This is my personal blog. The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of the congregations or presbytery I serve.

Monday, July 12, 2010

PCUSA General Assembly - Day Seven.2

The Holy Spirit.

For me, the Holy Spirit has become an issue at this General Assembly. From Tickle's words about Azuza Street and the influence of Pentacostalism on Emergence Christianity, to Father Hardun's words which depicted a more static view of the Spirit on Orthodoxy, I see different perspectives on the Holy Spirit coming up.

I asked Hardun about it. He agreed that Orthodoxy does not have much regard for "progressive revelation," btw, and sees it as a Western propensity to add extraneous stuff to the gospel for gratuitous and expedient reasons. For him, the primary example of this is the filioque, a phrase unilaterally added to the Nicene Creed by the Pope in the tenth century. For him such changes are only to be made by a full-blown ecumenical council.

I am wondering what relationship the filioque might have to the idea of progressive revelation. It seems to me that firmly attaching the Holy Spirit to Christ would have the opposite effect. It would diminish our understanding that the Spirit would do things contrary or in addition to what has already been done in Christ.

Otoh, does seeing that the Spirit proceeds from the Son as well as the Father make the Spirit more dynamic? For Barth, the Spirit's role is giving us access to the Word. Jesus talks about the wildness and untamed, undomesticated nature of the Spirit in John 3.

I don't think we need the filioque to protect against a Spirit that is so uncontained as to be contrary to God's will... the Spirit is God, for crying out loud! Jesus is pretty undomesticated himself. Anything that attempts to domesticate, control, define, box, or otherwise stifle God is foolishness. God is bigger than all our definitions.

The Spirit can also do different things in different times and places. She is not one-size-fits-all. She can move the American church in one direction, and the Russian church in another, because that is they way each needs to go in order to grow. She can restructure different presbyteries in different ways because of different contexts and potential for mission. (Hence the NFOG.) She can even delight in our arguments and passionate disagreements like a mother delights in the fiery life of her children in their glorious individuality. She can love conservatives for their conservatism, liberals for their liberalism, Gays and straight, African, and Latino, and Asian, and European, and American, Eastern and Western, Roman and Protestant, for their particular, bright energy. And she can also coax and prod them to listen to each other and to grow out of their own boxes and into an even more glorious wholeness.

But her heart is broken when this sours into exclusion, hatred, and violence, which she deals with by bearing and absorbing it, as Jesus does on the cross.


This debate is the same of stuff I have heard ad nauseum, generation after generation. Remember J. P. Stevens? Remember Nestle? Would we not be having the same idiotic discussion if we were debating a boycott of BP? Would we not be hearing about how their innocent employees, clients, and stockholders would be adversely affected? Does it really all come down to whether my pile of money is jeopardized?

The assembly voted 2-1 to "denounce" Caterpillar for selling armored bulldozers to Israel to use in demolishing Palestinian homes. That will teach them... and we still get to profit. Everybody wins! Except the people whose houses are getting destroyed....

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