Psalm 61:3

Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; for You have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Do We Really Believe in the Holy Spirit?

Christians confess in both the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds that we "believe in the Holy Spirit".  But Lutheran theologian Hermann Sasse calls us to task for our lack of conviction in regard to this article of faith.

No, there is simply nothing that can be raised as an objection to our praying to the Holy Spirit just as we do to the Father and the Son.  Is our neglect of such prayer perhaps the reason why Christianity has erred into so many false pathways?...And of the churches which claim to have the heritage of the Reformation, must we not also say that they, even though in different ways, show loss of the true faith in the Holy Spirit? (We Confess the Church)

The disagreements between the world and the Church have revolved much around the First Article in regard to Creation, natural law, morality, the role of reason, etc. Christians do not expect non-Christians to accept the Christian faith. That would be silly. We do expect them to be reasonable. But we cannot seem to agree upon what is reasonable and what is not.

While the church is always going to be in conflict with the world, and it certainly has been, the conflict that we see within the Church, the divisions which have arisen, can sometimes be traced to a lack of understanding of the Holy Spirit.

You have Rome and Liberal Christians on the one hand who misunderstand the nature of the Spirit's Revelation. Both groups seem to think that He is still revealing new things, things that are, in some cases, contrary to the Scriptures. Their motto is, "God is still speaking."

On the other hand you have Evangelicals, Catholics, and others who are confused about the Spirit's role in Justification and Sanctification. They see Sanctification not only stemming from Justification, but feeding back into it so that I become responsible for my own salvation, at least in some minor way.

All this is just to make the point that we need to learn more about the Holy Spirit. I know, I know, the Spirit does not want any attention. He only wants to direct us to Jesus. (John 16:13-14) But Jesus says many similar things about Himself in regard to the Father throughout John's Gospel. He has come to glorify the Father. And yet we don't ignore Jesus, or at least I hope you don't.

And I am not saying that we need to talk less about Jesus, or put the Holy Spirit more front and center. Jesus Christ is the Savior of the World. He is the center of the Christian faith. Yet I cannot help but think that a fuller understanding of the Holy Spirit will lead to a greater faith in Jesus Christ, who sends the Spirit for that purpose.

The great irony of this is that Lutherans, who are sometimes afraid to talk too much about the Holy Spirit, actually have a fantastic understanding of His Person and Work. Maybe it is time to flesh this out a bit more.

The 3rd Article of the Creed touches on the Means of Grace (Word and Sacrament), the nature of the Scriptures, Ecclesiology (Church things), Eschatology (Last things), and much more. And these are the hot button issues within the Church.

Maybe Sasse is right, and we need to learn to pray to the Holy Spirit, because we may trust that He will not fail to lead us always to Jesus Christ our Savior.

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