Do We Worship the Holy Spirit?

I have run into several people across the years who have been very adamant about the notion that as Christians we should not pray to the Holy Spirit, sing to the Holy Spirit, or worship the Holy Spirit. They say that all of our worship/prayer ought to be focused on Father, through Jesus. Are they right?

Do We Worship the Holy Spirit?

Karl Barth seems to think that they are wrong, we indeed ought to direct prayer and worship to the Holy Spirit. In Church Dogmatics 1.1.12 Barth quotes the Nicene Creed which adamantly affirms that we ought to worship the Spirit as well:

And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life; Who proceeds from the Father and the Son, Who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified…

The Holy Spirit descends upon the apostles during Pentecost.
The Holy Spirit descends upon the apostles during Pentecost.

The Father is worshiped and glorified, the son is worshiped and glorified, the Spirit is worshiped and glorified. What the creed refers to, according to Barth, is that the One Lord is to be worshiped and glorified as Father and as son and also as Spirit. Thus tritheistic worship is ruled out. All this to say that “the Holy Spirit is denoted as an object of worship and glorification.”  As the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit is fully God. As part (such a tricky word) of the Godhead he is one with the divine essence.  This means that when we worship the Holy Spirit, we are fully engaged in worship with the Triune God. This is just as true as when we worship Jesus or when we worship the Father. All Christian worship is directed at the entire Triune Godhead, its not as though one person of the Trinity gets left out when we worship the other persons of the Trinity.

So to answer your question – “Do we worship the Holy Spirit? The answer is an emphatic yes.”

Book Giveaway – Strange Glory by Charles Marsh

Last week I wrote a review of Charles Marsh’s “Strange Glory.”

This is an excellent and highly entertaining biography. It is very well written; at times it felt as though I were reading a novel, not a historical biography. But more importantly than that it is comprehensive, it goes beyond merely reporting the standard story, but instead strives to get into Bonhoeffer’s mind.  Marsh understands Bonhoeffer’s theology, and he seems to understand some of the things that really acted as driving forces in Bonhoeffer’s life. I recommended that you read this biography alongside of Eric Metaxas’ biography so that you will be able to form your own picture of who Bonhoeffer really was.

Today I would like to announce that I am doing my first ever free book giveaway! The publisher has graciously provided me with an extra copy to giveaway, so I want you to have it!

So you might be wondering… How do I get a free copy?

That is a great question! There are two things I need you to do:

  1. Follow me on Twitter – my handle is @CWoznicki
  2. Tweet at me why you want to read this book

It’s as simple as that! At the end of the week I will take all the names of people who have followed me and tweeted at me about the book this week, and I will randomly select a winner to send a free copy of this book to. And don’t worry, the shipping is covered as well!

Good luck!

Book Review – Strange Glory by Charles Marsh

Pastor. Martyr. Prophet. Spy. Those are the four words that Eric Metaxas used to describe Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his magisterial biography of the famous German-Lutheran pastor/theologian. The Bonhoeffer that Charles Marsh offers in this new biography of Bonhoeffer could be aptly described by those four words as well, however he adds two new words to the description of Bonhoeffer – “Strange Glory.”

Marsh’s biography follows the same general contours of most Bonhoeffer biographies. Bonhoeffer is born into an academic-socially elite family. He lives a life of privilege even during a time of economic hardship through Germany. He goes to school where he studies theology among some of the most important theological minds of his century – Harnack, Holl, and Seeberg. He was exposed to the theology of Barth. He took up pastoral posts in Spain and London. He took a trip to America to study at Union, this trip would forever change his life. He came back to Germany as Hitler’s power began to rise. He helped lead the dissident churches and founded an underground seminary at Finkenwilde. He took part in the Abwehr’s plot to overthrow Hitler from power. Eventually he was arrested and killed for taking part in resisting the Nazi government. So what makes Marsh’s biography stand out above the other biographies that have already been written? It’s his notion of “strange glory.”

According to Marsh, Bonhoeffer’s life is fraught with contradictions. At once he is driven by earthly and worldly passions yet so much of him is dedicated to the transcendent Christ. This strangeness is especially evident in some of his letters – in many of his letters you catch a glimpse of two sides of Bonhoeffer, he writes about Christology, the resistance, and solidarity with the poor and oppressed. Moments latter, within the same letter, he might go off into a rant about a relative sending him the wrong pair of clothes. He will describe in detail his fashion “needs,” days spent lounging at cafés drinking coffee or wine, visiting the opera and fantasizing about vacations taken to exotic parts of Europe. Another part of this “strange glory” is his relationship with Bethge – which many other reviews have already commented on.

Pros

There are several key things that make this biography stand out above many others.

Marsh’s ability to engage in complex theological discussions – Whether it’s a discussion of Church dogmatics, Hegel’s Philosophy, or the intricacies of Liberal Protestant Theology Marsh “gets it.” He is able to concretely summarize and engage with Bonhoeffer’s contemporaries. Also, Marsh takes the time to engage with Bonhoeffer’s theology, presenting discussions of Ethics, Life Together, Christ the Center, Sanctorum Communio, and Act and Being in depth.

It gives a different take on Bonhoeffer’s first Trip to America – It has been well noted that Bonhoeffer was extremely disappointed by the state of Christianity in America (except for African-American churches). Most biographies allow Bonhoeffer’s feelings during his time in America to color their interpretation of how important this trip was. While in America, Bonhoeffer was highly critical of American theology, which was essentially politics and humanitarianism. However, latter on in Bonhoeffer’s life we see how deeply this trip affected Bonhoeffer. Much of how he resisted the Nazi government and his defense of Jews in Germany was shaped by his time in America.

It paints a vivid picture of Bonhoeffer’s emotional needs – More than any other book on Bonhoeffer that I have read, it paints a picture of Bonhoeffer as a man who not only craves, but needs Bonhoeffer seems to be an emotionally needy person. Whether its his relationship with his sister Sabine, his close community at Finkenwilde, or his friendship with Bethge, Bonhoeffer seems to be a person who cannot do life alone. He consistently seems to move from person to person, seeking to find some sort of fulfillment. He seems absolutely depended upon reciprocal love and attention from others.

Bonhoeffer and his sister Sabine

He does a good job explaining the apparent contradiction between Bonhoeffer’s pacifism and his willingness to kill Hitler – this apparent contradiction is resolved by making use of Lutheran theology, essentially Bonhoeffer knew that whether he took the route of action or inaction he would be guilty of sin, so following the (apparently) Lutheran principle of “sin and sin boldly” Bonhoeffer was able to justify taking part in the plot to kill Hitler.

This is an excellent and highly entertaining biography. It is very well written; at times it felt as though I were reading a novel, not a historical biography. But more importantly than that it is comprehensive, it goes beyond merely reporting the standard story, but instead strives to get into Bonhoeffer’s mind. It does that very well. Marsh understands Bonhoeffer’s theology, and he seems to understand some of the things that really acted as driving forces in Bonhoeffer’s life. I recommended that you read this biography alongside of Eric Metaxas’ biography so that you will be able to form your own picture of who Bonhoeffer really was.

(Note: I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for an impartial review.)

Missions – It’s All About Jesus

Why do we do missions? Why do we invest so much money into sending people to the other side of the world to plant churches, to share the gospel, and to tangibly exemplify the kingdom? Why do people sacrifice their lives, their families, their hopes and dreams and desires for this thing we call “missions?” The answer is actually not that complicated. In fact the answer is so simple that we can describe the entire purpose of missions in just one word, actually, in just one name: Jesus.

David Mathis, in an essay titled Remember, Jesus Never Lies reminds us of this simple but profound reason for missions…

At the end of the day, global missions is about the worship of this spectacular Jesus. The goal of missions is the worldwide worship of the God-man by his redeemed people from every tribe, tongue, and nation. The outcome of missions is al about delighting to praise Jesus. And the motivation for missions is the enjoyment that his people have in him.

Missions aims at, brings about, and is fueled by the worship of Jesus.

Another way to say it is that missions is about Jesus’s global glory. From beginning to end – in target, effect, and impetus – missions centers on the worldwide fame of the Messiah in the praises of his diverse peoples from every tribe, tongue, and nation. What’s at stake in missions is the universal honor of the Father in the global glory of his Son in the joy of all the peoples.

May our entire lives always aim at, bring about, and be fueled by the worship of Jesus!

A Non-Christian Walks Into A Bar…

No its not the beginning of a joke. Its the beginning of a typical interaction. You and your buddies are hanging out having a beer, and your non-Christian friend asks you about this whole “God thing” that you are into. Why do you believe all this stuff? Who is Jesus, and why did this Jesus have to die?

“Why did Jesus have to die?”- How would you respond?

I would probably give an answer that is very relational, because I many non-Christians my age have post-modern sensibilities which lead them to have an averse reaction to any account of the gospel which revolves around breaking rules. I feel as though they would be suspicious of a rules based gospel since moral absolutes, especially from an “ancient” religion, can come across as a power grabbing move.

My Response…

I would say: “The Bible says that God created the world and humans, but don’t get hung up on how that exactly works out. The point is that God is creator, but he isn’t only a creator, he was a good creator. He gave humans the whole earth as a gift, he blessed them, loved them and asked them to cultivate the rest of creation and their relationships to each other. However, something happened and the relationship broke down. Humans decided to betray God, by loving themselves and their desires more that God and each other. By turning from God they took away from God the thing that he deserved, love and worship. But since God loved his creation so much he devised a plan to restore all of creation, especially humans to himself. That is essentially the story of Israel that you get in the OT. The OT story culminates with Jesus who dies on the cross for us. See Jesus was not like us, he never betrayed God, his relationship never broke. Jesus was perfect. Because Jesus honored, loved, and worshiped God even unto death, we can appropriate what he did, so when God sees humans who put their faith in Christ God sees Jesus. Thus we are reconciled to God back into that perfect relationship. Because of that we can now go back cultivating creation and our relationships with one another.”

Karl Barth on The Meaning of the Lord’s Supper

In laying out Barth’s position on the Lord’s Supper we cannot properly speak of “Barth’s position” because Barth ended his Church Dogmatics (henceforth CD) before touching upon the Lord’s Supper (henceforth LS) extensively,[1] thus any reconstruction of Barth’s position is just that, a reconstruction and not an exposition. However what we can say with certainty that for Barth, Jesus Christ the Word, is the sacrament. For revelation means the giving of signs, thus “revelation means sacrament, i.e., the self-witness of God… in the form of creaturely objectivity and therefore in a form which is adapted to our creaturely knowledge.”[2] Keeping in mind that Jesus Christ is the true sacrament we shall look at several places in CD in which Barth talks about the LS.

Karl Barth enjoying a cigar.
Karl Barth enjoying a cigar.

In CD IV.4 Barth explains that baptism is not a sacrament, but its meaning is found in its character “as a true and genuine human action which responds to the divine act and word.”[3] In understanding Barth’s stance towards the sacrament of baptism we might come to understand his views about the LS. By examining Zwingli’s exegetical work regarding baptism, Barth points out that Zwingli was basically right, that the meaning of the ceremony is found in human action, in the performance of the ceremony. Thus Barth says that he does not object if someone calls his own views “Neo-Zwinglian.”[4] Barth goes on to explain the LS is also a human decision and an act whose value consists human decision to respond to divine work.[5]

In CD IV.4 Barth also talks about the Holy Spirit feeding the believer with the body and blood of Christ. He says that Christ’s body and blood nourishes the believer.[6] Although he seems to be using LS language it is not clear that this is referring to the LS, for the context of this passage is the ongoing process of sanctification, not any one particular act.

In CD IV.3 also makes several references to the LS. In one section he mentions that Christ calls the elect to himself, conjoining himself to them. Barth says that the Lord’s Supper is “instituted to represent this perfect fellowship between Him and them which He has established.”[7] Thus in the Lord’s Supper the Christian celebrates, adores, and proclaims what Christ has done for them, namely redemption.

Finally, another important passage on the Lord’s Supper is found in CD IV.3. In this section he talks about the Word and the Lord’s Supper. Barth says that human words can acquire a function and capability that they did not have in themselves as elements of general human speech; once they are about the Word, they are received and claimed by the Word of God.[8] God uses human words, even though they are limited due to their creatureliness, for the service of His Word, God gives them power to bear witness to His Word. Barth says that the Lord’s Supper is similar to how God uses human words to bear witness to God’s Word. The elements of the LS do not cease to be what they are, bread and wine, but they now serve the “function and capability” of indicating and confirming the fellowship of the community with its Lord.[9]

According to these passages, especially the previous passage, it seems as though Barth’s position is conditioned by his theology of revelation and the Word. Barth believes that humans cannot know God unless God reveals himself to them. He believes that God reveals himself in his Word, Jesus Christ. Jesus, the Word of God, is God himself revealing himself. Thus scripture does not truly reveal God, scripture serves as a witness to the Word, the revelation of God himself. Similarly the LS is not where we encounter God. The LS simply serves as a witness to the Word. The Lord’s Supper serves as a witness to the Jesus by indicating and confirming the reconciliation that Jesus has brought to the elect. So when the elect practice the LS, they bear witness to the Word and confirm to themselves and each other what Jesus has done for them and is doing for them, he has reconciled them to himself and he is sanctifying them.

—————————————

[1] James Buckley, “Christian Community, Baptism, and Lord’s Supper,” In The Cambridge Companion to Karl Barth, ed. John Webster, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 196.

[2] Buckley, “Christian Community, Baptism, and Lord’s Supper,” In The Cambridge Companion to Karl Barth, 201-2.

[3] Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics: IV.4 the Doctrine of Reconciliation, trans. G.W. Bromiley (London: T&T Clark, 2009), 30:126.

[4] Barth, Church Dogmatics: IV.4 the Doctrine of Reconciliation, 127.

[5] Barth, Church Dogmatics: IV.4 the Doctrine of Reconciliation, 128.

[6] Barth, Church Dogmatics: IV.4 the Doctrine of Reconciliation, 37.

[7] Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics: IV.3.2 the Doctrine of Reconciliation, trans. G.W. Bromiley (London: T&T Clark, 2009), 28: 169.

[8]Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics: IV.3.2 the Doctrine of Reconciliation, trans. G.W. Bromiley (London: T&T Clark, 2009), 29: 55.

[9] Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics: IV.3.2 the Doctrine of Reconciliation, 29: 55.

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