The Double Procession Of The Holy Spirit In Evangelical Theology Today: Do We Still Need It? -- By: Gerald Bray

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 041:3 (Sep 1998)
Article: The Double Procession Of The Holy Spirit In Evangelical Theology Today: Do We Still Need It?
Author: Gerald Bray

The Double Procession Of The Holy Spirit
In Evangelical Theology Today:
Do We Still Need It?

Gerald Bray*

* Gerald Bray is Anglican professor of divinity at Beeson Divinity School, Samford University, Birmingham, AL 35229–2252.

The important topic of the relationship of the Holy Spirit to the other members of the Godhead brings us to the very heart of our faith and of our experience of Christ. At the same time it brings us also to the edge of the deepest of divine mysteries, which is the coinherence of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the one being of God. I use the words “to the edge” consciously because, even after the most profound theological reflection, who of us could presume to have sounded the depths of our ineffable Creator and Redeemer?

Furthermore, when we come to speak of the Holy Spirit we ought to be conscious of an even greater reticence, one that is present in Scripture itself. Among the persons of the Godhead, it is he who remains the most shadowy figure. This has long been agreed upon among theologians, though at first sight it seems like a strange thing to say. After all the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, of righteousness and of judgment; he dwells in our hearts by faith; he builds up the Church by his gifts. Yet perhaps this very closeness to us makes us more conscious of the deep mystery of his being.

The Father reveals himself to us, but at the same time he also remains hidden in unapproachable light. The Son becomes one of us, but in so doing he acquires and maintains that sovereign independence of mind and spirit that is the hallmark of every human being. In their different ways, both of them reveal their essential otherness even as they speak directly to us. But the Holy Spirit comes into us, making us one with him and therefore also one with the Father and the Son. How can he retain his divinity, his essential otherness, except by concealing himself from us in ways the other two persons do not have to use?

Much of the history of the Church can be written in terms of trying to grapple with the mystery of the Holy Spirit. From the very beginning, Christians wondered why the different spiritual gifts had been distributed to some people but not to others. More fundamentally, the first few centuries of Christianity were a time when believers were challenged to discern who had the right message of salvation and therefore who was really inspired by the Spirit with the eternal word of God. As we all know, the Church came through that challenge with flying colors. Each one of us who reads the NT is deeply indebted to those who carried on the struggle against Marcion, against the gnostics and against all the “new agers” of their time. If we look at a later

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