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Home arrow Philosophy arrow Illuminating Faith: An Invitation to Theology
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The Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit is love, and the Spirit creates in us the means by which to see Christ, turning Christ into a visible form within the Church and the Church’s first teachings, the epistles of Paul and the Gospels. As the bond of love between Father and Son, the Holy Spirit bonds us with Christ: it is within the charity of the Spirit that our faith exists and lives.

The Spirit is the ‘medium’ by means of which we apprehend Christ for who he is. The incarnate Son is the ‘what’ of faith, the content, and the Spirit is the ‘by which’ of faith, its means or channel. In the act of faith, God is made known by God, Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit. The material object, the person of Christ, is spotlighted by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the formal medium shaping our sight. The Holy Spirit is that ‘by which’ faith is brought about.

In common speech, ‘taking it on faith’ means operating on trust in someone else rather than on evidence we’ve seen or understood for ourselves. Christian faith believes through the witness of the Holy Spirit. The form of Christ as the Son of the Father has to be believed to be seen. By the illuminating testimony of the Holy Spirit, the Christian believer is able to see the form of Christ as the eternal Son of God the Father. This form and this relationship is exhibited in flesh and blood, but the ‘seeing’ is not simply empirical seeing. Some of the witness on which faith relies is internal and some of it is external: faith relies on both interior and exterior witnesses. In both the case of interior and of exterior testimony, the witness is not to the fact that the believer believes, but to the object of the believer’s faith, Jesus Christ. Both the interior and the exterior testimony alike refer to Christ in the relation to his Father, that bond or relationship being the Holy Spirit. Interior and exterior testimony reinforce one another: unless something within us witnessed to the truth and beauty of the form of Christ, no external evidence could convince us. But there is external evidence: what is seen is flesh and blood and though the content of the external evidence is miraculous, the evidence for it is not weak or negligible.

If ‘The Church is the ... immediate space in which’ Christ’s ‘form shines’,11 this is because the Church of the eyewitnesses is where he is really present. The form of Christ shaped the experience of those who first and originally saw with their eyes and touched with their hands. These eyewitnesses become ‘archetypal witnesses of [1] [2]

Christian faith’ to all believers who come after them.[3] Mystics are those who seem to dip into the ‘archetypal experiences of the Prophets and the Apostles’. Because of their foundational character for the Church, there is a ‘vital relationship’ between the ‘experience of faith’ in our day and those of the ones who first touched and saw.[4]

Study questions

  • 1. Does the ecclesial character of faith contradict or obstruct the personal character of faith?
  • 2. Is faith a matter of believing propositions about God or is it something God does to us?
  • 3. How does God’s being a Trinity of persons affect our definition of what faith is?
  • 4. Were there any believers in Jesus Christ before Pentecost?
  • 5. Do ‘I believe’ in the Creed or do ‘We believe’ in the Creed? Some versions of the Creeds begin ‘I believe’ and others begin ‘We believe’. Which is better? Why?

Further reading

Bauckham, Richard, Jesus: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011).

4

  • [1] von Balthasar, Glory of Lord I, p. 319.
  • [2] von Balthasar, Glory of Lord I, pp. 421, 307.
  • [3] von Balthasar, Glory of Lord I, p. 301.
  • [4] von Balthasar, Glory of Lord I, p. 421.
 
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