familia Dei | thoughts on the Holy Spirit

The family is the context in which Christians learn to experience God the Holy Spirit.  It is within the family that Christians learn how to be loved, corrected, taught, encouraged, and provided for; if we never recieve such input and direction from our community, we will not recognize it when the Spirit does it.  If an individual is consistently receiving such edification in the family, he will recognize the Spirit’s work more easily when he is alone.

When an individual knows the Spirit’s work in his life, he is able to mimick that work in the context of his family.  It is a cycle entirely enabled and powered by the Holy Spirit.  Take that and chew on it.

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3 Responses to familia Dei | thoughts on the Holy Spirit

  1. R.O. Flyer says:

    Jordan, I’ve enjoyed reading your reflections over the past week or so. You have become a good writer and clear communicator. I am also happy to see your theology developing in interesting and creative ways, and that you have taken an interest in trinitarian theology. The doctrine of God is definitely an exciting subject matter.

    Just a few comments/questions on what you’ve written here and elsewhere. I think this image of God as a family has some positive aspects to it. It is helpful, for instance, in beginning to think God as a being-in-relation–a social being we might say. This understanding of the fundamental sociality of God is worked out in some helpful ways in the work of Orthodox theologian John Zizioulas. Zizioulas is mostly riffing on the Cappadocians and his ecclesiology goes in directions that you and I would be uncomfortable with, but I think you may find him helpful. His book Being as Communion is one of the most important volumes in trinitarian thought of the twentieth century. You may also find Miroslav Volf’s After Our Likeness interesting as well. Here is an attempt to engage both Orthodox and Catholic doctrines of God/church, while working out a distinctly evangelical theology. While both books are not without their many problems, I think you would find them helpful as you continue to work out your own ideas on this.

    A couple of questions: (1) Where do we get our understanding of family as it is being used here? From our experience in our biological families? If so, do we risk ascribing a fallen human reality onto the Godhead? (2) Is there a limit to images such as these? That is, is there any risk of turning the concept of family into a formal principle? (3) Is there a explicit reference to God as family in the Bible? If so, where? (4) Can we think “Father” and “Son” as regards God in strictly familial terms? In doing this, are we at risk of losing the “otherness” of God–that is, the sense in which God is not a “family” like human families because God is neither human nor immanent to the world as such?

    The deeper, more fundamental, question at stake here is this: how do our words refer to God? If we take from our direct experience, for instance, of our human family, how can we then use this word to refer to God as family? If God is other than the world then in what way do such words actually refer to God? The traditional way of thinking this through has been the analogia entis (“analogy of being)–particularly among Roman Catholics. The analogy of being would say that our words may refer to God, but only analogously. That is, we may be able to refer to God as a family because God is a family in a similar sense of a human family, but according to the principle of analogy, this is a similarity within a greater difference. God is, in other words, far different from a human family.

    At some level, we’re also working with metaphors and analogies in our speech about God and I think it is important to be aware that, as such, our words never directly (or univocally) refer to God in Godself.

    Keep up the good work. If there is ever anything I can do to help you along the way, let me know.

  2. jamogck says:

    Thanks for the comment, Ry! Definitely helps sharpen my thinking. I actually have Miroslav Volf’s book in my Amazon cart right now. I’m looking forward to reading it.

    As to your five questions…

    I don’t think I can set out to answer them all at this point. But, I would like to say this. I am finding the family to be both a helpful and faithful hermeneutic for the gospel. In other words, within the family (or a community operating along a familial paradigm) the gospel is seen at work. You may be catching on that I have been referring to the Christian community (AKA church) as family. In that way, I have been influenced by Lesslie Newbigin’s idea that the church is the hermeneutic of the gospel.

    Going beyond this, I also refer to the church’s inclusion into the familia Dei. I try to express that God isn’t a family like our families, but that he is revealed in Scripture using familial terms. Similarily, our union with Christ is described using three different analogies: marriage, adoption, rebirth. These analogies are not hard and fast, as though you are united to Christ through one of these three avenues; rather, they are simply helpful and comprehensible in expounding the gospel. Some of these metaphors appeal to certain biblical authors. For instance, the huiosthesia (adoption) metaphor is found exclusively in Paul; although the larger theme of sonship is found throughout Scripture. New birth is a John thing.

    Anyways, thanks Ry. Your feedback is welcomed here.

  3. R.O. Flyer says:

    Leslie Newbigin rocks the house, dude.

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