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Book Jacket

0801065585
Trade Paperback
256 pages
May 2005
Baker

Keep in Step with the Spirit: Finding Fullness in Our Walk with God, 2d ed.

by J.I. Packer

Review  |   Author Bio  |  Read an Excerpt

Excerpt:

1

GETTING THE SPIRIT IN FOCUS

Many books have already been written on the Holy Spirit: Why add to their number? Let me start my answer to this very proper question by telling you about my short sight.

Purblindness

If while looking at you I should take my glasses off, I should reduce you to a smudge. I should still know you were there; I might still be able to tell whether you were boy or girl; I could probably manage to avoid bumping into you. But you would have become so indistinct at the edges, and your features would be so blurred that adequate description of you (save from memory) would be quite beyond me. Should a stranger enter the room while my glasses were off, I could point to him, no doubt, but his face would be a blob, and I would never know the expression on it. You and he would be right out of focus, so far as I was concerned, until I was bespectacled again.

One of Calvin’s rare illustrations compares the way purblind folk like me need glasses to put print and people in focus with the way we all need Scripture to bring into focus our genuine sense of the divine. Though Calvin stated this comparison in general terms only, he clearly had in mind specific biblical truths as the lens whereby clear focus is achieved. Everyone, Calvin thought, has inklings of the reality of God, but they are vague and smudged. Getting God in focus means thinking correctly about his character, his sovereignty, his salvation, his love, his Son, his Spirit, and all the realities of his work and ways; it also means thinking rightly about our own relationship to him as creatures either under sin or under grace, either living the responsive life of faith, hope, and love or living unresponsively, in barrenness and gloom of heart. How can we learn to think correctly about these things? Calvin’s answer (mine, too) is: by learning of them from Scripture. Only as we thus learn shall we be able to say that God the Triune Creator, who is Father, Son, and Spirit, is more than a smudge in our minds.

To my point, now, and my reason for writing these pages. Great attention, as I said, is being given today to the Holy Spirit—who he is and what he does in the individual, the church, and the wider human community. Fellowship, body life, every-member ministry, Spirit baptism, gifts, guidance, prophecy, miracles, and the Spirit’s work of revealing, renewing, and reviving, are themes on many lips and are discussed in many books. That is good: We should be glad that it is so, and something is wrong with us spiritually if we are not. But just as a shortsighted man fails to see all that he is looking at and just as anyone may get hold of the wrong end of the stick about anything, and so have only half the story, so we may (and I think often do) fall short of a biblical focus on the Spirit, whose work we celebrate so often. We really are too purblind and prejudiced in spiritual things to be able to see properly what we are looking at here.

Knowing and Experiencing God

We glibly assume that because we know something of the Spirit’s work in our own lives, therefore we know all that matters about the Spirit himself, but the conclusion does not follow. The truth is that just as notional knowledge may outrun spiritual experience, so a person’s spiritual experience may be ahead of his notional knowledge. Bible believers have often so stressed (rightly) the need for correct notions that they have overlooked this. But fact it is, as we may learn from the experience of Jesus’s followers during his earthly ministry. Their understanding of spiritual things was faulty; their misunderstandings of Jesus were frequent; yet Jesus was able to touch and transform their lives beyond the limits of what had entered their minds, simply because they loved him, trusted him, wanted to learn from him, and honestly meant to obey him according to the light they had. Thus it was that eleven of the twelve were “made clean” (their sins were forgiven and their hearts renewed [John 15:3]) and others entered with them into Jesus’s gift of pardon and peace (see Luke 5:20–24; 7:47–50; 19:5–10), before any single one of them had any grasp at all of the doctrine of atonement for sin through Jesus’s coming cross. The gift was given and their lives were changed first; the understanding of what had happened to them came after.

So it is, too, when in good faith and openness to God’s will, folk ask for more of the life of the Spirit. (Naturally! for seeking life from the Spirit and life from Jesus is in fact the same quest under two names, did we but know it.) To ask consciously for what Scripture teaches us to ask for is the ideal here, and since God is faithful to his word, we may confidently expect that, having asked for it, we shall receive it—though we may well find that when the good gift comes to us, there is more to it than ever we realized. Said the Lord Jesus: “Ask, and it will be given you. . . . If you . . . know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:9, 13 RSV). Many have been staggered at the wealth of God’s answer in experience to this request.

But because God is gracious, he may also deepen our life in the Spirit even when our ideas about this life are nonexistent or quite wrong, provided only that we are truly and wholeheartedly seeking his face and wanting to come closer to him. The formula that applies here is the promise in Jeremiah 29:13–14: “. . . When you seek me with all your heart, I will be found by you, says the LORD. . . .” (RSV) Then comes the task of understanding by the light of Scripture what the Lord has actually done to us and how his specific work in our personal experience, tailored as it lovingly was to our particular temperamental and circumstantial needs at that time, should be related to the general biblical declarations of what he will do through the Spirit for all who are his. This task, as it seems to me, faces many of God’s people just at present.

Now please do not misunderstand me! I am not saying that God blesses the ignorant and erring by reason of their ignorance and error. Nor am I saying that God does not care whether or not we know and grasp his revealed purposes. Nor do I suggest that ignorance and error are unimportant for spiritual health so long as one has an honest heart and a genuine passion for God. It is certain that God blesses believers precisely and invariably by blessing to them something of his truth and that misbelief as such is in its own nature spiritually barren and destructive. Yet anyone who deals with souls will again and again be amazed at the gracious generosity with which God blesses to needy ones what looks to us like a very tiny needle of truth hidden amid whole haystacks of mental error. As I have said, countless sinners truly experience the saving grace of Jesus Christ and the transforming power of the Holy Spirit while their notions about both are erratic and largely incorrect. (Where, indeed, would any of us be if God’s blessing had been withheld till all our notions were right? Every Christian without exception experiences far more in the way of mercy and help than the quality of his notions warrants.) All the same, however, we would appreciate the Spirit’s work much more, and maybe avoid some pitfalls concerning it, if our thoughts about the Spirit himself were clearer; and that is where this book tries to help.

My mind goes back to a wet afternoon a generation ago when I made my way to the back-street cinema that we called the fleapit for my first sight of a famous Golden Silent that had come to town. This was The General, made in 1927, hailed by critics nowadays as Buster Keaton’s masterpiece. I had recently discovered the sad, high-minded, disaster-prone, dithery, resourceful clown that was Keaton, and The General drew me like a magnet. I had read that the story was set in the American Civil War and, putting two and two together, I assumed that as in several of his other films, the title was telling me what Keaton’s own role was going to be. Now I am not a war film buff, and I remember wondering as I walked to the cinema how fully what I was to see would grab me.

Well, The General certainly puts Keaton into uniform—lieutenant’s uniform, to be precise—but to characterize it as a film in which Keaton is a soldier with leadership responsibilities would be inadequate and misleading to the last degree. For Keaton only gets his uniform in the final moments, and what unfolded before my wondering eyes for seventy magic minutes before that was not a Goon- or M.A.S.H.-type send-up of the military, nor anything like it, but the epic of an ancient steam locomotive—a dear, dignified, clumsy, cowcatchered 4-4-0—which, by letting itself be stolen, pitchforked its dauntless driver into the clever-crazy heroics of a marvelous one-man rescue operation, out of which came as a reward the military identity that was previously denied him and without which his girl had refused to look at him. General turned out to be the loco’s name, and the story was Keaton’s version of the Great Locomotive Chase of 1863, when the real General was snatched by northern saboteurs at Marietta, Georgia, but was pursued and recaptured when it ran out of fuel before it managed to reach northern territory. Being both a slapstick addict and a train nut, I was absolutely entranced.

I am suggesting, now, that some of the things that are said today concerning the work of the Holy Spirit and the true experience of the life of the Spirit that many enjoy reflect ideas about the Spirit that are no more adequate to the reality than was my own first guess at the subject matter of The General. Look with me at some of these ideas, and let me show you what I mean.

Power

To start with, some people see the doctrine of the Spirit as essentially about power, in the sense of God-given ability to do what you know you ought to do and indeed want to do, but feel that you lack the strength for. Examples include saying no to cravings (for sex, drink, drugs, tobacco, money, kicks, luxury, promotion, power, reputation, adulation, or whatever), being patient with folks who try your patience, loving the unlovable, controlling your temper, standing firm under pressure, speaking out boldly for Christ, trusting God in face of trouble. In thought and speech, preaching and prayer, the Spirit’s enabling power for action of this kind is the theme on which these people constantly harp.

What ought we to say about their emphasis? Is it wrong? No, indeed, just the opposite. In itself it is magnificently right. For power (usually dunamis, from which comes the English word dynamite, sometimes kratos and ischus) is a great New Testament word, and empowering from Christ through the Spirit is indeed a momentous New Testament fact, one of the glories of the gospel and a mark of Christ’s true followers everywhere. Observe these key texts, if you doubt me.

“. . . Stay in the city,” said Jesus to the apostles, whom he had commissioned to evangelize the world, “until you are clothed with power from on high.” “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you . . .” (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8). When the Spirit had been poured out at Pentecost, “With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus . . .” (Acts 4:33); and “Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs . . .” (Acts 6:8; see also Peter’s similar statement about Jesus, who was “anointed . . . with the Holy Spirit and with power . . .” [Acts 10:38]). In these verses Luke tells us that from the first the gospel was spread by the Spirit’s power.

Paul prays for the Romans that “. . . by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Rom. 15:13). Then he speaks of “what Christ has wrought through me . . . by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Holy Spirit . . .” (Rom. 15:18–19). He reminds the Corinthians that at Corinth he preached Christ crucified “. . . in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might . . . rest . . . in the power of God” (1 Cor. 2:4–5; see also 2 Cor. 6:6–10; 10:4–6; 1 Thess. 1:5; 2:13). Of his thorn in the flesh he writes that Christ “said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses,” he continues, “that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Cor. 12:9; see also 4:7). He emphasizes to Timothy that God has given Christians “. . . a spirit of power and love and self-control,” and censures those who are “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding the form of religion but denying the power of it” (2 Tim. 1:7; 3:4–5). Christ, he says, gives strength (endunamoom, dunamoom, krataioom), so that the Christian becomes able to do what left to himself he never could have done (Eph. 3:16; 6:10; see also 1:19–23; Col. 1:11; 1 Tim. 1:12; 2 Tim. 4:17; see also 2 Cor. 12:10; 1 Peter 5:10). And his own triumphant cry from prison as he faces possible execution is: “I can do all things [meaning, all that God calls me to do] in him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13). There is no mistaking the thrust of all this. What we are being told is that supernatural living through supernatural empowering is at the very heart of New Testament Christianity, so that those who, while professing faith, do not experience and show forth this empowering are suspect by New Testament standards. And the empowering is always the work of the Holy Spirit, even when Christ only is named as its source, for Christ is the Spirit giver (John 1:33; 20:22; Acts 2:33). So power from Christ through the Spirit is a theme that should always be given prominence whenever and wherever Christianity is taught.

For more than three centuries evangelical believers have been making much of God’s promise and provision of power for living, and we should be glad that they have. For not only is this, as we saw, a key theme in Scripture, it speaks to an obvious and universal human need. All who are realistic about themselves are from time to time overwhelmed with a sense of inadequacy. All Christians time and again are forced to cry, “Lord, help me, strengthen me, enable me, give me power to speak and act in the way that pleases you, make me equal to the demands and pressures which I face.” We are called to fight evil in all its forms in and around us, and we need to learn that in this battle the Spirit’s power alone gives victory, while self-reliance leads only to the discovery of one’s impotence and the experience of defeat. Evangelical stress, therefore, on supernatural sanctity through the Spirit as something real and necessary has been and always will be timely teaching.

Power for Christians. The power of the Spirit in human lives, first taught with emphasis by seventeenth-century Puritans, became a matter of debate among evangelicals in the eighteenth century, when John Wesley began to teach that the Spirit will root sin out of men’s hearts entirely in this life. This was the “scriptural holiness” that Wesley believed God had raised up Methodism to spread. Non-Wesleyans recoiled, seeing the claim as unbiblical and delusive, and they constantly warned their constituencies against it. By the second half of the nineteenth century, however, the pendulum of reaction was thought to have swung too far; and many felt, rightly or wrongly, that antiperfectionist zeal had left Christians simply unaware that God has power to deliver from sinful practices, to energize a calmly triumphant righteousness, and to give piercing efficacy to preachers’ utterances. Quite suddenly the theme of power in human lives caught on as the topic for sermons, books, and informal discussion groups (“conversation meetings” as they were called) on both sides of the Atlantic. What was said by Phoebe Palmer, Asa Mahan, Robert Pearsall Smith and Hannah Whitall Smith, Evan Hopkins, Andrew Murray, R. A. Torrey, Charles G. Trumbull, Robert C. McQuilkin, F. B. Meyer, H. C. G. Moule, and others who spent their strength proclaiming the “secret” (their word) of power for believers was hailed as virtually a new revelation, which indeed the teachers themselves took it to be. A new evangelical movement was off and running.

The “secret” of what was sometimes called the Higher or Victorious Life has been most fully institutionalized in England’s annual Keswick Convention week. There to this day there operates, like a jazz band’s “head” arrangement, an agreed understanding that Monday’s theme is sin, Tuesday’s is Christ who saves from sin, Wednesday’s is consecration, Thursday’s is life in the Spirit, and Friday’s is empowered service by the sanctified, especially in missions. A Keswick periodical was launched in 1874, called The Christian’s Pathway of Power. After five years it changed its name to The Life of Faith, but this did not mean any change of character; faith is the pathway of power according to Keswick. Keswick’s influence has been worldwide. “Keswicks” crop up all over the English-speaking world. “Keswick teaching has come to be regarded as one of the most potent spiritual forces in recent Church history.”1 Preachers “of Keswick type,” specializing in convention addresses about power, have become a distinct evangelical ministerial species, alongside evangelists, Bible teachers, and speakers on prophetic subjects. Thus institutionalized and with its supporting constituency of those who appreciate the Keswick ethos—equable, cheerful, controlled, fastidious, very congenial to the middle class—the Keswick message of power for sanctity and service is plainly here to stay for some time yet.

Nor is this the only way in which the power theme has been developed in recent years. The power of Christ, not only to forgive sin, but also, by his Spirit, to deliver from enslaving evil is becoming again what it was in the first Christian centuries, a major ingredient in the church’s evangelistic message. This is so both in the urban West, where the evil faced is usually the power of destructive habit, and also among tribal communities, where the evil is still often the power of malevolent demons recognized as such. Older evangelism, with its stress on law, guilt, judgment, and the glory of Christ’s atoning death, certainly had strengths that today’s evangelism lacks, but on the whole it made little of the power theme, and so was to that extent poorer.

Since God’s promise and provision of power are realities, it must be judged a happy thing that the topic should be highlighted in the ways I have described. Emphasis on it in one form or another now marks virtually the whole of mainstream evangelical Christianity, along with the worldwide charismatic movement, and this is surely a hopeful sign for the future.

The Limitations of Power. Yet pleasure in today’s power talk cannot be unmixed. For experience shows that when the power theme is made central to our thinking about the Spirit and is not anchored in a deeper view of the Spirit’s ministry with a different center, unhappy disfigurements soon creep in. What sort of disfigurements? Well, take the following for starters. Pietistic concentration of interest on the felt ups and downs of the soul as it seeks power over this and that tends to produce an egoistic, introverted cast of mind that becomes indifferent to community concerns and social needs. The Spirit’s work tends to be spoken of man-centeredly, as if God’s power is something made available for us to switch on and use ( a frequent, telltale Keswick word) by a technique of thought and will for which consecration and faith is the approved name. Also, the idea gets around that God’s power works in us automatically so far as we let it do so, so that in effect we regulate it by the degree of our consecration and faith at any one time. Another notion popping up is that inner passivity, waiting for God’s power to carry us along, is a required state of heart (“let go and let God,” as the too popular slogan has it). Then, too, in evangelizing, it is almost conventional in certain circles to offer “power for living” to the spiritually needy as a resource that, apparently, they will be privileged to harness and control once they have committed themselves to Christ.

But all this sounds more like an adaptation of yoga than like biblical Christianity. To start with, it blurs the distinction between manipulating divine power at one’s own will (which is magic, exemplified by Simon Magus [Acts 8:18–24]) and experiencing it as one obeys God’s will (which is religion, exemplified by Paul [2 Cor. 12:9–10]). Furthermore, it is not realistic. Evangelists’ talk regularly implies that, once we become Christians, God’s power in us will immediately cancel out defects of character and make our whole lives plain sailing. This however is so unbiblical as to be positively dishonest. Certainly God sometimes works wonders of sudden deliverance from this or that weakness at conversion, just as he sometimes does at other times; but every Christian’s life is a constant fight against the pressures and pulls of the world, the flesh, and the devil; and his battle for Christlikeness (that is, habits of wisdom, devotion, love, and righteousness) is as grueling as it is unending. To suggest otherwise when evangelizing is a kind of confidence trick. Again Keswick talk regularly encourages us to expect at once too much and not enough—full freedom from the down drag of sin on a moment-by-moment basis (too much), yet without any progressive loosening of the grip of sin on our hearts at motivational level (not enough). This is bad theology, and is psychologically and spiritually unreal into the bargain. By saying as much in print in 1955 I gave great offense,2 but my points would, I think, be more widely taken today.

The real need here, as we shall in due course see, is for deeper insight into what the doctrine of the Spirit is really about—insight in the light of which our twisted talk of inward power put at our disposal can be set straight. That part of the argument, however, will be held back till my preliminary survey is complete. At present we should simply note that the power theme does not quite take us to the heart of the matter and move on.

Performance

In the second place, there are those who see the doctrine of the Spirit as essentially about performance, in the sense of exercising spiritual gifts. For these folk, the Spirit’s ministry seems both to start and to finish with the use of gifts—preaching, teaching, prophecy, tongues, healing, or whatever it may be. They see that, according to the New Testament, gifts (charismata) are God-given capacities to do things: specifically, to serve and edify others by words, deeds, or attitudes that express and communicate knowledge of Jesus Christ. They see also that, as “. . . the manifestation of the Spirit . . .” (1 Cor. 12:7), gifts are discerned in action: Christians show what God enables them to do by doing it. Thus they are led to think of performance as the essence of life in the Spirit and to suppose that the more gifts a person exhibits, the more Spirit-filled he or she is likely to be.

The Ministry of the Body. The first thing to say about this view, or mind-set as perhaps we had better call it, is that here again is an emphasis—this time, on the reality of gifts and the importance of putting them to use—which is in itself entirely right. For centuries the churches assumed that only a minority of Christians (good clergy and some few others) had gifts for ministry, and they gave the whole subject of gifts small attention. Prior to the twentieth century, only one full-scale study of the gifts of the Spirit had been written in English, penned by the Puritan John Owen in 1679 or 1680. The current stress on the universality of gifts and God’s expectation of every-member ministry in the body of Christ was long overdue, for New Testament teaching on both points is explicit and clear. Here are the main statements.

“There are varieties of gifts [charismata], but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service [diakoniai], but the same Lord; and there are varieties of working [energeµmata], but it is the same God who inspires them all in every one” (1 Cor. 12:4–6). “But grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. . . . we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body . . . when each part is working properly, makes bodily growth and upbuilds itself in love” (Eph. 4:7, 15–16). “As each has received a gift, employ it for one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Peter 4:10). “For as in one body we have many members [meleµ, ‘limbs’: Members is always limbs in the New Testament], and all the members do not have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them . . .” (Rom. 12:4–6). It is not only clergy and office bearers who are gifted; all Christians are. Official ministers must recognize this and use their own gifts in preparing lay Christians to use theirs. “These were his [Christ’s] gifts: some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip God’s people [Greek, hagioi, “the saints”] for work in his service, to the building up of the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:11–12 NEB).

The King James Version (alas) masks Paul’s meaning here by making him say that Christ gave apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastor-teachers “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,” as if these three phrases are parallel statements of what the clergy are for. A sixteenth-century edition of Scripture, which omitted not from the seventh commandment (Exod. 20:14), very properly went down in history as the Wicked Bible; with equal propriety we could speak of the Wicked (or if you like alliteration, Calamitous) Comma that the King James Version put after saints. For by thus restricting “the ministry” to what official leaders do, this comma not only hides but actually reverses Paul’s sense, setting clericalism where every-member ministry ought to be. (By clericalism I mean that combination of conspiracy and tyranny in which the minister claims and the congregation agrees that all spiritual ministry is his responsibility and not theirs: a notion both disreputable in principle and Spirit-quenching in practice.)

The Plymouth Brethren proclaimed the universality of gifts and the rightness of every-member ministry from the middle of the last century on, but because their thesis was bound up with a reactionary polemic against trained and salaried clergy in supposedly apostate churches, little notice was taken of it. Recently, however, both the ecumenical and the charismatic movements have seized on this aspect of biblical truth and made it almost a Christian commonplace, with some happy results. One effect has been to create in many quarters an unprecedented willingness to experiment with new structural and liturgical forms for church life, so as to make room for the full use of all gifts for the benefit of the whole congregation. With that has come a new seriousness in checking traditional patterns of worship and order to make sure that they do not in fact inhibit gifts and so actually quench the Spirit. This is all to the good.

Keeping Performance in Focus. Unhappily, there is a debit side, too: Three big disfigurements have periodically marred the new approach.

First, magnifying lay ministry has led some laymen to undervalue and indeed discount the special responsibilities to which clergy are ordained and to forget the respect that is due to the minister’s office and leadership.

Second, emphasis on God’s habit of giving saints gifts that correspond to nothing of which they seemed capable before conversion (and make no mistake, that really is God’s habit) has blinded some to the fact that the most significant gifts in the church’s life (preaching, teaching, leadership, counsel, support) are ordinarily natural abilities sanctified.

Third, some have balanced their encouragement of extreme freedom in personal Christian performance by introducing extremely authoritarian forms of pastoral oversight, in some cases going beyond the worst forms of medieval priestcraft in taking control of Christians’ consciences.

Plainly these developments are defects. But to call for their correction is not in any way to denigrate the principles of which they have been the less welcome by-products. The principles are right, and there is no high-quality church life without practical observance of them.

But something is deeply wrong, nonetheless, when attention centers on the manifesting of gifts (starting, perhaps, with tongues at a personal Pentecost) as if this were the Spirit’s main ministry to individuals and hence the aspect of his work in which we should chiefly concentrate. What is wrong becomes clear the moment we look at 1 Corinthians. As the Corinthians were proud of their knowledge (8:1–2), so they were cock-a-hoop, or, as some would say, gung ho, about their gifts. They despised fellow worshipers and visiting preachers who struck them as less gifted than themselves and tried to outdo one another in showing off their gifts whenever the church met. Paul rejoices that they are knowledgeable and gifted (1:4–7), but tells them that they are at the same time babyish and carnal, behaving in ways that for Christians are inconsistent and a cause for shame (3:1–4; 5:1–13; 6:1–8; 11:17–22). They were valuing gifts and freedom above righteousness, love, and service; and that scale of values, says Paul, is wrong. No church known to us received such wide-ranging apostolic rebuke as did that at Corinth.

The Corinthians thought themselves “men of the Spirit” (pneumatikoi, 14:37) by reason of their knowledge and gifts. Paul labors, however, to show them that the essential element in true spirituality (assuming Spirit-given understanding of the gospel, which is basic to everything) is ethical. “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (6:19–20). The “still more excellent way,” surpassing all the performances that the Corinthians most prized, is the way of love: “. . . patient and kind . . . not jealous or boastful . . . not arrogant or rude . . . not irritable or resentful. . . . Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (13:4–7). Without love, says Paul, you can have the grandest gifts in the world, and still be—nothing (13:1–3)—that is, be spiritually dead. Paul suspected that some in the Corinthian church were in fact “nothing” in this sense. “Come to your right mind, and sin no more,” he writes to them. “For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame” (15:34; see also 2 Cor. 13:5).

What the Corinthians had to realize, and what some today may need to relearn, is that, as the Puritan John Owen put it, there can be gifts without graces; that is, one may be capable of performances that benefit others spiritually and yet be a stranger oneself to the Spirit-wrought inner transformation that true knowledge of God brings. The manifestation of the Spirit in charismatic performance is not the same thing as the fruit of the Spirit in Christlike character (see Gal. 5:22–23), and there may be much of the former with little or none of the latter. You can have many gifts and few graces; you can even have genuine gifts and no genuine graces at all, as did Balaam, Saul, and Judas. This, writes Owen, is because:

 

    Spiritual gifts are placed and seated in the mind or understanding only; whether they are ordinary or extraordinary they have no other hold nor residence in the soul. And they are in the mind as it is notional and theoretical, rather than as it is practical. They are intellectual abilities and no more. I speak of them which have any residence in us; for some gifts, as miracles and tongues, consisted only in a transient operation of an extraordinary power. Of all others illumination is the foundation, and spiritual light their matter. So the apostle declares in his order of expression, Heb.vi.4. [where Owen identifies “powers of the age to come” with spiritual gifts]. The will, and the affections, and the conscience, are unconcerned in them. Wherefore they change not the heart with power, although they may reform the life by the efficacy of light. And although God doth not ordinarily bestow them on flagitious persons, nor continue them with such as after the reception of them become flagitious; yet they may be in those who were unrenewed, and have nothing in them to preserve them absolutely from the worst of sins.3

 

So no one should treat his gifts as proof that he pleases God or as guaranteeing his salvation. Spiritual gifts do neither of these things.

All through the New Testament, when God’s work in human lives is spoken of, the ethical has priority over the charismatic. Christlikeness (not in gifts, but in love, humility, submission to the providence of God, and sensitiveness to the claims of people) is seen as what really matters. This is particularly clear in Paul’s prayers for believers. He asks, for instance, that the Colossians may be “strengthened with all power, according to . . . [God’s] glorious might, for . . .” what? Ministerial exploits and triumphs through a superabundant display of gifts? No, “all endurance and patience with joy” (Col. 1:11). Again, he asks that the Philippians’ love may abound, “. . . with knowledge and all discernment, so that you . . .” what? May preach and argue with cogency, or heal the sick with authority, or speak in tongues with fluency? No, “. . . may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruits of righteousness which come through Jesus Christ . . .” (Phil. 1:9–11; see also Eph. 3:14–19).

This point touches not only those who are preoccupied with finding and using their gifts, but all who, betrayed perhaps by their own vigorous temperament, measure the Spirit’s work in them by the number of Christian activities in which they invest themselves and the skill and success with which they manage to carry them out.

My argument is that any mind-set which treats the Spirit’s gifts (ability and willingness to run around and do things) as more important than his fruit (Christlike character in personal life) is spiritually wrongheaded and needs correcting. The best corrective will be a view of the Spirit’s work that sets activities and performances in a framework that displays them as acts of serving and honoring God and gives them value as such, rather than leaving us to suppose them valuable just because they are dramatic or eye-catching or impress people or fill vital roles in the church or transcend our former expectations from the person concerned. A framework of this kind will be offered shortly. Meantime, let us note that concentrating on gifts and activities does not take us to the heart of the truth about the Spirit, any more than concentrating on the experience of power does, and proceed with our review.

Purity

In the third place, there are those for whom the doctrine of the Spirit centers on purifying and purgation, that is, God’s work of cleansing his children from sin’s defilement and pollution by enabling them to resist temptation and do what is right. For these folk, the key thought is of the holiness that the Spirit imparts as he progressively sanctifies us, enabling us to mortify indwelling sin (that is, put it to death: Rom. 8:14; see also Col. 3:5) and changing us “. . . from one degree of glory to another . . .” (2 Cor. 3:18). The heart of the matter for them is neither the experience of power as such nor the quantity or quality of Christians’ public performances, but our inward conflict as we battle for holiness against sin and seek the Spirit’s help to keep ourselves pure and undefiled.

Here is yet another emphasis that in itself is fully biblical. Unregenerate human beings are indeed, as Paul says, “. . . under the power of sin . . .” (Rom. 3:9), and sin still “indwells” those who are born again (Rom. 7:20, 23; see also Heb. 12:1; 1 John 1:8). Sin, which is in essence an irrational energy of rebellion against God—a lawless habit of self-willed arrogance, moral and spiritual, expressing itself in egoism of all sorts—is something that God hates in all its forms (Isa. 61:8; Jer. 44:4; Prov. 6:16–19) and that defiles us in his sight. Therefore Scripture views it not only as guilt needing to be forgiven, but also as filth needing to be cleansed.

Accordingly, Isaiah looks for a day when “the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion . . . by a spirit of judgment and by a spirit of burning” (Isa. 4:4; see also the call to wash, 1:16; Jer. 4:14). Ezekiel reports God as saying: “I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you” (36:25). Zechariah foretells that “. . . there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness” (13:1). Malachi warns that God “. . . is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver . . .” (3:2–3; see also Isa. 1:25; Zech. 13:9). Sinful behavior, say these passages, makes us, as it were, dirty before God; sinful behavior disgusts and repels God as we ourselves are disgusted and repelled if we find dirt where cleanliness ought to be; and God in the holiness of his grace is resolved not only to forgive our sinful behavior, but also to bring it to an end.

All purity laws and purification rituals in the Old Testament point to this divine work of purging out what pollutes. So do all New Testament references to salvation, which describe it as being washed and cleansed (John 13:10; 15:3; Acts 22:16; 1 Cor. 6:11; Eph. 5:25–27; Heb. 9:13–14; 10:22; 1 John 1:7–9), and refer to the Christian life as a matter of cleansing oneself from whatever makes one dirty in God’s eyes (2 Cor. 7:1; Eph. 5:3–5; 2 Tim. 2:20–22; 1 John 3:3). So in particular is it reflected in Christian baptism, which is neither more nor less than a symbolic wash.

To highlight the work of the Spirit in making Christians aware and ashamed of sin’s defilement and in stirring us to “. . . cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, and make holiness perfect in the fear of God” (2 Cor. 7:1) is thus to underscore a biblical emphasis—one that (be it said) needs a good deal of underscoring in a decadent age like ours, in which moral standards count for so little and the grace of shame is so much at a discount.

Moreover, it is equally right to stress that the Christian’s present quest for purity of life means conscious tension and struggle and incomplete achievement all along the line. “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you would” (Gal. 5:17).

Whether or not we read Romans 7:14–25 as a cross section of healthy Christian experience and so as illustrating this point directly (some do, some don’t; we shall discuss the matter later), there is no room for uncertainty as to what Paul is telling us here in Galatians about the reality of conflict in the Christian life. You must realize, he says, that there are two opposed sorts of desire in every Christian’s makeup. The opposition between them appears at the level of motive. There are desires that express the natural anti-God egoism of fallen human nature, and there are desires that express the supernatural, God-honoring, God-loving motivation that is implanted by new birth. Now because he has in him these opposite motivational urgings, one holding him back whenever the other draws him forward, the Christian finds that his heart is never absolutely pure, nor does he ever do anything that is absolutely right, even though his constant goal is perfect service of God springing from what the hymn calls “loyal singleness of heart.” In this sense he is being prevented every moment from doing what he wants to do. He lives with the knowledge that everything he has done might and should have been better: not only the lapses into which pride, weakness, and folly have betrayed him, but also his attempts to do what was right and good. After each such attempt and each particular action, he regularly sees specific ways in which it could have been improved, both motivationally and in performance. What felt at the time like the best he could do does not appear so in retrospect. He spends his life reaching after perfection and finding that his reach always exceeds his grasp.

This does not of course mean that he never achieves righteousness in any measure at all. Paul is envisioning a Christian life not of constant, total defeat, but of constant moral advance. “. . . Walk by [in] the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh” is the direct summons of Galatians 5:16, a summons to which verse 17 is attached as a mere explanatory footnote. It is clear both here and wherever else Paul teaches Christian conduct that he expects the believer always to be moving forward in the formation of godly habits and the practice of active Christlikeness.

The Christian, Paul says, has been freed from slavery to sin so that now he may practice love and righteousness “. . . in the new life of the Spirit” (Rom. 7:6); and what he now can do he now must do, for this holiness is the will of God (Gal. 5:13–14; Rom. 6:17–7:6; 1 Thess. 4:1–8). The Christian can and must mortify sin through the Spirit (Rom. 8:13); he can and must walk in the Spirit, in a steady course of godliness and good works (Rom. 8:4; Gal. 5:16, 25). This means that he will stop doing certain things that he did before and that unconverted folk still do, and he will start doing other things instead. The desires of the Spirit, felt in the believer’s own spirit (that is, his consciousness) are to be followed, but the desires of the flesh are not to be indulged. The Christian’s life must be one of righteousness as the expression of his repentance and rebirth. That is basic.

The point I am developing out of Paul’s words in verse 17 is only this: The Christian who thus walks in the Spirit will keep discovering that nothing in his life is as good as it should be; that he has never fought as hard as he might have done against the clogging restraints and contrary pulls of his own inbred perversity; that there is an element of motivational sin, at least, in his best works; that his daily living is streaked with defilements, so that he has to depend every moment on God’s pardoning mercy in Christ, or he would be lost; and that he needs to keep asking, in the light of his own felt weakness and inconstancy of heart, that the Spirit will energize him to the end to maintain the inward struggle. “You cannot achieve as much in the way of holiness as you want to achieve.” Paul evidently sees this as belonging to the inside story of all human saintliness. Who, now, is going to say that he is wrong?

Certainly, since Clement and Origen mapped out the purging of the soul from the passions, and the desert fathers told of their fights against tormenting fantasies of wine, women, and song, and Augustine spelled out experientially the nature of sin and grace, the inescapability of conflict with temptation has been a fixed emphasis in Christian devotional teaching. Luther and Calvin made much of it, and Lutherans and Calvinists, the latter especially, have followed in their footsteps. Over many centuries the truth, realism, and healthiness of this point have been both called in question and vindicated in discussion over and over again, and no serious challenge can be brought against it now. Stress on the reality of struggle as by God’s grace one’s life is progressively cleansed and purged is fully scriptural and entirely proper.

Pitfalls of the Moral-Struggle Doctrine. But for all that, experience shows that pitfalls surround those who make moral struggle central in their thinking about the Holy Spirit. Their tendency is to grow legalistic, making tight rules for themselves and others about abstaining from things indifferent, imposing rigid and restrictive behavior patterns as bulwarks against worldliness and attaching great importance to observing these man-made taboos. They become Pharisaic, more concerned to avoid what defiles and adhere to principle without compromise than to practice the love of Christ. They become scrupulous, unreasonably fearful of pollution where none threatens and obstinately unwilling to be reassured. They become joyless, being so preoccupied with thoughts of how grim and unrelenting the battle is. They become morbid, always introspective and dwelling on the rottenness of their hearts in a way that breeds only gloom and apathy. They become pessimistic about the possibility of moral progress, both for themselves and for others; they settle for low expectations of deliverance from sin, as if the best they can hope for is to be kept from getting worse. Such attitudes are, however, spiritual neuroses, distorting, disfiguring, diminishing and so in reality dishonoring the sanctifying work of God’s Spirit in our lives.

Granted, these states of mind are usually products of more than one factor. Accidents of temperament and early training, meticulous mental habits turned inward by shyness or insecurity, a low self-image and perhaps actual self-hatred often go toward the making of them; so do certain in-turned types of ecclesiastical culture and community. But inadequate views of the Spirit always prove to underlie them, too, and that is my point now. These folk, like the other two groups we looked at, need a different focus for their thinking about the Spirit, to move them on from the somber spiritual egoism that I have just described. In a moment I will say what I think that focus should be.

Presentation

A fourth approach that must now be looked at views the Holy Spirit’s ministry as essentially one of presentation; that is, in simplest terms, making us aware of things. This is the view of Bishop J. V. Taylor in The Go-Between God.

Taylor sees the Spirit (ruach in Hebrew, pneuma in Greek, each meaning “wind blowing” or “breath blown”) as the biblical name for a divine “current of communication” that produces awareness of objects, of oneself, of others, and of God as significant realities demanding choices that in some way involve self-sacrifice. It is by this awareness-choice-sacrifice behavior pattern that the influence of the Spirit, the “life-giving Go-Between”4 who operates (so Taylor urges) in and through all nature, history, human life, and world religion, may be known. The awareness, an immediate inkling of meaning and claim, is seen as both rational and emotional. The resultant choice and sacrifice are shaped each time by that of which one has become aware and to which one is responding. The Spirit’s constant work since Pentecost has been to make individuals aware of deity in Jesus so that they will reproduce in their own lives the spirit of Jesus’s self-sacrifice for sins at Calvary. In evoking the responses for which this awareness calls, the Spirit acts most potently in like-minded groups where all may heighten the awareness of each and each may heighten the awareness of all. Taylor works this out in a series of reflections on the actual life of older and younger churches, which bodies he sees as both tokens and means of the divine mission around which all his thinking is ultimately organized.

Taylor is a gifted theologian, whereas most exponents of the other positions which we have reviewed have been pastors promoting what scholars fastidiously call “popular piety”; so it is not surprising that his level of reflection should be deeper than theirs. Much in his book is impressive. To start with, his viewpoint is consistently God-centered. Not only does his key thought (the “current of communication”) spring, according to the classic Trinitarian insight, from the Spirit’s “eternal employ between the Father and the Son, holding each in awareness of the other,”5 he also sees further into the nature of the Spirit’s free lordship than do those who think of the Spirit as God’s power given to us to use or to make us perform and as released in us automatically once we remove the blockages. Taylor sees that the Spirit is not given to us as a kind of pep pill and that it is not for us to harness and control him. So he never slips into the shallowness of those who talk as if we let the Spirit loose in ourselves by means of decisions and acts of will that are not themselves his doing. In all that Taylor says about the Spirit as communicator and quickener, he never forgets that we are creatures—sinful, silly, varied, mixed-up human creatures—and that the Spirit is our divine Lord, whose work within us passes our understanding. Nor does he allow us the self-absorption of concentrating on our own inward battle with sin, for he sees the Spirit as constantly directing attention upward and outward to God, to Jesus Christ, and to others.

Hence, while Taylor underscores each person’s individuality before God (awareness being an individual matter), his overall approach is consistently group-, church-, and community-oriented and in no way individualistic. Yet with this he negates in principle all the restrictions that culture and convention would set on Spirit-led community, observing that as Jesus fitted into no established cultural mold in his own time, so the Spirit smashes any within which we try to confine him today.

Taylor also shrewdly theologizes charismatic “manifestations of spontaneity and unrational response”—ventures in healing, glossolalia, and prophecy in particular—in terms of the wholeness of man who is so much more than conscious analytical reason and whose total being is the sphere of the Spirit’s work. Yet with this he warns us against the egoism that is both a root and a fruit of immaturity and as such always threatens the charismatic ethos with corruption. Again Taylor shows wisdom (though not, perhaps, quite all that was needed) in plumbing the dangerous truth that the Spirit’s moral guidance will grow more creative as maturity increases, taking us beyond (though never, I think, outside) the realm of biblically based formal rules.

These are genuine excellences.

Defects in Taylor’s Account. Two shortcomings, however, go with these strengths—shortcomings that should be seen as Taylor’s failures to carry through his biblical approach with full biblical rigor.

First, he says too little about the word that the Spirit presents. In discussing this theme, having cited two references to God’s words (Isa. 59:21; Num. 23:5), he goes straight on to speak of the Johannine and patristic Word, the personal divine Logos, as if words and Word were one.6 But both biblical usage and common sense assure us that they are not. Words that witness to, among other things, the personal Word are obviously distinct from that Word. (Karl Barth, whom Taylor may be following here, certainly claimed that these are two of the three forms of the one Word of God, but that claim itself was a theological conundrum: Nowhere in the Bible is any such thing said, and at half a century’s distance it looks as if this was an unnoticed lurch on Barth’s part into the kind of beyond-the-Bible speculation that he professed to abhor.)

What was needed to complete Taylor’s account of Spirit-born awareness was an analysis of how the Spirit authenticates the revealed words of God, his teachings and messages both as received and relayed by prophets and apostles and then as written in the form of Holy Scripture; and of how as interpreter the Spirit brings us to the place where we actually grasp what God is hereby saying to us. But Taylor offers nothing on these questions.

Second, Taylor says too little about the Christ whom the Spirit presents. Surprisingly, he gives no systematic review of how Paul and John, the two great New Testament theologians of the Spirit, set forth the Spirit’s many-sided mediation of Christ, and this greatly weakens his exposition. His own references to the Spirit making us aware of Christ, while centering admirably on the Jesus of history, fail to lay equal stress on Jesus’s present reign and future return, his constant intercession for us, the reality of his friendship now, and the Christian’s sure hope of being with him forever. The effect of these omissions is to dilute radically the meaning of awareness of Christ.

“It does not matter,” Taylor writes, “whether the Christ who fills our vision is the historical Jesus, or the living Savior, or the Christ of the Body and the Blood, or the Logos and Lord of the universe, or the Christ in my neighbor and in his poor. These are only aspects of his being. In whatever aspect he is most real to us, what matters is that we adore him.”7 That is finely said; but it would have been finer doctrine had Taylor added something about the need to bring together all these aspects, and indeed more, if our vision of Christ is to be worthy of him and adequate to the reality of what, according to the Scriptures, he is to us.

In the last analysis, it does matter how we habitually think of Christ; our spiritual health really does depend in great measure on whether or not our vision of him is adequate. For to know Christ is not just to know his cosmic status and earthly history; rather it is, as Melanchthon said long ago, to know his benefits—that is, to know how much he has to give us in his character as messenger, mediator, and personal embodiment of the saving grace of God. But if your vision of Christ himself is deficient, your knowledge of his benefits will of necessity be deficient, too.

I do not mean by this that no one ever receives more from Jesus than he knows about before receiving it. What I said earlier about the generosity of the God who can do, and does, for those who love him “. . . far more abundantly [NIV has “immeasurably more”] than all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20) should be recalled here. Jesus Christ is what he is to believers (divine-human Savior, Lord, mediator, shepherd, advocate, prophet, priest, king, atoning sacrifice, life, hope, and so forth), irrespective of how much or how little of this multiple relationship they have with him is clear to their minds. An apostolic theologian like Paul, for instance, had it all far clearer in his mind than did the penitent thief of Luke 23:39–43; yet Jesus’s saving ministry was as rich to the one as to the other, and we may be sure that at this very moment the two of them, the apostle and the bandit, are together before the throne, their differences in theological expertise on earth making no difference whatsoever to their enjoyment of Christ in heaven. “. . . The same Lord . . . bestows his riches upon all who call upon him” (Rom. 10:12)—not just upon Gentiles alongside Jews, but also upon the theologically unskilled alongside the theologically learned. No one should question that.

But this is my point of concern: The less people know about Christ, the sooner it will be necessary to raise the question whether their response to the Jesus of whom they have only hazy and distorted ideas can really be viewed as Christian faith. The further folk depart or stand aloof from biblical categories of thought about Jesus (those listed above being perhaps the basic ones), the less real knowledge of Christ can they have, till they reach the point where, though they talk about him much (as Moslems, Marxists, and theosophists, for instance, will do), they do not really know him at all. For the biblical categories are all concerned with Christ as the answer to questions that the Bible itself teaches us to pose about our relationship to God, questions that arise from the reality of divine holiness and our sin; and the further one stands from those categories, and therefore from those questions, the less knowledge of the real Christ and the real God can one have, in the nature of the case. A person who thought that England is ruled today by an ex-go-go dancer named Elizabeth who legislates at her discretion from a wood hut in Polynesia could justly be said to know nothing of the real queen, and similarly it takes more to constitute real, valid saving knowledge of Jesus than simply being able to mouth his name.

To put the matter another way: The givenness of Jesus Christ is bound up with the givenness of New Testament theology, which is (so I urge, following its own claim as mainstream Christian tradition has always done) nothing less than the Father’s own witness through the Spirit to the Son. Surely there is no real Jesus save the Jesus of that theology. And New Testament theology, whether in Paul, John, Luke, Matthew, Peter, the writer to the Hebrews, or whoever, is essentially proclamation that Jesus Christ saves men from the bondage to false gods, false beliefs, false ways, false hopes, and false posturings before the Creator, into which all non-Christian religions and philosophies, impressive as they often are, are locked. New Testament proclamation diagnoses this whole kaleidoscope of falseness and falsehood as rooted in actual if unwitting suppression of general revelation, misdirection of man’s worshiping instincts, and ignorance or rejection of the gospel God has sent. Romans 1:18–3:20, to look no further, is decisive on that; and certainly Emil Brunner was correct when he wrote: “In all religion there is a recollection of the Divine Truth which has been lost; in all religion, there is a longing after the divine light and the divine love; but in all religion also there yawns an abyss of demonic distortion of the Truth, and of man’s effort to escape from God.”8

But if so, then the antithesis between the God-taught truth of the gospel and all other ideas of what is ultimately real and true must always be lovingly yet firmly pointed up and may never out of lax benevolence or courtesy be watered down. Otherwise, the New Testament account of the “. . . unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph. 3:8), who saves from the guilt, power, and ultimately the fruits and presence of sin, will have to be watered down, too, so as to fit into alien molds of thought. And to do that would be to relativize the gospel in a radical and ruinous way. For though within these alien frames of reference some New Testament thoughts might be given some weight, the absolute validity, definitive status, and unqualified authority of New Testament theology as such would all the time be denied—denied, that is, by the very fact of not letting it criticize and amend the frames of reference themselves: Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Moslem, Marxist, or whatever they might be. For it is simply not true that all religions and ideologies ask the same basic questions about either God or man or look in the same direction for answers.

A vast difference exists between dialogue that explores the antithesis between Christianity and other faiths, the antithesis that ultimately requires negation of the one in order to affirm the other, and the sort of dialogue that looks for Christ in, or seeks to graft him onto, some other faith as it stands. It has to be said that despite Taylor’s talk of the conversion, transformation, death, and resurrection of ethnic and post-Christian faiths through meeting Christ as presented by the Spirit,9 it is not at all clear that what he is after is the first of these rather than the second. This haziness is in fact a third weakness in Taylor’s book, brought on by the two weaknesses already pinpointed—namely, his omitting to reckon with the reality of “God’s Word written”10 and to observe that knowledge of Christ must be measured, among other texts, by how much of the New Testament teaching about Christ is or is not embraced.

The above, however, is no criticism of Taylor’s key thought of the Spirit as the divine Go-Between who presents realities, compels choices, and evokes sacrificial responses. To find the New Testament key thought in terms of which we should understand the Spirit’s ministry to Christians yesterday and today, we do not need to move far beyond the point at which Taylor stops. He has led us almost to our goal.

Tracing Our Path

Glance back for a moment at our path so far.

We started by noting that though the Holy Spirit is much spoken of today, and his influence is truly claimed for many different sorts of Christian experience, different key ideas about his essential ministry dominate different Christian minds. This shows (so I urged) that the Spirit is not always being seen in proper focus. Many think about the Spirit in a way that, though not wholly false, is certainly smudgy and not true enough. Hence spring all sorts of inadequacy and practical imbalance, sometimes threatening to stifle the Spirit whom in our incompetence we are seeking to honor. Getting the Spirit into better focus is, therefore, an urgent matter.

To take the measure of the contemporary situation, we looked at four key ideas round which currently influential concepts of the Spirit’s ministry have been organized: power for living, performance in service, purity of motive and action, and presentation for decision. This list of “sweet p’s” (a preacher’s ploy for pointedness. Pardonable? Perhaps) is not, indeed, exhaustive. It could at once be lengthened by adding perception, and push (or pull), and personhood. For as we move out from the circles where living Christianity is found today (the circles on which our sights have been trained so far), we find folk who do in fact think that the Spirit’s central and characteristic work is just to enhance awareness (perception) as such, so that any heightened state of consciousness, whether religious (Christian, Hindu, cultic, ecstatic, mystical), aesthetic (being “sent” by music, sex, poetry, sunsets, drugs), or idealistic (as in passionate patriotism, romance, or devotion to a group or a cause), is, so to speak, the Spirit’s signature. We meet others who, forgetting what nature and Satan can do with the inordinate instincts and repressed reasonings and sick fantasies of mixed-up specimens of fallen humanity like ourselves, equate the Spirit’s moving with inner urges (pushes or pulls) as such, especially when these are linked with visual and auditory images (visions, voices, dreams) that come suddenly and strongly and recur insistently. We run across yet others who will claim that to make folk realize the mystery of their own individuality (personhood) and the worth of other persons and the demands of truly personal relationships, is the Spirit’s essential work, which he carries on among men of all religions and