When You Encounter the Spirit (You May Not Like It)

I’ve been fortunate enough to get my hands on a copy of Simeon Zahl’s Pneumatology […]

Will McDavid / 6.10.11

I’ve been fortunate enough to get my hands on a copy of Simeon Zahl’s Pneumatology and Theology of the Cross in the Preaching of Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt: The Holy Spirit Between Wittenberg and Azusa Street. He has some truly trenchant things to say about the work of the Holy Spirit and its relationship to preaching. For Simeon, the Holy Spirit can encounter us directly as “negative” experience in convicting us of our sinful nature and need for grace. This outlook changes the task of preaching, shifting the emphasis away from conviction of sin and towards giving people a framework to interpret their guilt and addressing it with the Gospel:

The Gospel and Epistles of John, more than any other biblical texts, emphasize the Spirit’s role not just in blessing and comfort but also in judgment, as the ‘Spirit of truth.’…’truth’ for the Johannine author is is connected both with the knowledge of sin (1 John 1:8) and with freedom from the slavery of sin (John 8:32-6).

…the ‘Law’ is being preached by the Spirit as ‘negative’ experience long before the hearer enters the pew. The Spirit is the only one who truly preaches the Law correctly, and it does so daily in human lives, not just through the preached text of scripture. If the preacher can assume that the Spirit has already been ‘preaching the Law’ to the congregation all week, then it is no longer his or her task to do so in the same manner. Instead, the task is to connect with and to create space and grammar for interpreting the ‘negative’ experience that has already taking place and is taking place, ‘by the Spirit.’  In this way, space is ‘cleared’ for the Gospel to be heard.


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5 responses to “When You Encounter the Spirit (You May Not Like It)”

  1. Mich says:

    Wonderful and graceful insight.


  2. Melissa says:

    Is the spirit already preaching the gospel too?

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