Sunday, May 21, 2006

Led by the Spirit

A new theme of discussion has begun in our Bible study and sermon series on the idea of being led by the Spirit as the preeminent method of Christian discernment and decision making. The fundamental thesis begin that with the dispensation of the Holy Spirit - God's presence and seal on those who follow and accept him - a new method of living and thinking and deciding began that trumped both law, tradition and Scripture, but with a healthy nod to each in that each would reinforce and affirm the leading of the Spirit. Paul specifically denotes that we are to live by the Spirit - over and as opposed to the Law and tradition - nineteen times in Romans alone.

The implications are liberating in that we find a biblical basis to be free from legalism, fundamentalism and literalism. We encounter mystery, humility and, yes, openness and risk and insecurity. We have become malleable and tentative and teachable. It is uncomfortable and uncertain, to be sure. But it removes us from the position of having to always claim "we know" - from the need to "be certain". We can sit back, wait on God's movement and say, "we'll see".

I don't think this should in any way be considered a new or novel idea. I've elsewhere written that the church's brightest moments have occurred at precisely those points where we have risen above culture and tradition and comfort and moved out (beyond Scripture) to where God was clearly leading. The emancipation of women and slaves in society being arguably the best examples of this - examples where no direction in Scripture could be established, and, yet, neither could anyone deny the clear providential leading of the Spirit.

A parallel example in Scripture was cited in the story recounted in Acts 11-15 where the Gentiles are accepted fully into the household of Christianity without the additional encumbrances of Jewish law (e.g., circumcision and feasts, etc.). The story being that ultimately, James looks back at Scripture and reinterprets the Scripture to fit the clear leading of the Spirit - breaking with the traditional and long-held interpretations to develop a new perspective that substantiated the witness of God now revealed. The upshot being that while no leading of the Spirit would be contrary to Scripture, Scripture itself is an imprecise tool because readers are always inevitably pressing their interpretations into it. Thus, it cannot be the "gold standard" alone, but must itself be subject to God's on-going revelation and witness in history, culture and the church.

1 comment:

scott said...

Fascinating. I've come a long way in my understanding of this in recent months. Webb's book was a big help.
I preached yesterday on the twin sins of the OT and how they seem to be recurring throughout history: idolatry and injustice.
The post-exilic Jews were not prone to graven images. Instead their idols were Temple, Law and Nation. Those sins of idolatry transformed into sins of injustice: isolation, arrogance and legalism.
I'm afraid I've been much the same way: that the story ended at the end of the Bible, limiting God to the canon.
I'll be interested to here more as you go through the discussion.