Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

On The Clarity and Certainty of the Word of God

Zwingli on the bronze doors by Otto Münch (193...

The preached Word of God is the foundation upon which everything should be built‘ wrote Huldrych Zwingli in a booklet he published on the 6th of September, 1522.  Von Klarheit und Gewissheit des Wortes Gottes is one of Zwingli’s early works and yet its theological outlook is mature and its position Reformed in the best and most historical sense of that word.

In fact, however, the booklet began its life as a sermon which was joyfully received and so Zwingli was urged to publish an expanded version of it, which he did.

In this book  Zwingli assures his readers that the Word of God is not dependent on the Magisterium or tradition of the Church but on the guidance of the Holy Spirit as the authorized and legitimately appointed preacher delivers it.  The Holy Spirit breathes life into the written word and it becomes God’s word to us.  ‘The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life’.  Without the Spirit, understanding is impossible and heresy the outcome.

In coming years Zwingli would be forced to emphasize the fact that the Spirit interprets Scripture and doesn’t speak apart from it.  This because of the maniacal spiritualists and Re-Baptizers who began asserting that since they had the Spirit, they could toss the Scriptures into the rubbish bin (much the same way that emergents and Pentecostals do today).

Among the many insightful observations contained in this tome, this one stands out-

No matter who a man may be, if he teaches you in accordance with his own thought and mind his teaching is false. But if he teaches you in accordance with the Word of God, it is not he that teaches you, but God who teaches him. For as Paul says, who are we but ministers of Christ and dispensers or stewards of the mysteries of God? Again, I know for certain that God teaches me, because I have experienced the fact of it; and to prevent misunderstanding this is what I mean when I say that I know for certain that God teaches me. When I was younger, I gave myself overmuch to human teaching, like others of my day, and when about seven or eight years ago I undertook to devote myself entirely to the Scriptures I was always prevented by philosophy and theology.

But eventually I came to the point where led by Scripture and the Word of God I saw the need to set aside all these things and to learn the doctrine of God direct from his own Word. Then I began to ask God for light and the Scriptures became far clearer to me- even though I read nothing else- than if I had studied many commentators and expositors. Note that that is always a sure sign of God’s leading; for I could never have reached that point by my own feeble understanding. You may see then that my interpretation does not derive from the over-estimation of myself, but the subjection.

Hey, Why Do We Need a Savior Anyway?

In a word- sin. I know people don’t like to use that word, or hear it, any longer. We prefer ‘alternative lifestyle’ or ‘personal freedom’ or ‘my rights’ or most of all ‘I’ll do what I want when I want and no one can say anything about it because it’s my life!’

We’re sadly and stupidly and famously mistaken, however to think that these lives we have are ‘ours’. What could be more foolish than such idiocy? As though we chose to be. As though we continue to choose to be. As if life itself weren’t granted us by Another who holds claim to it and so to us.

Against that One our rebelliousness screeches so loudly as to pierce mortal ears. Sin. So, in response to that disavowal of our bounden duty to His Supreme Lordship, he provides for our restoration. That’s why we need a Savior. Because we sin. Constantly. And hence we are constantly called to repentance, to realignment to the Divine Will.

So here, in the words of the Psalm, a prayer of confession you can pray in recognition of your own silly and self-destructive waywardness-

Have mercy on me, God,
according to your faithful love!
Wipe away my wrongdoings
according to your great compassion!
2 Wash me completely clean of my guilt;
purify me from my sin!
3 Because I know my wrongdoings,
my sin is always right in front of me.
4 I’ve sinned against you—you alone.
I’ve committed evil in your sight.
That’s why you are justified
when you render your verdict,
completely correct
when you issue your judgment.
5 Yes, I was born in guilt, in sin,
from the moment my mother conceived me.
6 And yes, you want truth
in the most hidden places;
you teach me wisdom
in the most secret space.r
7 Purify me with hyssop and I will be clean;
wash me and I will be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and celebration again;
let the bones you crushed
rejoice once more.
9 Hide your face from my sins;
wipe away all my guilty deeds!
10 Create a clean heart for me, God;
put a new, faithful spirit deep inside me!
11 Please don’t throw me
out of your presence;
please don’t take your holy spirit
away from me.
12 Return the joy of your salvation to me
and sustain me with a willing spirit. (CEB)

Presence, Power and Promise: The Role of the Spirit of God in the Old Testament

This forthcoming volume from IVP Academic looks quite intriguing.  Indeed, look at the TOC for yourself.

From the first verses of Genesis, the Spirit of God makes a dramatic appearance in the Bible. Yet there is surprisingly little scholarly work on the Spirit in the Old Testament. On examination, what we find are similarities but also some significant differences in emphasis from the New Testament.

To unpack these emphases on creation, wisdom, prophecy, leadership, creativity and more, the editors of this volume have brought to the task a host of first-rate Old Testament scholars. Together they present a comprehensive examination of the issues facing interpreters and exegetes on the identity and activity of the Spirit in the Hebrew Bible.

This volume provides readers with an able guide to the interpretative background of ancient Near Eastern literature, the major themes and motifs, and particular texts and passages that contribute to an understanding of the Spirit in the Old Testament.

Yes, that does sound interesting.  So I’ve requested a review copy.  If they send one, I’ll definitely let you know what I think.

On the Clarity and Certainty of the Word of God

The preached Word of God is the foundation upon which everything should be built‘ wrote Huldrych Zwingli in a booklet he published on the 6th of September, 1522.  Von Klarheit und Gewissheit des Wortes Gottes is one of Zwingli’s early works and yet its theological outlook is mature and its position Reformed in the best and most historical sense of that word.

In fact, however, the booklet began its life as a sermon which was joyfully received and so Zwingli was urged to publish an expanded version of it, which he did.

In it, Zwingli assures his readers that the Word of God is not dependent on the Magisterium or tradition of the Church but on the guidance of the Holy Spirit as the authorized and legitimately appointed preacher delivers it.  The Holy Spirit breathes life into the written word and it becomes God’s word to us.  ‘The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life’.  Without the Spirit, understanding is impossible and heresy the outcome.

In coming years Zwingli would be forced to emphasize the fact that the Spirit interprets Scripture and doesn’t speak apart from it.  This because of the maniacal spiritualists and Re-Baptizers who began asserting that since they had the Spirit, they could toss the Scriptures into the rubbish bin (much the same way that emergents and Pentecostals do today).

Why the Pope ‘Has to be Infallible’?

I’m willing to hear Michael out.  And since this is just part one, I’m guessing more is to follow.

Let’s start with the question: who is the final arbiter of the interpretation of Scripture?  I start with this point, because (surprisingly) Catholic and non-Catholic expressions of Christianity are largely agreed that the interpretation of Scripture is the essence of Christian doctrine.  For example, Benedict XVI has stated that the dogmas of the Church are, in essence, nothing other than the authoritative interpretation of Scripture.

Etc.

And I have the feeling that it’s right here that we will part ways because he offers only two options:  the church or every Christian.  Neither of these is the actual answer.  The actual answer is the Holy Spirit.  When the Holy Spirit guides our understanding we will understand and interpret Scripture correctly.   When our minds are guided by themselves or some other thing then we will fail to rightly apprehend the meaning of Scripture.

But who decides if an interpretation is sound?  The Church does in its collective wisdom; because the Spirit doesn’t just guide individuals, it guides the Church.

This is why the work of the Reformers was accepted and embraced: theirs was viewed as the proper understanding of Scripture.

To be sure, there are always lunatics on the fringe who will gather dilettantes around themselves who adopt their dilettantism; but they are the exception which proves the rule.

Hence we need no infallible Pope.  We have the authentically infallible Spirit.  And that Spirit will not this year say this thing ex cathedra and next year something else.

Pentecost Sunday: The ‘Birthday of the Church’

Have a great Pentecost Sunday!

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance. 5 Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language. 7 They were amazed and astonished, saying, “Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs—we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God.”

When the Spirit descended the curse of the Tower of Babel was lifted and all those divided by sin were now united in Christ. The ‘tongues’ they spoke weren’t the insane babblings of the Montanists or their modern counterparts, the Pentecostals; they were actual languages spoken to actual people the actual words of the gospel so that faith could be born and not some silly sense of spiritual superiority put on display.

Happy birthday, Church- the place where divisions die and the centrality of Christ displayed.