What I Believe: The Holy Spirit

Pneumatology is the study of the Holy Spirit. It might also be defined, if we take on the mood of the writer of Ecclesiastes, as a chasing of the wind. However, there is much written about the Holy Spirit in Scripture to help us understand the nature and role of this third person of the Trinity. Despite all the information, we still do not seem to be given a concrete image for our minds except that of, occasionally, a dove.

The word Holy signifies that the Holy Spirit is divine. The words used in the original languages for Spirit have various meanings and always refer to something invisible. Some of these meanings are wind, life, energy or power. All of these meanings designate something outside human control or capture. In other words, the Holy Spirit goes where he will and does what he chooses as far as our wills are concerned, just as the other persons of the Trinity do. At the same time, just as the Son serves the purposes of the Father so the Holy Spirit moves to shape creation, history and people to the will of the Father and Son.

What I Believe: Continuing Creation

Continuing creation is God’s enduring and effective activity in nature and human events. I believe continuing creation allows both God and people to have options while allowing God’s purposes to be accomplished. The dialogue in Exodus 32 between Moses and God following the worship of the golden calf indicates that both God and Moses had real choices they could make. Fortunately for the Israelites, Moses persuaded God to honor his promises to the patriarchs and form the Israelites into an enduring nation.

 

Continuing creation has brought humanity to where it is now and will continue to change the world we live in. Not all change is of God but what prospers and blesses humanity is. There are too many beneficial things given to humanity by God since Adam and Eve to list.

What I Believe: Original Creation

Let me begin with this. I believe the creation poem that begins the Bible was a special revelation, traditionally given to Moses, that gives a true picture of the creation of the heavens and the earth as far as it goes in describing things. In it God painted with a very broad brush as he took us from the beginning of earth as an entity to the apex of his original creation—us.

I do not have a natural affinity for poetry so I have read books to help me better understand and appreciate it. One of the books made a very good point. That was that reading poetry literally was, in most cases, going to cause problems for the reader. You know where I am going with this: the problem of the days and nights.

First, I think that framing the creation account in terms of days and nights gives us a realistic feel for the way the heavens and earth were created in stages. Each of the stages is founded on a previous one and this is the way things occurred. All of physical creation, except at the very beginning, is dependent on something else that existed before it.

Second, I think setting the poem in a seven-day week enhanced the liturgical quality of the poem. This in turn kept it in the Tabernacle and Temple services so that it would come down to us as a suitable praise of God’s original works of creation.

We have, of course, many additional testimonies to God’s creation throughout Scripture, both of his original creation and of his continuing creation.

What I Believe: Works of God

Since God’s original work of creation of the physical realm, which brought into being what had not previously existed, he has continued to work out his purposes in what he created. (This is contrary to some people’s idea that God wound up the universe like a clock and left it to run by itself.) This active working can be designated as continuing creation, providence, and miracles. Though this is more for our own thinking than something we are obliged to believe or necessarily as the Trinity thinks of it.

Continuing creation is God using things that do exist to create new things. For example, God uses two cells from our parents to create us who had no previous physical being, although we did receive the ancestry contained in our parent’s genetics.

In providence God uses what exists and shapes matter, energy and events in accordance with the way he has created them to accomplish his purposes.

Miracles involve actions we do not understand. Many people believe miracles are impossible as they seemingly require the violation of natural laws. However, we can think that if God intended miracles he would create a universe that could be used in ways that are beyond the usual. For instance, I do not believe that when Jesus started doing miracles he surprised anybody in heaven (only people on earth). It was just part of God’s original plan.

What I Believe: Sufficiency

Even verses, even short passages, even chapters, even individual books are sufficient to bring people to faith in Jesus Christ, as was the Ethiopian. (I once met a man who said he came to faith in Jesus Christ by reading the book of Job.) I am sure some people have come to faith through less than perfect translations into indigenous languages. The inspired Word and the work of the Holy Spirit make whatever we may have of the written revelation of God sufficient for our needs.

You might ask why if a little bit of Scripture is sufficient for redemption there is so much of it in the Bible. Here I think we need to go back to the idea of Scripture being a creation of the Holy Spirit. Like physical creation the Bible has depth beyond the understanding of any single human mind and in its total richness is deeper than the collective mind of humanity is able to understand.

This is the other side of sufficiency. You may have noticed that serious Bible commentaries take up a good part of a bookshelf or even more. This is because the immense content of the Bible is sufficient to provide material for endless study for even the most diligent Bible scholar. The Scriptures are, I believe, a well of wisdom that never goes dry.

What I Believe: Creation

Creation is a very complex subject. I believe God did create the heavens and the earth (and everything else) but not in six twenty-four hour days. I think creation required a long line of incremental steps and also time for created objects to mature to the state needed to make the earth suitable for human habitation. Genesis 1:1 to Genesis 2:3 tells us of God setting the stage for the story. It should not be over-interpreted as a description of all of creation. It is after all a rather short poem and I believe that it, like most poetry, cannot be interpreted literally. That said, there are two significant aspects of it. One is that everything physical in it is real and we have either experienced them or know about them. This led Isaac Newton to think that the passage was a description of end points of God’s creative actions. The second aspect is more subtle. I believe that breaking up the account of creation into days reflects the reality of the world we know coming into existence by stages.

 

This does not mean that I believe in evolution in any way, shape or form. Éttienne Gilson, a French philosopher, wrote in 1975, “Evolution is bad science and worse philosophy.” Since then, the science of evolution has gotten worse due to the vast increase of knowledge in the field of microbiology and the ideology of evolution has gone down several different paths.

 

The evolutionists have one thing, I think, that keeps them in the arena of evolutionist/creationist controversy. That is that life on earth has a long history. This is true even if some of the past and present scientific ideas about the age of the earth and how we got to the present will probably end up some day on a “blooper reel.”

 

We are told many times in Scripture about God’s propensity for creation What we are not told is how he does it.

What I Believe: The Story

The Bible tells, in sixty-six books, the story of God’s relationship to humanity. The story begins before the creation of the earth and ends in eternal blessedness for those people whom he has redeemed. There are three major themes that continue throughout the story. These are God’s creation of all that exists, the disobedience of the first humans and the consequences of that for all of physical reality, and God’s work to make right (redeem) according to his purposes all that has gone wrong. Redemption is a long and complex project and, I believe, cannot be finished in the framework of our present reality.