Sunday, June 6, 2010

Spirit and Word or Spirit or Word

Kicking around the Anglican blogosphere on a rainy day this thought comes to me, though it has been lurking in my mind for a day or two: all this talk of 'the Spirit', as in 'the leading of the Spirit' and 'listening to the Spirit', can head in two directions, one away from the Word and one towards the Word. Away from the Word seems to be the direction we head when we are doubtful that the Word written down for us in Scripture is relevant today. A kind of post-Word Spirit is being invoked.

Towards the Word is where (my theological education tells me) we should be heading. 'Word and Spirit' go together like 'Father and Son' and 'Word and Sacrament'. Pairs which should be inseparable. The leading of the Spirit is, should be towards God's Word written. Listening to the Spirit is listening to Scripture ... as we affirm Sunday by Sunday in our eucharists after our Old Testament and Epistle readings:

'Hear what the Spirit is saying to the church.
Thanks be to God.'


spicksandspecks said...

I noticed too the PB's divorce of the Spirit and the Word - both written and incarnate. Her only use of the Bible at all was to say that the Pentecost story shows how the Spirit spoke good news to all the people, and thus we shouldn't impose control on how different people experience the Spirit.
Another blog post I've seen (can't remember where now) asked the perfectly valid question "How many Spirits does she think there are?" She seems to think the Spirit speaks with multiple voices - ie with contradictory messages to different churches depending on their context.
Andrew Reid

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Andrew
Thanks for commenting.
I think your comment apt re the PB's letter; however I would like to be clear to other readers: this post reflects wider reading than that one letter.

Suem said...

I think the Spirit helps us relate and connect God's word to real life with all its complexity. The PB did pick out Christ's intriguing statement that he has "more to teach" that his disciples would not be able to bear.Our understanding of scripture at any one point in history is not definitive, rather scripture is something which does so much, teaches, inspires, guides, shapes us, but it is arid and dry if not informed by love and grace.
Quite simply, people throughout history HAVE interpreted scripture differently in different contexts. Christ never said, "you will remain static", he said, "I have more to teach you."
It is the underlying message, of God's love and redemptive power, of his desire that we respond to him, that remain constant, however strongly we disagree about matters such as women priests or sexuality.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Suem,
I like your statement, "I think the Spirit helps us relate and connect God's word to real life with all its complexity". It has a tight connection between Spirit and Word!

Suem said...

I do value Scripture enormously. I believe it is inspired by God, I do not think it is inerrant. Human beings wrote the bible, other human beings decided which bits of writing were Holy writ and which weren't. Human beings, no matter how inspired by God, are not infallible. None of us are pure and simple conduits of God's voice and we are all products of our place in a particular cultural historical moment.

I do believe the underlying principles and the message of redemption and salvation transcend any given moment in time or history and are eternal, but I think scripture needs to be examined in context and in the light of the cultural setting and understanding that informs it.