Another thought for the day

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I’m having another go at Michael Welker’s God the Spirit. It is always a treat to formulate for oneself a theology or philosophy then later find a thinker who has already wonderfully encapsulated that thought. Makes me feel that even if I’m not on a popular path, I’m not off the trail.

Here’s a bit from Welker on diversity and unity (my favorite themes when thinking about the Spirit) within society, and how we are suffering from the lack of a proper understanding of these key spiritual traits:

Human beings have a great difficulty tolerating social complexity. Again and again the attempt is made to find the connecting link that is ultimately common to all: definitions are offered of “the” human person, “the” subject, “the” one universal history, “the” encompassing structure of intersubjectivity, “the” lifeworld, “the” conflicts, “the” requirements of morality, “the” threat to humankind. That is the beginning of either vain attempts or successful campaigns to gain wider currency for ideological patterns and structures.

By contrast, many societies today have by their conscious choice of pluralism demonstrated at least a vague sense of the action of the Spirit. Admittedly, they have frequently fostered that apparent, dissociative “pluralism” which is destroyed by individualism, which results in the dissolution of all forms, and which wields the weapons of ideology and power politics in tis fight for specific portions of consciousness and definitions of reality.

With a minimum of theological instinct, theologies and church leaders have, on the basis of a simplistic understanding of “unity” (e.g. monohierarchical unity), condemned pluralism as if it were a unitary phenomenon. In doing so they have demonstrated an absence of the power to distinguish between individually distintegrative pluralism and the life-enhancing, invigorating pluralism of the Spirit.

Theologies and churches have reacted sensitively to individualism, as the success story of “existential interpretation” makes clear. They have thrown open the door to the abstract and indeterminate “individual.” In doing so they have made room for illusory political and moral postures, as well as for many of the processes of a profound societal self-endangerment and self-destruction.

God’s Spirit is the power and might of God in which in constantly new ways people are rescued and led out of distress and danger, out of demonic possession, and above all out of diverse forms of self-endangerment and self-destruction.

From early on, God’s Spriit has been experienced as a power that exercises deliverance by menas of appearances and processes that are difficult to grasp — appearances and processes that can be termed “emergent”. In the midst of disintegration, the Spirit restores community in an unexpected, improbable way. The Spirit connects human beings, interweaving them in an unforeseen manner in diverse structural patterns of life.

It is not that the world has rejected the work of the Spirit, it is more that the Church has far too long let an engaging doctrine of the Spirit lie fallow and empty. We have made our essentially binarian theology do too much, and after hundreds of years of the Reformation we are tiring out. Europe is the best symbol of this. Grasping after more control and power over this process, as has been the chief response of the various churches over the centuries is precisely that which hastens the process. We, as humans, have no ability to manage this process and so muck it all up when we assert ourselves as the managers of God’s kingdom.

The only hope, really the only answer, is to not refresh the theology of two hundred years ago in new approaches to worship or large stadiums filled with suburbanites. The answer is to find those bits which we have left behind, and renew the Church by preaching something new, even as this “something” new is what started it all to begin with. We can’t blame the world for our forgetting who we are. We can help renew the world by remembering.

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