Reproclaiming the Everlasting Gospel
Some years ago, while attending a lecture series given by Lewis Benson, I asked how we could convince Holy-Spirit-Christians that what Fox was saying was substantially different than what they were saying. Lewis replied that, given my background from evangelical Christianity, he hoped that I could provide the answer. I could not then articulate what I felt to be a great difference between Fox's proclamation that Christ has come to teach His people Himself and the gospel of Holy Spirit Christianity. (NOTE: from the context of Lewis' series of lectures, Holy Spirit Christianity makes the Holy Spirit, not Christ, central to its life and faith. The lectures are entitled: Recovering the Early Quaker Universal Mission and Message: Five Lec... and are available for $7.00.)
This and the following posts are my attempt to put this distinction into words.
When people talk about the Holy Spirit, what are they talking about? For some they are referring to God's present representative on Earth. Christ has ascended into heaven and will return someday. Meanwhile we have the Holy Spirit. For others, the Holy Spirit represents the pinnacle of what humans can experience of God. He is not a surrogate Christ, but is one step better than coming to Christ. Jesus came to prepare the way for the Holy Spirit. When people holding either of these views read Fox, they see the words "Holy Spirit" and think, "Ah! He was one of us." But not so.
The scriptures speak of something we translate as Holy Spirit, Holy Ghost, or Spirit of God. But there is a very different feel or sense between the use we make of the New Testament references and how those terms are used in the Old Testament scriptures.
The Hebrew idea of the Spirit of God carries a sense of that part of God that imparts His unquenchable life. It was that part of God that was breathed into man that made him a living being. This concept often is translated as breath, as in the comparative question posed by Isaiah, "Why do you regard man whose breath is in his nostrils?" (Isaiah 2:22) The implication is that we should regard God alone whose breath is unquenchable. His life can't be ended by stopping the nostrils. Isaiah cried woe against the disobedient children, "who cover themselves but not with My breath, says the Lord." (Isaiah 30:1) And the prophet Joel declared of the days when God would pour out His breath upon all flesh, which would take away the woe. In Acts, chapter 2, the apostles declared the fulfillment of Joel's prophecy. Even though this 2nd-chapter-of-Acts event is rooted in the concept of God's breath, theologians, especially after about A.D. 300, have built a theology that diverges from the Hebrew concept of "Behold oh Israel, our God is one God." This is especially true among those who make the Holy Spirit central to their life and faith, God has become more three than one.
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