bruce Milne. Participants are asked to bring the Milne book and their own Bible to each session. There will be reading assignments as well as a minimum of course work to be completed. Though there will not be credit awarded, at this time, we hope for this to be the beginning of a lay theology curriculum offered by the Diocese in the future.

Learn more.

Register for the class.

Download a poster to share in your parish.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Adult Education, Christology, Parish Ministry, The Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Theology, Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology), Theology: Salvation (Soteriology), Theology: Scripture

(TGC) Trevin Wax–The Call to Repentance and the Championing of Grace

“We’re losing the nerve to call people to repentance.”

That’s what a retired pastor recently told me, expressing his concern that while the next generation loves to champion the unconditional love and grace of God, rarely does their message include Christ’s call to repentance. Younger pastors, he said, want to meet people where they are, in whatever mess they’re in, and let the Spirit clean them up later. God will deal with their sins down the road.

But in the Gospels, Jesus seems much more extreme. His good news was the announcement of God’s kingdom, and the first word to follow? “Repent!” No wonder Jesus didn’t tell the rich young ruler to walk with Him for a while until he stopped coveting. No, He got to the root of an unrepentant heart when He said, “Sell all your possessions and give them to the poor.” In other words, Repent. Turn around.

“I’m cheering for the next generation,” the pastor said, “but I feel like an ogre for stressing repentance all the time….”

Here’s where we so easily take a wrong turn. Wherever did we get the notion that the call to repentance is opposed to the championing of grace? When did truth and grace get separated? Or repentance and faith?

To think that the message of grace and the call of repentance are opposed to one another is to miss the beautiful, grace-filled nature of what repentance actually is. The call to repent is one of greatest expressions of the love of God.

Read it all (quoted by yours truly in the morning sermon) [emphasis mine].

Posted in Anthropology, Christology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Preaching / Homiletics, Soteriology, Theology, Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology), Theology: Scripture

Kendall Harmon’s Sunday Sermon from Saint Michael’s, Charleston–What is the Gospel (John 3, Ephesians 2)?

The link is there and you can listen live or download the audio depending on your preference.

Posted in * By Kendall, * South Carolina, Christology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Ordained, Preaching / Homiletics, Sermons & Teachings, Soteriology, Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology), Theology: Salvation (Soteriology), Theology: Scripture

Stephen Freeman–The Slow Road to Heaven – Why the Spiritual Life Doesn’t “Work”

I have wondered how the “success” of the spiritual life would be measured? I could imagine that the number of persons Baptized might be compared to the number of the Baptized who fall short of salvation – but there is no way to discover such a thing. In lieu of that, we often set up our own way of measuring – some expectation of “success” that we use to judge the spiritual life. “I tried Christianity…” the now self-described agnostic relates, “and found that it did not live up to its claims.”

To my mind, the entire question is a little like complaining about your hammer because it doesn’t work well as a screw-driver. The problem is that the spiritual life doesn’t “work,” and was never supposed to. It is not something that “works,” it is something that “lives.” And this is an extremely important distinction.

In 1859, Samuel Smiles, a Scottish author and government reformer, published the book, Self-Help, the first self-proclaimed work on self-improvement. His opening line is famous, “God helps those who help themselves.” Indeed, many modern people are under the impression that this statement comes from Scripture (it does not). It is not at all accidental that Smiles’ thought should echo that of the Scottish Enlightenment itself. We can build a better world, and do so more effectively by building better humans. Christianity was to be harnessed in this great progressive drive.

We look to our faith to solve problems. Whether we suffer from psychological wounds, or simple poverty and failure, we look to God for help. The spiritual life, and the “techniques” we imagine to be associated with it, are the means by which we “help ourselves” (God will do the rest).

This narrative is simply not part of the Christian faith.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Orthodox Church, Spirituality/Prayer, Theology, Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology), Theology: Scripture

(Themelios) Wayne Grudem–The Perspicuity of Holy Scripture

…how should we understand this doctrine? The doctrine of the clarity of Scripture is easily misunderstood and, I think, commonly misunderstood. In what follows, this lecture gives me the opportunity to give a more precise explanation of this doctrine than I did twenty-four years ago when I wrote that chapter in my Systematic Theology.9

I understand the clarity (perspicuity) of Scripture as follows: Scripture affirms that it is able to be understood but (1) not all at once, (2) not without effort, (3) not without ordinary means, (4) not without the reader’s willingness to obey it, (5) not without the help of the Holy Spirit, (6) not without human misunderstanding, and (7) never completely.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Theology, Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology), Theology: Scripture

(CT) Klyne Snodgrass–Who Are You Without Your Props? Why your identity isn’t rooted in possessions and appearances

Christ is not an add-on to an existing identity; he seeks to remake your identity. Often conversion language is a gross exaggeration and implies that nothing of the old identity remains. Obviously much remains the same; you are still physically the same person with the same history and propensities in the same culture. What is changed is the old life of sin, the old being, and its old orientation. Even the things that do not change are seen from a new perspective. Christ is not an accessory to your identity, as if you were choosing an option for a car; he takes over identity so that everything else becomes an accessory, which is precisely what “Jesus is Lord” means.

We have been sold a cheap gospel without demand and without content, as if faith were a short transaction, a prayer, or a decision, to get security taken care of so we can go to heaven, but the New Testament is far less concerned with going to heaven than people think. In fact, as important as God’s promises about the future are, the concern for going to heaven is one of the most distorting factors in evangelical Christianity. What counts is life with God and an identity shaped by God, both now and eternally.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Christology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Theology, Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology), Theology: Scripture