Christians have traditionally understood God as being “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” The first two chapters of Thirty True Things Everyone Needs to Know Now [TTT] were about the “Father,” and the previous one was about Jesus Christ, the “Son.” Now we turn our attention to the enigmatic “Holy Spirit.”
Grasping at the Wind
Trying to understand the Holy Spirit is like grasping at the wind—and, indeed, the Hebrew word ruach and the Greek word pneuma can be translated “breath” or “wind” as well as “spirit.”
Some Christians tend to think of the Holy Spirit being active in the world only after the resurrection of Jesus. This is largely because of Jesus’ promise of the coming Spirit (such as in John 15:26) and the events recorded in the second chapter of Acts.
There are many references to the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament, however, and some even think that the first reference to the Spirit is in Genesis 1:2. (Is it the Spirit, or just the wind, moving over the waters in the creation story?)
The Church’s creed of A.D. 381 spoke of the Holy Spirit proceeding “from the Father.” But in the sixth century, the Church in the West added one (Latin) word: filioque (“and the Son”).
That word became a point of division between the Church in the West (Roman Catholicism) and the Church in the East (Eastern Orthodox). But the eminent German Lutheran theologian Jϋrgen Moltmann rejects the addition of filioque—and for good reason (see his The Spirit of Life, 1992).
The Holy Spirit is linked from the beginning to the eternal Word (Logos), and not just to Jesus.
The Go-Between God
John V. Taylor, a distinguished Anglican missionary and theologian, was the author of the seminal book The Go-Between God (1963). Taylor convincingly contends that all of creation is a result of the movement of the Spirit and everything is related to God because of the Spirit.
That certainly doesn’t mean that everyone is aware of their relationship to the Spirit. But the Spirit is aware of everyone!
Here again we are confronted with the problem of the universal and the particular—and again I agree with Taylor when he avers that “the Holy Spirit is universally present through the whole fabric of the world, and yet uniquely present in Christ and, by extension, in the fellowship of his disciples” (pp. 180-1; italics in the original).
The Holy Spirit, we might say, leaves footprints of God all over the world, and people from all ages and in all parts of the world, to varying degrees, see those tracks.
The Spirit of Truth and of Freedom
Three times in the Gospel of John we find the words “the Spirit of truth,” and also according to John, Jesus declared that “the truth shall set you free.” Further, the Apostle Paul also declares that “the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (1 Cor. 3:17).
In the first chapter, I indicated that “all truth is God’s truth.” It can also be asserted that because of the Spirit, all freedom is God’s freedom. Thus, the work of the Spirit can be linked to the core assertions of the theologians of liberation.
Black theologian James Cone, for example, avers that “God’s revelation in Jesus Christ is identical with the presence of his Spirit in the slave community in struggle for the liberation of humanity” (God of the Oppressed, rev. ed., p. 181).
Thank God that the Spirit, known uniquely through Jesus Christ, can also be known universally throughout the whole world!
[Please click here to read the entire fourth chapter of TTT.]