Preface to the Series
Considering the endless universe of opinions reflecting down on the vast ocean of controversial topics within the Christian faith it is astounding to me that most of us look to one person or group to make up our minds. We are not comfortable with living in the tension inherent within constant faith dialogue.
For instance, if someone wants to decide what they believe about Salvation they will search until they find someone with whom they A. Already agree with or B. find themselves compelled to agree with enough to stop their journey for understanding. We do this because it is easy and it provides us with what we feel are concrete answers to questions we need to have figured out.
Here’s the deal though, we don’t need to have all of those things figured out. We don’t have to have concrete answers, especially for the toughest questions.
What is necessary is that we be faithful hearers and doers of the Word that is being and has been spoken to us by the Holy Spirit throughout the life of the church. That’s right, I am one of those crazy Pentecostals who actually believe that the Holy Spirit has never ceased communicating grace and truth to the church. She didn’t speak the strongest to the early church, She didn’t just go away for 1,500 years and reappear at Azusa, and She* hasn’t stopped speaking to the church today. The Spirit has been speaking with the same clarity and with the same urgency from the time of Acts through today and will continue into the future.
Not only has He been speaking to the church throughout it’s history but She has been speaking the same truths the whole time. So when it comes to controversial issues or even just regular issues we should not seek out a comfortable place to stop. Instead we should seek to continue the quest for understanding by reading, hearing, and studying what the Spirit has been saying to the church since it’s advent.
Many people would respond to these claims of mine with something like this.. ‘Well, that doesn’t make sense because nearly everyone is claiming a different truth on any myriad of subjects. So obviously many people were not actually hearing what the Spirit said but instead were just writing their own opinions, the opinions of man and not of God.’
We need to be very careful with that kind of thinking. While it is sure that there have been those who have spoken about matters of faith, and who may have been thoroughly closed off to the voice of the Spirit not everyone who says something alternative to your belief about something falls into this category.
Because even though the Spirit has been speaking the same truth we all hear it a little differently.
We all hear the Holy Spirit in a muddled way. Her voice is speaking with perfect clarity but we are hearing it and translating it through our own cultures, experiences, and philosophical frameworks.
Therefore we land in different places on different subjects despite the fact that we have all been learning from the same divine teacher.
What I think this means is that in order to be faithful to the message of truth being communicated by the Spirit to the church we cannot land so easily on positions just because they are comfortable. Instead we must be workers who diligently study to show ourselves approved because rightly diving the word of truth will not always be comfortable. Working sucks. It’s so much easier to relax. It’s so much easier to just know what we believe.
I’m sorry but that is just not an acceptable way for the Christian to live.
Now what does all of this have to do with Theologians of the Spirit? I have said all of this because in this series I will be writing about several theologians from different traditions within the Christian faith. I have personally been deeply impacted by the life and ministry of these four men. Reading, hearing, and studying what the Spirit of Life has spoken to them has led me on a journey that has been surely uncomfortable at times. However, because I have decided to follow Jesus instead of staying at home on my cozy couch my faith has been strengthened, my understanding of the Spirit’s work in the world has grown exponentially, and my belief in the power of the Holy Spirit has been affirmed.
Listening to them has not resolved all of the issues for me. I still don’t know where to land on many things. However, I am deeply aware of the how nuanced and special this message that we carry to the world is.
So as you read about these four guys I am certain there will be parts that jump out and resonate with you and I am just as sure that there will be parts that nearly infuriate you. Please don’t rule them out when the latter happens. Instead embrace the diversity and plunge yourself into the tension of belief.
The figures being discussed in this series have written books especially devoted to the work of the Spirit and have been referred to as ‘Theologians of the Spirit.” The expansion of this field of theology (pneumatology) is a recent development. One of the men that we will discuss, Jurgen Moltmann, has referred to the Holy Spirit as the Cinderella of Christian theology, because while everyone discusses the Father, and Son and in a sense takes them to the Ball, the Holy Spirit is usually left at home to do all the work and is given no special consideration. However those days are gone and the Spirit is no longer being ignored. The pneumaticological insight of these theologians has drastic implications for many parts of our faith.
The four Theologians are:
Karl Rahner (Catholic)
Jurgen Moltmann (Protestant)
John Zizioulas (Eastern Orthodox)
Wolfhart Pannenberg (Protestant)
I Hope you enjoy this series and that you let the work the Spirit has done in and through the live of these men impact you.
*(Since the Holy Spirit is non-gendered I have used the pronouns ‘she’ when referring to the Holy Spirit. Why, you ask. Well, why not?)