All Protestants affirm the Trinity of Three Persons in One God, a concept very hard to understand. Calvinist focus on the First-Person God the Father. Lutherans emphasize the Second-Person God the Son. God the Spirit has been much neglected mostly because his role as Lord and Giver of church life was not needed when lively church life was heavily institutionalized. The rapidly growing Pentecostal movement of the last 100 years features the Third-Person Spirit. For Paul Christ and the Holy Spirit are inter-changeable. He attributes the same function in one place to Christ and another place to the Spirit. For Paul the Spirit is Christ present with us now.
“Lutherans emphasize the Second-Person God the Son. God the Spirit has been much neglected mostly because his role as Lord and Giver of church life was not needed when lively church life was heavily institutionalized.” Not expressed in those words, however… after finishing one of my first messages on my internship many years ago, a retired Lutheran pastor came up to me after the service and asked, “Where did you come from?” (with a quizzical look on his face) “From NE Iowa,” was my reply. No, No… what church? …where did you go to seminary? …and he continued, “I don’t think I’ve ever heard a Lutheran pastor use ‘Holy Spirit’… speak about the Holy Spirit so much in all my years as a pastor.” Now I had the quizzical look… as I simply replied something like, “Ahhhhh, do we not profess our faith with the Apostles Creed, that includes the Holy Spirit? Do we not celebrate Pentecost? Is not God’s Word full of the Holy Spirit… and is the Holy Spirit not part of the Trinity?…..” He was still standing, looking at me like I was from anther world — a stranger… and as we spoke more, it became evident he thought I was probably raised in a Pentecostal church. I simply told him I was raised in a rural Methodist church, with a rural Lutheran church (St Sebald) next to our farm — with family there for generations… and we attended from time to time… and I had been involved with Campus Crusade at Iowa State (74-78)… my wife’s father was a Lutheran pastor… I don’t understand how anyone could be in God’s Word… in Christ….and NOT in His Spirit daily. I mean that’s where it’s at! Needless to say he was still looking at me like I’d just got off a spaceship or something, but finally said, “No, No, NO, don’t get me wrong! I’ve just never heard the Holy Spirit preached in a Lutheran church like you just did… Please, don’t stop. We need it.” Realize that it was only after much “coaxing” from a multitude of others over the years, including a Nazarene US Air Force Chaplain, after being disabled for 3 years from a bad car accident and then surviving a lightening strike a few months later, that I finally accepted going to seminary. But then the dilemma, Methodist or Lutheran…. which was resolved in part due to economics and the Holy Spirit’s guidance / involvement in multiple ways! I attended Trinity Lutheran, which was a challenge to say the least. Trying to teach an old dog new “tricks” is not easy! This old dog was willing to “listen” and do as needed to make it through their “M Div program”… FYI, retired from the ELCA, but 3 years later, supplying for “Trinity Lutheran” — NALC — I was kicked out of the ELCA! It is not one world! Indeed, WHAT happened to our churches? Much, much more I could share, but just wished to express my thankfulness David for ALL you are sharing from your 30+ years — Thank you! Shalom
David Luecke says
Great story. I hope you can share it in ways beyond your comment to my website. One of our lay mission leaders picked up and is managing a Lighthouse ministry of using a bus that comes on Saturday’s for kids in low-income housing to teach a Bible lesson. It was started by a Nazarene pastor. Harold gave me what amounts to their Nazarene Catechism of answers to questions. It is written by Phineas F. Bresee. He obviously had training in classical theology. I scanned it. He even advocates infant baptism. I would like to have a critical Lutheran theologian examine what this Nazarene Catechism teaches that would be unacceptable to a Lutheran. They may use different words, but the substance is the same.
At least this Nazarene has a very good understanding of grace. He does not teach what my F.E. Meyer book says is taught by Nazarenes. One of the really good things Evangelicals is they read their Bible, much more thoroughly than Lutheran lay people. Many on their own actually understand Paul’s teaching on grace.
By the way, I worked through Gordon Fee’s exegesis (God’s Empowering Presence) of the 143 passages where Paul refers to the Spirit. Gordon’s Part II Synthesis I accept as an accurate reflection of what Paul understood and taught. We Lutherans emphasize salvation by grace through faith. We are told it is central to Paul’s theology. Actually, Paul’s understanding of the Holy Spirit is even more central. Paul refers to the Spirit 143 times, He says “in Christ” 81 times. Which is more central to Paul’s theology?