The Cape Town Commitment contains many wonderful affirmations but this evening I find myself reflecting on the Spirit and missional Spirituality. Are these words you would affirm? What would missionary practice look like if shaped by a pneumatology (aka Spiritual understanding) like this?
We Love God the Holy Spirit
We love the Holy Spirit within the unity of the Trinity, along with God the Father and God the Son. He is the missionary Spirit sent by the missionary Father and the missionary Son, breathing life and power into God’s missionary Church. We love and pray for the presence of the Holy Spirit because without the witness of the Spirit to Christ, our own witness is futile. Without the convicting work of the Spirit, our preaching is in vain. Without the gifts, guidance and power of the Spirit, our mission is mere human effort. And without the fruit of the Spirit, our unattractive lives cannot reflect the beauty of the gospel.
A) In the Old Testament we see the Spirit of God active in creation, in works of liberation and justice, and in filling and empowering people for every kind of service. Spirit-filled prophets looked forward to the coming King and Servant, whose Person and work would be endowed with God’s Spirit. Prophets also looked to the coming age that would be marked by the outpouring of God’s Spirit, bringing new life, fresh obedience, and prophetic gifting to all the people of God, young and old, men and women.
B) At Pentecost God poured out his Holy Spirit as promised by the prophets and by Jesus. The sanctifying Spirit produces his fruit in the lives of believers, and the first fruit is always love. The Spirit fills the Church with his gifts, which we ‘eagerly desire’ as the indispensable equipment for Christian service. The Spirit gives us power for mission and for the great variety of works of service. The Spirit enables us to proclaim and demonstrate the gospel, to discern the truth, to pray effectively and to prevail over the forces of darkness. The Spirit inspires and accompanies our worship. The Spirit strengthens and comforts disciples who are persecuted or on trial for their witness to Christ.
C) Our engagement in mission, then, is pointless and fruitless without the presence, guidance and power of the Holy Spirit. This is true of mission in all its dimensions: evangelism, bearing witness to the truth, discipling, peace-making, social engagement, ethical transformation, caring for creation, overcoming evil powers, casting out demonic spirits, healing the sick, suffering and enduring under persecution. All we do in the name of Christ must be led and empowered by the Holy Spirit. The New Testament makes this clear in the life of the early Church and the teaching of the apostles. It is being demonstrated today in the fruitfulness and growth of Churches where Jesus’ followers act confidently in the power of the Holy Spirit, with dependence and expectation.
There is no true or whole gospel, and no authentic biblical mission, without the Person, work and power of the Holy Spirit. We pray for a greater awakening to this biblical truth, and for its experience to be reality in all parts of the worldwide body of Christ. However, we are aware of the many abuses that masquerade under the name of the Holy Spirit, the many ways in which all kinds of phenomena are practised and praised which are not the gifts of the Holy Spirit as clearly taught in the New Testament. There is great need for more profound discernment, for clear warnings against delusion, for the exposure of fraudulent and self-serving manipulators who abuse spiritual power for their own ungodly enrichment. Above all there is a great need for sustained biblical teaching and preaching, soaked in humble prayer, that will equip ordinary believers to understand and rejoice in the true gospel and to recognize and reject false gospels.
Dan Danforth's comments have got me thinking about Ken Wilber's "all level, all quadrant" view of human consciousness and behaviour. And although I don't agree with Ken Wilbur on everything, and would assert that his "four quadrants" doesn't mesh with Plato's "the good, the beautiful and the true" nearly as cleanly as he suggests, nevertheless I find Wilber's thoughts on this stimulating.
So, while some of this is in my head I thought I'd write it down, even though some of this may come across as gobbledegook if you've never encountered Wilbur's "all level, all quadrant" view before. To help you orientate, though, here's two diagrams of the four quadrants: the individual-subjective, individual-objective, collective-subjective, and collective-objective.
Different Theorists and the Four Quadrants
Characteristics of the Four Quadrants
Wilbur claims the top left correlates to beauty (aesthetics), the bottom left to goodness (ethics), the top right to truth (epistemology), the bottom right to … well, I'm not quite sure. I see problems with this, particularly with beauty, because beauty is not always in the eye of the (individual-subjective) beholder. Instead, I would say the good, the beautiful and the true cut across the four quadrants in some very interesting ways.
For example, recognizing beauty can be a matter of:
Personal taste … that is, self determined (individual-subjective)
Cultural conditioning … that is, socially determined (collective-subjective)
Genetic programming … that is, physically determined (individual-objective)
Context … that is, systemically determined (collective-objective)
Thus, contra Wilber, beauty cannot be boxed into the individual-subjective quadrant so easily. Nevertheless, Wilbur is surely right in suggesting all four ways of viewing the world their own validity. Integrating his own thinking and mine, I would say, beauty cannot be fully understood without taking all four quadrants seriously.
I would say the same for goodness and truth as well. If I said, "It's cold today" your perception of the "truth" of this would very much depend on your cultural conditioning in contrast to my own. If any of you are Canadians, you should doubt the truth of my statement very much, at least by your standards. If however I said, "It's 20C today", well, you could check the truth of that just by Googling the Bureau of Meteorology in Australia. There are different kinds of truth.
Where am I going with this. Well, just that it becomes very interesting when you come to conversations about the "goodness" of Christianity or the "truth" of the resurrection or the "beauty" of a Protestant church.
As many of you would know, I have a particular interest in the New Age Movement from my many years of outreach at Mind Body Spirit Festivals and past involvement in the New Age Movement itself. So it probably comes as no surprise that I'm occasionally given to reflecting on the past and how the spirituality scene has shifted over the years.
A particular question that comes to mind is this: how does the secular spirituality of the 00s differ from the New Age Movement of the 80s and 90s?
Defining movements that defy standardization is always a hazardous exercise, but I think there are a few generalized statements I can make about them without too much misrepresentation. So here goes. To me it seems the New Age Movement was characterized by two broad concerns: personal awakening and global awakening.
If you read any New Age book you'll see numerous references to personal awakening, enlightenment, realization, Christ consciousness … choose the phrase of your choise. Lying behind this was the mantra: you are your own authority. In many ways this operated as a spiritualized version of the mantra of consumerism: the customer is always right. Not surprizingly, for all it's espoused counterculturalism, Mind Body Spirit Festivals could be very consumerist. All the faddism and the ecclecticism of the New Age Movement can be seen as an outworking of this: you are your own authority, awaken to it.
But even more important for the New Age Movement, as a movement, was expectation of global awakening, of paradigm shift, of a "New Age" coming. This expectation is what gave the movement it's name, and also what explains it's demise. For with the coming of the millenium, what emerged was not the long prophecied apocalypse or the evolution of higher consciousness amongst humans worldwide, but 9/11 and a new world order of terrorism and counterterrorism. In the aftermath, the scene shifted.
Secular spirituality then, is the New Age Movement stripped of it's millenial prophecies. When the apocalypticism (hope for global awakening) fell out of favour, what remained was the gnosticism (search for personal awakening). Thus, secular spirituality still emphasizes spiritualized psychology but (apart from the odd 2012 silliness) pays much less attention to scientized eschatology.
Just stumbled across an esoteric store in the centre of Sydney that I didn't know about: The Argyle Oracle.
"Snuggled in George Street, not far from the southern base of the Sydney Harbour Bridge lies The Argyle Oracle, the meeting place of talented psychics in Sydney since 1993. The Shop offers a wide variety of goods from Tarot Cards and Celtic Jewellry to Books, Aromatherapy Kits and Crystals."