The Spirit in History part 6

The last part of my presentation at the Conference of Faith and History:

Telling the stories of God’s work in this world, which exists throughout this world and throughout all the times of this world, is a practice that helps illuminate the grand narrative which only God knows in full. In studying historical contexts, whether they are specifically Christian or whether they are not, historians should see that their efforts as historians are charismatic endeavors, used by God for the edification of his people in this present and for the future.

Indeed, historians who look for discoveries of the work of the Holy Spirit in history are likely doing the most important work as they maintain consistently rigorous, historiographic standards. The pneumatological insights are employed in sifting through evidence, in prioritizing evidence, in highlighting what may at first glance be incidental or neglected aspects of a historical study. We gain understanding about the work of God in history, not by looking for a supposed Christianized history or moments of dazzling miracles, but by being good historians who tell the story of the world, with the realization that it is all God’s story with the world.

This story, this history, is a chaotic structure in which the work of the Spirit could be embedded in a myriad of different ways, moving in certain situations, stirring slight moods, tweaking specific moments in ways that may be imperceptible to anyone in a given situation. Seeing the Spirit only as a publicly obvious, charismatic force inciting dramatic gifts, visions, or intense piety leaves the discussion of the Spirit off to the side in most historical situations.

Thus, to look for the Spirit in history is not to become voyeurs of the Spirit. Rather, if the Spirit remains behind the scenes, we do not look for obvious moments or extraordinary events of supernatural activity. We have to instead learn and then look for the cues which point to the work of the Spirit in contexts throughout this world and throughout time, a work which has at its heart the fullness of God’s holistic, enlivening, salvific work as reflected in, and returning all creation back towards, the person of Christ.

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