As some of you may know, I grew up Pentecostal. In regards to the Holy Spirit, I’ve noticed that there are two extremes among many Christians. The first how Luther described the Moravians: “They’ve swallowed the dove, feathers and all.” These are those obsessed with the Holy Spirit, or at least certain miraculous gifts of the Spirit.
Then there is the other extreme. These are the folks like the converts to Christ in Acts who were disciples of John, were baptized by John–but who did not receive water baptism in Christ and who said, “we did not even know there was a Holy Spirit.” This, I think, is where the majority of Christians are.
What I believe is needed is a renewal in the Holy Spirit. Rather than ‘swallowing the dove,’ we have ‘caged’ the dove. Either we limit (yes limit) him to certain gifts, music or dramatics, or we pretend that the Christian life has no mystical or experiential dimension at all.
The failure of ‘charismatic renewal,’ in my opinion, was not the desire to go deeper in the Holy Spirit, it was that we did not go deep enough. When the penultimate Christian experience is speaking in tongues (not that there’s anything wrong with that), and once to do you’ve ‘arrived,’ then the riches of Christian spirituality get stuck somewhere in the 1970s, or whenever one experienced the gift for the first time.
There are many ways that the Holy Spirit has come with ‘fire’ over the centuries. Let’s not ‘cage’ the dove by limiting him to a certain era or gift. I believe there is much to be discovered for those who wish to be empowered for ministry and mission in this world. There is much to be discovered for those who wish to grow in holiness. What we need to do is ‘set the dove free’ so that we can accomplish the work of Christ’s Kingdom.
In the words of the medieval hymn:
Come down, O love divine, seek Thou this soul of mine,
And visit it with Thine own ardor glowing.
O Comforter, draw near, within my heart appear,
And kindle it, Thy holy flame bestowing.
O let it freely burn, til earthly passions turn
To dust and ashes in its heat consuming;
And let Thy glorious light shine ever on my sight,
And clothe me round, the while my path illuming.
Let holy charity mine outward vesture be,
And lowliness become mine inner clothing;
True lowliness of heart, which takes the humbler part,
And o’er its own shortcomings weeps with loathing.
And so the yearning strong, with which the soul will long,
Shall far outpass the power of human telling;
For none can guess its grace, till he become the place
Wherein the Holy Spirit makes His dwelling.