The Bond of Love by Nicole Howe

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Below is a guest post from my dear friend and fellow graduate student at HBU.  It is a beautiful reflection on the Holy Spirit.  Enjoy!   

“The Bond of Love” by Nicole Howe

Arguing for the existence of God is becoming especially difficult in a materialistic culture that demands knowledge come exclusively via empirical and scientific means. The difficulty is not due to a lack of evidence for God’s existence, (nor for the historicity of Jesus), but because God’s entire being is something that ultimately transcends our material world.

We frequently talk about God the Father and God the Son, but to know God completely, we must not forget God the Spirit. In his book Classic Christianity, the late Thomas C. Oden tells us that “the Spirit of God is not separable from God, even as your own spirit is not separable from you.”[1]

But a Spirit is not observable.

And this presents a bit of a problem for our current culture. For “the incarnate Lord was seen; the Word of Life ‘handled,’ ‘touched,’ personally addressed.” In contrast, the Spirit is “silent and invisible.”[2] Because of this hiddenness, “what is most important in this inquiry is often least quantifiable and least empirically observable.”[3] Oden goes even further to say that “the Spirit withholds disclosure from the objectivizing gaze of the scientist who wishes chiefly to measure, graph, control, and submit reports.”[4]

So if the Spirit of God wishes to thwart our scientific analyses, how can we possibly come to know that God exists?

Interestingly, it is the Spirit of God who is also our helper.[5] The “providential purpose of the hiddenness of the Spirit is to awaken and engender that trust which walks by faith, not sight.”[6] Why by faith and not by sight? Because at some point, one must shift from intellectual assent into a trusting relationship –  from seeing God as an object to be studied to seeing Him as a Person to be loved. This is the only point at which our empirical evidence for God will line up with our experience of Him.

Relationship with an unseen God requires a different approach than scientific observation. Rather, the Spirit is something we experience as the “inwardly enlivening principle of union, hiddenly uniting soul and body, inwardly uniting Christ and the church, unobtrusively uniting the church itself.”[7] The Spirit is “especially beheld in…the ‘bond of love’ between Father and Son.”[8]

Perhaps this is why Christ calls us to love one another well.

Perhaps God’s real presence is best beheld by the bond of love displayed in the growing unity of things once torn asunder.

As the Spirit works in our own lives and in the life of the Church, He “leaves traces of the divine presence.”[9] These are God’s fingerprints, “best expressed not in flat empirical descriptions but in powerful touches, signs, and symbols as indirect and hidden as the work itself.”[10]

When the invisible and transcendent Spirit of God is united with the visible Body of Christ, this bond of love enables our fallen minds by grace to “ascend to the Spirit,” and we begin to experience God’s gentle touch. [11] And it just may be that in our increasingly materialistic world, the touch of God experienced through the bond of love within and through a unified Church will prove to be the best evidence for God’s existence after all.

At Church

[1] Thomas Oden, Classic Christianity: A Systematic Theology (New York: HarperOne, 1992), 517.

[2] Ibid., 506.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid., 507.

[5] John 14:26.

[6] Ibid., 507.

[7] Ibid., 522.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid., 506.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid., 516.

 

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