Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Paul's Spirituality and its relation to Christians today

The role of the spirit is important in the Christian life and plays part in the wholistic nature of christianity. The role of spirituality has become more important and has been rediscovered with the rise of the 'renewal movements' in western Christianity. The importance of the spirit and the the chamismata (The Spiritual gifts) have acquired new importance and meaning as the Christian faith has continued in its journey and going in its ebbs and flows, particularly in a world that sees spirituality is the new cool, while organised religion has become a dirty concept.

For Paul the spirit is not central, Christ is, but the spirit is close to the center and is the means for living the Christian life. The spirit is the power behind ethics and living a life that is different from the world around Christians. The motive of the spirit is to live a life of love, encouraging Christians within the body through the spirit and showing the power and love of God to those who are outside the communities of the believers. For Paul, all believers are given the gift of the spirit and are possessed with Spirit. The spirit of God is proof of being in Christ and being part of the covenant community of God. The Spirit frees Christians from the power of sin and the flesh over their life, so that they can live a life that brings glory to God. The work of the spirit is shown by the fruit of the spirit, these are ethical characteristics, that describe what life in the spirit should look like. It is contrasted with the works of the flesh. The fruit are the reproduction of the characteristics of Christ in the life of the believers and the community of believers. The spirit works in the community of believers to being about a community of love, which follows the pattern set by Christ. It is self-giving and it is given so that the church can be lifted up. Through the spirit, all are equal, all in the community of believers – race, gender, socioeconomic condition. All Christians are given the spirit (Gal 3:28). The promise of the walking by the spirit is that a Christian will not fulfill the work of the flesh but will fulfill the work of the spirit, and will fulfill the spirit of the law, which is to love one another.

Pauls spirituality and relation to his theology
Many have found a tension between rational thought and spiritual experiences. Particularly in the modern day and age, rational thought and knowlegde was more important than of experience. The importance was put on “knowing”. In the Christian faith this has meant that people have put memorizing bible verses off by heart and being able to give an apologetic for biblical faith as being more important than experience. But the other side of the coin is that the person whose reality is based on experience, particularly in the charismatic and pentacostal church have come to view experience as more important than knowledge, they become reliant on seeing the miraculous to believe that God is at work in their life and their community.

For Paul though there is an interaction between his experiences, and knowledge that he is received. Paul theological convictions are based on a number of pillars. His Jewish convictions that he had been instilled with all his life, particularly his belief that there is only one true God, YHWH and that Israel are the chosen people of God. He is also deeply influenced by the traditions of early Christianity. Throughout Paul's letters we see him incorporating early Christian Hymns, prayers, liturgies and creeds and instruction is his Epistles. He has come to see Christs life, death and resurrection and his coming return as central to Gods plan for humanity. Paul also uses his knowledge of the hellenistic traditions to relate to his audience, both using imagery and Greek rhetorical and philosophical practice to make his point. We Then come to his experience, for Paul, it was his experience of God that led him to interpret the traditional elements of his Jewish thought and give them new emphasis. This happened through the experiential event on the road to domascus, where he encountered the Risen Jesus (Gal 1:11-17; 1 Cor 15:8-11). This for Paul caused a change in world view, particularly his complete reavaluation of the Torah and its meaning to his life. This event should not be seen as a existentialist event, where Pauls theology was downloaded into his brain by God at his conversion, but the point that Paul maintained as a reference point for future reflection. For Paul there is an interdependence of his spiritual experience and the tradition that he holds. He does not throw one or other out, but hold's them in a creative tension, one that Christians should learn from in their own spiritual journey. Christian spiritual experience should be seen as important, indeed necessary, but it should be tempered by knowledge of the scriptures and understanding of the Gospel.

No comments: