Showing items filed under “D: The Sanctuary II: Who is God? The Trinity, divine attributes, election, grace”

The Living God

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Christianity began in a world influenced by Greek culture (its era being called Hellenistic), and this included Greek philosophy.  Those thinkers had already theorized about one God who was high over all things, an example of this being Aristotle’s ‘Unmoved Mover.’  But the problem with Greek thinking about God was that, precisely because of His greatness, God was removed from time and from action.  Both involved change, and this was what the perfect and eternal One could not have.  God became for them a kind of distant monolith, a problem not unknown to the modern era.

You might say that the trick for early Christian thinkers was to borrow from Greek philosophy in the service of a God who became flesh (John 1;14) and who can act and speak in the world. By contrast the God of the Bible is a living God (Matthew 22:32), one who is independent of, but dynamic in, the world. Early Christian thinkers (and all since then!) can borrow ideas, but they need to bend and adjust them to describe a God different from that which their neighbors thought of.  Their God was indeed high, eternal, unchanged, but also free and creative, able to enter and act in His world.  He has a divine will as well as being. Time and creation are His, and He is not limited by them.  The Triune God is such a yet more glorious eternal and perfect One, alive. Philosophy prepares for, but could never say: ‘I am the living God- I was dead and behold, I am alive forever and ever.’ (Revelation 1:18).

As a postscript, this relation of borrowing but bending words and ideas from every philosophy to witness to the eternal and living God is true in our time too. What examples can you give for this? 

Google ‘Pascal’s coat’ and discuss.

The Holy Spirit

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The Spirit is powerful, dangerous, and unpredictable in the Scriptures. People get swept up on missions they didn’t predict.  People speak as they didn’t know they could, or come to see things they could never have on their own.  People find the courage to stand up in the face of certain death.  It ‘blows where it will,’ says Jesus.

And when it comes to doctrine, the Spirit has been described as the ‘shy’ member of the Trinity (Bruner), always pointing away from itself on toward Christ.  We are not to focus on it, but on that it points toward. But in so doing it shows itself consistent with the loving, outward-turned nature of God Himself. 

The best we can do is simply to list some of the true things that we can say about the Spirit. It cannot be defined in some manner other than the Trinitarian definition itself, given its self-effacing and yet encompassing reality.

  1. Anyone who says ‘Jesus is Lord’ does so by the Spirit. (I Corinthians 12:3). Hence it is poured out in this age on all who believe in Him.
  2. The power of God suffusing His creation is the Spirit.
  3. The Spirit raises us up into the Kingdom of God even now. (Joel 2:28ff.)
  4. There are special gifts of the Spirit like tongues or prophecy, but the virtues are its most important gifts.
  5. The best sign of its presence is charity. (I Corinthians 13).
  6. It is also the force that is a ‘go-between’ bringing the reconciliation that is a sign of God’s own nature. So says the mission theologian, J.V.Taylor.
  7. As such it may also be described as that ‘freshness…deep down things,’ in a world, and in souls, otherwise worn out.

But the Spirit is only all of this because it is already and eternally so in the Godhead.  So, it appears prominently at the very beginning and the very end of the Bible.

Read the poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins, ‘God’s Grandeur.’


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