Because the Advent season is upon us, it is particularly fitting to focus on the fact that the Holy Spirit glorified Christ by bringing to completion the miracle of the incarnation. When the angel Gabriel announces to Mary that she is going to conceive in her womb and bear the promised Messiah, she wonders how this can possibly come about since she is a virgin (Luke 1:34). The angel tells her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).
This advent season, should Christians focus less on Jesus and more on the Holy Spirit? Do we emphasize Jesus so much that we sometimes neglect the Holy Spirit? After all, we celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christ-mas and the resurrection of Jesus at Easter. We refer to the gospel of our salvation as the gospel of Jesus Christ, and we refer to our Bible and our sermons from the Bible as Christocentric. Even the name of this website is “Christ Over All.”
Too Christocentric? What About the Spirit?
According to one common narrative, Western Christianity has seen a revival of pneumatology in the last century. The Holy Spirit, so the narrative goes, was neglected in Christian worship and theology from the days of the early church until the Pentecostal renewal movements of the early twentieth century. Since that time, however, the Holy Spirit seems to be center stage in much contemporary Christian worship and theological reflection. It is common to see this historical narrative framed by the metaphor of the classic fairytale of Cinderella. Overlooked, neglected, and long uninvited, Cinderella finally showed up to the ball and stole the show. A well-worn explanation for this so-called neglect of the Cinderella Spirit is the church’s overemphasis on the person of Christ.
A survey of this so-called revival of pneumatology will reveal that the new emphasis on the Holy Spirit has often resulted in new theological commitments. These commitments are not fresh articulations of the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3) but departures from it. Pneumatology has been the doorway for declaring that people of non-Christian faith traditions can be saved apart from faith in Jesus Christ. Others have posited pneumatology as the way to know the feminine side of God, a kind of balance to the masculine names of the Father and the Son. Still others have seen the ongoing work of the Spirit to be a kind of liberating of the people of God from the strictures of the cultural ethos that dominated the human authors of Scripture.
Thus, for some, the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, emphasis on holy, bears unholy fruit (see Gal. 5:22–23). Rather, such pneumatology becomes the theological justification for a sexual ethic that celebrates gay, lesbian, transgender, and polyamorous sexual expression. If a tree is known by its fruit, the tree on which much contemporary pneumatology grows has a bad root—Satan masquerading as an angel of light rather than the Holy Spirit manifesting his presence and power (2 Cor. 11:14).
So, I ask again, do we run the risk of neglecting the Holy Spirit because of our worshipful obsession with the person of Christ? To borrow the Apostle Paul’s favorite negation, “May it never be!” The problem in our lives, our churches, and our society is not that we focus on the Lord Jesus too much but that we focus on him too little. In fact, if our doctrine of the Holy Spirit is regulated by holy Scripture (which the Holy Spirit inspired) rather than by the imaginations of men, we will see that the individuals, churches, and traditions most in step with the Holy Spirit are those who emphasize Christ most! The reason for this is straightforward. Jesus said, “When the Spirit of truth comes… he will glorify me” (John 16:13).