Posts Tagged holy spirit
I support the notion that Christianity is about experiencing an intimate personal relationship with God. Proper theology is about how we experience that relationship from God to us. Classically, Greek Eastern (Orthodox) theology has been largely based on the experience of God’ relationship to man. The theology of the Latin West (Roman Catholic and Protestant), at least since the days of St. Augustine, has been largely based on philosophical speculation of man’s relationship to God.
For example, let’s contrast these two different approaches as they apply to Trinitarian doctrine. According to Orthodox theologian Fr. John Meyendorff, in the Eastern Greek tradition, “the incarnate Logos and the Holy Spirit are met and experienced first as divine agents of salvation, and only then are they discovered to be essentially one God.” In contrast, 19th century Jesuit theologian Fr. Theodore de Regnon stated, “Latin philosophy considers the nature in itself first and proceeds to the agent; Greek philosophy considers the agent first and passes through it to find the nature. The Latins think of personality as a mode of nature; the Greeks think of nature as the content of the person”.
The Latin approach is based on philosophical concept from man’s view of God. The Greek approach is based on how we experience God’s Biblical relationship to man.
I pray that pentecostal/charismatic Christians re-discover their ancient, authentic, experienced-based theology.
‘Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand.’
‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cross sea and land to make a single convert, and you make the new convert twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.’
I take these statements from Jesus in Matthew 12:25 and 23:15 and apply them to the Body of Christ in terms of its fundamental doctrines and practices. When doctrines or opinions (Gk. doxis), what you profess, and practices (Gk. praxis), what you do, do not align and complement one another, you end up with a house divided against itself and/or the hypocrisy of not doing what you say.
That’s not so much a problem with Denominational Mainline Christianity because, by and large, their Western Latin doxis of a remote, transcendent, magisterial God administering Roman justice on a fallen, sinful mankind pretty much complements and supports their praxis of guilt, bondage, control, and sin consciousness of their congregations. It is not a pretty picture of Christianity, but at least their views of right doctrines (orthodoxis) and right practices (orthopraxis) are aligned and complementary.
The problem is in the Spirit-filled, Pentecostal/Charismatic movement. Their praxis is based on operating in the Ministry Gifts (Eph. 4) of an immanent, loving, involved God (the Son, the Logos, the Christ, Jesus) and individual Gifts (1 Cor 12, Rom. 12) and Fruit (Gal. 5) of an indwelling, supporting, comforting, and guiding Holy Spirit. This praxis is wonderful, empowering, freeing, loving and Bible-based, to be sure.
Unfortunately, the contemporary Spirit-filled, Pentecostal/Charismatic movement does not have a theology, doctrine, or doxis, that supports, complements, or aligns with their empowered praxis. They pretty much brought along, whole cloth, the orthodoxis of whatever Western Latin tradition they came from; be that Evangelical, Reformed, Anglican, or Roman Catholic. At best, this causes the problem of a “house divided” in Matt. 12, above. At worst, it results in the “hypocrisy” described in Matt. 23.
Operating in the Gifts and Fruit of the Holy Spirit was the orthopraxis of the early primitive Christian church. We know that from Acts and Paul’s un-disputed letters. There was also an orthodoxis in the primitive Church that aligned with, complemented, and supported this empowered orthopraxis. It has been suppressed by the Western Latin (i.e., Roman Catholic and Protestant) Church for the last 1,600 years.
Can you imagine what might happen if we got the orthodoxis and orthopraxis of the primitive Christian Church of Signs and Miracles together again for the first time in 1,600 years?!
That is what “First Thoughts” is all about. Pentecostal/Charismatic Christians, clergy and laity alike, need to read this booklet so that the remnant church can get its collective “Acts” together and become the Powerhouse Body of Christ it should, and can be. Satan wants to keep it from happening, keeping us “double-minded”.
The meaning of theology is to know God as He is, “And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” John 17:3
|“Theology, rightly considered, is the knowledge of God in His relation to us, the cardinal point of which lies in the truth which the old Greek poet had glanced at. “For we are also his offspring” – this is the true keynote; and theology, setting out from this kinship between us and God, we at once soar, as on wings of a spiritual intuition, across the abyss between creature and Creator.”
Theology is the study of God in relation to man. This is a First Thought. Theology is not, conversely, the doctrine of man in relation to God. That is an Afterthought born of human arrogance and pride at truly biblical levels. The adage, “There is a God, and we’re not Him”, comes to mind. All proper theology starts with God and works from that starting point to His relation to man. The order is all important. Getting it backwards has caused huge problems in Christianity that we suffer with to this day. Take the following historical illustration as an example:
If we make the mistake of making man the starting point, we immediately have to deal with him in a condition of spiritual blindness and consequent self-alienation from God. How do we explain this condition? The answer is to come up with a rationale, an Afterthought, like Original Sin. Because we have approached it from the wrong direction, this first Afterthought raises yet further questions. So, we are forced into developing a series of additional related Afterthoughts to rationalize our flawed first assumptions; the Fall, the Atonement, Grace, Predestination, the problem of evil, etc. This line of reasoning of man in relation to God inevitably leads us to a problem that has no logical solution: Either God is all-goodness, but not all-mighty, or He is all-mighty, but not all-goodness.
Excerpt from the book “First Thoughts“.
To illustrate the difference between First Thoughts and Afterthoughts further, let’s take an example from Romans 5. Speaking of the sin of Adam at the Fall and the corresponding Grace of God through the redemption by Jesus, Paul states in verse 15:
But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through the one man’s trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many.
And just to make sure that there was no misunderstanding that the redemption of man is just as extensive as the fall of man, the Apostle repeats himself twice more in verses 18 and 19:
Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification for all. For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.
Now, contrast this to what later theologians did to Paul’s First thoughts. St. Augustine and, later, Protestant Reformer John Calvin drew a conclusion from these verses that is very different from Paul’s clear teaching. Somehow, they inferred that man’s redemption was not co-extensive with the condemnation. To Augustine and Calvin, there is universal damnation in Adam, and only selective salvation in Christ!
Of the thoughts of the Apostle Paul, St. Augustine, and John Calvin, discussed above, which do you think might be First Thoughts and which are Afterthoughts?
This is not a quiz! It’s just an example to get you thinking about, and sensitive to, the concept of First Thoughts and Afterthoughts. The differences between them had a huge impact on the development of Christian theology.
Excerpts from the book “First Thoughts“
Afterthoughts are “fossilized first thoughts”. Afterthoughts are additions, deletions, modifications, interpretations, or distortions of First Thoughts. Afterthoughts invariably rest in what God has done or said in the past. They seldom support the idea that God might have new revelations for us from His word. Afterthoughts are the building blocks of dogmatism; whose foundation is often a pre-determined conclusion backed by carefully selected texts, related or not, and from inferences when no such texts can be found. Afterthoughts lack the sense of the true authority of God and make up for it by dogmatic bluster, prescription against opposing views, and threat of punishment from the power and authority of Church or Book.
As you can see from the preceding discussion, the ideas of First Thoughts of God and the Afterthoughts of man do not lend themselves to precise analytical definitions. I will leave that problem to theologians, philosophers, and the like.
For our purposes, I want you to use your intuitive sense of what is true and what is of God; of how it appeals to and sits in your conscience. Don’t worry, every human being in the world has this intuitive conscience. The Greeks call it nous . The intuitive conscience I’m talking about is the positive part of the soul that tells you whether or not something is right and true and from God. It’s not the negative part of consciousness that condemns you, makes you feel guilty, unworthy, defeated, and powerless every time you do something “wrong” (sin). No, that’s the playground of Satan and “religion”.
 nous is seen as the “eye of the soul”, which some also call the heart, is the center of man, where reason resides, and where true spiritual knowledge is validated.
Excerpts from the book “First Thoughts“
First Thoughts appeal to our intuitive conscience and have the aire of genuine authority. First Thoughts reveal Christ, have a sense of permanence, dispel and diminish our sense of unbelief, and sit well in and satisfy our conscience. First Thoughts, as opposed to Afterthoughts, are relatively few in number and invariably address life and conduct from the standpoint of godliness. First Thoughts do not address subjects which the human mind can figure out for itself. First Thoughts break into our consciousness to teach us universal and timeless divine knowledge. For example, this quote from Job 28 contains First Thoughts; “And he said to man, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding”. First Thoughts are best when there is one step between premise and conclusion. First Thoughts reflect the profound yet simple nature of Jesus and His teaching. If a thought conforms to our intuitive sense that “God is love” and “God is good and doeth good”, it is likely a First Thought.
Excerpts from the book “First Thoughts“
Understanding the ideas of the First thoughts of God and the Afterthoughts of man provides a baseline from which we can assess current Christian theology, understand how and why it got where it is, look at alternatives and perhaps figure out what an optimal model might look like.
I have been searching for the theology that animated the spirit-driven, miracle working primitive Christian Church for 40 years. In that quest, I have read dozens of books ranging from early Christian writings, the New Testament itself, as well as associated commentaries, textual criticisms, and books on theology. In the course of reading a rather obscure 19th century book on theology, I came across the idea of the First Thoughts of God and the Afterthoughts of man from its author, 19th century English cleric and theologian, John B. Heard. While discussing the starkly contrasting paths of “the way of life” and the “way of death” contained in the early Church writing called the Didaché (Gr. didaxή, “teaching”), Heard observed:
“A lifetime has taught me the same sharp contrast between two theologies, the one setting out with the first thoughts of God, the other with man’s interpretation of these thoughts which I describe as second thoughts or afterthoughts. The first thoughts, which are God’s thoughts, all address themselves to the conscience – they enter in, and they lodge there.”
His insight struck a chord of truth and intrigued me. It made increasing sense to me the more I thought about it and tested his ideas mentally and spiritually.
 Alexandrian and Carthaginian Theology Contrasted by Rev. John B. Heard, T.& T. Clark, Edinburgh, 1893
Excerpts from the book “First Thoughts“