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From the PublisherReligious Studies Review
“A necessary read for scholars and ministers focused on pneumatology and Christology.”
James D. G. Dunn
Much of the recent debate about the Holy Spirit and the gift of the Spirit has focused on the distinction between the life-giving Spirit and the charismatic Spirit or Spirit of prophecy. This is understandable since within the early Judeo-Christian perception of the Spirit both aspects are prominent, and usually in different circumstances. Consequently in the debate occasioned by the classic Pentecostal conception of baptism in the Spirit as a separate work of the Spirit subsequent to and distinct from the Spirit's soteriological or life-giving work, any distinction between the life-giving Spirit and the charismatic or empowering Spirit is grist to the mill. It was on the basis of such a distinction that resolution has traditionally been sought with regard to the Acts accounts of the first Pentecost and as a solution to the puzzle of Samaria in Acts 8. For earlier generations (and centuries) it was natural to assume that the first disciples had already received the life-giving Spirit during their time with Jesus, and only at Pentecost received the Spirit empowering for witness (Acts 1:8). In particular, if John's Gospel can be neatly slotted into the fuller history of Luke, then it can be readily argued that such a passage as John 13:10 or 15:3 indicates that the disciples were already "born again" (3:5), so that the subsequent Pentecostal outpouring of the Spirit can be readily distinguished as the giving of the charismatic Spirit (Acts 2:4). And in Acts 8 we have what is probably the classic instance where such a distinction seems to be required and to make best sense. The Samaritans had both believed and been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus (8:12), and yet "the Spirit had not come upon any of them" (8:16); it was through the subsequent laying on of Peter's and John's hands that "they received the Holy Spirit" (8:17). So, for example, Calvin inferred that the Samaritan believers were "regenerate" and "endued with the Spirit of adoption" as a result of Philip's ministry. What they subsequently experienced through the laying on of Peter's and John's hands were "excellent graces of the Spirit." In my Baptism, chapter 5, I noted a fair number of similar expositions, from both Catholic and Protestant commentators. And not surprisingly it is the same distinction between soteriological Spirit and empowering Spirit (two distinct works of the same Spirit) which provided the launch-pad for the most impressive recent attempt to maintain the validity of a Pentecostal reading of Acts. It is this passage especially which is regarded by those critical of the main thesis of my Baptism as its Achilles' heel. Max Turner has, of course, been heavily involved in the debate and it is a pleasure both to contribute to his Festschrift and to use the opportunity to return once more to issues with which we have both been engaged for several decades, and in increasing agreement.
Here I simply want to restate and reinforce my older conviction, which I share with Max, that the action of the Spirit cannot be so neatly separated into distinct categories—that life-giving and empowering are two aspects of the same action of the Spirit, since both are aspects of the same Spirit, aspects of, as we might say, the Spirit's character, outworkings of the Spirit's presence. If a single word can sum up the action of the Spirit and sign of the Spirit's presence, it is vitality. Vitality does not denote simply life, but also the expression of that life in movement and activity—"vitality" in its dictionary equivalents of "animation, liveliness, and ability to perform its functions." The church which lacks visible signs of vitality may lack the life of the Spirit, and in any case will be in need of the re-vitalizing work of the Spirit. As one who first approached this whole issue out of an interest in and concern for Christian renewal or revival, I stand four-square with Pentecostals on that point.
1. The Ruach ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) of Life
To begin with we should remind ourselves of the range of meaning embraced by the term "spirit," both in Hebrew ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) and in Greek ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]). In its early usage, the common element which allows the same word to be used for "wind," "breath," and "spirit" seems to be a sense that in each case the movement of air is involved—"wind" as [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] experienced with some force; "breath" as essentially a similar movement in every-day living; and "spirit" in effect identified with that breath of life. In two of the most vivid Spirit passages in the Bible full play is made of this range of meaning. In the great vision of dry bones of Ezekiel 37, Ezekiel, confronted with a valley full of corpses, is called upon to
Prophesy to the breath ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), "Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), and breathe upon these slain that they may live." Ezekiel continues: "I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude" (Ezek. 37:9-10).
And in John 3:8 Jesus says to Nicodemus,
The wind ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]).
In fact, from these two passages, one would be justified in inferring that life is the most fundamental mark of the Spirit. After all, it is the primary function attributed to the Spirit in the creation narrative: "the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being" (Gen. 2:7). Although [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] is not used here, it is clearly the same imagery ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] = breath, spirit) which is in mind. Human "spirit" is the breath of God. So, for example,
Genesis 6:17—the flood will destroy "all flesh in which is the breath ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) of life";
Job 33:4—"the Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life";
Psalm 104:29-30—"when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust. When you send forth your Spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the ground."
The vision of Ezekiel makes the same assumption: the Lord God says, "I will cause [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] to enter you, and you shall live" (Ezek. 37:5).
In the light of such passages, we should not hasten to make a sharp distinction between human spirit and divine Spirit. If the Spirit of God is what gives life, if the breath of God is what makes man a living soul ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), then the life-force in human beings, that which relates them directly to God (the spirit, or spiritual dimension which they inhabit), is the Spirit of God. This emphasis has rightly been brought to the fore recently by John Levison, who makes the case that in pre-Christian biblical and Jewish literature the life-principle and the Spirit of God were understood to be one and the same, the human spirit as holy spirit. This is a salutary reminder, when we are discussing whether clear distinctions can be made between the different functions of the divine Spirit, that the common ground of "life," life from God, has to be a given from the start.
This line of thought leads to another aspect which should not be missed: that the Spirit is the creator of life, that is, of all life. The fact that Genesis 6:17 does not make a distinction between human and animal life, and the presence of the [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] from the beginning of creation (Gen. 1:2), means that any sharp distinction between the creator Spirit and the soteriological Spirit has equally to be rethought. The Spirit as the life-giver is one of the points at which Judeo-Christian theology can see itself as contributing a crucial insight to the understanding of the world in which we live. The amazing life-force which so dominates the reality which we all experience—the extraordinary fecundity of created life, the superabundance of sperm and seed which ensures that generation follows generation, the tenacity with which life clings to arid desert or vertical cliff-face or the deepest depths of ocean, the apparently arbitrary mutation which modifies species and produces ever new variations, the rich bio-diversity of the planet—all that can be seen as the divine life-force, the expression of the [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] of God still sweeping over the face of creation, still bringing into existence what had not existed before, still bringing life to where there was none. If we want to recognize the Spirit of God in creation, we need hardly look beyond the evidence of life. And as humankind has found too often in the past, when we distinguish spiritual life too sharply from human life and from the breath of life which animates all living things, then the spirituality is deformed and we begin to lose touch with the Creator God and Spirit.
A third aspect brings us back nearer to our main concern, to the integral interaction of life and vitality. For the life-force in a human being is not constant. The [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] of the individual can faint (Pss. 77:3; 142:3; 143:4, 7), can be broken (Job 17:1; Ps. 51:17; Prov. 15:13; 18:14) or be crushed (Ps. 34:18), can in effect be lost to that person—"there was no more spirit in her" (1 Kgs. 10:5; 2 Chr. 9:4); but it can also be revived (Gen. 45:27; Judg. 15:19; 1 Sam. 30:12). This perception of human life is not far removed from two other perceptions which are more directly related to the [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] of God—the gifted individual, whose gift is attributed to the divine Spirit, as in the case of Bezalel, "filled with divine spirit, with skill, intelligence, and knowledge in every kind of craft" (Exod. 35:31), or Joshua, "full of the spirit of wisdom" (Deut. 34:9), or Daniel, acknowledged as one who was endowed with a spirit of the holy gods (Dan. 4:8-9, 18; 5:11-12, 14). The divine life-force in these individuals expressed it self in special character and gift, but not as "a donum superadditum," more as an expression of the divine life-force in a gifted character, much as the same life force also causes some flowers to grow in gorgeous color, or some birds to have beautiful plumes. We even have to question whether we should make a clear distinction between the gifted individual and the charismatically endowed leader. Certainly, Gideon, Samson and the others were given their heroic leadership qualities by the Spirit coming upon them (e.g. Judg. 3:10; 6:34; 14:19). But Saul, equally distinguished as a charismatic leader (1 Sam. 11:6), lost his leadership quality when "the Spirit of the Lord departed" from him (16:14). How different was the case of the Spirit of the Lord rushing upon Samson (Judg. 14:6) from the case of the Spirit of the Lord "stirring" him (13:25)? The coming of the Spirit upon a person could also be described as the revitalizing of the person's spirit, the replugging of the person into the divine life-force. The point is simply an extension or application of Levison's insight: that the life-force in a person, evidence of the divine breath vivifying a person, should not be too easily distinguished from the gifts which a person has or the divine enablings that a person may experience in particular situations. It may rightly all be attributed to the one Spirit of God.
In short, when scripture speaks about the s/Spirit it speaks about life. And not just about life as a context for other things, as the background for other activities, but life as vitality, life as expressing that divine breath, life as gifted and manifesting the divine character of that life. The manifestations of that divine life can be very varied, as are the manifestations of all created life; but the manifestations are not something other than that life, they are simply manifestations of that life. So there is a basic flaw in a distinction between different functions of the Spirit, as between the soteriological Spirit and the charismatic Spirit or Spirit of prophecy, which neglects that each function is an expression of the life-giving Spirit. For we are not dealing with two distinct Spirits. The Spirit of life is the soteriological Spirit, is also the Spirit of prophecy, the revitalizing life of one and the same Spirit, and the revitalized life of the human spirit expressing their conjoint vitality in the particular expressions of prophecy. Particular expressions of that life/Spirit may be very vivid and heightened and temporary, may be described (understandably) as the Spirit coming upon or inspiring for a particular purpose. But is it best expressed as a donum superadditum? For it is not a different Spirit which is in view in these passages, and not essentially different from the indwelling Spirit bubbling up in the vitality which is the divine life/Spirit in a person.
2. The Life-Giving [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]
All this can be inferred from the basic Hebrew understanding of the divine [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] which the first Christians inherited. But it becomes particularly clear in the New Testament's own talk of the divine [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. Although most of the New Testament references are either to the divine Spirit or to the human spirit, the fact that in a number of cases it is unclear whether the [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] is one or the other (e.g. 1 Cor. 14:15), divine Spirit or human spirit, reinforces Levison's point. Gordon Fee's rendering of [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] in these cases as "S/spirit" makes the same point. The point may simply be that in experiencing the [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], the individual who has the experience is typically unable to distinguish divine Spirit from human spirit. And, theologically speaking, justifiably so. For the inability to make that distinction is another reminder that the [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] is the continuum between the divine and the human. Which is also why, existentially, it is often so difficult, as we shall see, to make a distinction between Christ and the Spirit of Christ, precisely because it is the mediatorial role, the bridging or inter-linking role of Christ/the Spirit which is in view. A quick review of the strong association in many New Testament texts between the Spirit and "life" will reinforce the point being made.
Most striking, of course, is the explicit designation of the Spirit as "the life-giving Spirit," the "life-giver"—the basis of the Nicene creedal confession which provides the title of this essay. The verb occurs in the New Testament eleven times, all but one (1 Pet. 3:18) referring to the soteriological work of the Spirit. In three cases the text explicitly refers to God as the one who gives life (John 5:21; Rom. 4:17; 8:11). But the same thought, God as the life-giver, is implied in other references (1 Cor. 15:22, 45; Gal. 3:21); and talk of the Son as the one who "makes alive" (John 5:21) belongs to the same line of thought. What is interesting for us, however, is the way the same authors speak explicitly of the Spirit as the one who "gives life":
John 6:63—"it is the Spirit that makes alive; the flesh is of no value";14 in the present text, as following on the strong emphasis in 6:51-56 on the absolute necessity of eating/crunching the flesh of the Son of Man, with the strong implication that the passage is an elaboration of the words of institution at the Last Supper, it is hard to escape the implication that 6:63 is an attempt to warn against an overemphasis on the sacrament; it is not the flesh (and blood) itself which gives life, it is the Spirit.
Romans 8:11—"If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies as well, through his Spirit which dwells in you"; in a passage where indwelling Christ and indwelling Spirit are evidently alternative ways of describing the same relationship (8:9-11), the life-giving power of resurrection is attributed to God through the Spirit, and it is conceived as a divine work from within rather than an acting on the body of death from without.
1 Corinthians 15:45—"'The first man (Adam) became a living soul' (Gen. 2:7), the last Adam life-giving s/Spirit"; should we translate "a life-giving spirit"? In biblical thought there is only one life-giving Spirit, the Spirit of God. So even if we want to avoid the thought that in resurrection Jesus became the Spirit, it is clear enough that Paul did not share that concern here (otherwise he would have expressed himself differently). As Jesus was identified with divine Wisdom (e.g. 1 Cor. 8:6; Heb. 1:3), and by John as the incarnate Word (John 1:14), so here the resurrected Jesus seems to be identified with the Spirit. That may be an overstatement of what Paul otherwise expresses by using equivalent phrases (as in Rom. 8:9-11), or by identifying the Spirit as the Spirit of Christ (Rom. 8:9; Gal. 4:6; Phil. 1:19), but he does not flinch from saying what he does here, and, for our purposes, it is important to note that the identification is with the life-giving Spirit.
Excerpted from The Spirit and Christ in the New Testament and Christian Theology Copyright © 2012 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. Excerpted by permission of William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Editors' Foreword xiv
An Introduction to Max Turner Steve Walton xvi
"The Lord, the Giver of Life": The Gift of the Spirit as Both Life-giving and Empowering James D. G. Dunn 1
The Spirit, Simeon, and the Songs of the Servant John R Levison 18
Whose Spirit? The Promise and the Promiser in Luke 12:12 Steve Walton 35
The Persecuted Prophets: A Mirror Image of Luke's Spirit-Inspired Church Robert P. Menzies 52
"Was It Not Necessary for the Messiah to Suffer These Things and Enter into His Glory?" The Significance of Jesus' Death for Luke's Soteriology Joel B. Green 71
The Giving of the Spirit in John 19-20: Another Round Cornells Bennema 86
Is Faith in Christ Without Evidence Superior Faith? A Re-Examination of John 20:29 D. A. Carson 105
Apollos and the Ephesian Disciples: Befores and Afters (Acts 18:24-19:7) Conrad Gempf 119
Power From in Between: The Relational Experience of the Holy Spirit and Spiritual Gifts in Paul's Churches Volker Rabens 138
Divine Spirit and Human Spirit in Paul in the Light of Stoic and Biblical-Jewish Perspectives Desta Heliso 156
Ephesians and Divine-Christology Chris Tilling 177
Salvation's Bath by the Spirit: A Study of Titus 3:5b-6 in Its Canonical Setting Robert W. Wall 198
The Spirit in Hebrews: No Longer Forgotten? Steve Motyer 213
New Jerusalem and the Conversion of the Nations: An Exercise in Pneumatic Discernment (Rev. 21:1-22:5) John Christopher Thomas 228
Moses as "God" in Philo of Alexandria: A Precedent for Christology? Richard Bauckham 246
Jesus and the Spirit in Biblical and Theological Perspective: Messianic Empowering, Saving Wisdom, and the Limits of Biblical Theology Mark L. Strauss 266
Cyril of Alexandria and the Incarnation Anthony N. S. Lane 285
"By the washing of Regeneration and Renewal in the Holy Spirit": Towards a Pneumatological Theology of Justification Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen 303
Towards a Theology of Togetherness - Life through the Spirit Graham McFarlane 323
Creative Reason and the Spirit: Identifying, Evaluating, and Developing Paradigms of Pneumatology André Munzinger 336
List of Publications by Max Turner 356
List of Published PhD Dissertations by Max Turner's Research Students 361
Index of Authors 363