- The rigidity of Puritan morality.
- The extent of fundamentalism's legalism.
- The historic excess of Rome's ritualism.
- The fluidity of postmodernity's [I don't think this is a cool word anymore?] approach toward doctrine and ecclesiology.
I'm not saying that the above list is all bad. However, I do believe that most of any wrongness in these things comes from a specific source: a weak understanding of the Holy Spirit.
St Paul's understanding of the Spirit was that He was vital and active in the church. For Paul, the goal was never to give the Spirit a theological or theoretical head nod. I am even pressed to find an occasion where Paul's purpose is to assert the deity of the Spirit. Yes, he does write about the doctrine of the Spirit with clarity. Yes, he does hint at the deity of the Spirit in such a way that we should not question it. But what is the hub of wheel of Paul's pneumatology?
Paul sees the Holy Spirit as God's empowering presence in the community of faith. The Spirit is experienced corporately and individually as the relational means by which the covenant community lives. He gifts each member of the body for the building up of the body [1 Cor 12.7, 12.11].
I tend to think that a better experience and/or understanding of the Spirit's personal work in the church would have rightly nuanced the motives and practices of our friends in the list above.
Yet, we are all guilty of not yielding to His voice. May we learn to listen carefully to our Helper.