We should maintain that if an interpretation of any word in any religion leads to disharmony and does not positively further the welfare of the many, then such an interpretation is to be regarded as wrong; that is, against the will of God, or as the working of Satan or Mara.
Buddhadasa Bikkhu, a Thai Buddhist Monk
Monday, February 11, 2013
In the Spirit—and Liberal
To be filled by the Holy Spirit, Koleoso claimed, "means to be restored to the initial intention so that you once again have the relation and resources." It is an ongoing process that puts God at the center of things. In the Spirit, one longs for God's presence as the one central concern of ministry and preaching. And when pastors and churches are filled by the Spirit and long for God, "things begin to happen … [God] begins to speak to the people … give gifts to them … the gifts begin to come forth … the word of knowledge, the word of wisdom, prophecy, tongues, interpretation, gifts of healing, gift of faith."
Protestant church culture in America today is heavily influenced by the evangelical and charismatic/pentecostal wing(s) of American Protestantism. That influence has a dark side for those of us who are not part of that wing. But it also has its beneficial side, if only we have the wit to separate the wheat from the chaff. Among other things, evangelicals and pentecostals have brought the Holy Spirit into prominence, and they are correct when they insist that a church cannot be healthy without the Spirit. In mainline churches, we may not engage in faith-healing of physical ailments or speak in tongues, but it still takes the work of the Spirit to infuse our worship with life, small groups with enthusiasm, and individuals with spiritual healing. It takes the Spirit to turn conflict into reconciliation. It takes the Spirit, frankly, to restore healthy vibrancy to declining mainline churches.
Whether interpreted literally or liberally, the Spirit still can speak through the Bible—inspire it. The work of the Spirit is not limited by our theologies. The Spirit persistently lurks in mainline sanctuaries as much as it does in pentecostal ones and tugs at liberal hearts as insistently as it does evangelical ones. The story of the early churches in Acts is the story of the Spirit at work among those churches. Our story can be and should be but another chapter in that same tale of the Spirit. The thing is liberal-ish preachers and moderately not conservative churches need to begin to focus on the theme of the Spirit and even go so far as to pray for its manifest (rather than latent) presence. And things do happen. Amen.