Sunday, November 30, 2008

Missionary Theology of the Holy Spirit

Dr. Sanchez proposes an ecclesial participation in Christ’s mission by anchoring it in the Holy Spirit’s anointing, presence, and activity, in and with Christ. More concretely, he advances constitutive, kerygmatic, and paschal views of the anointing of Christ with the Spirit in order to move us towards a missionary theology of the Holy Spirit. These three views are shown to be superior to three inadequate views of the Spirit, namely: revelatory, idealistic, and apathetic.

First, the revelatory view sees the baptism of Christ as simply a baptism he underwent for others, but had no significance for Himself. This view struggles to understand how the divine Son of God could have received anything more from God the Father at His baptism, since He was already God in the flesh possessing the Spirit from His conception. While this view does take into account the church’s ecclesial participation in the Spirit through Christian baptism, it does not anchor the church’s anointing with the Spirit with Christ’s anointing with the Spirit at His baptism. Second, the idealistic view embraces human openness or the freedom of the will to reach out to God the Father and receive His indwelling grace or Spirit without the means of grace. This view has two problems. Number one, it does not take into account the radical problem of sin in human beings. As people who are dead in trespasses and sins, this view optimistically believes we can raise ourselves from the dead. Number two; by not taking into account the problem of human sin, it views Christ as our example, rather than embracing Him as the only perfect Mediator between God and man. Christ is not simply an example of how we are to get to the Spirit, but rather He is the only Bearer and Giver of the Spirit. Third, the apathetic view sees life in the Spirit as one which guarantees spiritual freedom from sin, guarantees bodily healing, and guarantees business success in life. It is a life in the Spirit with an absence of suffering and the cross.

Do Lutherans suffer from any of these views? Unfortunately, we do. It is true that we are different than prosperity preachers in that we emphasize suffering and the cross. However, we are worldly in other ways. By not embracing constant prayer and spiritual warfare in our ministries we may have anchored ourselves with the apathetic view. One fourth year student told me, “Our theology leads us away from prayer.” He then went on to criticize people who pray before they make decisions. He also began to criticize people who have prayer meetings, as if the prayers would actually guide them in their actions. Where did he receive this understanding of prayer? Additionally, we do have reverence and orthodoxy in our prayers, but perhaps we take away any sense of being truly human by not expressing the emotions related to the words we are saying. Do we have a desire to “appear normal” according to the world’s terms? We often criticize the way people pray because they pray too spontaneously and with too much passion. We sometimes get suspicious of passion during prayer because we fear that it is an attempt by the one praying to manipulate his hearers by his passion. And we judge this by the world’s standards. Additionally, we have such high regard for the kerygmatic view; this is leading us to be apathetic in prayer since we believe that Christ is only going to work by the mere proclamation of the sermon on Sundays. Since the Word and Sacraments are the only means of grace, we Lutherans think that the Word and Sacraments are all we need for a life of intimacy, growth, and communion with God. Additionally, since we hear about forgiveness through the cross so frequently and predictably, we often do not take seriously the problem of sin in our lives. This leads us to see sin as insignificant; this is the same way the world views sin!

We could benefit from a serious look at the paschal view of the anointing of Christ with the Spirit. Right after Christ was baptized He began to fight against the devil. This was real. Christ defeated the devil by preparing for his attacks with prayer and fasting. It is true that Christ is first our redeemer and not merely our example of how to pray and fight the devil. However, his prayer life and war against the devil should also inform the church as she is baptized with the same Spirit in order to pray and fight against the devil in her mission. Christ’s prayer life during his mission should cause us to pray without ceasing during our mission. Christ’s prayer life as he defeated temptation should also cause us to pray that we may defeat temptation and make progress in our fight against sin. During the ministry of Christ we see how much He deplored evil and sin in this world. Consequently, the church should also hate sin rather than see it as insignificant. Additionally, since our Savior had to take upon Himself God’s wrath on the cross, the paschal view should cause us to hate sin all the more considering the penalty it cost our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The constitutive view shows us that Christ truly was anointed with the Spirit at His baptism. He was anointed with the Spirit so that He could be the Mediator of the Spirit to us. When we as Christ’s followers are baptized with water, we are also baptized with the Spirit. Consequently, we become commissioned by Christ to speak Spirit-breathed words that actually communicate and give Christ’s Spirit. We are baptized with the Spirit by the Bearer and Giver of the Spirit (constitutive view) so that we can engage in proclaiming God’s Word to others (kerygmatic view) and fight against the devil (paschal view).

This understanding of mission anchors our mission in the ministry of Christ. As Christ spoke words of judgment and forgiveness, so also the church speaks words of judgment and forgiveness. The church is not free to simply discuss insights for living, or talk exclusively about the end times, or spend all her time figuring out the details of predestination. The church’s message comes from Jesus Christ Himself (kerygmatic view) and is not something we make up. Additionally, we are not to compromise our message to get people in the doors of our churches. The paschal view reminds us that during the ministry of Christ people deserted him and he did not conform to their needs. By becoming too seeker sensitive we are compromising our message as we seek to grow our church. The paschal view shows us that the mission of Christ was anchored with faithfulness to God and did not compromise or change for anyone. Christ was dedicated to do the Father’s will and this should inform us as we seek to do His will faithfully at all times. And finally, with the power of prayer and a fight against the devil (paschal view), the Church anchors herself in the prayer life of Christ as He moves us towards a missionary theology of the Holy Spirit.

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