Monday, November 16, 2009

"The" Spirit

I am still using this blog as a place to share longer ideas. I have started using twitter as a micro-blog to toss out shorter ideas that are swirling around my head as I observe and interact with the world and all that God is doing -

This morning, I continued in my reading of Calvin in Book I, Chapter IX, 1-3. The title of this section is "Fanatics, Abandoning Scripture and Flying Over to Revelation, Cast Down All the Principles of Godliness."

Calvin hits on a topic that reshaped my view of "the Spirit" as it is often referenced.

I have posted on this topic before but I believe that it is worth another perspective today. I often hear people say that "the Spirit" led them to do something or think about something different. In many ways, "the Spirit" becomes an automatic permission to do or believe anything. You can do or say anything and simply back it up by "the Spirit."

But who is this Spirit?

Calvin reminded me this morning that "the Spirit" must be connected to what God reveals in scripture. One of the roles of God's Spirit or the Holy Spirit is to open our eyes and hearts to God in and through scripture. The Holy Spirit is not some free-floating source of inspiration who backs up anything we think or imagine. Instead, God's Spirit is a personal counselor and comforter who has the task of reminding us what Jesus taught and connecting us into the life of God - both communal relationships (like the working out of the imminent trinity) and mission in the world (like the working out of the economic trinity).

Calvin drives the point home by stating that scripture is not an entity that constrains or limits the freedom of the Spirit as some claim (many who want to escape God's voice that is heard through scripture). Instead, God's Spirit and scripture are the same voice - one does not limit or constrain the other.

Yes, there are different interpretations of scripture and different emphases on various passages. I welcome those differences and invite those who believe differently on scripture passages to come together to listen for God's voice. I get more nervous when a set of like-minded individuals or a solo person brings an interpretation of scripture to the table without engaging others in dialogue about it.

With that said, I trust (along with Calvin) that God's Spirit will lead people to hear God's voice in and through scripture and that any person who claims to be acting by "the Spirit" needs to demonstrate that this Spirit matches what God says in and through scripture. In other words, the actions match what occurs in a living relationship with Jesus Christ and not an independent set of ideas or desires.

What are some examples of people who claim to be acting or doing by "the Spirit"?
How do you see the difference between free-floating actions and actions led by God's Spirit who speaks in and through scripture?

Monday, November 02, 2009

The Story

I carved out the time this morning to slow down and continue my reading in Calvin's Institutes.

I have been asked "Really? The Institutes?" regarding my choice of morning reading. My response has been that I am taking up the challege from one of my seminary professors to read through the Institutes as a pastor. I am also seeing how many who claim to 'Calvinists' have never read through (or even opened) the Institues. It is always fun to ask, "Have you read the Institutes?" when someone pulls out TULIP and claims to be a Calvinist. I haven't heard a "Yes" yet...

I do not consider myself, however, a 'Calvinist' but I continue to be refreshed by Calvin's heart for Christ, Scripture and the church.

Today, I read through Book, Chapter VIII, 1-13 - "So Far as Human Reason Goes, Sufficiently Firm Proofs Are at Hand to Establish the Credibility of Scripture."

The timing of this reading is ironic because I am facilitating a weekly Starting Point conversation at MVPC and this week's topic is Scripture.

Calvin reminded me of the (nothing short of) miraculous nature of the Bible in terms of the overall story and how all of the inputs come together. Even moreso, I was reminded that the Bible is not composed by eloquent writers (even though THE King James version tried to clean up that 'mistake') and that adds to its credibility. Calvin writes:

For it was also not without God's extraordinary providence that the sublime myseteries of the Kingdom of Heaven came to be expressed largely in mean and lowly words, lest, if they had been adorned with more shining eloquence, the impious would scoffingly have claimed that its power is in the realm of eloquence alone. Now since such uncultivated and almost rude simplicity inspires greater reverence for itself than any eloquence, what ought one to conclude except that the force of the truth of Sacred Scripture is manifestly too powerful to need the art of words?

I am encouraged that the Bible is not composed by eloquent philosophers. Instead, the writers are a collection of regular individuals who God selected to share his story and therefore allow us to see ourselves in that story as well.