I am a fourth generation ‘classical’ Pentecostal from the conservative Ottawa Valley. Pembroke to be exact. Growing up and attending church my whole life has allowed me to appreciate many things about God, family, and of course my Pentecostal tradition. Indeed I am thankful for the Holtz/Faught generational tree that has roots that run deep into the things of God and the moving of His Spirit. As a boy I have fond memories of attending church with my family and sitting with my grandparents during service. While the worship service took place, my grandfather Elmer would at times be moved upon by God’s Spirit to speak forth in tongues and prophecy. This I remember well and treasure. The moving of God’s Spirit was often accompanied by these vocal gifts which the Apostle Paul talks about within his letter the church in Corinth, a church who did not lack any spiritual gift (1 Corinthians 1:7).
However, as much as I appreciate my heritage within the Pentecostal tradition, there are things today that I need to unlearn.
Approaching Pentecostal Sunday has typically been a time when the good old Pentecostal ‘initial-evidence’ distinctive of Spirit baptism as ‘tongues’ would be emphasized within the sermon or message that I would give. After all, is this not what Pentecost is all about? After a conversation with my 10 year old son this week, I realize the magnitude of the unlearning curve ahead of me.
Truth be told, I have not been saddling or saturating my references to the moving of God’s Spirit with ‘tongues’ terminology when I speak or preach for the past few years. In fact, when I reference God’s Spirit, other words like creation, life, witness, mission, empowered speech, kingdom and love seem to outnumber the glossolalia ones. But that discussion is for another time, and thankfully is being looked at by the Fellowship I belong to. The task at hand in this blog is to examine my youngest child’s reference to what the Holy Spirit is up to and can do in the world today.
When talking about what Holy Spirit does in the world, I was told that all the Holy Spirit can do is put ‘tongues of fire on your head’. This is what came out of my son’s mouth when we talked about what Holy Spirit was up to today. In other words, what came to my son’s mind when I mentioned Holy Spirit was most likely some drawing or artwork that he saw in Sunday school that illustrated what Luke was writing about in Acts 2.
When the day of Pentecost had arrived, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like that of a violent rushing wind came from heaven, and it filled the whole house where they were staying. And tongues, like flames of fire that were divided, appeared to them and rested on each one of them. Then they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different languages, as the Spirit gave them ability for speech. Acts 2:1-4 HCSB)
I give Luke utmost credit in his desire and ability to accurately reflect, capture and report to us what happened on this very important day over two thousand years ago. Luke’s specific and intentional charismatic theology is very useful and helpful when reflecting upon the purpose and point of God’s Spirit being poured out. Canadian Pentecostal theologian Roger Stronstad seems to push the functioning aspect of God’s Spirit well past the upper room event or experience. For Stonstad, God’s Spirit has come to establish a new prophetic community in the world that functions and displays the very qualities and characteristics of God’s Spirit. 1
When reflecting upon the ‘life’ of the Spirit-filled believer, Pentecostal guru Frank Macchia affirms that Spirit baptism is linked to the very divine life of God. For Macchia, the pouring out of God’s Spirit brings the very life of God’s Kingdom to the believer. Life in the Spirit equals the reigning life in the very Kingdom of God. 2
I reference these two voices simply to show that the ‘classical’ definition of the Spirt’s work and role in the believer’s life and the world needs to push past the flannel graph visual of fire upon the heads of the disciples and a funny language that they spoke.
The Nicene creed spoke of the Holy Spirt as the “Lord and giver of life”. The early church seemed to understand that the Spirit who brooded over the waters of chaos (Gen. 1:2), the Spirit who indwelt Jesus and led Him to the Cross, is the same Spirit that was poured out and is now present and at work within the believer. Further to this, Paul seems to make an integral connection between the current possession of God’s Spirit by Christ’s followers and the eternal existence of glorified humanity. For Paul in Romans 8, God’s Spirit is now given as a token so that our bodies, although still subject to mortality, will rise to new life as Christ’s very own body rose. Jurgen Moltmann believes this to mean that the Spirit of God is the Spirit of Christ, is the Spirit of the resurrection of the dead, and is also the divine quickening power of the ‘new creation’ of all things! 3
Having said all of that, I realize that I have much to communicate, model, and aspire to when reflecting and referencing all of what the Holy Spirit can do and is up to in the world today. There seems to be a lot more to this simple ‘tongues of fire on your head’.
1 See Roger Stronstad, The Prophethood of All Believers: A Study in Luke’s Charismatic Theology
2 See Frank Macchia, Baptized in The Spirit: A Global Pentecostal Theology
3 See Jurgen Moltmann, Life in The Spirit: A Universal Affirmation