Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Spirit is in the community of faith

This morning, on the eve of Pentecost, I was poking around online and pondering the Holy Spirit. I found a few lines of Barry Litfin that are worth mulling over. A few years ago he wrote a book entitled Getting to know the Church Fathers in which he addressed his concern that evangelicals of today tend to cast aside and important part of their heritage. In an interview at, Litfin was asked about the role of the Holy Spirit. His response offers an appropriate reminder for evangelicals. Here is that response and, remember, "pneumatology" is the study of the Holy Spirit and "ecclesiology" is the study of the church:

The Holy Spirit is the person of the Trinity who indwells the believer, but also believers collectively as the body of Christ. The Holy Spirit is the person of the Trinity who indwells the church. What you have to do is
intertwine ecclesiology and pneumatology.

The role of the Holy Spirit that evangelicals typically tap into is "the Spirit in me." So I've got the Spirit and I can sit and look at the text, and I can figure it out. But that's not really the only way to think about the Holy Spirit. Yes, the Holy Spirit is the Comforter, but he is also indwelling the fullness of the church.

What a proper pneumatology does is move us away from pure ndividualism and move us toward a high ecclesiology that is willing to then look at the collective witness of the church, which I would define as tradition. The Holy Spirit's role, as much as it is to illumine my personal understanding of Scripture, perhaps even more is to illumine the body as a whole. At which I can partake of that gift of time-honored inheritance.

What do you think? Do we tend to overemphasize the indwelling of the Spirit in the individual believer and downplay the role of the Holy Spirit in the the church as a whole?

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