A biased Trinity?
Are we uncertain about the Holy Spirit?
This rather uncomfortable question has been raised recently about Sydney Anglicans, and of course, only you can answer for yourself. When, as a brand new Christian with absolutely no church background whatsoever, I was challenged by those claiming special experiences of the Holy Spirit (prophecy, speaking in tongues, working miracles, intimacy, guidance through audible voices), my answer would have been a resounding "Uncertain? You bet I am, help me!"
Eventually, I came to an understanding of the Spirit which I continue to hold, but not before falling into a common trap. I spent too long trying to dissect, analyse and interpret people's experiences " an obvious thing to do, but because of the very nature of personal experience, a very difficult thing about which to make absolute judgments. Yes, I turned to the bible, but even then, the only verses that got a "look in" were those so called "key verses". And sometimes, the more you look at particular verses isolated from a Biblical theology (in other words, not looking at the whole teaching and emphases of the Bible), the more you may feel "uncertain" about everything.
However, God has given us His word, the Scriptures, in order to reveal Himself (Father, Son and Spirit) and His promises to us, so that we might live confident lives before Him, not uncertain ones. This does not mean that we understand everything perfectly in His word, nor that there are no "hard" things we must continue to grapple with. But, for example, what the Bible teaches us about the Spirit is clear enough, and of great comfort and challenge to us.
Space does not permit a comprehensive list complete with bible references, but we have certainty about the person of the Spirit Himself, who is revealed progressively through the Scriptures. He is certainly not merely an impersonal force. We can be sure that there is one God, but the Spirit is fully God, as the Father is fully God and the Son fully God.
In the Old Testament, the Spirit is involved in creation, directs history, reveals God's messages through His prophets, teaches what it means to be faithful and righteous, and equips His leaders. In the New Testament, the Spirit reveals Jesus' reality, unites believers in Christ, gives assurance of our sonship, transforms our lives, gives gifts for service, and moves us to mission.
In all of this, the Spirit points not to Himself, but to the Son. To quote J.I. Packer:
"It is as if the Spirit stands behind us, throwing light over on Jesus, who stands facing us. The Spirit's message to us is never, "Look at me, listen to me; come to me; get to know me," but always, "Look at him, and see him, and see his glory" "
But back to what I started with - what about those "unusual" experiences? Don Carson wisely says:
"When God graciously manifests himself in abnormal and even spectacular ways, the wisest step that the leaders participating in such a movement may take is to curb the excesses, focus attention on the center " on Christ, on loving discipleship, on self-sacrificing service and obedience, on God himself " and not on the phenomena themselves, and still less on a theology or course that attempts to institutionalize the phenomena.'