Early in the year I submitted an abstract for the 2016 Karl Barth Conference at Princeton Theological Seminary. After the call period finished I expected that my paper was not chosen, but then a spot opened up for me and I am excited to be going. Excited and a little over-awed. I am so busy this semester, I don’t have a lot of prep time. The theme of the Conference is Karl Barth’s Pneumatology and the Global Pentecostal Movement. My abstract for the conference is:
‘Changed into Another Man’:
The Meaning of “Baptism with the Holy Spirit” in Karl Barth,
in Conversation with the Pentecostal Doctrine
Late in his career, Karl Barth prepared a little section for the Church Dogmatics entitled “Baptism with the Holy Spirit” (IV/4:3-40). This paper presents a careful exposition of Barth’s doctrine of ‘Baptism with the Holy Spirit,’ showing that Barth conceived of the Spirit as the conjunction between the objective act of God’s reconciliation achieved in Christ in history, and the event of Christian faith. In the Holy Spirit, the mediating link between these two aspects of the one event, Christian faith is grounded not in an act of humanity but in that of God. That is, the Christian’s apprehension of faith in Christ is a genuine participation in, and incorporation into the life of the triune God, rather than simply a limited, and indeed, earth-bound, existential or ecclesiological event.
While the exposition makes clear that Barth’s doctrine is materially different to that of classic Pentecostalism, certain affinities may be noted between the two positions. In particular one notes the experiential language Barth uses to describe the encounter which transpires between God and the human agent. Second, is Barth’s insistence that the Baptism with the Holy Spirit involves the ontic renewal of the Christian such they become in truth ‘a different [person]’ (18). These features of Barth’s exposition suggest that his doctrine, although distinct in form and content from that of Pentecostalism, may in fact address the deeper longing of that movement for a dynamic, experiential ‘life in the Spirit.’