Sunday 4 June 2006

The meaning of Pentecost

“The episode with Cornelius [in Acts 10] shows that the Jews ‘were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit should have been poured out even on Gentiles.’ ... What we have here, therefore, is a twofold process. On the one hand, there is a universalisation of the presence of God: from being localised and linked to a particular people, it gradually extends to all the peoples of the earth. On the other hand, there is an internalisation, or rather, an integration of this presence: from dwelling in places of worship, this presence is transferred to the heart of human history.... Christ is the point of convergence of both processes. In him, in his personal uniqueness, the particular is transcended and the universal becomes concrete. In him, in his Incarnation, what is personal and internal becomes visible....

Finally, let us emphasise that here there is no ‘spiritualisation’ involved.... The ‘pro-fane,’ that which is located outside the temple, no longer exists.”

—Gustavo Gutiérrez, A Theology of Liberation: History, Politics, and Salvation (New York: Orbis, 1973), pp. 109-110.


::aaron g:: said...

I am preaching on Acts 10 this Sunday so this quote might come in handy!

byron smith said...

Very appropriately timed. Thanks.

One thought: the universalisation of the presence of God is (as Gutiérrez says) a gradual process: a process with a history and an expanding geographical/social/cultural boundary, both traced by Acts. It is also an as yet unfinished project. Hence mission today to groups who as yet have not yet heard of Christ, have not yet received the Spirit, for whom God's promised presence is unknown.

C. Stirling Bartholomew said...

I have been working in the greek text of Acts 10 this week and just had a discussion with a young student this afternoon about the outpouring of the Spirit on the gentiles.

My problem with this quote is how to fit it into a Marxist frame work. Quoting theologians without reference to their world view is to violate the principle of authorial intent. I could follow the common practice of investing these words with my own meanings and be fairly comfortable with the resulting constructed sense of the passage but this would tell me nothing about what Gustavo Gutiérrez was saying.

I lived through the era of liberation theology and some of my close friends considered themselves Marxists in the 1970s. I never took that framework seriously enough to read much of the literature but I think Gustavo Gutiérrez, A Theology of Liberation was required reading for a class in contemporary theology I took in the summer of '76 but that was 30 years ago!

Anyway, it seems that young students today are not likely to appreciate how absurd the Jesus and Marx thing was coming from the mouths of people (my colleagues) who had violently opposed the war in Vietnam. They were pacifists on Vietnam and but just after the fall of Saigon they were advocating the use of physical force to violently overthrow governments in central america.

It is perhaps unfair to judge an author by his readership, but my friends and colleagues 30 years ago were packing this Gutiérrez book under their arms along with their NASBs (english bibles) and they were way out in left field. The closest I ever came to Marxism was owning a couple of Finnish Kalisnakov's back in the 80's. :-)

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