Article | Unity Through Spirit and Praxis by Joel Halldorf

Halldorf, Joel. “Unity through Spirit and Praxis: An Unsystematic Approach to Pentecostalism and the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.” Ecumenical Review 59, no. 4 (2007): 483-490.

This morning I was following some trails along the lines of Christopraxis. An underlying question that has been following me along this research project has been one regarding the Holy Spirit. Why do we not speak more of the praxis of the Spirit, as well as the praxis of Jesus? I realize that Christopraxis is vitally important, because Jesus did not call us to come up with great doctrinal statements about God, but to actually live in a way that glorifies God through love for the other. However, in our lived reality, it is not the physical presence of Jesus in our daily experience that propels our lives, it is the presence of the Holy Spirit that animates our lives. Yes, the physical presence of Jesus in the eucharist is vitally important as we are gathered around the risen body of Jesus and sent into the world as the incarnated Gospel. Yet, it is only through the power of the Spirit that this is possible. Would it not be better to speak of the praxis of Spirit rather than the praxis of Jesus? Jesus is our exemplar, but it is the pluriform and polycentric action of the Spirit at work in, around, and through us that brings the presence of God’s reign into particular and peculiar places. (see Welker. God the Spirit)

This article was very helpful for me along these lines. Halldorf quotes the monk Matta al-Miskin at the beginning and end of his article. In between these quotes he highlights the lives of two men who lived the praxis of the spirit for unity: Brother Roger of Taize and David Du Plessis of the Assemblies of God. Halldorf says,

It might be tempting to try and harmonize these narratives, looking for simi- larities, patterns and perhaps even “rules”. However, I will refrain from this. The tendency to move quickly from the personal to the general is one of the deficits of the Western Christian traditions. There can be no fixed formulas for the movement of the Spirit, as implied by Jesus in his conversation with Nicodemus (John 3:8).

These are the quotes of al-Miskin:

We must understand that we will kill the Spirit if we start with the letter. Our meetings will not result in anything but naked formulas and words. If we start with the law, it will convince us that we are always right while the others always are wrong. In this way we go around and around until time – and with that life – slips away from us. If we start with the wording of the dogma, then we will never reach the inner being of tradition. The Spirit is behind the letter and it is only the Spirit who can complete it and give it life. (Matta al-Miskin, Coptic monk)

The dialogue between the traditions must therefore start with the Spirit and not the letter. It must start with the reception of the life in Christ, which is unity, before one agrees on the different thoughts and expressions of the dogma. We must start by living together in the one and innermost being of faith before we can agree on the content.

Matta al־Miskîn, Enhetger liv, Nya-Slottet Bjärka-Säby, Silentium, 2000, pp.245־. Originally published as Al-wahda al-haqiqiyya satakunu uilhaman il-I-alam, 1984. The quotes from al-Miskîn in this article are translations from the Swedish edition.