emerging conclusion

“Life in the Spirit is a life in the ‘broad place where there is no cramping’ (Job 36:16). So in the new life we experience the Spirit as a ‘broad place’—as the free space for our freedom, as the living space for our lives, as the horizon inviting us to discover life.” Yet, in the history of the church there have been again and again restrictions placed upon this ‘broad place’ some for reasons that make sense in attempts to deter heresy, other times for reasons that can only be characterized as anti-Christ as they assert personal or corporate power for reasons of individual gain. Most often, and consistently through the last two thousand years, the restricted place of the church has not been due to some kind of intentional nefarious rejection of God, but rather due to uncritical assumptions of the broader culture in each era, leading to wholly non-Spiritual boundaries. Churches in which racism or sexism dominate are restricted places. Churches in which the rich dominate poor, or the powerful dominate the powerless are restricted places. Restricted not for those who are the aggrieved, restricted for the aggressors and for the whole society, unable to take up the whole work of the Spirit because of these inherent, societal, restrictions.

As Moltmann writes “‘The broad place’ is the most hidden and silent presence of God’s Spirit in us and round about us. But how else could ‘life in the Spirit’ be understood, if the Spirit were not the space ‘in’ which this life can grow and unfurl.” The dismantling of institutional racism, the new emphasis on equality between men and women, the growing awareness of first world responsibility to the third world, and the increasing concern for the environment have all broken the bonds of restriction that have silently fought against the constant mission of the Spirit. So it is no surprise that now, in this era of new openness, we can see new movements that in their freedom reflect the freedom that is God’s kingdom, movements that echo in practice what Moltmann emphasizes as traits of the broad place of the Spirit. “We explore the depths of this space through the trust of the heart. We search out the length of this space through the extravagant hope. We discover the breadth of this place through the torrents of love which we receive and give.” Only those contexts which freely open themselves to this continual discovery can expect to learn and to express a holistic pneumatology.

This is not a new reality of the Spirit or a new movement of the Spirit but is, in essence, the heart of what was spoken of by the Prophets and then experienced in the early church beginning on Pentecost. In this way, we could call the movement described by Gibbs and Bolger not only the emerging church, but indeed a form of neo-Pentecostalism in which a holistic pneumatology is embraced through a new, liberating freedom for living. “God’s Spirit encompasses us from all sides and wherever we are (Ps. 139). Christ’s Spirit is our immanent power to live—God’s Spirit is our transcendent power for living.” In embracing this reality in full, individually and communally, in unity and in diversity, the church emerges into the comprehensive vision of the kingdom of God.

Thus I concluded my paper on Moltmann and the Emerging Church.

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