Wordtrade LogoWordtrade.com

Religion Christianity


Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


Wordtrade LogoWordtrade.com


Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


The Spirit of Jesus in Scripture and Prayer by James W. Kinn (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers) (Paperback) The Holy Spirit has frequently been called "the unknown God." Western theology has largely neglected the study of the Spirit of God: "Perhaps the most neglected area of theology in the West is that of the Holy Spirit." 2 Several popes have urged a renewed devotion to and study of the Holy Spirit. Pope Leo XIII, in his encyclical on the Holy Spirit, deplores that the "Christians have only a very poor knowledge of the Holy Spirit. They often use his name . . . but their faith is encompassed with great darkness." In 1973, Pope Paul VI asked the question: "What is the greatest need of the church today?" His own succinct response was, "The Holy Spirit." Then, Pope John Paul II, in his encyclical on the Holy Spirit, urged: "the ecclesiology of the [Second Vatican] Council must be succeeded by a new study of and devotion to the Holy Spirit, precisely as the indispensable complement of the teaching of the Council."

Many things throughout history have contributed to the neglect of the Holy Spirit. Scripture itself gives us many impersonal similes for the Holy Spirit such as wind, air, fire, water, seal, gift, dove, anointing, power. These similes refer mostly to the functions of the Holy Spirit using inanimate symbols. So they tend to make the Spirit impersonal and elusive, rather than a knowable, real person. Even the great councils of the early church did not help to make the Holy Spirit either vital or personal. While they carefully defined the mystery of our God as one and three and laboriously defined the two natures in Jesus Christ, they had great difficulty trying to describe the nature of the Holy Spirit. Sadly, the East and West ultimately split apart over the procession of the Spirit; the East insisted that the Spirit proceeds from the Father alone, while the West affirmed the Spirit comes forth from the Father and the Son (filioque). This disastrous rift exists to this day between the Catholic and the Orthodox Churches.

The second shattering division in the church came with the Re-formation in the sixteenth century. In this case, a major part of the dispute concerned how the Holy Spirit functioned in the church and in individual Christians. The critical question of the Reformation was this: Could the Holy Spirit speak through the Scriptures in such a way that Christians could challenge the teachings of the church hierarchy? The Protestant groups insisted that the Spirit speaks in Scripture independent from the hierarchy, while Catholics believed the hierarchy was the proper interpreter of Scripture and faith. We can even note a further division among`Protestants: Calvin and Luther insisted that the Spirit speaks through the Scriptures in the church, while charismatics and some Pentecostals taught that the teaching of the Spirit could be determined by each one individually.

Even modern theology has obscured the place of the Spirit in the church. The Holy Spirit does not play an outstanding part in our theological discussions and consciousness. In 1983 Ray Brown observed: "There is an almost total absence of comprehensive books on the Spirit in the New Testament" (emphasis in the original). In the last several years, there have been notable efforts to improve our appreciation of the influence of the Holy Spirit in our Christian life. Hopefully this book will add to this necessary dialogue and encourage us to relate more personally to the Spirit of Jesus.

Let me suggest some of the elements that may awaken a new appreciation of the Holy Spirit in our contemporary theology and personal spirituality. First, modern Scripture scholars show that the gift of the Spirit is at the heart of the three major New Testament theologians' soteriology. For Paul, Luke, and John, the primacy of the Holy Spirit is unequivocal. When they deal with objective salvation, they focus on Jesus Christ as the author and cause of our salvation; when they speak of subjective, internal salvation, they teach that the Holy Spirit is the principle of all grace and is God dwelling in us. Second, when modern theology focuses on the Trinity, it no longer emphasizes the internal life of the Trinity. Such lengthy explanations about the way that the Son and the Holy Spirit internally proceed from the Father took up much of the traditional treatise on God. Rather, now there is more emphasis on the external works of the Trinity, that is, on how the three persons relate to us; scholars even describe the relationships among the three persons of the Trinity by focusing on how they individually relate to us in terms of the whole economy of salvation. They make it clear that we need to consider all three persons to form any adequate sense of God's plan of salvation. Thus, the history of our salvation necessarily describes the mystery of God as our creator and Father, of Christ as the one who revealed everything about God and accomplished our objective salvation, and of the Holy Spirit as our individual possession of God's grace dwelling within us. Or more simply, our spiritual life has its origin in the Father, its effective center in the Son, and its individual presence in the Spirit. Here is one example of modern theology's description of the trinitarian work of salvation:

[I]t is the Father who remains the ultimate source of the saving activity of both Christ and the Holy Spirit, for "it was God [viz., the Father] who reconciled us to himself in Christ." (2 Cor. 5:18) But [God the Father] brought about [our] redemption in the human nature of the second person, the Son of God. . . . [Christ's passion, death, and resurrection] sanctifies mankind, reconciles, establishes peace, redeems . . . and unites men in communion with God... . The Holy Spirit ... now realizes and perfects in us that which was completed in Christ. . . . The Spirit makes actual in us that which Christ achieved for us once and for all.

Third, modem spiritual theology does not struggle to find purely separate operations of the Spirit (which can hardly be attributed to the Father or the Son), but rather merely follows the lead of Scripture in appropriating certain functions to one or another divine person. As we shall see extensively in this study, especially in John's Gospel, many operations of Christ and the Father are similar, and many functions of Christ while on earth are quite similar to those of the Holy Spirit after`his ascension. Nevertheless, we can very securely follow the manner of speaking of Sacred Scripture as it appropriates this or that work of salvation to one of the divine per-sons. It is important to follow this lead of Scripture and to appropriate these actions to the Holy Spirit, because through the years our theology has led us into a neglect of the proper role of the Spirit.

Our hope in this study is simply this: to restore the Holy Spirit to the proper place that Scripture gives the Spirit in the whole plan of our salvation.

Fourth, despite all the impersonal symbols used in Scripture, we can relate to the Holy Spirit in a most personal and intimate way by focusing primarily on him as the SPIRIT OF JESUS. We hope to show that the Holy Spirit is so closely joined to Christ that the Spirit becomes our personal contact with Christ and the one who continues the work of Jesus in us. Such a focus means that for each of us, however personal our relationship to Jesus himself is in our life, our relationship to the Holy Spirit will be similarly personal and intimate.

Finally, let me describe how my own experience has led to a new appreciation of the Spirit in theology and spiritual life. Our semi-nary training was quite similar to that of other seminaries of the fifties and sixties. Our theology courses properly began with De Deo Uno et Trino (the study of God, one and triune). The main emphasis in that course was to teach how God could be both one and three, and how to understand the relationships within the Trinity and how their external actions were common to all three persons. Then we spent most of theology on Jesus Christ and how he revealed God to us and redeemed us. To a high degree these courses were concerned with the objective salvation accomplished by Jesusour Savior. Vatican II inspired theologians with a new interest in the Spirit, especially by its two fundamental documents: Lumen Gentium (On the Church) and Dei Verbum (On Revelation). In section D, below, we will develop some of that teaching. Then with the explosion of Scripture study of the last thirty years, the work of the Spirit became more clearly focused, enriching my spiritual life in two new directions: first, my growing interest in Scripture study, especially through the Jerome Biblical Commentary and the whole Anchor Bible series of the New Testament; second, because of a renewed interest in all the writings of St. John of the Cross, whose mystical writings place such emphasis on the work of the Spirit as the agent of contemplative prayer. This book is the result of all those influences. May this Spirit of Jesus inspire us with a new appreciation of the Spirit's personal presence and grace.

In this last chapter, it might be helpful to offer one theological synthesis of the pneumatology presented in this book. It will be a deliberate oversimplification in terms of emphasizing one primary mission of the Spirit of Jesus in Luke, in Paul, and in John.

Christian theology teaches that all three divine persons are specially present in everyone who has been transformed in grace through the sacrament of Baptism. But when theologians describe this union with God, they do not traditionally speak in terms of the Trinity but of the "indwelling of the Holy Spirit." What is behind this tradition of theology? Apparently theologians are following the lead of Scripture, which implies that God and Christ dwell within us by means of the Holy Spirit: [the Father and I] "will come to [them] and make our dwelling with [them]" (John 14:23), and the immediate context explains: "I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth." (John 14:16–17) That is, just as Scripture appropriates the divine indwelling to the Holy Spirit, so do theologians.

Theologians would also add a profound historical reason that is generated by their description of the internal life of the Trinity; that is, just as the Father and Son express their love for each other in the Spirit, so the Father and the Son make themselves present to us in love precisely by sending us their Spirit. The Spirit is their gift of love and the sign of their presence: as the expression of the Father's love, the Spirit forms us into sons/daughters of God and draws us to the Father; as the expression of the Son's love, the Spirit molds us after the image of Christ and unites us in his body. By this gift of the Spirit in baptism, we are anointed to live this new divine life as children of God the Father; by this gift we are incorporated into Christ, we belong to him, we live in him.

What constitutes the manner of the Spirit's presence; what are the effects of the Spirit within us? This whole study is meant to be an answer to that question. But by deliberate oversimplification, we can point to three main works of the Spirit of Jesus, as found in Luke, in Paul, and in John.

The Source of Power and Inspiration

In Luke, the Spirit was the source of Christ's power. Throughout Luke's Gospel Jesus is filled with "the power of the Spirit" (Luke 4:14) and his word and work are accomplished with the help of the Spirit. Then in Acts, Luke presents the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost as the moving power and inspiration for the early Christians and for the community of the church. Peter, Paul, and Stephen are inspired to give witness to Christ and effect the con-version of thousands by means of the Spirit. The Christian community is aided in its particular decisions and actions by the Spirit. Acts is dominated by the power and the inspiration of the Spirit. And`that same power and inspiration of the Spirit of Jesus is ready to direct us in our day, to the degree that we are willing to depend on the Spirit.

In 1 Corinthians Paul tells the Corinthians: "you are the temple of God and ... the Spirit of God dwells in you." (1 Cor. 3:16–17) And later, he applies this same metaphor to individual Christians (6:19). He means that just as God made his dwelling with Israel as a holy sanctuary among them (Ezek. 36:26–27 and 37:26–28), now the Corinthians form a new sanctuary or temple of God because of the Holy Spirit dwelling among them and within each one. Later in Corinthians, Paul describes them as members of the body of Christ: "in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body." (1 Cor. 12:12–13) This is Paul's inspired way of describing their profound union with Christ by means of baptism and the Spirit; he wants them to realize that their bodies are holy, they belong to Christ, each one must be respected.

The third effect of the indwelling of the Spirit of Jesus is that we each become a son or daughter of God: "God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, `Abba, Father." (Gal. 4:6) Because we possess "the Spirit of his Son" in our hearts, we can address God familiarly as "Father." Again, this sanctification is activated by the Holy Spirit.

Three Pauline metaphors teach that we are dedicated to God be-cause of our anointing with the Spirit in baptism{ we are made holy by means of the presence and action of the Spirit of God dwelling within us. All of Paul's spirituality flows from these realities; in more than a dozen different ways, he teaches that because we live in Christ by his Spirit, we should grow into the likeness of Jesus.

In John's Gospel, chapters 14 through 16, the Advocate takes the place of Jesus once he has finished his earthly work: "the Father will give you another Advocate to be with you always." (John 14:16)

From then on, the Spirit of Jesus will dwell within each of us as our personal teacher: to remind us of all Jesus taught, to teach us every-thing that Jesus revealed, to lead us in the way of Jesus, to announce the things to come; he will be our personal counselor: to testify to the truth of Jesus, to take up the defense of Jesus before the unbelieving world.

The very purpose of the Paraclete within us individually is to help us understand the deeper meaning of his words, to remember what Jesus taught by his words and example, to clarify the way of Jesus in our present world, to know how to apply the teaching of Jesus in the "things that are coming," to encourage us in the face of our unbelieving world. This inspiration of the Spirit of Truth acts from within us to form our personal life of faith and understanding, to teach us how to mold our life after the model of Jesus.

One of the most effective ways that the Spirit of Jesus teaches us internally is in mental prayer, for that is the primary method we have for studying the words, actions, example, and way of Jesus. Our entire prayer life is rightly centered on Jesus. In John, that is exactly the purpose of the Spirit of Truth within us.

The two outstanding insights scholars regarding the work of the Holy Spirit. Karl Rahner summarizes what Pentecost means for Christ's church:

Pentecost is not a mere transitory visitation by the Spirit. . . . Rather Pentecost ... is at basis only the outward manifestation of the much more vital fact that henceforward the Spirit will never more be wholly Jwithdrawn from the world until the end of time. For this permanent dwelling of the Spirit in the world is only the outcome of that over-shadowing of the Spirit which took place in the incarnation of the Son of the Father. And because the church is nothing else than the visible manifestation of the Spirit in the world, therefore the church . . . only becomes visible and manifest for the first time at Pentecost.' 

That is, Pentecost is the beginning of the era of the Spirit; from that day on, the Spirit of Jesus dwells permanently in our world and is manifested in the church until the end of time. Raymond Brown summarizes the work of the Spirit of Jesus in God's whole plan of salvation this way:

God was diffusive of his being in creating a good world that mirrored him and especially in creating intelligent human beings that mirrored his intelligence. But God could not be satisfied until he be-came embroiled in human history with all its successes and failures by identifying himself with one people (Israel). . . . Still God was not satisfied, and so he further embroiled himself in one human life, that of Jesus Christ. But God's ultimate act of presence to the world that he created and redeemed involves his entrance into individual human lives as the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the ultimate revelation of God . . . the Spirit is the supreme presence of God ... : "The Father will give you another Paraclete, the Spirit of truth, to be with you forever. . . . He remains with you and is within you." (John 15–17)3

That is, God's plan of salvation included a progressive means of revealing himself to us and of being embroiled in our world. God's ultimate involvement in our lives is accomplished by the Spirit of Truth, who is intimately present in each one of us as our personal teacher of the way of Jesus.

Headline 3

insert content here

WT Main | About WT | Review Links | Contact | Review Sources | Search

Copyright © 2007. All Rights Reserved.

Headline 3

insert content here