what to believe (4a)

It’s time to carry on with the series of posts on the nature and merits of James Melton’s ‘statement-of-faith-via-20-questions’. (For earlier posts on this series, go here, here, and here). As was mentioned in the first post, it appears that Melton’s view of ‘the best church for you’ is quite specific. The specificity of his view reveals that he is promoting an exclusive type of church that holds to exclusive traditions/beliefs–namely, things which support his specific view. (Aren’t circles fun?). The three questions considered in this two-part post can be seen as further evidence for what Melton is doing. (I’m doing a two-parter because comments on the third question were longer than the comments on these first two).

8. Do you believe that the Holy Spirit is a Divine Person who convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment?
Caveat: I haven’t mentioned this in a while, so it might be useful to restate it now. One of the big concerns that I have with Melton’s presentation is the automatic assumption that people know the meaning (and nuances) of specific theological ideas or concepts. Moreover, it seems as though Melton would require definite responses to the questions asked in spite of not having a fair understanding of the terms. That sort of thing is unacceptable. I would hope that before answering any of these 20 questions, people would not be afraid to ask, ‘What do you mean by . . .?’ That type of question is certainly beneficial with this particular statement. Melton: what do you mean by ‘divine person’?  What do you mean by, ‘convicts to world of sin’, ‘convicts the world of righteousness’, and ‘convicts the world of judgment’? Answers to those sorts of questions might affect the answer given to the one being asked.

Back to this question. Well, seeing that I only implicitly acknowledged the divinity of the Spirit by answering ‘yes’ to question 3, I guess it makes sense to state it explicitly here with this question. So, ‘yes’ to the first half of the question. ‘Wait a minute: “first half“?!’ you might be asking, while searching for the nearest shoe or other blunt object with good aerodynamics. The only reason I slightly hesitate with the second half is that I firmly believe that the Spirit does so much more than this. I unashamedly believe that this threefold description is a vital part of what the Spirit does, but I also believe that to leave the role of the Spirit at this threefold description is to offer a rather limited (if not, one-sided) view of the Spirit. So, to answer this question, I would have to say: ‘Yes, but . . .’

9. Do you believe that the Holy Spirit is the Supernatural Agent in regeneration, baptizing all believers into the body of Christ?
While this begins to respond to the ‘but’ portion of my last answer, we’re once again faced with a string of theological ideas and terms that are not clearly explained. This is especially the case with the idea of ‘regeneration’, which is definitely a vital role of the Spirit, and it is also the case with the notion of the Spirit ‘baptizing all believers into the body of Christ.’ This latter statement needs a lot of explanation from Melton, partly because of how it has been understood across denominational lines. (Some see it as contemporaneous–if not synonymous–with water baptism. Others see it as a post-water baptism experience. Not a few other see it as a second work of divine grace). However, I have a fear that Melton would explain his meaning in way that only supports his reading of the text (and his denominational tradition) rather than seriously engage with text and not allow preconceptions to determine the meaning and application. So, my answer to this question would have to be: ‘Initially, yes; but you’re going to need to explain some things before I say anything more.’

On to part two of this post (go here).

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