This week I have been discussing the final section of Jack Levison’s Inspired: The Holy Spirit and the Mind of Faith (if you haven’t had a chance to read my review you can find it here). This book concludes with “An Agenda for the Future of Pneumatology” which Levison divides into four parts: (1) the Pneumatology of Creation; (2) The Significance of a Starting Point; (3) the Bible and the World that Shaped It; (4) A Model of Inspiration and a Unified Future for the Church. In the fourth part Levison turns his attention to the impact of Pneumatology upon our Ecclesiology.
Levison mourns reports of denominations and local assemblies dividing over their differing understandings of the holy spirit. Some Christians move toward a more Charismatic/Pentecostal Ecclesiology which emphasizes glossolalia, prophecy, other charisms, and more often that not a less liturgical worship gathering. Meanwhile those of the high-Church tradition seek to find the spirit in tradition, liturgy, seasons, and there is some paranoia associated with charismatic Christianity. These differences have causes schisms and threaten to cause more.
Similarly, Christians divide over academic, exegetical, scholarly approaches to Scripture and existential, pneumatic, “inspired” hermeneutical models. Does the Church need to choose between “ecstasy and edification”? Paul didn’t think so. He neither demeaned glossolalia nor allowed it to be practiced outside of the purpose of edification either for the individual (i.e., quietly practiced) or the assembly (i.e., interpreted, made understandable). Similarly, while Paul and other early Christians read Scripture with the expectation that the spirit of God would enlighten them it is obvious from their ability to handle Scripture that there was not a polarization between inspiration and study, between the work of the spirit and the dedicate of the reader.
Levison’s book attempts to show how diverse a Pneumatology is resident within Scripture. If Scripture does not give us an either/or maybe it is time we stop dividing over our differences and seek as denominations and local congregations to come to a place where we embrace a holistic Pneumatology.
The Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 is presented as coming to a unified conclusion because something seemed “good to the holy spirit and to us”. The holy spirit was part of the process: the wrestling, fighting, yelling, opinion giving, council. All of these things existed, yet unity was preserved. Can we find this to be a model for that which threatens the unity of the Church today?
I hope my review and commentary on Jack Levison’s Inspired: The Holy Spirit and the Mind of Faith has inspired you to rethink your understanding of the holy spirit and if possible, to read Jack’s book. We need the spirit now as much as we have ever needed the spirit. The leading of the spirit is not something we can do without our minds. We need to be thoughtful engaged, listening, and emerged in Scripture as we seek to hear the voice of the spirit in our midst. I think Jack’s book contributes to that and I hope these few blog posts have as well.