The Giving Gift

HOLY SPIRIT: The Person Of The Spirit—The New Testament Evidence (John) by Tom Smail

October 7, 2018

From The Giving Gift Of all the New Testament writings it is in John that the identity and distinctness of Son and Spirit become subjects of conscious interest and reflection.  Where other New Testament approaches major either on the identity of the two or upon their distinctness, John wants to hold both together.  For John the coming of the paraklatos is the going away of Jesus, (16:7) – here he is nearest Luke – but in another sense the coming of the Spirit is the coming again of Jesus, (14:8) – where he gets nearest the Pauline tendency to identify the two.  In the upper room discourses (Chapters 14–17) there is a subtle interplay of the two themes of the identity and distinctness of Son and Spirit in a manner that goes a [...]

HOLY SPIRIT: The Person Of The Spirit—The New Testament Evidence (Luke) by Tom Smail

September 23, 2018

From The Giving Gift In the writings of Luke the distinction between Son and Spirit is emphasized more strongly than anywhere else in the New Testament.  In Luke’s account of the conception of Jesus, it is the Son who is born, but it is by the action of the Spirit that he is formed in Mary’s womb.  In the baptism of Jesus, the implicitly Trinitarian element is at its clearest.  The Father gives the Spirit to the Son, a statement that makes no sense unless Father, Spirit, and Son are in some sense three distinct entities, even if it is still not clear in this context to what extent the Spirit is being thought of in a fully personal way.  The Spirit here is the Gift, the Father is Giver, and the Son is the recipient of that Gift. [...]

HOLY SPIRIT: The Person Of The Spirit—The New Testament Evidence (Matthew) by Tom Smail

September 9, 2018

From The Giving Gift A parallel and even more explicit contrast between the one confessed and the enabler of the confession may be found in Matthew 16:17, where Jesus, at Caesarea Philippi with his disciples, responds to the confession that Peter has just made.  The object of that confession is Jesus himself: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” (v. 16).  It is made in response of Jesus’s own question, “Who do you say I am?” (v. 15)  In the answer given Jesus discerns a divine activity that is not Peter’s own: “Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man but by my Father in Heaven.” Here the work of opening Peter to the truth about Jesus is attributed not to the Spirit, but [...]

HOLY SPIRIT: The Person Of The Spirit—The New Testament Evidence (Paul) by Tom Smail

August 13, 2018

From The Giving Gift To answer that question we must turn to the New Testament to see if it will really allow such an abbreviation in our doctrine of God.  Will we be able to say what the revelation of God, to which the New Testament bears witness, requires us to say about Christ and the Spirit, if we regard the Spirit simply as a mode of activity of Jesus? At the outset we need to recognize that these are not questions that the New Testament authors were themselves concerned about, so that the material that they provide for answering them is implicit and indirect, coming to expression as a by-product of their dealing with the quite different questions that occupied their attention. Furthermore, we have to recognize that there are [...]

HOLY SPIRIT: The Spirit As Distinct Divine Person, Part Three by Tom Smail

August 5, 2018

From The Giving Gift Proposal 2: The Spirit should be understood totally in terms of Christ. Here we are invited to regard the Spirit not as a third Trinitarian person with the Father and the Son but as the mode of action of the risen and ascended Christ in the church and in the world.  The one who acts when the Spirit acts is none other than the risen Jesus.  The word, Spirit, functions as an adverb rather than a noun; it is a description of how Jesus acts after his physical body is withdrawn.  To say that Jesus now acts through the Spirit is just to say that he now acts in a spiritual way.  One of the chief modern protagonists of this view is the Dutch theologian, Hendrikus Berkhof, in his important book, The Doctrine of the Holy [...]

HOLY SPIRIT: The Spirit As Distinct Divine Person, Part Two by Tom Smail

July 15, 2018

From The Giving Gift We turn now to our second question, which requires a longer answer.  Is the Spirit a distinct person from the Father and the Son?  When we call him the Spirit of God, do we mean that he is a source and center of personal action distinct from God the Father, or simply that he is the personal God in outgoing action towards his creation?  When we call him the Spirit of Christ, do we mean that he is another person who acts in the name of Christ after he himself has departed, or simply that he is none other than the ascended Christ acting now in a spiritual and invisible way?  In other words, is the Spirit an extension of the divine personalities of the Father and the Son, the means by which they extend their activity [...]

HOLY SPIRIT: The Spirit As Distinct Divine Person by Tom Smail

July 1, 2018

From The Giving Gift But none of these passages answers or even raises the question that is to be central to this chapter, Is the Holy Spirit a distinct, divine person?  The doctrine of the Trinity is that God is one divine substance in three distinct persons.  The passages we have quoted give good grounds for thinking of the Spirit as participating in the being of God; but, is there a New Testament basis for believing that the Holy Spirit is a third divine person in unity with, but also in distinction from the other two? Before we can tackle that question, we must clarify it and ask first what in this context we mean by speaking of a person.  To embark upon a history of that slippery term in Trinitarian theology would take us far out [...]

HOLY SPIRIT: The Person Without A Face by Tom Smail

June 24, 2018

From The Giving Gift Our title phrase is from the French theologian, Yves Congar.  It points to the elusiveness and anonymity of the Holy Spirit which are, as we shall see, among his defining characteristics, both in the New Testament and in subsequent Christian tradition.  “He will not draw attention to himself,” is a clear implication if not an actual translation of John 16:13. We know the Spirit, not because we have a face-to-face encounter with him, as we do with the Son and through him with the Father.  Rather we begin to know the Spirit when we begin to realize that our ability to recognize and respond to Christ and his Father does not have its source in us but is given to us from outside ourselves.  The Holy Spirit stands [...]

HOLY SPIRIT: Beginning With Mary—The Holy Spirit And Mary by Tom Smail

June 17, 2018

From The Giving Gift But if all this involves dynamic personal relationships, then it is to one of the most significant of these in all its particularity that we must now turn.  The place at which, according to Matthew and Luke and the creedal tradition of the church, the Holy Spirit begins to reveal himself in his New Testament fullness is in relation to Mary, the mother of Jesus. Of course when the creed brings the Holy Spirit and Mary together, the subject of the sentence is not either of them, but “Jesus Christ, his only Son our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary.”  If the Spirit works revealingly in Mary, it is not for her sake or yet for his own, but so that Jesus Christ can be formed in her [...]

HOLY SPIRIT: Beginning With Mary—Three Basic Affirmations by Tom Smail

June 10, 2018

From The Giving Gift 1.  To describe the Holy Spirit as Gift emphasizes that we are here in the realm of grace. Free giving is not by any  means the only kind of exchange that can take place between two parties.  A check can pass from me to you as a contracted payment of wages in return for services rendered.  It is then not a gift but a payment, a quid pro quo in which one party fulfills agreed conditions and the other party is in duty bound to pay the agreed reward. Some Christians have tended to understand God’s sending of the Holy Spirit in this contractual way.  God gives the Spirit when we fulfill the conditions that he has laid down.  This view has both a typically Roman Catholic and a typically Protestant form. In much [...]

HOLY SPIRIT: Beginning With Mary—The Spirit As Giving Gift by Tom Smail

June 3, 2018

From The Giving Gift We shall therefore be asking how the distinctive work of the Spirit in salvation and creation is to be understood in its connection with and distinction from the work of the Father and the Son and how therefore the person of the Spirit is to be understood in its connection with and distinction from the persons of the Father and the Son.  Put more simply: How does what he does relate to what they do, and how does who he is relate to who they are? We may give a preliminary answer to both these questions in terms of our title by saying that the Holy Spirit is the Giving Gift.  First question: What does the Holy Spirit do within the God-man relationship?  Answer: He gives the things of God and the things of Christ to [...]

HOLY SPIRIT: Beginning With Mary—Introduction by Tom Smail

May 27, 2018

From The Giving Gift A Hymn for the Baptism of Jesus Father, behold your Son made man To baptism comes in Jordan’s stream, And thus fulfills your ancient plan All Adam’s children to redeem. Your voice from Heaven your will attests, “My Son, on whom my favor rests.” Blest Spirit, who in Mary’s womb The new humanity began, Who soon from Joseph’s darkened tomb Will bring to life the Son of Man, The baptized Christ with gifts endow, Anoint the new Messiah now. Lord Jesus Christ, now Son proclaimed, Baptized with Holy Spirit’s powers, Unsullied Lamb of God now named, The sins you bear, not yours but ours, Go forth the Devil’s wrath to face Live, die and rise to save our race. O Triune God, your people claim, The Father’s [...]