September 19, 2020

Winning The War, Part V—It Is To Your Advantage That I Go Away

doveThe layoffs, in retrospect, shouldn’t have been a surprise.  All of the signs were there, the top management jumping ship, the ramping up of the propaganda concerning the rosy future of the company, the wave of earnest young consultants walking around asking questions.  I was taken in the first wave of three, and so I lost the most comfortable sinecure of my entire life.   The panic attacks started about a half a month later.  I awoke in the middle of the night with cold sweat pouring off my back, my heart racing like the engine of a Formula One race car.  Fortunately, the panic attacks went away after a time.  For some people they don’t, and I count myself extremely fortunate.

Slowly, we learned to live at a less opulent level, and were the better for it.  About five years ago though, the attacks came back.  This time, they attacks were occasioned by the material I was reading about climate change, ecological collapse, and Peak Oil.  In particular, I got myself really worked up over Peak Oil, the concept that the production of crude oil had peaked and was heading for a slow but inexorable decline.  When I thought about how intertwined petroleum and petroleum products were in every facet of our society, I began to despair deeply.  It is one thing to lose your job.  It is another thing to lose your civilization.

At one point, I blamed the Lord.  “Why did you have to go?”  I upbraided Him.  “I could sleep nights if I knew you were the Secretary General of the United Nations with plenipotentiary powers.  As it stands, we’ll probably end up with Tony Blair or or some other Eurocrat.  Why couldn’t you stick around and fix things?”  Almost immediately I realized what I had done.  I had joined the crowd who wanted to make Jesus king by force after his picnic in the wilderness.

It was at this time that one passage of the Gospels stood out with particular force. It is to your advantage that I go away (John 16.7).  Jesus was saying here that it was to the particular advantage of the apostles, and to the rest of humanity as well, that He return to the Father.  That was a better state of affairs.  When I sat and thought about it for a while, the presence of Christ in the flesh, although it was a great comfort to the faithful and believing Jews, did not usher in a Utopia for them.  He didn’t chase out the Romans; He didn’t fill the Temple treasury; He didn’t even dethrone the reptilian Antipas family.

What Jesus did do was to ask the Father, and send the Holy Spirit.  This is very important.  The only change that Jesus made to the status quo ante after completing His great work was to send the Holy Spirit. Here, then, is the crux of all the arguments about authority in the Western Church.   Nobody denies that the Holy Spirit has authority, but the rub is that nobody can tell you with any certainty where or when the Spirit is moving.  There have been historically three main answers to this quandary; either the Spirit illuminates people directly, in which case you become a Pentecostal, or the Spirit operates fairly rigidly in a top-down hierarchy, in which case you become a Roman Catholic, or the Spirit inspired the Scriptures, then left us to our own devices, in which case you become a sola scriptura confessional Protestant.

When I was very young, in my ancestral Dutch Reformed church, I learned very little about the Holy Spirit, except that you weren’t allowed to cut a sheet full of eyeholes and go out for Hallowe’en disguised as “the Holey Ghost”.  I asked my grandparents about the third member of the Trinity, and got very little in response.  In my early twenties, I made up for this ignorance by coming under the influence of the Pentecostals.  I was forthwith “baptized in the Holy Spirit” and spoke in tongues.  My wife’s “spirit baptism” was far more dramatic than mine, so self-authenticating that I have not in twenty-five years of anti-Pentecostal polemics been able to so much as leave a scratch on the diamantine surface of her certainty that the Pentecostals have a lock on the Holy Spirit.

Since my baptism was so mediocre, I started doubting it almost immediately.  I saw that people often got caught up in ‘tongues battles’ in churches, that people who ‘spoke in tongues’ could do, and often did do, terrible things to one another.  “Tongues” and “interpretations” were often used pointedly and personally to maintain control, or to avenge a supposed wrong, or just to warn some woman off of some man or vice versa.  At the extreme fringes there were emotional excesses and outright mental illness.   In addition, many prophets who weren’t at all shy about ascribing infallibility to themselves were proved to be horribly wrong by the passage of time.  To be scrupulous, I used to believe this about David Wilkerson’s 1973 vision, but going back to his original material after forty years, he seems to have been remarkably prescient.  After Rev. Wilkerson’s dramatic vision was made public, the other Pentecostal prophets seemed to want to out do him.  For a couple of years, we moved amidst a cloud of foretold events; hurricanes, tidal waves, economic collapse, Russian invasions of the Middle East (As an aside, there are also Orthodox prophecies concerning Russian invasions of the Middle East, but they are considered a Good Thing rather than otherwise).

What I observed in the midst of this conflicting mélange of prophecies was not something that an idealistic young man of not yet thirty should have to experience in sacred precincts.  Soon after this, the Charismatic movement appeared to lose its impetus in the late seventies and early eighties.  It joined forces with the emerging Christian Right and all but disappeared as a distinctive movement. Although some say that the so-called ‘Third Wave Pentecostalism’ is a logical continuation of the Charismatic Movement, my experience is that it is composed mostly of the flotsam and jetsam of the more aberrational elements of First and Second Wave Pentecostalism, particularly the repudiated Manifest Sons Movement and the Jesse Penn Lewis school of spiritual warfare.  Third Wave Pentecostalism held no charms for me.  I decamped for the flinty plains of Neo-Calvinism where I felt certain that I would be free at last from the excesses of the Pentecostals and their feathery friend.

I was right.  I heard very little about the Holy Spirit among the Calvinistas.  He inspired the Apostles to write the scriptres, illumined you to believe them, and then conveniently departed without leaving a forwarding address.  Since everything we needed to know was in the Bible anyway, the Spirit wasn’t even missed that much.  I learned that the key to power and ecclesiastical influence among the Calvinists was an arcane art they called “exegesis”. This is when you use an expensive seminary education, a modicum of knowledge about the original languages of the Bible, and an active historical imagination as reagents to extract the gold of “true truth” from the raw material of Scripture.  Then you argued, argued, argued incessantly your findings, always preparing another paper or book for publication.  When I observed that perhaps, just perhaps, one ought to read the Bible in the same Spirit in which it was written, I was basically told to go back and ululate with the Pentecostals.

So, it was either return to ‘Halloween in Saved Town’ or join the gladiatorial combat in the arena of the Booklords, neither of which appealed to me.  Add to this the unsettling fact that the Calvinistas had lost control of the Academy three generations ago when the monster that they created declared its independence, turned the same critical eye on the Bible itself and found it to be a not very well-edited pastiche of ancient Near Eastern narratives.  Not to worry, I was assured.  As soon as they could frame the right presuppositionalist argument, they would storm the Academy and Theology, the Queen of the sciences, could return from her painful exile.

It was at this time that I began investigating Apostolic Christianity, in both its Catholic and Orthodox form.  By unfortunate chance, I picked up a child’s catechism book on one of my coworkers whose daughter was preparing for Confirmation.  On the page dealing with the Holy Spirit, I read that the ministry of the Holy Spirit primarily worked upon the Pope and the hierarchy as they sought to define the Faith for the rest of us.  I was aghast.  ‘Is this what they really believe?’ I thought to myself. I have since read the official Catholic catechism and found it to be entirely orthodox (small-o), but I couldn’t shake the uncomfortable feeling that I had been given a glimpse behind the curtain, and suddenly it dawned on me that when my Catholic friends said ‘the Church’, I had to listen closely to hear whether it was being used in an inclusionary sense, meaning the whole body of the Church, or exclusionary sense, meaning primarily the hierarchy.

So, in the West, it appears that there were three answers to the question, “How does the Holy Spirit exercise His authority in the Church?”  “Directly, through His anointed prophets and apostles”, say the Pentecostals (and, ominously, the Mormons and the Sufis).  “Through the Scriptures as understood by the Academy and subjected to peer review”, reply the classical Protestants.  “Through the Magisterium, but, uh, practically speaking, through the Holy Father”, reply the Roman Catholics.  It wasn’t until I had been Orthodox for other reasons for almost two years that I learned there was a major difference in the understanding of the Holy Spirit in the Orthodox Church from that of the Western Churches.  The Orthodox Church confessed that the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father, whereas the Western Churches insisted that the Spirit proceeded from the Father and the Son.

At first, my reaction was like, “uh yeah … This like, matters how?”  When I stopped to think about it, I understood that it was a very, very big deal indeed.   The necessity of God existing as Trinity, as One and Many simultaneously, is so central to the existence and composition of the Universe that the slightest change in the internal economy of the Holy Trinity has ramifications for every other branch of Christian belief and practice.  To be honest, there are Orthodox like Met. Kallistos Ware who don’t believe the filioque is any big deal, but there are also others, like Vladimir Lossky, who blame it for the French Revolution (“the Revolution was born in the cradle of the filioque, ancient Austrasia, and extended to the Third Rome”) and the emergence of logical positivism. Pastorally, does it matter?  I’ve been reading Lossky and yeah, I think it does.  But I’ve also been reading an unexpectedly vigorous defense of the filioque by Dietrich Bonheoffer.  I’ll report my findings here next week.

Uh, about Peak Oil?  I still believe it is going to be a major problem.  Like all addictions, this one is going to be the very devil to give up, but all the really important things about life; art, literature, family, religion, good food and drink, were all there before we let the oil genie out of the bottle, and they’ll be there after we, as a species, collectively learn to ratchet back our passions like I had to do following my layoff.



  1. I learned that the key to power and ecclesiastical influence among the Calvinists was an arcane art they called “exegesis”. This is when you use an expensive seminary education, a modicum of knowledge about the original languages of the Bible, and an active historical imagination as reagents to extract the gold of “true truth” from the raw material of Scripture.

    Loved this bit. Looking forward to your post next week as I did not understand a bit what you stated about the filoque…

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      How does that differ from “The Bible Code” school of Gnosticism?

      Except that the Sooper Sekrit Code is a lot more complex than “count every seventh word”?

      • Adam Tauno Williams says

        >How does that differ from “The Bible Code” school of Gnosticism?

        It doesn’t.

        Except that the hyper-calvanist exagesis guys are usually at least somewhat educated. Yesterday I learned from Evangelical radio that the Assyrians “****invented**** terrorism”. They didn’t mention if they had found a trademark or copyright on that – because then we could sick the intellectual property trolls on them, the terrorists wouldn’t have chance. Try demonstrating prior-art on something as old as using fear to accomplish political ends!

        According to Evangelical radio all terrorists are intellectual descents of the Assyrians! Somehow that has something to do with prophecy and end times… but hard as I tried [seriously] I could not follow the connection – now I’ve developed a BPML (Business Process Markup Language) based workflow engine [hey, everyone needs a hobby or two or three….] so I feel confident I’m capable of abstract reasoning. But that messianic rabbi left me in his dust.

        • Seriously?!? Evangelical radio? You are speaking as if one crackpot on one program on one radio station speaks for all of us.

          • Adam Tauno Williams says

            Hardly one crackpot. We have two such radio stations here. They can afford to operate two radio stations, so yes – they win. They define “Evangelicalism”. You’ve lost the war if by Evangelicalism you mean something else.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          Yesterday I learned from Evangelical radio that the Assyrians “****invented**** terrorism”.

          Next time I see my sister-in-law, I’ll ask her about that.
          She’s Assyrian, from Mosul.
          Nestorian Christian.

  2. Nailed it as usual.

  3. “As it stands, we’ll probably end up with Tony Blair or or some other Eurocrat.”

    The thought of that man becoming UN Secretary General might just start giving this Englishman panic attacks.

    Looking forward to next week’s installment, Mule.

    • Mule, what do you think of the prediction that the Antichrist will be a Russian Orthodox, or other East European? Do you think it could be Vladimir Putin?

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        In which case, the Autocrat of all Russia has to take a number and stand in line.

        EVERYONE has been pointed at and claimed to be The Antichrist at one time or another.

        Remember Henry Kissinger and/or the King of Spain? Or Ronald Reagan?
        All PROVEN from SCRIPTURE(TM)!

        • Adam Tauno Williams says

          Being accused of being the Anti-Christ can be taken as a sure sign that one has ‘made it’. It is a key indicator of first-tier success.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        P.S. Totally unrelated, but yesterday I received my on-order copies of a small-press fantasy novel about a Reluctant Antichrist. i.e. an Antichrist who’s being pushed to fulfill all the prophecies yet would rather just go back to her previous life. Oh, and she’s a black-coated immortal equine with unicorn horn, pegasus wings, and a mane and tail made of a starry night. I wonder if anyone’s nominated HER in Pin-the-Tail-on-The-Antichrist? (Even though she IS The Antichrist figure of that worldstream….)

        • Another delightfully reluctant, or clueless, Antichrist is depicted in Good Omens, by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. Do you know it, HUG? Great book.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            I do know OF Terry Pratchett, and I’ve read some Neil Gaiman, but not that particular piece.

            P.S. As for the Pony Antichrist mentioned above, she’s summoned and brought back by a cult “who wants to make her Queen by force.” (And she’s redeemed by being “born again”, but not in the Christianese manner.) Again, more parallels if you know what to look for.

  4. Some scholars think that “the Holy Spirit” was an angel which Jesus trance-channeled. And then his disciples did it after he died. That makes a lot more sense to me than the Trinity (which makes hash out of monotheism, and isn’t even in the Bible anyway).

  5. Adam Tauno Williams says

    Keeping track of all these movements is/was exhausting. The Latter Rain, the Manifest Sons, Azusa street, this wave and that wave, the greater and lesser awakenings, the first second third fourth fifth … restart… first second … great awakenings. The tedious arguments about discerning which movement was ‘authentic’ and which deceptive. I am so very thankful none of that is a part of my Life anymore; when on the inside I thought it sounded like claptrap [all these great events that were actually historically trivial and consistently came to naught] but I was obligated to nod knowingly along with everyone else [how many were experiencing the same inner eye roll?] – now I am free from having to pretend [which becomes an ever more smothering burden as time passes]. Thanks be for the boring inflexible [from the outside] dreary [from the outside] old traditional communities – not to be swept up into the spirit-of-this-brief-age – that is truly revolutionary.

    As for peak oil – hey, that’s just one. Then there is climate change [CO2/methane levels, oceanic acidification, declining vegetative vitality], weapons of mass destruction, wealth concentration, the rising information tyranny, etc… Despair is so easy; amplified by how small imagination seems to be [and that Despair is the in-thing movement of the moment]. In any case it is certainly going to be a blockbuster worthy show.

    • Latter Rain + Manifest sons of God (or Joel’s Army, or whatever other names you prefer) became pervasive via the charismatic renewal. I found it almost impossible to find material on the history + any verification of what I’d been through personally until the mid-00s, via the internet. As of now, there’s much more available.

      all of this stuff is present (to varying degrees) in New Apostolic Reformation/Third Wave circles, which gets downright scary, considering how much these folks have become part of US politics (S. Palin, rick Perry and many, many more).

  6. Yes, the oil addiction is the one we will do anything to meet, and it makes us lie to ourselves and each other. And it keeps growing. But it’s really an addiction to cheap, plentiful energy. One of the other signs of the depth of that addiction to cheap energy is the Japanese nuclear plant disaster, which is still unfolding.

    We haven’t bottomed out yet.

    • I’d take nuclear over oil any day. (Compare the number of deaths… And the global warming (if that’s your thing) – Look up ‘Sustainable Energy without the hot air’)

  7. “To be honest, there are Orthodox like Met. Kallistos Ware who don’t believe the filioque is any big deal…”

    I have read at least two of Met. Ware’s books and like him very much. So without even knowing what he has said about the filoque, I am glad to know he thinks it is no “big deal.”

    • He’s very good, yes.

      Just a small note of clarification: It’s not that he thinks it’s “no big deal”, but rather that if the Catholics and Orthodox sat down and hashed through the theological language, we could probably eventually come to something on which we all could agree about the matter. That’s a little different 😉


    • JoanieD, “I am glad to know” etc.

      I think Mule’s point about Metropolitan Ware’s view of the filioque (translation: “and the son”) being no big deal is that it ought to be a big deal. It was more of a warning against Ware’s view, not an endorsement.

      I could be wrong, of course. But I think that the insertion of filioque into the Nicene Creed was the main reason (or perhaps one among many reasons) for the Great Schism of the 11th century that divided Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism.

  8. Interesting post, as always, with the following concern:

    I can’t speak for the Roman Catholic view, but I felt the characterizations of the protestant positions were reductionist. I know many charismatic laymen and clergy, and none, I think, would say that the Holy Spirit was not active in the inspiring of scripture and the forces of history. Further, they would not have a problem with understanding the Holy Spirit work through the agencies and bureaucracy of the church. They would simply emphasize that He also has an ongoing role in leading, empowering, and gifting Christians today, including gifting them with what some would call “the supernatural gifts”. The fact that some charismatics go to extremes should not induce us to characterize the whole movement by those extremes.

    In the same way, Calvinists do not limit the Spirit’s activities to the past. They view him as active first of all in continually gifting Christians for service. He is also active in illumining our understanding of scripture, not only in its objective meaning, but also in its subjective application. Further, he is active in helping us pray, and in ministering God’s grace to our spirit. Most would also say that the Spirit is active in swaying the thoughts (that is, giving guidance) to those who seek it. Finally, He is active in innumerable but invisible ways (that is, beyond our understanding) both on an individual level and on a global level.

    I am not a Calvinist, by the way, but most of my seminary professors were. Some of them, like Wayne Grudem, were both committed Calvinists and active Charismatics. This suggests the idea of an sharp antithesis between charismatic and Calvinistic understandings of the Spirit is mis-guided.

    • Sean Muldowney says

      Thanks for pointing this out.

      There’s been more than a few “this is why I’m not one of them” posts lately. They have substance, and I know it’s each person’s individual story and all, but still.

      • “This is why I’m not one of them” posts are helpful. They hole a mirror up to the true guardians of the flame in order to give them a chance to see what the peons have been subjected to.

    • I appreciate your comments Daniel.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      >The fact that some charismatics go to extremes should not induce us to characterize
      > the whole movement by those extremes.

      Without a magisterium which defines some kind of ‘canon’ or exercises some type of audit control – THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENS. An individual doesn’t get to define [in any useful sense] what Evangelical is or Charistmatic or Left or Right means – it is defined by the guy appropriating that label on the interwebz, on TV, or on the radio. The loudest bearer of a label owns the label, he/she/it gets to define it. That is how language works. The notion that “it means what it means to me” just squelches substantive conversation.

      If someone doesn’t mean X when they say “fribitz” then do not use “fribitz” to mean X [at least when dealing with that someone]. Use a better or more precise or more definitive term.

      Focus on the Family, et al define Evangelicalism. If you don’t like them, or do not fit with their definition, then you are not an Evangelical. It is just a word [label]. Pick a different one.

      I was born in the Michigan to the descendents of Finnish immigrants – so I do not get to say I am an Eskimo without getting [well deserved] weird looks.

      I support public transportation, welfare, publically owned infrastructure, and I oppose military spending – so I do not get to call myself “right wing” or “conservative” [although I believe my positions are indeed more in keeping with historical conservative philosophy than those currently appropriating the label – it doesn’t matter, in the great sphere that is not what the world means. So I ain’t one.]

      “Charismatic” is a tougher one, as outside the Christian sphere I doubt anyone has a clear idea at all what that means other than ‘friendly’. At least here in the rust-belt they do not seem to have a clear place in the great sphere [but everybody knows an Evangelical when they see one].

    • I have to admit, although this is a poor place to do so, that nearly all the Calvinists I have known in my lifetime have been incredibly gracious and Christlike, not to mention smart as whips. It is Calvinism I take issue with (and a couple of Reformed Baptists).

    • Daniel,
      You are the most truly catholic sounding commentator on this blog. I find great nurture in the things you write, and encouragement.

  9. Wonderful read. I love the quote, ” I had joined the crowd who wanted to make Jesus king by force after his picnic in the wilderness.” I think that applies to very many of us who are currently in the post-evangelical wilderness, and are post-post-9/11 prosperity.

    Looking forward to your thoughts on the filioque.

  10. I’ll be very interested to hear what you have to say about the filioque, as I have long lacked a proper understanding of the Orthodox objection to it and what they consider the defect this would introduce in the Trinity.

    From the Roman Catholic side, I think we insisted on the procession of the Spirit from the Father and the Son as, at least in part, a defence of and upholding of the dignity and Godhead of the Son, since there has always been a strong tendency in the West (from Arianism on down) to turn Jesus into a kind of “Buddy Jesus”, “Jesus and Me”, “Jesus the Good Guy”, the wise teacher, the son (small “s”) of God as we are all sons, to the point where in the popular understanding I have seen examples of “God” and “Jesus” treated as belief in two different deities (“You can believe in God or Jesus or Allah or Buddha” etc.)

    • Christiane Smith says

      The latest attempts in the West to ‘put Jesus in His place’ are now being led by those who follow a doctrine called ‘the eternal submission of the Son’ (ESS) and this doctrine is being promoted by an organization called the ‘Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood’ (CBMW).
      Their premise is interesting:
      they associate the pattern of Christ’s eternal subordination to the Father as a model for a wife’s submission to her husband . . .
      I do not know exactly all of the groups who foster this doctrine, but I do know that many are Southern Baptists, and of those, many are Calvinists and follow certain famous authors who preach that women are to be ‘graciously’ submissive to their husbands . . . which by the way is now a tenant of the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message of the Southern Baptist Convention.

      It’s interesting, but I think any group that has to fiddle with the Doctrine of the Holy Trinity in order to establish a support for their beliefs is going pretty far over the edge away from orthodoxy (small ‘o’) . . . although, of course, they do not see it in that light

      • I was flabbergasted to attend Southern and find that some there had no problem resurrecting this old heresy in order to justify their preconceived notions of what marriage should look like. And then the several articles defending why what they are innovating is “not” heresy. I know not everyone at that school is comfortable with this, but CBMW is one of the reasons I never went back.

      • petrushka1611 says

        Something about “all power is given unto me in heaven and earth” comes to mind.

      • Christiane,

        Astute observation. I noticed this line of thinking several years ago and have found it to be nearly “orthodox” among many if not most “Evangelicals” of the conservative bent. Another illustration of the children of the Reformation having little to no sense of theological history.

    • I may be a simple-minded man (I hope not), but John 15:26 says that Jesus told the disciples that “I will send from the Father the Spirit which proceeds from the Father” it’s pretty clear and straightforward: Jesus will do the sending from the Father and what (or who) he sends will be proceeding from the Father. No filioque in sight. The Spirit will be proceeding from the Father, and Jesus will be doing the sending though even that sending will also somehow be from the Father. As wise men say, “it’s a mystery.”

      It’s Scot McKnight’s “perichoretic dance of interpenetration” that is difficult to understand.

  11. Richard Hershberger says

    “or the Spirit inspired the Scriptures, then left us to our own devices, in which case you become a sola scriptura confessional Protestant.”

    This isn’t really fair or accurate. It is not uncommon that any Lutheran meeting, from a congregational council on up, will be opened with a prayer asking for the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

    • Agree, but I think some of the power in Mule’s writing comes from the grotesque caricatures – because we all feel that way sometimes, even when it isn’t fair or accurate.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Flannery O’Connor was known for grotesque caricatures, and you’ve seen the hyperbolic way I write comments.

        • But the thing about O’Connor’s caricatures is that they amazingly did not undermine the humanity of the characters she was caricaturing; in fact, they somehow actually revealed the humanity of these characters in ways that would not have been possible without the caricaturization.

          Not many writers are up to that masterly inversion; if all the grotesque caricature does is end in the grotesque, it’s nothing like O’Connor. Nothing at all.

          And I’m afraid that’s where Mule leaves us hanging: Protestants as grotesque caricatures rather than complex characters and persons, and human beings.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      But what do they mean by ‘guidance’? Is there a substantive theology behind it, or is doing so merely customary? Beyond the prayer my experience with Evangelicalism and larger Protestantism is that they largely let the matter lie. It certainly is not something they focus on. What a group or culture chooses to emphasize or focus on is perhaps more revealing than what thier catechism might say. I’ve been in two churches when I assume someone got sold a bunch of pamphlets on spiritual giftedness, etc… it was a notable awkward subject. They clearly wanted to discuss it, but didn’t have much of a way to approach it meaningfully other than the-spirit-isn’t-nothing-and-can-do-stuff-but-we-aren’t-sure-what-that-means-and-i’d-rather-nobody-get-carried-away.

  12. “So, it was either return to ‘Halloween in Saved Town’ or join the gladiatorial combat in the arena of the Booklords, neither of which appealed to me.”


    The Quaker view of the Holy Spirit as inner light (which does have analogues in other Protestant traditions) is an important part of the Protestant view of the Holy Spirit. Actively illuminating the believer to the meaning of Scripture (or sometimes speaking directly), the Holy Spirit does show up in other ways than the original inspiration of Scripture in Protestant theology.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      “Halloween in Saved Town” — sounds like a band name!

      Right up there with “Crazy Children in the Attic”, “Fetuses of the Damned”, and “Steaming Piles of Fresh Produce”.

    • Wesley — I’m not sure that the Quaker Inner Light is always to be equated with the Holy Spirit. While there isn’t any magisterium that unifies Quaker thought, a lot of Quakers reject the idea of the Trinity. I once saw a Quaker rewrite of “Holy, Holy, Holy” that ended not “God in three persons, blessed Trinity, but “God in all persons, blessed unity.”

    • 19 ???????For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in the Son
      20 ???????and through him to reconcile all things to himself by making peace through the blood of his cross – through him, whether things on earth or things in heaven.

      The fullness (pleroma) of God in the Son is no more or less than the fullness of God in the Spirit.

      If all things on/in heaven and earth are reconciled to God by the blood of the Son’s cross, then why would we think that the Spirit is absent from ANYONE?

      I don’t think it valid to doubt the presence of the Spirit in anyone. The only question is, “Do you realize that reality and live into it?”

  13. David Cornwell says

    The Holy Spirit will always defy our definitions, propositions, and directions. The Spirit, like the wind, blows where it will and refuses the box with hinged lid. We will never wholly succeed in finding out all its mysteries. It gifts who it will, and and refuses many who supplicate for it. The Spirit purifies, burns, empowers, empties, fills, comforts, disrupts, and sanctifies. (was short list)

    However, Mule, keep on writing. The more you write, the better it gets and the more I’ve learned. Thanks.

    • Amen, David. Do we have to pick one … charismatic, Calvinist or Catholic as being the only valid vessel of Spirit manifestation? There are authentic Spirit displays in each just as there are displays of vain human imagination and fakery. We can welcome, obey, discern, grieve, quench or, God forbid, blaspheme the Spirit, but as you pointed out that maddening little truth … the Spirit shows up where, when and how according to divine schedule and divine will.

      • God loves variety, that’s why the world, and the church, is so multifaceted. If we would stop trying to find our unity in external conformity and look for it in the ways we recognize each other as Christians, even in the midst of disagreement and perplexity, we would benefit greatly. The great virtue we could learn in this is humility concerning our own choices, that we don’t have to make the one right choice of a church home to be swept up into the life of the Spirit.

        But I guess that is a very Protestant position, and not congenial to many here today.

        • “…we don’t have to make the one right choice of a church home to be swept up into the life of the Spirit.”

          Good point, Robert F. I don’t think my choice matters nearly as much as God’s choice to create us in the first place and to love us no matter what choices we make.

        • David Cornwell says

          “If we would stop trying to find our unity in external conformity and look for it in the ways we recognize each other as Christians, even in the midst of disagreement and perplexity, we would benefit greatly.”

          Very true.

        • Quite.

          I’ll only believe in cars when everyone drives the same make and model 🙂

    • I don’t know if I’d agree that the Spirit refuses many who supplicate it. …unless it operates quite contrary to the spirit of Christ. I don’t believe the Spirit operates arbitrarily, any more than the Father or the Son do. It’s not that we can understand them, but where they have been revealed, and where Christ has given his Word, they can be sure to be found. Where God’s Word is proclaimed and his sacraments administered, I really don’t think you could possibly keep the Holy Spirit out of operation. That’s his thing.

  14. Please be careful with using the pronoun “it” to refer to our Lord the Spirit. I realize that ‘pneuma’ is neuter gender in Hellenistic Greek, and that ‘ruach’ is a feminine word in Hebrew, but in English ‘it’ doesn’t convey the level of personhood necessary without a host of qualifications. I would even prefer ‘she’ and ‘the Spirit Herself’ if that territory wasn’t staked out by Sergei Bulganov and the Sophia theologians. It would help also to spotlight the extremely intimate relationship enjoyed by our Lady the Most Holy Mother of God with the Third Person of the Trinity.

    You do realize that I am talking way over my pay grade, I hope.

    • David Cornwell says

      Mule, I realize what you are saying about “it” and totally agree. I was thinking about that exact issue when writing but didn’t slow down to put in better language. This wasn’t meant to be disrespectful in any way, just my inability to say quickly what should be said.

      I’d never point to a baby or any person, for that matter, and say “it” so I take your point.


      • On a side not, IIRC in his book CREDO Jaroslav Pelikan translates the HS part of the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed – Kai eis to Pneuma to Hagion to Kurion to Zôopoion – as:

        “And in the Holy Spirit, the Lordly One, the Giver of Life (or maybe it was ‘Lifegiver’)….”

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        English has NO animate neuter gender pronoun or ambiguous gender pronoun. “It” implies inanimate.

        And as an old SF litfan, I have seen many attempts at giving English one. Every author different. “Sahn”, “s/he”, “hir”, whatever. Most getting hijacked for Bisexuality Uber Alles at some point, none ever demonstrating any staying power.

        • Adam Tauno Williams says

          > “It” implies inanimate.

          Hmmm, no, I do not agree. People frequently refer to neutered animals as “its”. And will an AI/droid be an it, he, or she. I’ve seen people react to the use of the word “it” as it it implies what you say it does – this happens most often when someone refers to a fetus as an “it”. But the implication does not seem to be taken universally. I think it is simply a non-gender or gender-unknown pronoun.

    • This is somewhat apropos of nothing, but this reminds me of when I went to an AOG-affiliated college group and the real dyed-in-the-wool Charismatics always and conspicuously talked about the Spirit as HE in a way like the Spirit was their nextdoor neighbor or something. It struck me, who at the time was quite the little Baptist, as odd.

      Am looking forward to what you have to say about the ‘filioque’ business. Honestly, I never EVER heard about it before the last few months, but then again, I used to think that Christianity didn’t really exist from the end of the NT letters until the Reformation, and even then, nothing interesting occurred until the 1970s… lol. Oh what a tiny world I once lived in.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        I used to think that Christianity didn’t really exist from the end of the NT letters until the Reformation, and even then, nothing interesting occurred until the 1970s…

        The exact same view of church history as Joseph Smith (Mormons), Ellen G White (SDAs), and Charles Taze Russell (Jehovah’s Witnesses). Real True New Testament Christianity died out at the end of the NT and there was only Apostasy and Enigma Babylon until Our Founder rediscovered and revived Real True New Testament Christianity…

  15. Mule, have you been reading John Michael Greer? I admit I find post-Peak Oil predictions rather exhilirating rather than anxiety-inducing. the world could use a good shake-up.

    • David Cornwell says


    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      Well, I dunno. That shake-up will certainly involve civil war(s), unrest, and famine. They worst effect so which will be [as always] visited on the poor, especially those unfortunate enough [in those circumstances] to be very young or female. And I’d expect more a shake-down then a shake-up.

      But selfishly I mostly worry it is going to hit the fan when I’m too old to comfortably sleep under a tree.

      • I’m not too big on “eucatastrophe” either; the weak and vulnerable always suffer the most. It requires either a bit of a Nietzschean spirit, or a personality profile like the ugly old miserable guy in Camus’ “The Plague,” who is ecstatic at the onset of the epidemic because now everybody is as miserable as him.

        When he sees the plague winding down, and fears that things might return to normal, he starts shooting at people from his apartment window, because he just can’t stand the idea of things going back to the way they were when he was alone in his unhappiness.

        Misery loves company.

  16. “I was basically told to go back and ululate with the Pentecostals”


  17. “Although some say that the so-called ‘Third Wave Pentecostalism’ is a logical continuation of the Charismatic Movement, my experience is that it is composed mostly of the flotsam and jetsam of the more aberrational elements of First and Second Wave Pentecostalism, particularly the repudiated Manifest Sons Movement and the Jesse Penn Lewis school of spiritual warfare. Third Wave Pentecostalism held no charms for me. ”

    MCB, what on earth is all this stuff? I was Vineyard and never heard a word about this stuff, but would consider myself charismatic. Tongues are fine, but I think any spiritual gift is a sign of the Holy Spirit, not exclusively tongues, anyways, I thought Vineyard and Holy Spirit without exclusively tongues was “Third Wave” Charismatic. I thought the benefit of third wave was a move away from excess obsession with Spiritual Warfare and more about using the gifts to serve the body, rather than personal fulfilment. Are we talking about the same thing when we use the word “Third Wave”?

    • Here is a definition of 3rd wave:

    • Third wave is very obsessed with spiritual warfare (guess where the term “strategic-level spiritual warfare” came from?) as well as with covert political maneuvering.

      There are networks of supposed “prophets” out there who have a lot of political pull – see Rick Perry’s stadium rally (not long ago) with all kinds of 3d Wave/NAR types; also S. Palin and the “prophets” she’s been associated with.

      these people are scary, imo. Yes, they’re crackpots, but there are a significant number of them involved in politics at all levels these days…

    • Mulle Chewing Briars says

      Loo –

      The key phrase here, as with everything else I write, is “my experience is“.

      Your Mileage May Vary