Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Friendly Ghost and You: An Open Discussion Concerning the Holy Spirit

Slowfo: What if someone told you that there were 2.1 billion people in the world who had the literal ghost of Elvis Presley
embedded in their body? Do you think you'd notice? And if you would notice, would it be obvious? Would they dance or sing better than most? Would they say "Thankyouverymuch" as all one word? Would they have a strong attraction to both drugs and doughnuts?

My point is that it doesn't seem to me that people really notice very much that the actual Spirit of the living God of the universe is
embedded in the bodies of 2.1 billion Christians around the world. Don't you think Jesus-followers should stand-out a little more? Shouldn't there be a more obvious distinction between someone who has God's Spirit leading them and someone who doesn't? Or does the Holy Ghost really just have a more laid back personality than the Father and Son? Or is this where the more charismatic influence comes into play? I have few answers but many questions on this.

Gentry: Scott, I have more questions than answers in this arena as well. The fact that we grew up in a church tradition that was terrified of the Pentecostal/Charismatic traditions doesn’t help matters much. For my part, I can’t lay all of the blame for my ignorance at the feet of either our forbears or hucksters such as Kenneth Copeland and Creflo Dollar. Since I worship with a number of Pentecostals I should have more of a perspective.

Anyway…I do think that the Holy Spirit should play a more significant role in the life of the Christian community and the individual believer. However, I suspect that far too often Christians, such as myself, have limited the influence of the Holy Spirit by seeking His presence in ecstatic experiences rather than in the midst of service. I know that for a number of years I expected to find the Holy Spirit in the midst of a rousing rendition of Better Is One Day during the True Devotions service at Soybean Bible. Where I didn’t expect to connect with him was in the midst of cleaning a toilet at L’Arche or pounding the pavement between employers whom I was hoping would give my clients an opportunity to work. I’ll give you three guesses where the Holy Spirit seemed to show up…

In the last year or so, I’ve felt the power and presence of the Holy Spirit at work when I have asked him to empower and guide me as I served the interests of others. More and more, I’m beginning to suspect that God is not as interested in worship wherein he is the sole object so much as he is interested in a form of worship in which he can interact and instrumentally empower us as we serve others. Don’t get me wrong, I still think there are good reasons to intentionally honor and praise God for His blessings. However, I think that our ecstatic experiences of God are more likely to occur in the midst of our attempts to actually be a blessing to the world. Maybe God is less interested in us swaying with our hands outstretched, singing and envisioning Him on the throne than he is interested in meeting us along the way as we pursue - with his absolutely essential help! - the mission of His Kingdom in this world.

I don’t have the time to root all of this in scripture at the moment, but I think that this connection between ecstatic experience/empowering connection with the Holy Spirit and mission is evident in the Acts narratives (see chapter 2, 6 and 9).

One more thing: if we’re to liken the Holy Spirit to Elvis, I suspect that his theme song is A Little Less Conversation, A Little More Action.


g13 said...

slowfo and i are having an open conversation. feel free to jump in.

carl said...

I see it like this: the Holy Spirit helps us to be ourselves because that's what the Spirit wills. The diversity that this brings is not God contradicting himself but rather showing a fuller picture of himself.

I agree that service and faith must come first before emotion. Our personality would determine how our own faith journey is acted out in service, not an "end all say all" description of what we all should look like. Each personality has it's own place and time and God is in them all... if that makes sense.

mike said...

just slightly out of left field...

one of the reasons i left the faith (or did it leave me?) was because there never, ever, was that change - that difference that the ghost was supposed to have wrought in me.

this is only slightly off topic. i mean, slow you started your discussion asking if Christians are supposed to be different than everyone else right?

so what if the whole idea of an indwelling spirit of god is false? or is it that all of the current interpretations of what that means are wrong? what if it doesn't mean barking like a dog or being empowered to serve the least of these? it wasn't for me. what if all of that stuff was just metaphorical? what if "i will always be with you" was meant in the same way in which we talk about the legacy of "worldly" leader's legacies like MLK and JFK and what not?

g13 said...

carl, i really appreciate your conception of the Holy Spirit helping perfect the imago dei in us. i think that this idea squares with the teaching of scripture insofar as the kol YHWH or voice of God that creates is also the primary agent in our recreation.

murrow, i'm not sure how to respond to your comment. however, i can say that i've never experienced the presence of the Spirit as a punctiliar or momentary experience of dynamic change. rather, my experience has been composed of smaller things such as feeling empowered to advocate for my clients, developing what i considered to be a clear interpretation of scripture, etc. as such, most of my experiences could probably be explained away as circumstantial events or perhaps even wishful thinking. yet, because of the teaching of scripture, my family tradition in the faith and my own particular, enculturated reason i have interpreted these experiences as interactions with the Holy Spirit. my interpretation might indeed be wrong, but i hope not.

Clovis said...

Think of God as a gigantic amoeba. The amoeba is sapient, and is also everything that exists. Got it? Me neither.

Anyway, the main part of the amoeba is known as the Father. The pseudopods are known as the Holy Spirit. There is no clear ending of the body and beginning of the pseudopods, and the mass that comprises the amoeba is constantly flowing. The purpose of the Holy Spirit pseudopods are to flow into our souls and back out. There is no clear point at which an individual soul ends and a pseudopod begins. Therefore, God is in all of us; it's all just one huge flowing mass of soul energy with each of us at the end of a pseudopod.

Either that, or I've been taking too much allergy medication.

slowfo said...

Mike, your comment about "that change" really strikes a chord with me. What I wrestle with is how that "change" happens....i.e. how much give and take is there to be between a human and the Ghost? Whose responsibility is it that I become more like God?

If I have made the choice to live my life in such a way that recognizes and responds to the Spirit as best as I know how, then isn't a lot of the responsibility on Him to change me? I mean.....I'm trying here but I'm not perfect; nor do I have any clue how this transformation into the image of Christ thing is supposed to happen.

And on the flip side, isn't God God? He's the all-powerful, all-knowing, etc. being that oversees this thing we call life. I'm a little disappointed sometimes that He hasn't taken a little more action to work in me. Then again, the fundamentalists would probably respond with, "Well, you just haven't submitted yourself to His will enough." Whatever.