Friday, June 19, 2009

Dualisms and the Holy Spirit

It is not always what you don’t know that hurts you. More often than not the real problem lies in what we don’t know that we don’t know. In speaking of what we don’t know that we don’t know we are moving into the realm of presuppositions, assumptions and paradigms—those invisible ideas and hidden categories that shape what we see and don’t see. This is the fundamental issue in all areas of human knowledge, and nowhere more so than when we attempt to think about the Holy Spirit.

It is critical that we reflect on how we are to go about understanding the Holy Spirit. Do we simply amass all the verses in the bible that speak of the Spirit, distill them into one or two or more general categories and call this the biblical doctrine of the Spirit? While we neglect what the scripture says to our peril, this approach could quickly fall prey to the problem of what we don’t know that we don’t know and how that shapes what we see and don’t see in the scripture.

For theologians such as Irenaeus and Athanasius in the early Church, and Karl Barth and T. F. and J.B. Torrance in our own time, the way forward is to stick closely to Jesus and to the light shinning in his very identity. Part of what these theologians mean by following the light of Jesus is that the very existence of the Father’s Son incarnate speaks volumes about God, humanity and the divine-human relationship, and not least about the Holy Spirit. The identity of Jesus Christ gives us a fundamental, a starting point, and an inner logic and framework for our thought. It also exposes deadly assumptions built into the Western mind, and these assumptions (which happen to be dualisms) dramatically affect the way we read the scripture and go about theological thinking.

To speak of Jesus Christ biblically is to speak of the Father’s Son incarnate, and of the One anointed in the Holy Spirit, and of the Creator—in and through and by and for whom all things were created and as sustained. Jesus has serious connections, to say the least. And unless we are going to posit that Jesus divorced himself from his Father, unanointed himself of the Spirit, and split away from being the Creator—in and through and by and for whom all things were created and are sustained—then his very existence proclaims to us that the Father, and the Holy Spirit, and creation are not separated but bound together in very real relationship. Indeed, Jesus is himself the relationship. Jesus’ identity, his very existence in relationship with his Father, the Holy Spirit and all creation is the light of life, the secret, the key to God, to creation, to history and human existence within it.

“ I am the light of the cosmos. The one who follows Me shall never, ever walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12).

This vision of the identity of Jesus as the One who lives in relationship with his Father, and the Holy Spirit, and all creation exposes several dark spots in our Western mindset. First, our presentation of the gospel typically begins with the announcement of our separation from the Father. We sinned. We are separated from God. But the very existence of Jesus, as the Father’s undivorced Son incarnate, and as the One who did not undo his relationship with humanity when he became human, proclaims to us that all forms of separation from his Father, whether mythological, theological or personal, have been overcome by Jesus himself. The gospel is not the news that we can be reunited with a separated god. The gospel is the news that the Father’s Son himself has come, the Creator, and he has overcome whatever separation from God we have created, and he did so in his own being and existence. We don’t make Jesus part of our lives. He has made us part of his.

Second, while a split or dualism between the supposed ‘sacred’ and the ‘secular’ dimensions of human existence is built into the fabric of the Western mind, and of Western religion, Jesus’ existence exposes such a notion as nonsense. He is the Creator, the One in and through and by and for whom all things were created and are sustained. This Creator became a human being, and in doing so he joined the Father, the Holy Spirit and all creation in relationship.

“All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being” (John 1:3).

What part of creation has come into being behind the back of Jesus? And what part of creation manages to continue to be without him? What part of creation is not included in his relationship with his Father and the Holy Spirit? The ultimate dualistic disaster is ripping the Father, Son and Spirit apart, such that we could possibly encounter one without the other. Given the beautiful and utter oneness of the Trinity, the fact that the Son is the Creator and sustainer of all things means that he has a relationship with all creation, and in him so do the Father and the Holy Spirit. What part of our human experience is therefore ‘secular,’ without Jesus, devoid of the life of the Father, Son and Spirit? Motherhood? Work? Play? Romance? Gardening, golf, teaching, doctoring, governing, loving our neighbors?

Third, to go back to Irenaeus and his insight that the Father and the Holy Spirit were ‘accustoming’ themselves to dwell in the fallen human race through the life of Jesus—and over against our own ideas and assumptions—we are to proceed on the assumption that the Holy Spirit is present and at work in the relationships that Jesus himself has established with the fallen human race and with all creation. For in Jesus, the Father and the Holy Spirit found their way, so to speak, into real relationship with us in our fallen worlds.

What we don’t know that we don’t know is that we come to the scripture and to the discussion of the Holy Spirit and his relationship with us with a mindset riddled with dualisms, which keeps us from even suspecting that the Holy Spirit may be present, at work and producing his fruit everywhere. I once heard a young man say, ‘our job is to get the Holy Spirit into people.’ To begin with, only the Father’s Son and the anointed One could ever accomplish something as staggering as uniting us with the Holy Spirit. If you take Jesus Christ out of the equation of creation, the cosmos instantly vanishes. Not a single molecule survives a second without Jesus. And if the Holy Spirit decided that he would evacuate human existence, the cosmos would become utterly fruitless, void of life. It seems to me that we are giving ourselves far too much credit, assuming that ‘ordinary’ things like laughter, fellowship, caring, working, giving ourselves for others, being parents, making music, creating things are simply 'human' and have no Jesus or any Holy Spirit in them. Our dualisms have blinded us, and we don’t even know it.

When we finally meet Jesus face to face, I don’t think we will ask his forgiveness for giving him too much credit, and for overestimating his place in the whole scheme of things. I think we will be stunned silent by the sheer centrality of his very existence to the whole cosmos and to every moment of our entire lives. And I think we will be overwhelmed when we see the fingerprints of the Holy Spirit everywhere.

Where we are in our understanding and in our believing in the Holy Spirit is another matter, and is never to be confused with the Holy Spirit's presence, work and fruit-producing.

Holy Spirit give us Jesus’ eyes. Help us to see you in our lives and living, in our work and play, in the extraordinary ordinariness of life.


Jerome Ellard said...

Thank you, Baxter, for reminding us of the COSMIC implications of Jesus - the Son incarnate - and for reminding us that our inherited notions cannot void the intimate relationships that really exist between the cosmos, humanity and God; FORGED by Jesus, through His creation, incarnation, death, resurrection and ascension. This is the Good News that is not a burden, but a joy to proclaim! Hallelujah!

Timothy J. Brassell said...

Right on brother Baxter! Keep it coming in "layman" clarity (cause then we preachers can understand it too! Ha-Ha!) That's His special gift to and through you! Thanks!

As Robert F. Capon says in "The Foolishness of Preaching", "He’s assured you that he’s brought the scenario of creation and redemption to its conclusion all by himself, without assistance from you or anybody."

Now THAT'S Good News!

Anonymous said...

Wow, more to soak in!

As I was reading, I kept seeing emphasized "the Creator—in and through and by and for whom all things were created and are sustained—" three or four times, along with “All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being” (John 1:3)

So I had to think back to previous discussions (here or an associated board) that there is no evil, but only spoiled goodness. Then I kept thinking further again; If evil is only spoiled goodness, then Satan is spoiled Lucifer.

Then a eureka! It is no wonder Satan cannot repent!! Satan cannot repent any more than evil can!

God did not create Satan any more than he created evil. So then who is sustained? Lucifer! Spoiled, messed up Lucifer! I do know now for sure that Satan cannot repent. But can Lucifer who is created and sustained by God repent?


Pastor Paul said...

Baxter, again, this is beautiful and upholds the magnitude of the LIFE of Jesus Christ and his hands on relationship with ALL things both physical and spirit.

We also know that ALL things are reconciled in and by Jesus Christ and that 'repentance' is a matter of coming to see and understand where we fit in the creation by the Spirit through Jesus.

The question as to whether one can repent or not is a matter of that one's changing the mind to see and accept who/what they are in Jesus.

I think it would be wise for any of us to be careful in saying that this one or that one "can not repent." Metanoia can take place in any created beings both human and spirit.

The question remains, though, will it take place in all beings. That remains to be seen.

Paul Kurts

Anonymous said...

Pastor Paul wrote: "I think it would be wise for any of us to be careful in saying that this one or that one "can not repent." Metanoia can take place in any created beings both human and spirit."

That I agree with. I was separating the corrupted "Satan" from the created and sustained "Lucifer". Pretty much like Luke Skywalker separating the "Darth Vader" from the "Anakan Skywalker" thus saving the "Anakan" while destroying the "Vader".

The "Evil", "Satan", can never repent, since God did not create it in the first place. Lucifer, God created and sustains.

Again, that remains to be seen by the individual over time, probably much longer than we can imagine.

I just hope it doesn't take that long for humanity.


C. Baxter Kruger, Ph.D. said...

Guys, you are rolling. Keep thinking.

Anonymous said...

I read my comment again, and had to make something clear for those who may not understand what I am "suggesting" here.

IF "Lucifer" repents, one would assume it would cause the freedom of the world from Satan's attacks and deception, thus releasing the world and repentance can be fully realized by humanity.

That would put our freedom and repentance in Lucifer's hands.

I want to make something clear:


We do NOT need Satan ("Lucifer") to change in order for humanity to change. And THAT is what drives Satan crazy (torment, gnashing of teeth, outer darkness) and cannot fight against! Jesus won over Satan (and Lucifer) and the cosmos itself and there is nothing left but for us to realize that and come to Christ with hands held high in praise and worship!


Pastor Paul said...

I think one thing that is overlooked here is the fact that all things including Lucifer/Satan and his demons have been reconciled in Jesus.( Colossians 1:20 ). Boy, this will probably rub the fur the wrong way on the cat with some folks.


Anonymous said...

Thank you Dr. Kruger for another thought provokong post. I have learned much from you lately by the grace of our Triune King! I just got done reading your book "Jesus And The Undoing Of Adam" and am working on "The Great Dance". Your writing blows my mind with things that I have never considered before. I spent a lot of years as a religious, calvinist, legalist and to read your books is so refreshing! I have said it before and I will say it again, thank you sir for allowing God in Christ to work through you for our benefit!

Dr. Paul said...

Love it Baxter. The dualisms also make it easy to create a sequential view of the Trinity (really a Tri-theism) where the Father worked and then Jesus and then it's the "age of the Spirit." It's as if there are three different players on the field in different quarters - with the fourth still to come.

They also allow us to read the Sprit's involvement with the Son as helping his human side as if there was still a blindness of his fully-human side that was apart from his fully-divine side - two sides and not a commingling due to dualism.

They are still well and active.

jacob said...

I thought you might be interested in learning about OUR Jewish traditions, one which has embraced the real Christ of the gospel, the Law and the prophets.

If this doesn't interest you, I apologize in advance.

If you are interested let me tell you that we are the Frankist Association of America. One of our members has a new book out:

I am not that I am trying to sell you something. If you can't afford the book you can see the website of one of our teachers -

I just wanted to let you and the scholarly world that there have always been more than one type of Judaism in the world at any one time. Some forms of the faith had to learn to hide their beliefs in order to survive and perpetuate themselves.

Shalom, God Bless
Everything is perfect with God

Beth El Jacob Frank

Greg Denholm said...

I am a member of a church that, whilst never using the word "dualism", practices it all the time. It is woven into the culture - it is the ocean we swim in - thus it is a massive blind spot.

The things I say in conversation to my fellow church members often reflect a more incarnational view and the practical implications of that view. One of the things I say is that striving to be a "supernatural" church is fine, but it will never happen until we succeed in becoming a "natural" church. Jesus himself was and is both; in him, God and humanity are truly one. We need to get that we are members of him - members of the reality of God in human flesh - and start thinking through the practical implications.

But I can't seem to break through an invisible wall of misunderstanding: people hear the word "natural" as a code-word for "sinful". They forget that God likes matter - indeed, he has permanently joined himself to it through his One and Only Son. They emphasise Jesus' "spiritual" nature as if it were something different from, and more valuable than, his earthly, physical presence. They go looking for expressions of the supernatural in the midst of the natural - but without ever really uniting the two.

Now that Jesus has gone to be with the Father and given us his Spirit, we, the members of his body, need to wake up and realise that we ARE his incarnated presence in the world. When this happens, we will finally be on the way to becoming relevant to the world without sacrificing our heavenly-mindedness.