Today we begin Systematic Theology III, and specifically, the doctrine of the Holy Spirit.
The focus of STIII:
- Pneumatology (doctrine of the Holy Spirit).
- Ecclesiology (doctrine of the Church).
- Eschatology (doctrine of last things).
Goals of STII:
- To understand the practical implications of these doctrines for life and ministry.
- To develop framework and skills to evaluate major opposing non-evangelical positions with reference to these respective theological topics.
There are various positions within evangelicalism, but there are also many outside evangelicalism. Since many people are not aware of what those are, they are also unaware when those outside positions begin to influence an evangelical opinion.
Example: The influence of Eastern Orthodoxy and the Catholic contemplative moments on how Christinas relate and interact with the God; and specifically, the Holy Spirit.
- To analyze contemporary issues confronting the Church and society.
- To rely more consistently on the presence and power of the Holy Spirit (pneumatology).
- To serve more wisely and rightfully in our local church (ecclesiology).
- To hope more soundly on God’s future work in your life and in the world (eschatology).
So that is our goal with these next episodes of STIII. All of ST is practical,, but STIII is the most hands-on because it deals with dynamic everyday issues in the life of the Christian and Church.
Introduction to Pneumatology
Gk. “Pneuma” = spirit, wind, breath.
Gk. Logos” = word, study.
So “pneumatology” is simply the study of the Spirit.
Just by way of reminder, ST is traditionally broken into three units (ST I, II, III).
All focus on different theological topics.
Each ST focuses on a particular person of the triune Godhead.
ST I: Theology Proper (the person and attributes of God in general).
ST II: The person of, and work of Christ.
ST III: The person and work of the Holy Spirit.
The doctrine of the HS is often a debated and confusing topic, but it does not need to be this way.
Pneumatology is a relatively straight forward doctrine, but it is made confusing, and even emotional, due to various traditions (primarily new and contemporary) and presuppositions.
The typical Christian is often not even aware of these presuppositions. They were simply raised in a certain tradition or church culture, and so every person presumes that their experience is normative and correct.
So when we read certain passages on the HS, and hear someone make a certain statement about the HS, we are compelled to interpret these things through our pre-formed lens.
Tradition and upbringing are very powerful forces that all of us should be aware of.
Beyond that, it is undeniable that every single person has a presupposition.
In light of that, let us give you our presupposition as we approach the doctrine of the HS, but also our doctrine of the Church and Last Things.
Our presupposition is in accordance with the Reformational principle of Sola Scriptura.
Since Scripture is the sole possessor of divine authority, it is necessarily the only source in our formulation of this doctrine.
So what does this eliminate?
- This eliminates traditions (i.e., what has been said, taught, and held in history).
- This eliminates experience (both personal and corporate).
- This eliminates appeals to authority (e.g., scholars, pastors, bible teachers, etc.).
The only source of authority is the Scripture alone, so any conclusion on the person, nature, and work of the HS must be developed from the text of Scripture alone.
**Note: Now we might give some historical views on various issues related to the HS, but they in no way bear any authority for developing an accurate understanding of the HS.
The Importance of Pneumatology
A proper understanding of the HS is necessary because God’s work today is primarily worked out through the HS. The most prominent member of the Trinity (in His manifestation) is the person of the HS.
This is true in the Church (local and universal). This is true in the world.
Our primary interaction with God is via the HS (e.g., regeneration (Jn. 3), prayer (Rom. 8), the gifts (1 Cor. 12-14), all areas of sanctification -- both personally and corporately (Eph. 4), etc.
Additionally, a proper understanding of the HS is vital to grasping both the depth and significance of our salvation.
A proper pneumatology gives understanding, but also brings clarity to the nature of our relationship both to God and to one another (2 Cor. 1:22, Eph. 4).
The HS is integral to the process of sanctification (e.g., becoming like God) -- to orienting ourselves toward God and toward His will.
A proper understanding of the HS is necessary in grasping a deeper understanding of the Word of God, as well as developing better skills with the Word of God.
Remember, the Spirit is the Divine Author of God’s Word (2 Tim. 2:16), but he is also the Divine Illuminator of God’s Word (1 Cor. 2:15).
So we will develop all of that later, but the HS is central to anything related to the Word of God--
The Word is the Word of the Spirit, and the Spirit is the Spirit of the Word. There is such a tight connection, and that is vital to grasp. To have a low view of the Word, is to have a low view (functionally) of the Spirit, and to have a low view of the Spirit is to have a low view (functionally) of the Word.
Two Major Divides in the Church’s Pneumatology (both in doctrine and experience)
Not only is there confusion, but actually division-- which ironically, is the opposite of what the Spirit seeks to do, according to Eph. 4. And so, no doubt , this is one of those great schemes of Satan the Scripture talks much about.
So what does this debate involve? The debate involves:
- The language of “baptism of/in/with/by the HS.”
- The operation of the spiritual gifts.
These are the two major issues of division, and so below are what the various view espouse on these two issues of disagreement:
Believe “Baptism of the HS” is a secondary blessing subsequent to the conversion experience. This could happen seconds, minutes, hours, after conversion… or decades after conversion.
This blessing is necessarily accompanied by “speaking in tongues.” This is the significant manifestation of the powerful presence of the HS. This is why there is usually a push to get a person to start speaking in tongues. They simply want the person to experience this second blessing.
Summary of the position: God works powerfully through the HS at conversion (e.g., brings conviction of sin, brings an awareness of need for salvation, justfies, etc.), but then there is a second/subsequent blessing accompanied by “speaking in tongues.”
Additionally, this position believes in the full operation and manifestation of all the offices and “more miraculous” gifts
Speaking in tongues.
Interpretation of tongues.
Word of knowledge.
Word of wisdom.
Believe “Baptism of the HS” is a mighty act of God, whereby Jesus baptizes us with the HS. This is an act which Jesus Himself performs. This happens contemporaneously to (and at the moment of) conversion. This is not an experience, as much as it is a reality.
Summary: In addition to justification/adoption/regeneration/ union with Christ, which all happen at the moment of salvation, there is another blessing--- namely, Jesus baptizing us with the Hs.
This group typically believes that “speaking in tongues” is:
At best: peer pressure.
At worst: demonic.
Believing the miraculous/sign gifts were distinct and reserved for the Apostolic period.
Miraculous/signs gifts include:
Speaking in tongues.
Interpretation of tongues.
Word of knowledge.
Word of wisdom.
Cessationists believe that the purpose of the miracles, as witnessed in Scripture, were to accompany the “true apostles” at the first pronouncements of the Gospel. And so, when this happened, it thereby confirmed their message, and therefore made their apostleship and message authoritative.
Example: you have two messengers show up to a town that are preaching different messages or gospel, and both claiming to be apostles/or sent from God, which one do you believe? -- The one whose message is accompanied with signs.
So for example: Nicodemus to Jesus in Jn. 3--
John 3:1-2 “Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; 2 this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, "Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”
So it was understood that you always believe the messenger, whose message was accompanied by signs and wonders.
This position believes miracles can/do still happen today, but deny there to be a continuous gifting which happens in a person through the HS.
So why do we say “Pentecostals” and “Charismatics?”
There were various waves, developments, and gradations.
1st wave (Pentecostalism): This was marked by something called the “Azusa Street Revival,” which swept through L.A. California (1906).
An important theological development took place-- Pentecostal Theology.
As we already mentioned, it was here were “Baptism of the Spirit” (for the very first time) was viewed to be a secondary/subsequent blessing and manifestation of the Spirit, that was necessarily accompanied by “speaking in tongues.”
It was taught that the HS pours out all His spiritual gifts in the church today.
This meeting was visited by tens of thousands of people from all over the world.
As a result, a rapid spread of its theology took place.
A cursory study of contemporary world missions will reveal that the vast majority of churches being planted today are done by Pentecostals.
The result (and phenomena) of this 1906 meeting were many Pentecostal churches and denominations all over the world (e.g. Assemblies of God).
2nd Wave (Charismaticism): In the 1960’s, this theology started spreading and penetrating mainline churches and denominations (e.g., Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian, Catholic, Orthodox, etc.).
This was not the starting of new churches or denominations. Rather, this was a penetrating and infiltrating of the existing mainline denominations.
The hotspots of the Charismatic movement were:
- Duquesne (pronounced du-CANE) University (Catholic-- Professors start laying hands on each other).
- Ann Arbor Michigan (“Word of God” was ecumenical missionary community).
- South Bend Indiana (“The People of Praise,” which was a non-denominational, para church organization).
From there, the movement began to spread with great rapidity.
3rd Wave (3rd Wave Evangelicalism):
In the 1960’s John Wimber reads the book of Acts and begins to wonder why the Church does not see or experience what he was reading. (Similar to what has happened recently with Francis Chan).
John Wimber was an Evangelical, believing in the historic understanding of the “Baptism with the HS), but he then mixes Pentecostalism and non-Pentecostalism and becomes the fountain head of 3rd Wave Evangelicalism.
Examples would include:
- Sam Storms
- Wayne Grudem
- C.J. Mahaney
So what has been the result of this divide?
The doctrine of the HS has been elevated to its appropriate place among Christians doctrines.
Subsequently,a fuller understanding and worship of God has taken place.
As you read church history, doctrine becomes clear, balanced, and definitive, but only after a history of debate (and even conflict) has taken place.
The end result is always a fuller worship of God by the Church.
Bad doctrine, heretical theology, confusion, and abuse have arisen.
Greater, indeed hostile, divisiveness has taken place among the true Church; ironically, working directly against one of the great works of the Spirit-- unity (Eph. 4).
So that is our very basic introduction to the doctrine of the HS. We hope it has been of help. The big takeaway is to understand that serious discussions on the nature, person, and work of the Spirit, has only arisen in the last 100 years-- and truly, within the last 50.
To think that Pentecostalism is the most dominant position (globally), and is, therefore, often viewed as a true revival/work of God, is to forget that this doctrine has been in the dark for nearly 1900 years of Church history and is only now being developed.
Furthemore, the language of revival implies that there was once a strong commitment to something that had been clearly defined and practiced.
Again, this is a relatively recent phenomenon, and we plan to interact with it as we go along.
Having said that, we did lay out our presupposition, which is the Reformed stance of Sola Scriptura. So historical movements, traditions, experiences, etc., have little bearing in our approach.
Rather, we’re strictly interested in developing our understanding from the only authority that a true Christian has -- which is the Scripture alone.
And so, with that, next time we’ll jump into the Personality of the Holy Spirit.