I wanted to use this last post in the Wisdom Wednesday series on the Holy Spirit as a further clarification, just in case you missed this point in my series. The Holy Spirit is God, and this brief post will begin to unpack that with the help of the Early Church Fathers (so enjoy the history lesson without the tuition!).
Next to the Beginning
What you need to know for this post is that the second and third century leaders helped shape the trajectory of Christianity. Before you skip over to the Da Vinci Code though, understand that Dan Brown is wrong when he suggested that these leaders somehow created a Jesus that was divine. Quite frankly, that’s a pile of garbage.
The earliest writer in the New Testament is Paul, and his letters seemed to convey the message that Jesus was more than a nice philosopher, as a previous post on Liberalism and Fundamentalism would unpack. The Early Church encountered something new in Jesus (scholar NT Wright is excellent on this point).
It is true that a lot of these early leaders were figuring out the place of the Spirit and there was a lot of debate on his place within this God revealed in Scripture. I try to cut the leaders slack because they did not have the luxury of 1900 years of scholarship on this topic. Early on though, Gregory of Nazianzus, one of the great Cappadocian fathers of the Early Church, argued vociferously that the Spirit belonged in the Trinity. Gregory wrote,
The OT preached the Father openly and the Son more obscurely, while the New revealed the Son and hinted at the deity of the Spirit. Now the Spirit dwells in us and reveals himself more clearly to us.
Baptism and The Spirit
For Athanasius, a pivotal figure in the Council of Nicaea, the trinitarian baptismal formula was a huge point in demonstrating the divinity of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). After all, if the Spirit is not consubstantial (of the same essence) with the Father and the Son, the Spirit then cannot make us conform to the Son and therefore cannot save us. The Spirit is our helper, and he was sent after the ascension of Jesus on Pentecost (see Acts 2 and a previous post). Also another strong argument for the Trinity is in Acts, where two individuals were caught lying to the Spirit, which is interpreted as lying to God himself.
A Lived Reality
More can be said on this subject, in fact a lot has been said on it (a great introduction to this in NT Wright’s Simply Christian), but my purposes here is to point that the God who made the world is the same God who wants to begin the work of making the future Kingdom of God real in the present.
While the working out of whether or not there is a Triune God can be seen in the writings of the Early Church (which are heavily footnoted with Scripture), this concept is not meant to just be in a book– it is meant to be lived out.
We were meant to live this stuff out, because it’s not some theological game. As theologian NT Wright would state, “for Christians it’s always a love game: God’s love for the world calling out an answering love from us, enabling us to discover that God not only happens to love us (as though this was simply one aspect of his character) but that he is love itself.”
We are invited into a story of love, one that was there even before the universe began. We are invited into new life and a new story than random present. For life in the Spirit is a life of love and hope.