“For Paul the religious experience of the believer is characterized by paradox and conflict – the paradox of life and death, the conflict of [the Holy] Spirit and flesh [our fallen human nature] ….the tension of belonging to two opposed worlds at the same time, of knowing the life of the Spirit but having to express it through the body of death…
‘The Christian who takes Paul seriously should never be alarmed at the paradox and conflict of his religious experience. Nor should he be depressed by defeat, or conclude that grace has lost the struggle. On the contrary, spiritual conflict is the sign of life – a sign that the Spirit is having his say in the shaping of character. Suffering means hope (Romans 5:3ff). Death is part of the present experience of life (2 Corinthians 4:10ff). Since life now must be life in this body, the Spirit can only be present as paradox and conflict. It is this paradox and conflict, which is the mark of healthy religious experience – not its absence. ‘The Spirit is absent when we stop fighting, not when we lose’’
These two paragraphs extracted from a newsletter I received last week. I valued the words, and realised that I didn’t have Dunn’s book in my library, which surprises me as the Jesus and the Spirit are at the very heart of my faith, religious and spiritual experience, and my orientation to life and living. Dunn’s book has long been an important engagement with these topics, but I regret I’ve never read it. Will need to keep my eye out for a good second-hand copy as funds allow.
Gordon Fee’s God's Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul (pub. 1994) remains my go to text book on the subject. He has a very useful abridged edition: Paul, The Spirit, and the People of God. Also useful for me has been the perspective of Amos Yong, and John R. Levison’s Filled with the Spirit (pub. 2009). This Penetcost, I would also want to acknowledge the input many many years ago of the ministry and teaching of John Wimber.