Saturday, July 8, 2017

A few thoughts on the Holy Spirit (and those "spiritual" Facebook quizes)

Over the years I've heard a lot of stuff attributed to the Holy Spirit. You can get away with saying almost anything about the Spirit, in some charismatic circles, because after all the Spirit is wild and the Spirit is bigger than our reason, etc. Therefore--this is how the thinking goes--the wilder and more irrational your claim, the more likely it is to be the Spirit's work.

Secondly, the wilder and more irrational your claim, the more impressed people will be about your own spirituality. This is especially so for those professional speakers who use the term prophet in their promotional material.

My opinion: here's the one thing you need to know about the Spirit, and it will keep you from being misled by a lot of spiritual chicaneries: the Holy Spirit's whole purpose is to make much of Jesus. If the so-called "Spirit" that the speaker on the platform is claiming to be filled with makes much of the speaker, instead of making much of Jesus, you should just walk away quickly.

But here's a reason that those speakers are so in demand: they tend to make much of us, as well. They pick out a person in the audience (I mean, congregation!), ask for her name and maybe a few other personal details, and then after a few moments of communion with the "spirit" they say something like, "Well, Jane, I feel like the Spirit is saying to me that you are a great woman of God and that God is going to use you in a mighty way in the coming year. . . . "

Jane practically swoons in excitement. The crowd is wowed! Isn't the Spirit marvelous! Everybody loves being told exactly what they wanted to hear! Paul said something about "itching ears" that addresses this phenomenon. You can look it up!

So: if Jesus has been marginalized, then it's not the Holy Spirit. If Jesus is made little of, but the speaker is made much of, or the people in the audience are made much of, then it is not the Holy Spirit. The church does not exist to make much of individuals, but to make much of Jesus. And yet individuals love, naturally, to hear themselves extolled, their virtues praised, etc. If you make much of me, I may like you and come back for more, even give money to your mission, but none of this is the least bit the Spirit's doing.

The Spirit's work is to see that Jesus is all in all, beginning in the hearts and minds of believers, and extending out finally to all creation. So, you know, that spiritual quiz you found on Facebook that confirmed you as a Daniel or an Elijah (depending on how you answered a half-dozen "spiritual" questions about yourself), which you then posted to Facebook with great enthusiasm and many smiley emojis . . . you're being made much of in that transaction (and the quiz-designers themselves know that's exactly what makes their quiz attract frequent clicks), but Jesus is nowhere in the picture. The quiz just gave you an excuse to make much of yourself on Facebook, that's all. Conclusion: the Spirit had nothing to do with that quiz. Sorry. And you're probably not much like Daniel, either.

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