Monday, June 13, 2011

Theological words about the Holy Spirit...

Lorenz Wunderlich called his book on the Holy Spirit The Half Known God.  I confess I do not recall too much from the volume but the title is spot on.  The Holy Spirit is only half known among us -- but is this due to some lacking in us or could this be by design?  The Holy Spirit always points to Jesus and works in a hidden way so that Jesus is always center stage.  I wonder if it we were ever to know much of the Spirit except in relation to the role of the Spirit as Light revealer, pointing us to Jesus.  What we do know of the Spirit is probably less from the paragraph of theological tomes than it is from the pages of the hymnal.  The hymns of Pentecost are the most potent sources of what we practically know of the Spirit and His work than just about anything other than, at least for Lutherans, the explanation to the third article in the Small Catechism.

Yesterday we sang some of the great warhorses of the hymns on the Spirit (from Luther's "Come, Holy Ghost, God and Lord" to the wonderful Danish favorite "O Day Full of Grace" to "O Holy Spirit, Enter In" - unfortunately placed in the beginning of service section of LSB) to the hymns newer to us Lutherans (like "Holy Spirit, the Dove Sent from Heaven") to the classic "Come Down, O Love Divine".

Of all of them, I am particularly attracted to the traditional sequence hymn for Pentecost, "Come, Holy Ghost, Creator Blest."  Now I prefer the plainsong melody (LSB 499) but realize that this is probably inaccessible for most congregations so the German hymn setting of this same melody (LSB 498) will have to do. If you want to know the theology of the Holy Spirit, I would suggest you spend time mulling over these hymns and, for me, the top of the heap is always, Komm, Gott Schopfer.

Come, Holy Ghost, Creator blest,
Vouchsafe within our souls to rest;
Come with Thy grace and heavenly aid
And fill the hearts which Thou hast made.

To Thee, the Comforter, we cry,
To Thee, the Gift of God Most High,
The Fount of life, the Fire of love,
The soul's Anointing from above.

The sevenfold gifts of grace are Thine,
O Finger of the Hand Divine;
True promise of the Father Thou,
Who dost the tongue with speech endow.

Thy light to every thought impart
And shed Thy love in every heart;
The weakness of our mortal state
With deathless might invigorate.

Drive far away our wily Foe
And Thine abiding peace bestow;
If Thou be our protecting Guide,
No evil can our steps betide.

Make Thou to us the Father known,
Teach us the eternal Son to won
And Thee, whose name we ever bless,
Of both the Spirit, to confess.

Praise we the Father and the Son
And Holy Spirit, with them One;
And may the Son on us bestow
The gifts that from the Spirit flow! Amen.


Anonymous said...

“What we do know of the Spirit is probably less from the paragraph (sic) of theological tomes than it is from the pages of the hymnal.” This sentence both stunned me and reminded me of what Pres. Albert E. Meyer of Concordia, Bronxville once told me in an OT class, when I was unable to give the correct answer, “You know, Mr. Marquart, there is such a thing as the Bible, which you may read.”

Today’s technology makes it possible to find every mention of the Holy Spirit in Scripture rather easily. Strong’s Concordance is very helpful, but you have to remember that it uses the King James for its English version, so you need to use “Ghost” in place of “Spirit” when you search, although there are a few mentions of “Spirit” as well. Plus there are those fascinating words of our Lord in the Gospel of John, just before He undertook His suffering and death, which “opened the Kingdom to all believers.”

Having for some years objected to postings on several Lutheran blogs about the Holy Spirit, that did not reflect the teaching of Scripture, I have come to the following conclusions, which I believe are fully in conformity with Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions, with one exception:
1. The Holy Spirit lives in (not near, about, or around, but “in”) every member of the Kingdom of God, or the Church.
2. We receive the Holy Spirit once, when we are baptized, and He never leaves the Elect.
3. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is what divides all people into those inside the Kingdom, and those outside (sheep and goats).
4. The idea of getting refills of the Holy Spirit, or more of the Holy Spirit (as in “Fill our hearts with your Holy Spirit”) is not supported by Scripture. When we read that “they were filled with the Holy Spirit” in several places in Acts, the Greek tense is always Aorist, meaning it does not reflect action at a specific time but a state of being. All those good Lutheran hymns not withstanding.
5. It is only the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, not gratitude or any other of our own emotions, that makes it possible for us to want to do God’s will.
6. Luther was wrong in His explanation of the Second Petition of the Lord’s Prayer. That’s the exception mentioned above.
7. The Lutheran Confessions deal very sparsely with the Holy Spirit. The best sections are those dealing with Infant Baptism and the Third Use.
8. The Kingdom of God is what our Lord spent the vast majority of His time proclaiming, and this Kingdom is inexorably tied to the work of the Holy Spirit.
9. The Holy Spirit gives gifts to the children of God in accordance with His own choosing, regardless of how much we ask to have “our hearts set on fire”.

I will be happy to provide the “loci” both from Scripture and the Confessions in support of the nine points above.
Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart

Pastor Peters said...

George, me thinks you over reacted to my post. The Scriptures are not in opposition to the hymnal and not necessarily what theological tomes use as source material but the hymn provides a good and easily memorized summary, clearly accessible to all singers both in song stylings and content.

Anonymous said...

Dear Rev. Peters: maybe I overreacted. But my assertion is that, in some instances, the hymns are in direct opposition to what Scripture teaches about the Holy Spirit. Since, as Lutherans, we avoid mentioning the Holy Spirit at all, because someone might think us to be Schw√§rmers of some sort, we don’t really notice these when we sing them. Take this all-time favorite, which must have been sung in thousands of churches last Sunday:

O Holy Spirit, enter in
And in our hearts Thy work begin, …

Suitable for Catechumens, but for one who was baptized 75 years ago?

Is it the Introit, or Gradual, I am not certain (and I am sure mistaking one for the other is a greater error than noting what it says):

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of the faithful and kindle in them the fire of Your love...

This violates #2 of my original posting.

Oh yes, this is not a problem which has just recently arisen. We Lutherans have had a problem with the Holy Spirit for years. Here is a Bach Cantata, thanks to P. McCain’s blog:

Holiest Trinity,
Great God of honor,
in the time of grace
o come and return to us,
o come into the tabernacle of our hearts,
though they are small and insignificant,
come and let Yourself be persuaded,
come and enter within us!

I don’t have a Lutheran hymnal handy, but here are a couple of problem stanzas I got from the Internet:

Holy Spirit, hear us
On this sacred day;
Come to us with blessing,
Come with us to stay.

Come, Holy Ghost, Creator blest,
Vouchsafe within our souls to rest;
Come with Thy grace and heavenly aid
And fill the hearts which Thou hast made.

I do recall that during past Pentecost celebrations I have had to either stop singing or cringe as I sang, but I do not remember all of the hymns that caused this reaction.
Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart