By NEMS Daily Journal
The Holy Spirit is the Trinity’s own ‘breath of freedom’
In theological study, it’s easy to get a little dizzy with “ologies.” There’s Christology, the subject of which is obvious to even the greenest layman. There’s ecclesiology, the study of the structure of the church. There’s Christian anthropology, the study of humans as created in the image and likeness of God.
Last but not least there’s pneumatology, from the Greek word for breath, which is the study of the Holy Spirit.
It’s a fitting name, considering that several scriptural passages, like Genesis 2:7, use the image of God’s breath to depict the spirit.
Last but not least because, as most ministers will admit, our theology of the Holy Spirit is rather weak.
Christians tend to have highly developed theologies of the father and son, perhaps because they’re human-centered images, and it seems rather easy to marshal scripture in support.
For example, the opening of the Gospel of John tells us that Jesus, the eternal word of God, pre-existed from all time with the father. Using Greek philosophical concepts, early theologians of the church expressed that as “homoousios,” or one-in-being-with the father.
Pretty technical stuff.
The Holy Spirit, on the other hand, tends to be the explanation, or personification, we give whenever the father or son isn’t immediately recognizable as the doer of the action.
Thus we get the amorphous yet rather beautiful depiction of the spirit as God’s invisible, ubiquitous breath.
One professor has referred to the Holy Spirit as the Mrs. Rochester of the Trinity, referring to the mad wife of the male lead in the novel Jane Eyre. Throughout most of the novel she’s locked in the attic and largely ignored.
Tomorrow churches in the Western liturgical traditions celebrate Pentecost, the event, related in Acts 2, when the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus’ followers after his resurrection.
In the Bible, Pentecost is kind of a rock and roll event. Tongues of fire descend from the sky. There’s all sorts of ecstatic behavior, speaking in tongues and whatnot. It’s indicative of the worship of some contemporary Christians, most notably Pentecostals.
The descent of the Spirit is unscripted and freewheeling, perhaps even a little dangerous. The apostles are emboldened to come out from hiding and run amok.
Maybe it’s fitting that pneumatology is an underdeveloped discipline. It seems counterintuitive that the most exciting and unpredictable person of the Trinity should be pinned down and systematically explained.
Perhaps the most inspiring passage of scripture that speaks of the Spirit associates it with escape from bondage, with newness and abundance of life.
Second Corinthians 17 says, “Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” What a nice thought for Pentecost.