Sunday, May 26, 2013

How Do You Handle A Problem Like the Spirit of Truth?

I have heard it said that some preachers dread having to deliver the sermon for Trinity Sunday. I guess to them it seemed difficult enough to talk about each person of the Trinity on their own, but to have to tackle all three at once, and to explain it all in 10-15 minutes to a bunch of mind numbed pewsitters might be too much. Over the years, I have heard a lot of these sermons, some good and some bad. I have heard the Trinity described as giving us boundaries, I have heard that we tend to gravitate towards different sides of the Trinity at different times in our lives, I have heard it called a great mystery that might be too great for the preacher to address as our preacher suggested today, I have even heard it called a human construct, or that Tertullian in 211 or 212 AD is somehow to blame.

Why is the Trinity a stumbling block for some?

Possibly because we tend to study things by breaking them down into their component parts, and then studying each part by breaking it down further, and further, and further until we have something small enough to easily grasp, but by which point we have a hard time seeing the greater whole from whence we began.

Or maybe because it represents a great truth that mere humans cannot put into words?

Nevertheless, I suspect many a preacher tried to do so today.

But how can anyone present a believable explanation of that spiritual truth to an age that lacks faith in Truth itself?

How would Jesus as presented to us by John have handled it? Would he still claim the following:

"I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.
Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.
He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.
All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you."
John 16:12-15 (KJV)
There is definitely something premodern in the notions of
a) a spirit,
b) a spirit of Truth, and
c) that there is such a thing as "all truth".

And what about St. Paul? Would he feed us with Father, Son, and Holy Ghost in just a few short lines and expect us to swallow it whole?
"Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;
And patience, experience; and experience, hope:
And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us."
Romans 5:1-5 (KJV)
From the standpoint of this lowly pewsitter, I think the fact that we wrestle with the Spirit of Truth is a good enough sign for me that he does exist, just as the fact that we continue to wrestle with the Trinity, and that we get all beat up and bruised as a result, is a good sign that it exists as well.

I leave you with the following questions:

1. So how do you handle a problem like the Spirit of Truth?

2. Is your Spirit of Truth another person's Spirit of Truth?

3. Are certain new things that come along (such as same sex blessings in the Episcopal church) an action of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth as some claim, and how can you be sure?

4. Do you regard the doctrine of the Trinity as somehow binding or impeding the Spirit when He is said to be doing something new in the Church?

5. Can the Spirit of Truth act in ways that are contrary to the words of the Father and Son as found in scripture?

6. How does your church handle this?

Here's one of my favorite preachers on the subject of Q. 5,
"I hold that there is a perfect harmony and unison in the action of the three People of the Trinity, in bringing any person to glory, and that all three cooperate and work a joint work in his deliverance from sin and hell. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Spirit. The Father is merciful, the Son is merciful, the Holy Spirit is merciful. The same Three who said at the beginning, 'Let us create,' said also, 'Let us redeem and save.' I hold that everyone who reaches heaven will ascribe all the glory of his salvation to Father, Son and Holy Spirit, three People in one God."

~ J.C. Ryle Tract: Christ is All (h/t Eric Kowalker at the linked Ryle site)

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