If you are reading this blog, you are probably an intellectual. Which is good and beautiful. Reformed theology brought a welcome rigor that liberated minds from the absurdities of the Roman church. Which was good and necessary. But have we put the Holy Spirit in a cage in the process?
Regular contact with sisters and brothers in other denominations is liberating. I’m a dyed-in-the-wool Presbyterian and I love the tenants of the Reformation. But there is a joyful Arminian side of me too, thank goodness, that keeps me from going too far down the Calvinist rat hole.
In the Presbyterian Church (USA), we honor 11 confessions. The Nicene Creed and Apostles Creed are familiar to everyone. Less familiar are the highly Calvinist Westminster Confession of Faith and Larger and Shorter Catechisms. For the conservative Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) these are the last word. They are so honored, that it is common to have Sunday school classes and membership classes entirely devoted to their study. The recent rise of Neo-Calvinism in non-denominational churches is really just a renewed stridency for a purer form of Reformed theology. I think this is a troubling trend, because it leads to intellectual arrogance and exclusion. Read this to learn more: Troubling Trends in America’s Calvinist Revival
To counter this drive toward fundamentalism, the PC (USA)’s predecessors adopted the Confession 1967 which professes a theology more open to women, racial minorities and other faiths. This movement was extended in 2016 with the Confession of Belhar which clearly promotes social justice and rejects the divisions caused by racism and sexism. This is way too much liberalism for Neo-Calvinists.
So where is the Holy Spirit in all of this? My point exactly. Intellectualizing and fights over doctrine have crowded out expressions of the Spirit in confessional reformed churches. Conservatives often smell heresy in any sort of mystical expression or spiritual ecstasy. Progressives are also very suspicious of spiritual expression, because they associate it with Pentecostalism and anti-intellectualism.
I love my Reformed faith and traditions, but I am also keenly aware of its inherent arrogance. It often tries to put the Holy Spirit in a cage. For me, the way out of this trap is the Celtic movement. Following the wild goose of the Spirit is liberating. Centering prayer is the means. I am dedicating myself to speaking, preaching and writing about the Holy Spirit for my buttoned-up sisters and brothers. Our Trinitarian theology does not allow the Holy Spirit to be a junior partner begot by the Father, but that’s the way we act in the Reformed tradition. The Spirit is God.
Come Spirit come. Alleluia, Amen.