Lent: Day 22 of 40 - Pneumatomachi

Macedonius and the ‘pneumatomachi’ or ‘Spirit fighters’ asked why the Spirit was assumed to be of the same substance with the Father. With all the focus on Christology, or the person and work of Jesus, and on Trinity, in particular the relationship of Father and Son, there is a bit of a vacuum about the Spirit.

They argued that the Spirit was in them, as it had been in Jesus, but that this was separable from the issues of Christology and Trinity. Why muck it up with the issues of being of the same substance as the Father and the Son? This takes us full circle back to the Montanists and Gnostics.

Far less is written about this heresy than the ones we have visited so far. It didn’t get very far or last very long. Politically, the pneumatachoi were an extreme branch of the homoiousia party of Arians and semi-Arians opposing the Nicene Creed, and there was less to be gained in winning on this issue than in the main one of an Arian Jesus superman between God and human, but neither the one nor the other.

Recall the Montanist Pentecostalism, claiming the authority of Spirit for women and marginalized folks and the Gnostic elitism, reserving privilege for those who knew the esoteric secrets. In a century of church getting public power, I imagine there were many more who claimed the Spirit, and tried to distinguish it from official creeds and organizational disciplines. I imagine they didn’t write, or writing was burnt – and that they didn’t make much real difference, so were left to amuse themselves by both the church and the imperial powers.

Issues of ‘the spirit in me’ or Holy Spirit are still common amongst our heresies, but is rarely articulated in distinction from an understanding of the Spirit as one person of the Trinity. That Spirit is advocate, teacher, guide, beyond us but acting through us, like water, wind, or fire. What are the stakes in distinguishing my spirit from God’s, and ranking God’s spirit with Creator or Christ?

Where does the Spirit fit for you –

not just in the abstract economy of dogma, but in making a difference in church and daily life?

What about the Spirit in this economy of Jesus and Trinity?