Pneumanaut

the Crucible

Pneumatology

p n e u · m a · t o l · o · g y    n . T h e   d o c t r i n e   o r   s t u d y   o f   s p i r i t u a l   b e i n g s   a n d   p h e n o m e n a ,   e s p e c i a l l y   t h e   b e l i e f   i n   s p i r i t s   i n t e r v e n i n g   b e t w e e n   h u m a n s   a n d   G o d . 2)  T h e   C h r i s t i a n   d o c t r i n e   o f   t h e   H o l y   G h o s t . p n e u ‘ m a · t o · l o g ‘ i c ,o r   p n e u ‘ m a · t o · l o g ‘ i · c a l   a d j .  p n e u ‘ m a · t o l ‘ o · g i s t   n .  

”we are spiritual beings with and eternal destiny trying to be human. . .”

                                                                                    Dallas Willard

The demonstration of the kingdom is in itself an apologetic.  No hype, no manipulation, but rather spiritual expression.  Power demonstrated in the immediate, power demonstrated in the actual and power demonstrated which can only be defined as pneumatological.  It is through this kingdom which is now and not yet,[1] that we as spiritual directors have responsibility to act.[2]  A responsibility, to describe, to language to voice, to encourage and to guide.  As we begin to employ direction and help prepare individuals  to live, and a means to fulfill that vision, a connection needs made to the spirit. The absence of this pneumatological expression will not only stifle the process, but will never holistically fulfill it.

The kingdom of God is the range of God’s effective will, where what the spirit chooses to accomplish is done.[3]  This Spirit is available to us now, in the immediate.  It transcends cultural milieu’s, it’s not bound by circumstance, and is not bound by will (footnote biblical reference) Recently Dallas Willard made the beautiful statement “It is our job to lead and teach people about Jesus”[4] a rewording of this statement with a singular substitution of “show”, for the word “teach” has significantly more powerful implications and aligns itself better theologically with biblical accounts, stories and reports of earlier friends of Jesus[5] .  It raises one of the questions and focus of this essay. How we as practitioners in the emerging church can show people about Jesus?

 

 

Kingdom Paradigm

As a leader Jesus, demonstrated a Kingdom mindset, and brought into the lives of his followers a means of spiritual and trans/formation.  He relationally seemed to accomplish this through the demonstration of his kingdom authority, (seldom with explanation)[6]  “Jesus was misunderstood all the time and never tried to run around and fix it. . .he never felt paranoid of not doing stuff. . .never felt the need to explain”[7]

 The result was a model that took care of both the physical and spiritual needs of the individual whom he was involved with.  Normatively he first accomplish this through a pneumatological demonstration of his kingdom.  This included (and is not limited to) physical healings, the riddance of demons, the use of phenomenological experience and various other miraculous signs.[8]  These demonstrations were the means by which he typically captured the hearts of individuals.  Consistently and reportedly, he used/uses this means as a learning modality, pedagogy and androgological discourse, to provide an understanding and basis for his work. 

This precept transcends our culture.  Still living within the biblical context and continuation of the biblical story, the 21st century continues to provide an eloquent platform for the demonstration of kingdom works.  The boundaries and provisions of our culture indeed are poised and prepared for a resurgence of this understanding and demonstration.[9] As we move away from the constrictions of modernity and move towards cultures and historical influences which embrace the: mystical, the liturgical, the ceremonial, the ritual, the phenomenological, the paranormal, and as we are inundated with reports of the miraculous, it is becoming obvious that we are a culture which embraces phenomena.

“our culture is wrong but we can’t just dismiss it. . .that’s our world, these are the people we deal with”[10]

We are living in a culture that values experience. “In the last century  the Church has been preparing individuals to die, however, we should be preparing them to live”[11] To live as a renewed humanity, and as an empowered people; specifically, empowered by the Spirit of God.  As thinkers in the 21st century our inclinations and understandings of polemics, discourse, content and even truth are blurred, the value of truths are no longer a priori rationalizations, or pragmatics which derive value from reasoning. We are currently living in the biggest philosophical shift in at least the last 200 years.  And the church lives in such a sub-culture rentreanchant mentality that it often times doesn’t understand the important shifts in the ways that people think, and the way that they process reality. Truth has been know as a series of propositional statements that can be proven though science, logic, technology  and reason. However, in the words of Mark Driscoll “Truth is a person his name is Jesus Christ and as you come into relationship with him you have access to the truth, but that truth doesn’t come by science or technology but that it comes by faith and faith is a gift from God”..[12]  Truth, needs demonstrated, and the value of collective reasoning, is considered; no longer is it perceived as absolute.[13]  As addendum to this thought collective reasoning takes on new form perhaps not dissimilar to corporate guidance.  In terms of intentional communities/emerging this concept needs teased if the church is raising followers of Jesus

As spiritual directors our duty is to demonstrate, and value Gods Kingdom in our ordinary context.  Understanding Ladd’s agenda of Kingdom[14] this definition of Kingdom Power becomes a reality of power; a power that can exist independent of bodies. This power is devoid of personal means, made up of thoughts, feelings, evaluations or even choice and habits involving creative will.[15]

As metaphysical conditions for spiritual growth, potential followers of Jesus need a vision for the kingdom of God within their communal context, a vision, which will define their humanity.  This link toward spiritual formation has to be connected to the Spirits Power, there is some nuance of this in literature but very little praxis.[16]  As we fully understand the implications of the following statement:
“There are no ordinary people you have never talked to a mere mortal.  Nations, cultures, arts, and civilizations, these are mortal; and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry snub, and exploit–immortal horrors or everlasting splendors… nest to the blessed sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to you senses”. . .[17]

This understanding will radically alter our worldview, a worldview that is culturally dormant in understanding their actual spiritual heritage and origins.  We live in a society and culture that does not embrace their pneumatological formation, and the very ethos for which they were created.

We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a human experience.[18]

This notion of experience and its starting point from a spiritual context radically speaks against our culture, a culture that so values experience. Sociologically current culture has an axiomatic juxtaposition to its starting point.   The starting point and scoreboards of our culture measures human experience and values those in terms of quality of life.[19]  However, life as a spiritual being can only be completed by living from a kingdom that is governed by the heavens.  Through being lead by Jesus, we are able to fulfill a mandate that is eternal. As we recognize Gods kingdom and the reality of truth and power, we can begin to understand and develop a reliance and expectancy of his works, and presence amongst us.  As sub-contractors and co-laborers we guide through the context of time and place, “of our own experience”[20] and through the experiences of others.  We guide through the context of his work and his kingdom.  We co-labor with angels and the hosts of God who are in conflict with the Satan and his subordinates, working against us to oppose God.[21]  This is our platform, this is our context, this is our story, this is the relational field at which we are poised to influence, this is our sphere.  As Eugene Peterson says “the kingdom is the invisible part of the Church”[22] . . . The church and the kingdom ideologically would be one in the same; but the kingdom of God is where we are clarified, where we are given expression, where details are fulfilled within the spiritual realm and where we can have immediate access to God’s presence.

A worldview or life style of dualism gives observation to the both/and.[23] Recently this anomaly has provided cultural explanation for the interpretations of cultural truisms. One example of this is the inward/outward journey, a wonderful metaphor; however we don’t live in the dualistic, we live in the here now, we live as it happens, we integrate and synthesize.  Dualism is an abstraction from what we are doing that’s independent.  It’s important to realize that these terms[24] and specificities are merely semantical and non-pertaining to the realities of following Jesus.

“the devils first attack is on lectiography, he likes to twist words so they don’t mean what they say”- C.S. Lewis

Culturally a sociological worldview presents us with a perception that we can live integrated or disintegrated.  This distraction is in opposition to the Kingdom of God;  a distraction which continues to keep the world at bay from the realities of a Kingdom perception.[25] Culturally we have the freedom to choose that which we perceptively belong to.  It’s like we have this ability to created mind hotel’s that we can check into and be free from a Kingdom mindset.  Culturally we can immerse ourselves in consumption’s such as: clubs, organizations, teams, secret sins, and pleasures that bring us happiness.  We can create our own autonomy, our own destiny our own future. We can biologically alter our DNA.[26]  We have cultural permission and encouragement that this is normative and expected if it is within our means.  However, from a Kingdom standpoint this is in opposition to the teachings of Jesus.  There is no distinctions, no exemptions, and no clauses.  It ALL is Kingdom, and it’s all in the midst of God.  Although at times invisible to our cultural minds. . .  in the Kingdom, its all integrated, this IS reality now,  Kingdom now, not something to be applied, this Is what’s happening, this Is our story, the story now.[27]

 

Emerging Church

The voice of the emerging church is largely one calling out to itself, it has become radically outside of mainstream culture. Some within the Church who are listening has heard the cry of reformation, but largely that sphere of worldly influence has dwindled through the disintegration of Christendom.   That voice has had small exposure, and difficulty finding a unifying front, largely this is due to the fact of its ideological agenda not based in praxis.   Networks, such as the Ooze, Soularize, Emergent, Off the Map, Not-Alone, Kingdom Living;  authors such as Lesslie Newbigin,[28] Darrel Guder,[29]  Richard Foster,[30] Stan Grenz,[31] Dallas Willard,[32] Leonard Sweet,[33] George Hunsberger,[34] Stanley Hauerwas,[35] Greg Boyd,[36] and various other aquifers of numerous brilliance;  All of this aforementioned ideological, and intellectual prodding has done much to further the cry of change.  Their impact has been large, and time will prove their influence. The battles they have been waging are necessary and have begun a revolution of change that is slowly stirring the hearts of leaders, and culture within the Church.  This can be visibly evidenced through recent educational tracts of seminary’s and programs[37] that set out to study what it means to be a leader in an emerging world.[38]

Recently much time and dialogue has been forced to inwardly focus on the Church’s reformation.  In cloning the times, thrusts such as Generation X[39] churches and alternative services spent a great part of the 90’s rearranging the furniture and lighting candles. This was an honest attempt at keeping up with trends like MTV’s unplugged; however this was still only a response and being culturally reactive.[40]  In speaking of efforts made by those whom had hoped to see reformation one scholar commented that “The Church will never be reformed”[41] (Within context) This is because it is made up of sinners, who will never embody perfection, or represent the Church in its fullness,

The problem and fascination with reforming the church has been a reactive response rather than preventative maintenance; understanding culture is certainly a helpful tool, but those living within that culture need no predictors, or hypothesis as to where the church will be in the next 10 years.  Understanding genetically bio-engineered humanoids or meta-sexual’s[42] and the online church can be fascinating, however it isn’t a Kingdom agenda or one that produces practitioners.  Rather, it just continues in the vein of theorists and the trans-laying of cultural relevancy.  Technology and emergence is not a purporter to the single mom, with 2 kids.  And, neither is slipping a tract of the four spiritual laws under her door.  We need to raise practitioner leaders in the emerging church.  Leaders who are both experiencing the personal transformation of being Christian.  And leaders who are outwardly practicing the experience of spiritual transformation.  We need to DO Christianity.

Predictably the Church would look different if we focused on being more proactive in its leadership in reference to lead, and to teach people to be truly human.[43]  Providing individuals with the four spiritual laws is no longer effective, evangelistic stadium crusades are a dying breed.  Futuristically even the seeker church model will find suffering, because they too are based in a modernist model of church thinking largely based in an apologetic.  As America closes its historical run under the mantle of Christendom, we will be forced into new delivery systems, which are accessible and relevant.[44]

Unless the emergent church begins to become more outwardly focused, it will become nothing more than talk shops for intellectual growth.  Perhaps most perplexing is the recent identity emerging church’s discovery and overlay with their fascination with the traditions of Celticism.[45] This is interesting because of what is becoming the emerging church’s staple-introspection and spiritual reformation of the individual.  The inward journey of the Celts, has terrific ramifications, however what seems to go unrecognized is their equivalent and arguable mission,[46] to go out and preach the gospel fulfilling the mandates of a Kingdom (MT,28) agenda seemingly in direct defiance of cultural norms.[47] 

As the emergent voice has struggled to find its identity in encouraging leadership and corporate voice, it has passionately neutered the very individuals who have the autonomy to lead it.  Struggling to find their places within the context of local community[48]  leadership is often forced into a roll, that is “anti-ceo”  this role is in perhaps a backlash to CEO style of leadership that has become prevalent, however the danger in this line of thinking finds churches with passive voice and leadership that has neutered their platform to speak; and that have lost their prophetic voice..[49] 

Culturally, the emergent church, is hyper concerned with culture and dangerously resembles the liberal church of the pre Wesleyan Anglican Church who were early vigilantes of intellectual thought constructs.  The liberal church has become idle in efforts of being anti-culture, no longer are they defiant, no longer are they visible in terms of being cultural iconoclasts. It is a fear that the Emerging church could follow this vein.  Contrarily, the historical early church was radically defiant of their culture, its practices liturgy and voice was culturally heretical.  Sundays’ Sabbath, was a statement of defiance, not complacency, it was not an embrace of the Starbuck culture[50] of the day but rather opposition to it.[51] The voice, its kingdom message its mission was in the face of both Roman and Hebraic thought arguing for a call of allegiance to a new king and emperor.  This Roman heritage has remained entrenched in the emerging churches paradigm.  Its slavish reformation attempts and introspection remains a stigma of critique.  They must regain a prophetic voice, a voice the will be in defiance.  Sadly it’s difficult to be an orator for a kingdom message, if that message is lost in the rearranging of intellectual philosophizing.

 
Practitioners

How can leaders move from ideological practitioners, in talking shops, if they have never been taught to hear God’s voice?  I am not proposing gaining intellectual understanding of biblical texts and dogmatic teachings, literally and specifically I mean hearing Gods voice. There is much material regarding, inner journey, retrospection and inner voice, however, the praxis and instruction regarding the aforementioned question has not yet emerged.  If we are called to prophesy, where are the how to books of the emergent church.  The ideological thought fomenter’s are visible, but where are the practitioners? Who in this emerging paradigm are working through this? Who is hearing gods voice, Audibly, silently, through dreams, visions, prophetic words of understandings?  How can we as the Church have interpretation for unknown cultural knowledge if we don’t know how to hear Gods voice? The concept of waiting upon the spirit or leading within a corporate setting borrowing the Quaker, Brethren notion of “corporate guidance[52] presumes, following the Spirit. This clearly is not normative in teaching of prominent emergent church voices.  Who is equipping the church in this vastly undernourished tool, how can we be complete without it?  How can we be lead, if we don’t know how to see the leader?

The largest component of Spiritual Formation that is void in the Emerging Church is the Absence of the (“kingdom” = “reign/rule” = “power” = Dunimas)[53] or gifts of the Spirit.  Of  the aforementioned emerging authors and organizations, there is very little mentioned in terms of spiritual praxis.  The charismatic battle was waged in the 1970s and won.  The purpose of this paper is not to defend that statement, but to rather focus on the absence of that message within the emerging church.  There is much talk about community,[54] heightened discussion on personal reformation,[55] and recently the dialogue has begun to turn Missional.[56]  The voice of the emerging church is failing to train its leaders in matters of deciphering pneumatology.  It’s not that leadership doesn’t believe in the practice of gifts, its just that that leadership has no priority to fulfill that component of spirituality and has not yet given it priority. The seeker movement has had great effect on this and recently a prominent Christian scholar, leader and author said “that seeker[57] ) was the most destructive force to yet attack the Church in the last 2000 years”.  This attack is on the position that if it raises controversy or hyper awareness, than attendance will be effected[58] A reductionalist Gospel with a value for public opinion must be radically positioned when compared with practitioners in the early church[59] who were in defiance of cultural sensitivity[60]

The Spirit of Gods or Holy Spirit’s role in the emerging church[61] has been reduced to a means to accomplish personal spiritual transformation.  Within personal transformation and spiritual formation, lays the dormant force and the next phase for healing the emerging church.  However, it would seem that an obvious precursor or addendum would be hearing Gods voice.  It would seem a difficult postulate to determine what Gods heart and vision for accomplishing that transformation is, if an individual had no understanding or paradigm for listening to, or hearing God’s voice.[62]  A synthesis and marriage of this concept needs to take place within the emerging church.  How is it we can be prophetic, if we don’t know what gods voice sounds like?  How is it we can pray for others, if we don’t have a paradigm to see what the spirit is doing?[63]  How is it we can pray to see and individual healed if we have no understanding of physical healing?  How, in the middle of conversation can we be spiritual guides and leaders if we don’t know how to discern god voice?  As guides and spiritual directors it would seem a precursor to know what it is we are guiding towards and a means to determine the directions to the destination.  How is it that we can gain understanding of the spirits activity if we can’t see the Spirit.[64]  How can we creatively co-labor if we don’t have knowledge of spiritual matters?  How can we be signposts of the kingdom, if we can’t read the sign?  How can we pray if the Spirit, is not heard?[65]  These are ridiculous rhetorical questions (in the spirit of 1 Cor. 12:29-31) however the emerging church is encouraging this, without answering the questions.

Where are the visible models that radically intersect sin.  Perhaps if one has a problem with addiction they pray for guidance and wisdom, ask for help and of course thank God for their prophet the psychologist.  Continuing on, they eventually get to the sin motivators of that issue and through steps and guidelines suggested by their counselor, eventually they are able to control their addictions.  Perhaps a prescription of self-help, a peer group and even accountability structures are set in place.  Wonderful, amazing, and glorious. . . but, were are the models of divine intervention and why is it that those “prescriptions” are not brought about, demonstrated or written of with more regularity.

In the recent book (Stories of Emergence; Moving from Absolute to Authentic) composed of a diverse group of Christian leaders, whose purpose was to comment on culture and direction of the Emerging Church, there was not a single account of pneumatological expression-not one!  This wasn’t a surprise in fact it only took a perusing of the book to predict this.  It’s a message that has simply escaped this group of leaders. How sad! How Absolutely Un-Authentic.  There is much material ensuing on the praxis of inward journey, but very little on the praxis of apostolic. If the Church is writing on hearing and finding a voice, wouldn’t a precursor to that be hearing Gods voice?

The are obvious models that raise controversy and one needs only to turn the channels on a Sunday morning, to see them.  Having attended numerous conferences, and being significantly involved in conversations regarding emerging church in recent years, I have yet to see intentional instruction or dialogue regarding pneumatology.   Recently In the Last year, at Allelon’s National Meeting, in January,  and recently  Allelon’s Regional Church Planters Weekend  we intentionally set out to model and discuss the topic of pneumatology and were shocked to see the backlash that ensued,  some where angry, at the mention of the spirit, and had their own baggage of poor models.  However, many were upset.  Upset that they had never heard, seen, or understood this to be a component of Christianity that was real.  Upset that their relationship to the Holy Spirits activity was hyper atrophied, they were and are desperate to understand more.[66]

 

Conclusion

The Emerging Church is asking its congregation to be girl scouts without giving them the cookies.  This has to change, this project hopes to see it happen we desperately need practitioners who can voice, and demonstrate Kingdom.  We need forums, chat rooms, and places where this can be discussed.  Most importantly we need the theology that supports, this agenda, and accessibility for those who wish to learn. 

The books have been written, the research has been done, and information is overwhelmingly abundant.  In the words of Eddie Gibbs, President of Fuller Seminary “We’ll never know if power evangelism worked because nobody ever tried it”.  I want to be part of the generation that tries it.  I want to see the emerging church, dabble play and consume this Kingdom mindset and way of living.  I want to see it move from rhetoric and ideology to praxis

 



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