As we wrote last time, the discussions of the Trinity and the Holy Spirit in the 18th-19th Centuries were simply restating and rehashing the statements of the Early and Medieval Church. The creeds had locked theology in a room with no doors and only barred windows. Menno Simons had it right when he said that he would not venture to speak on the doctrine of the Trinity.
In the late 20th Century, however, a new voice arose from the ashes of World War II and has had remarkable impact on modern theology. His name is Jurgen Moltmann.
In Moltmann’s book The Source of Life, He talks about fellowship of the Holy Spirit and fellowship With God. Moltmann writes, “The Spirit is God in person. Fellowship does not take by force and possess. Rather, it liberates.” Fellowship lives in reciprocal participation and mutual acceptance. Fellowship Springs up when people who are different find something in common and when something in common is shared by different people. Their people who are unlike find interest in each other.
In the Spirit, God enters into fellowship with women and men: divine life is communicated to us and God participates in our human life. In the spirit, God is present like a husband, wife, or partner. God accompanies us and shares our suffering. The Holy Spirit doesn't deal with us in a domineering way but tenderly and considerately. This, in fact, is the Spirit of fellowship.
The Spirit exists in fellowship with the Creator and the Son from eternity to eternity and, together with the Father and the Son, is worshipped and glorified as the Nicene Creed says. So, in the Spirit’s fellowship with us is hidden eternal fellowship with Christ and the Father of Jesus Christ. In the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, we experience the nearness of the divine life and we also experience our own mortal life as being life that is eternal. We are in God and God is in us. People who sense this are awakened to eternal livingness in the moment of love. In the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, the divine Trinity is so wide open that the whole of creation can find room in it. It is an inviting fellowship, that they also may be in us, prays Jesus in the Gospel according to John.
The excessive individualism of the modern world would do well to strengthen community and to stress the things that bind together rather than the things that differentiate. But collectivism was never a remedy for individualism; it is nothing more than its reverse. The experience of the liberty, which gives to each and everyone his or her own, is inseparable from the experience of the love which binds people together in the Spirit. In the Spirit, personhood and sociality come into being simultaneously and are complementary. Anyone who sets priorities here, putting the one above or below the other, destroys life and grieves the Spirit.
When we talk about the church in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, we are presupposing that the community between people and God, which is the work of the Spirit, reaches out beyond the church. It takes hold of people in Christ’s church and drives them out into the world of the living. For, according to the promises in the Bible, the Holy Spirit is indeed poured out upon all flesh. When the church invokes God's Spirit and claims fellowship with the Spirit, it is seeing itself as the beginning in history of this event. At the very point where the church confesses its faith in Christ, it experiences itself in the wider cosmic dimensions of the coming of the Holy Spirit for the redemption and transfiguration of the world.
The church, above all, which listens to the word of Christ and confesses Christ, exists completely and entirely in its receptivity for the influence of the Holy Spirit and the radiance of its light. God's Word and God Spirit belong together, like God’s breathing and God’s speaking. So, there cannot be any substantial contradiction between the Protestant definition of the church as the creature of God's Word and the Orthodox idea of the church as the place of the invocation and coming of the Holy Spirit. The two perspectives must complement each other, for where God's Word is, there is God’s Spirit. Otherwise, the Word cannot be the Word of God. And where the Spirit is, God's Word speaks to us. Otherwise, it is not God's Spirit.
Why did Christ come into this world? So that he might give life. Why did he die and rise again? So that God's eternal spirit might be poured out upon all flesh. The Word took bodily form so that we might receive the Holy Spirit. God became the bearer of a body so that we human beings might be bearers of the Spirit, said Athanasius. Everything in God's history with women and men and earthly creation draws toward the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. The ultimate meaning of Christmas, Good Friday, Easter and the Ascension is Pentecost. Pentecost is the goal of Christ's history, not just an appendix.
The meaning and scope of the church is not exhausted when people become churchgoers. It is also present in Christianity in the world. Even if these people who are called the laity in the context of the church’s worship, where Christianity in the world is concerned, they are the experts in their professions, not the theologians.
In the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, there are only spiritualized women and men. The long-standing clericalization of Christianity has deprived people in the Church of their maturity and responsibility and, ever since the beginning of the modern world, it has led to the immigration of Christianity into the world and away from the official, mainline churches.
We experience gathering and sending like the breathing in and breathing out of the Spirit. Christian life in the everyday world is just as important as the gathering of the congregation for worship. The gathering for worship serves the sending into the world and it is this sending which leads into the full life of the Spirit.
If Christianity is to become aware of what it is, we must abandon the pastoral church which takes care of people, which is the usual form of the Western church. Instead, we have to call to life a Christian Community Church. Either we set about this church reform by ourselves or it will be forced upon us by the loss of church members. The factors that keep non-voluntary membership of the church going are ceasing to have any importance. They have already become ineffective in many of the older Christian churches. Personal and voluntary commitment is coming to the front. We can see a sign of this when we note that while traditional Sunday church attendance is dropping, participation in the Lord's Supper or the Eucharist is on the increase. More and more Christians are coming to think that it is important to take over their own lives, to act on their own responsibility, and to experience life in God's Spirit for themselves.
The community of Christ is a community of free and equal people who, in the Charismatic diversity of their gifts and vocations, live with one another and for one another and, in the unity of the Holy Spirit together, serve the Kingdom of God in the world.
The fellowship of the Spirit is always and everywhere an assembly of parents and children, women and men, of fellowship of the generations and the fellowship of the genders. In the relations between the generations, the function of the Christian congregation is to build up mutual trust between old and young. In modern society, interest in past or coming generations is appallingly slight. Awareness of the present is losing a sense of the present’s origin and its future. Fellowship in Christ begins first with the acceptance of other people and, second, interested participation in life that is different from our own. The modern barbarism of disinterest destroys the community of generations first of all and the generation contract based on that community.
Through the Spirit, God confers inexhaustible trust on human beings and through this trust we ourselves again become trustworthy, however fickle we may be. In the bread and wine, Christ puts himself in our hands entrusts himself to us. Through this great trust which God shows us, we acquire a firm trust in ourselves and trust in our neighbor. Through trust, we become capable of fellowship and are prepared for fellowship.
The Christian congregation is a matter of trust. Here we can open ourselves and trust ourselves to other people period of course, this makes the Christian congregation highly vulnerable and often enough leads to disappointment. Christian faith is not a childish trust in God but has passed through the devastation And emptiness of Christ’s cross and, In the same way, we only achieve sustaining trust in other people when we know our own weaknesses and accept the weaknesses of others.
Whenever people live together in trust, there are conflicts. A community of trust cannot aim to be a conflict free community. Conflicts are not the problem period the problem is their resolution. So, trust is the art of putting up with differences and making them contribute to life.
Human beings are made to be the image of God as man and woman. In the end time, the life-giving Spirit comes upon women and men equally. In the fellowship of the spirit there are no more male privileges. As long as only men are allowed to be spiritual pastors in certain churches, these churches are quenching and grieving the Holy Spirit, writes Moltmann. Neither the patriarchal nor the Christo-centric concept of the church has any expectation that the Spirit will be experienced by men and women together and both of those views have repressed the Pentecostal experience of the early church.
To be a woman is a charisma or gift period to be a man is a charisma. The spirit is poured out upon all flesh.
Moltmann has much more to say on life in fellowship with the Holy Spirit but this is a good place to end this summation and indeed the entire series on How We Got Our Views of the Holy Spirit. I will let Moltmann have the last word.
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