Life in the Spirit


This is the start of a review of what it means to be a disciple living under the influence of the Holy Spirit. I start by exploring what Paul Tillich says about the the Spirit as a power for our New Humanity and Teilhard de Chardin about Union and Sanctification.  

Under the topic of the Trinity I reviewed the theology of the relations of the Holy Spirt within the Trinity and the acts of Spirit as part of the causation of the cosmos and our existence. In this section. I explore the relations of the Spirit to the ongoing renewal of life and in the wake of the Incarnation of Christ and the gift of the Spirit into the lives of believers.

We could explore many texts from St Paul’s letters in the New Testament that emphasise the power coming into believers that is a renewing activity in the content of our character to bring about what is often called “Sanctification”. I will however leave all that aside and say that for me the concept of Sanctification is all about becoming our New Humanity that is in fact God’s original intention of our being to become “Beings in divine Communion”. So in this section of the website I explore various facets of this intentional completion and change of ourselves into that state under the influence of the Spirit. Our future as humanity is not just to be taken into some alternative existence called “heaven” it is to experience a change of character that takes place even while in the world and completed beyond death and resurrection.

Paul Tillich -The Spirit as the Power for New Humanity

In Vol 3 of his “Systematic Theology” Tillich sets out a theology of the Spirit in the context of all the ambiguities, conflicts and tensions of life. There are many aspects of life that include process that stands against death and resists death and there is a multi-dimensional unity of life with death, with many forms of existing. In the world there is randomness and indeterminate processes as well as regularities. Against a purely materialist view of the world Tillich says we can wrongly come to conclusions about the inorganic and processes of life that try to reduce everything to material explanations, excluding the spiritual. Materialism ends in death. But the term “Spirit” is something that points beyond the material and material reductionism. 

We have in the realm of Spirit and spirit potentials for change and growth beyond our material nature as organic beings. Such aspects of Spirit and spirit includes our moral nature and conscious understanding of our selves and what we may become as well as what we are now. Traditional theology has often limited the term “moral” to individual sexual acts or the receiving of commands and what we ought to do or not to do. But community in the Spirit goes beyond such limitations. We find ourselves caught up in many struggles for values and meanings that can shape our ultimate growth as beings. The Spirt gives us moral imperatives and directions that may be unconditional but even so we face all the time our inner ambiguities and personal struggle with our “Fallen” and self-conflicting nature

People may concern themselves with moral law but Agape (the divine. self giving love and charity) is what should lay behind the moral.   Agape includes the ultimate principle of justice applied to our changing situations. Moral decisions for today may need a freedom from past moral law because circumstances have changed and Agape must act in accord with new conscience making. The new motivating power of Agape that comes to us is the power of New Being that comes from The Christ. Moral law is not sufficient for this necessary change and so we the need to have freedom from the Law based instead on the dimensions and power of Agape. Only inner dynamic change into the New Being can accomplish what is needed for our change of character. 

The Spirit has always been involved in the self –creativity of life (in evolution) and is the hidden reason behind all becoming. The Spirit always breaks through the limits of the old even in the face of resistance. In the world the limitation of things that reach death The Spirit provides the seeds of new existence. New things surpass the old and previous efforts. Always from the Spirit there is the potential of participation in the New. It is this that brings change of Praxis (practice). We can look at and encounter the world in new ways that lead to new praxis, praxis that includes new social relations and acts with renewed personal communion. 

Because of the past failures and corruption of religion there has been a rise of unreligious humanism with attempted self and society improvements but all these have their limitations because they are still under the control of the old and ambiguous aspects of life. Power structures remain that are not changed by new praxis and the bondage to decay remains.

Tillich writes of “self -transcendence” in nature that could be another way of expressing the progress of evolution. There is a greatness in this that gives a dignity even to the inorganic but there are often things that profane life and dignity. The Spirt gives dignity to life (and in this respect under the movement of the Spirit we give dignity to all levels of life and existence).  It is wrong to make distinct and arbitrary categories of sacred and profane. Things and people can be demonically devalued, which is again something to be resisted because the Spirt gives value to things that exist as they are loved. (I note here a strong environmental concern that life in the Spirit should have, not restricted to personal salvation). 

In conclusion, there are always aspects of the Divine Spirt that lead us beyond ourselves as we are now to transcend our current nature and see the dignity of things, acting in the Agape that comes from The Christ as the power of New Being. Yet we can never do this ourselves but only by participation in what is given to us. The Spirit in cooperation with our spirit is always something alongside us lifting us up and is always more than moral instruction or hope of some separated existence beyond death. 

Teilhard de Chardin- The Union and Sanctification of Humanity

Notes here are taken from a collection of his posthumous essays included in Christianity and Evolution and his publication The Phenomenon of Man.  His evolutionary theology is strongly focused on the person of Jesus as representing a Cosmic Christ ahead of evolution and luring life onwards to a completion. He does not write specifically about the activity of the Spirit and yet this may be implied in connection with the acts of Jesus and His evolving role ahead of us. Jesus Christ is the Head of Creation and our completeness as humanity is found in the humanity of Jesus and His risen and Ascended Body of Christ that embraces us. Christ and His faithful people form a whole new thing, and we are drawn into something collective. We are assumed into this collective mystical state of existence. In this our blessedness is a state of union together and not simply individual and is a progressive inclusion. The first contact we have with this union is when we enter into baptism and then supported by other sacraments. Our singular union with Christ joins us to all others into this mystical union. This makes for a “Christification” of the world (and can be related to the concept of the Kingdom of God). There is then a creative “Christogenesis” that takes place that consists of the historical figure of Jesus and the whole Body of His disciples brought into union in all times and places. 

What we have in our union with Christ now in His Cosmic Body of united people and this is a creative transformation of the world that was always intended. The “Evolutive” transformation and unity of the inorganic and the organic, with our intelligence and onward moral transformation has always been in progress with Christ ahead of us and drawing us to newer states of being. So all that happened in evolution prior to us and in the history of the world is part of a singular movement towards a completion for the world with Christ as the origin and focal point for it. Our individual Sanctification is all part of this single whole. 

The Church in its dogmas have emphasised the Redemptive and Expiation elements of the life of Christ and His death on the Cross but this must be seen as part of a whole restorative and transformative movement that is positive and ongoing recreation enabling positive changes in human nature. The transformative element of the work of Christ (and the Spirit) is a greater extension of the atoning aspect of the life of Christ. However there is alongside this movement of progress a retrogressive element to human nature that may resist change and keeps the presence of “sin” the world. 

The Church in its existence as the presence of the Cosmic Christ is a new Phylum (a new order and category of life), forming something new in the world. It is in this way a distinctive new order of life that draw others into itself and is something unique in the history of the world, always destined to be present through the coming of Christ into the world.  (In this way it is not just a new and separate religion is it a new order of life and existence in the world). The Church in its existence is God raising up humanity to a new super-existence, a new transcendence of existence with a new character of human interactions. This what the divine grace does (through Word and Spirit). In this divine grace becomes more than something judicial and justifying or hope of a future life in another realm of existing. There is a driving force related to all these things that has connections to what we call Spirit and so here is at work a Spirit of Synthesis. Other attempts at reforming life without God have not worked and cannot last.