Sundays in Pentecost: Open to the Spirit (3)

Prairie Path (2014)

Sundays in Pentecost: Open to the Spirit (3)

We are taking the Pentecost season to post a Sunday series of excerpts and reflections from Scot McKnight’s new book, Open to the Spirit: God in Us, God with Us, God Transforming Us.

• • •

Christians make a very high claim about the Bible. The Bible is unlike every other piece of literature.

But we claim more: we claim God speaks to us as God’s people and as individuals whenever we open this Book to listen to it.

We claim further that this happens because the Holy Spirit attends our listening to God’s Word.

• p. 62f

The second part of Scot McKnight’s book, Open to the Spirit, describes the relationship of the Holy Spirit to the sacred book that Christians consider inspired by the Spirit and given by the Spirit as a gift to the church: the Bible.

Thankfully, Scot begins by reminding us that the Bible itself is not God, and that God’s priority in having us read it is to lead us to Jesus, the Living Word.

Where the Spirit is, Jesus is being exalted; where Jesus is not being exalted, there the Spirit is absent. Any claim about the Spirit can be tested by how Jesus-centered it is. To be open to the Spirit is to be open to the Spirit’s introducing us to Jesus and to the Spirit’s keeping us in the presence of Jesus.

He then turns to examining how we may be open to the Spirit when reading God’s written word.

I simply want to reproduce here a chart that Scot uses with his students to help them think through our understanding of how the Holy Spirit attends our reading of scripture. I bring this for your consideration and discussion today.

How do you read such a book? How do you become open to the Spirit in the Bible? Is there such a thing as a Spirit-prompted reading of the Bible? I repeat: since the Spirit generated the Bible, every reading of the Bible is attended by the Spirit. But how does this work? Here is a diagram I use in my classes, and I ask one question: Where do you locate the Spirit? On the right side, on the left, at the top, at the bottom, on both sides, or on all sides?

The following questions are designed to help us think where we locate the Spirit’s work when we read the Bible. These questions will lead you to answer on one side of the chart or the other.

• Does the Spirit give us insight to understand what is said in its original context (right side of the chart), or does the Spirit lead to deeper penetration in our spiritual formation (left side of the chart)?

• Does the Spirit give us, as Christians, a special interpretation, or does the Spirit empower us to receive the message?

• Does the Spirit help us understand what the Bible says or what the Bible means? Is the Spirit in your community’s past, or is the Spirit in your community’s present? Which of these— past or present— has the most influence on how a Christian should read the Bible?

• Is the Spirit present in the Bible so that everyone who reads it is influenced by the Spirit, or is the Spirit now present in you influencing you as you move from interpretation to formation and reception? In the diagram, where do you locate the Spirit?

• p.63

10 thoughts on “Sundays in Pentecost: Open to the Spirit (3)

  1. The Spirit is inside and outside of the circle. He’s in every step. After all he is in the wind that blows. He cannot be contained. As Susan so beautifully says in her poem.


  2. Hello Susan,
    as we are in Spring/Summer here, you are in Autumn/Winter down under. Your poetry is a lovely reminder.

    Hope you are doing well. You are kept in my prayers. God Bless!


  3. I think the answer to many of those either/or questions is actually “yes.” 🙂

    Here’s another question: is the Spirit’s job just to help us understand the Bible, and then our job is to change how we live in response to that new understanding? Or, does the Spirit transform us in some mysterious way through the very act of reading the Bible, immersing ourselves in the story and the conversation that it records, and encountering God in its pages?

    We evangelicals often think of Scripture study only as a way of gaining new knowledge: analysis, interpretation, application – and if our view of the Bible’s role is so small, it’s hard to find room within that small space for the Spirit.


  4. Well, my training definitely put the Spirit’s work squarely on the right side of the wheel. Any dichotomy between “what the Bible says or what the Bible means” was explicitly denied.


  5. wind swept leaves whisper
    as red autumn rustles by
    what are their secrets

    there:- the Spirit moves
    who else fills our life with joy
    your heart will hear it.


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