Monday, October 24, 2005

The Holy Spirit and the Church

There's a great scene in The Last Temptation of Christ where Pilate is interrogating Jesus. At one point, Pilate says, "You know, it's one thing to want to change the way people live, but you want to change how they think, how they feel."

Jesus responds, "All I'm saying is that change will happen with love, not with killing."

Then Pilate answers, "Either way it's dangerous. It's against Rome. It's against the way the world is. And killing or loving it's all the same. It simply doesn't matter how you want to change things. We don't want them changed."

It's against the way the world is.

That's always the problem isn't it? The drive to protect the status quo is among the most powerful forces in human society. Even within the Church, the resistence to change for the sake of resisting change is immense.

But a couple of years ago I heard Dr. David Tiede, former president of Luther Seminary, speak a word that has encouraged me ever since. This is what Dr. Tiede said: The Holy Spirit is a disrupting influence in the Church. This is a truly remarkable insight. The Church is the creation of the Holy Spirit. And yet the Church isn't just created by the Holy Spirit -- the Church is constantly being re-created by the Holy Spirit.

Naturally, this makes the Church a very uncomfortable place to be most of the time. Countless Christians live with battle scars from church fights. Christians used to call the Church on Earth "the Church Militant", but we always imagined that the fight was against an exterior enemy. We're quickly disillusioned when we find that we have to fight within the Church. But to expect otherwise is to misunderstand the nature of humanity, the nature of the Church and the work of the Holy Spirit.

It all reminds me of the classic scene from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe when the children find out that Aslan is a lion.
"Then he isn't safe?" said Lucy.

"Safe?" said Mr. Beaver. "Don't you hear what Mrs Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good."


Christopher said...

Very good post tying together two very good books!

j said...

Excellent post! Absolutely!

The crazy thing is that the Church has always been at battle with itself. I've been reading a book called "Lost Christianities" detailing the history of the ancient Church. At this point, I am so fascinated with the history of the early Church and the way various factions with incredibly diverse theologies communicated and worked with or against each other.

How much of a disruptive and core-shaking thought could this be for many church-goers: There is nothing safe about being in the Church.

But what gives hope? The words you quoted: "The Holy Spirit is a disrupting influence in the Church." It might strike fear into the hearts of many, because the Spirit blows where it will; but it gives great hope to others because it is that gift of the Spirit that keeps the Church alive, even in its darkest days.