Posted by: chuckbumgardner | January 25, 2010

Garrett, Systematic Theology, part 9: “The Holy Spirit”

James Leo Garrett, Systematic Theology: Biblical, Historical, and Evangelical, 2 vols. (North Richland Hills, TX: BIBAL Press, 2000), 2:131-238

The Holy Spirit was active in the OT in creating the universe, granting specific talents, and endowing individuals for leadership.  The Holy Spirit is God (although Garrett does not treat Acts 5 in giving evidence for this doctrine) and was thoroughly involved in the ministry of  Christ: overshadowing Mary in her virginal conception, descending upon Jesus at his baptism, leading Jesus into his wilderness temptation, and empowering Jesus in his messianic mission.  The Spirit was sent by Christ to empower the church for witness and to teach the disciples and bring to remembrance what Jesus had said.

The Spirit convicts men of sin, righteousness, and judgment; he brings new life to human beings; he baptizes believers (1 Cor 12:13; for Garrett this refers to spiritual birth).  For believers, he provides assurance of sonship, aids in prayer, strengthens against sin, instructs in truth, brings godly fruit, empowers for witness, guarantees a final salvation, and fills believers (although a close reading discovers that Garrett never describes what “filling” involves).

The church is the “fellowship of the Spirit,” upon whom the unity of the church rests.  Within this context, Garrett bemoans the schisms within the larger church as reflected in continuing divisions and a lack of structures which reflect Christian unity.  Within the church’s worship, the Spirit is active as the Word is proclaimed, and brings about a heartfelt singing; within the church’s mission, the Spirit provides empowerment and guidance.  Garrett emphasizes the Spirit’s lordship over the institutional church, decrying the institutionalism and ecclesiasticism which keep the Spirit “captive” (2:209).  Garrett speaks out against the influence of political models upon church decision-making, and suggests three examples of “Protestant muzzling of the Holy Spirit”: “the defense of racial segregation and discrimination, the acquiescence by some in political totalitarianism, and the surrender to suburban culture in the great cities” (2:209).

The Spirit gives spiritual gifts to believers, many of which are listed in the NT.  Garrett believes that non-tongues-speakers ought to recognize the gift of tongues is a reality today, abandon the cessationist position, cease disfellowshiping those who use tongues as Paul prescribed, and “express thanks to Pentecostals and Neo-Pentecostals for their clear witness to the dynamic agency and the sovereign lordship of the Holy Spirit in today’s world” (2:233-34).


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