Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit

The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit in Karl Barth

Note: This was lifted directly from George Hunsinger. I claim absolutely no originality.

Revelation, reconciliation, and redemption stand in a set of inseparable yet flexible relationships. Revelation without reconciliation is empty. Reconciliation without revelation is mute. Neither can one be found without the other for they are identical with Jesus Christ. The place of the Holy Spirit cuts to the heart of what happened “there and then” and what continues “here and now.”

Redemption is the future of reconciliation. Reconciliation and revelation is the ground. Redemption is the goal. While the doctrine of the Holy Spirit remains rigorously Christocentric, from the standpoint of reconciliation the Spirit served the work of Christ, from the standpoint of redemption the work of Christ served the work of the Spirit. Unfortunately, Barth’s own work on reconciliation was never completed and redemption was never begun. As such we’re left with only hints about the large-scale structural emphases of where Barth was going. (cf IV/2, 507-11)

Barth understands the Spirit as “the mediator of the covenant” and “communion of the Holy Spirit” (2 Cor 13:13). The same Holy Spirit that bonds the person to God is the bond of love within the Holy Trinity. The mediation of the Holy Spirit “moves in two directions at once: from the eternal Trinity through Jesus Christ to humankind, and from humankind through Jesus Christ to the eternal Trinity.” (179)

Trinitarian in Ground
Following Augustine the Spirit is the eternal act of love within the Trinity: “He is the common element, or, better, the fellowship, the act of communion, of the Father and the Son.” (I/1, 470). He is hypostatic in the same sense they are: “He is what is common to them, not in so far as they are the one God, but in so far as they are the Father and the Son.” (I/1, 469)

Christological in Focus
The saving significance of the Holy Spirit is that it is to impart and bear witness to Jesus Christ: “there is no special and second revelation of the Spirit alongside that of the Son. There are not, then, two Sons or Words of God. In the one revelation, however, the Son or Word represents the element of God’s appropriation to man and the Spirit the element of God’s appropriation by man.” (I/1, 474)

The Spirit mediates the Presence of a Christ: “the Holy Spirit … is no other than the presence and action of Jesus Christ Himself: His stretched out arm; He Himself in the power of His resurrection, i.e., in the power of His revelation as it begins in and with the power of His resurrection and continues its work from this point. It is by His power that He enables men to see and hear and accept and recognise Him as the Son of Man who in obedience to God went to death for the reconciliation of the world and was exalted in His humiliation as the Son of God, and in Him their own exaltation to be the children of God.” (IV/2, 322-323)

Miraculous in Operation
Against emanation
Barth rejected both divine determinism and free will and their subtler forms—firstly emanation. Emanation is the idea that God and God alone is the acting subject in acts of Christian love. The human person is simply the passive instrument from which it flows. Barth, on the other hand, points the work of the Holy Spirit as creating proper human agency and freedom “It is not the work of the Holy Spirit to take from man his own proper activity, or to make it simply a function of His own overpowering control. Where He is present, there is no servitude but freedom.” (IV/2, 785)

Against synergism
Barth also rejected a view of human freedom that cooperates with divine grace to effect salvation. There is no synthesis that coordinates God and humankind, grace and nature. There is no repairing some human capacity. There is no point of contact between where the human person and God coordinate their actions. In his famous response to Emil Brunner, he finds some natural point of contact between us to be “incompatible with the third article of the creed. The Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father and the Son and is therefore revealed and believed to be God, does not stand in need of any point of contact but that which he himself creates. Only retrospectively is it possible to reflect on the way in which he ‘makes contact’ with human beings, and in this retrospect will ever be a retrospect upon a miracle.” (No!, 121)

Human cooperation does not effect salvation
However, human freedom “cooperates” with divine grace to the effect that the Holy Spirit creates the ability to receive grace and our freedom is the consequence of salvation. “We are thus forced to say that this awakening is both wholly creaturely and wholly divine. Yet the initial shock comes from God. Thus there can be no question of co-ordination between two comparable elements, but only of the absolute primacy of the divine over the creaturely. The creaturely is made serviceable to the divine and does actually serve it. It is used by God as His organ or instrument. Its creatureliness is not impaired, but it is given by God a special function or character. Being qualified and claimed by God for co-operation, it co-operates in such a way that the whole is still an action which is specifically divine.” (IV/2, 557)

Communal in Content
Koinonia with Christ: uniting the disparate
The mutual indwelling of Christ’s human and divine nature serves as the backdrop for the uniting of Christ and the Church: “The work of the Holy Spirit, however, is to bring and to hold together that which is different” (IV/3.2, 761) and “the unity in which He is at one and the same time the heavenly Head with God and the earthly body with His community.” (IV/3.2, 760)

Participating through Christ in the koinonia of the Trinity
Communion with Christ in the Spirit involves participation in the communion of the Holy Spirit: “He takes us up into his fellowship, i.e., the fellowship which he has and is in himself.” (II/1, 275)

Koinonia with one another in Christ
As the Spirit incorporates us into Christ and thus into communion with the Triune God, we also enter into communion with one another.  The Spirit gathers the community in faith (IV/1, 643-739), builds it up in love (IV/2, 614-726), and sends it out into the world in hope (IV/3, 681-901).

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