James Dunn's book: The Baptism of the Holy Spirit is a traditional exegesis of the religious phenomenon which has been relegated in modern times to the Pentecostal Christian churches. The baptism in the Holy Spirit was prophesied in the Old Testament (OT) writings. The experience was demonstrated in special circumstances among OT leaders, but the prophet Joel promised that in the latter days, this experience would be available and present across the entire church. Joel promised that:
And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: 29 and also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my Spirit. (Joel 2.28-29 ASV)
In the second chapter of Acts, Peter's sermon to the assembled crowds quotes this passage, and he says that:
Ye men of Judea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and give ear unto my words. 15 For these are not drunken, as ye suppose; seeing it is but the third hour of the day; 16 but this is that which hath been spoken through the prophet Joel:
And it shall be in the last days, saith God,
I will pour forth of My Spirit upon all flesh:
And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
And your young men shall see visions,
And your old men shall dream dreams:
Yea and on my servants and on my handmaidens in those days
Will I pour forth of My Spirit; and they shall prophesy. (Acts 2.14b-18)
Peter identified, under the direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit that the baptism in the Holy Spirit which those in the upper room had just experienced was meant for the entire church. His words engage the promise of Joel, and apply them to the Pentecostal baptism in the Holy Spirit. Peter's application is confirmation that this experience is meant for the entire church, and it is meant to be part of the universal Christian experience. The power with which the early church preached the gospel, performed miracles, and brought converts into the kingdom is directly linked to the experience of Pentecost throughout the book of Acts. Dunn's book, which presents a theological and scholarly look at these events, missed the importance of these events in defining the transformational role of the church in today's society. His position is one of theological exegesis rather than dynamic experience of the holy spirits power.
This paper will examine the scriptural basis for the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and compare it to Dunn's classic work on the same. Dunn approached the subject from a dispensational and existential philosophy, so many of his conclusions are subject to reconsideration under the full light of scripture. His questionable belief regarding the deity and messianic identity of Christ is also reason to question the conclusions he draws. Finally, the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and the churches experience of the same will be compared and contrasted to the eastern Christian views of the theology of the Holy Spirit. Vladimir Lossky's work "The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church will provide the basis for this comparison.
The Debate over the Baptism of the Holy Spirit
Evangelicals believe that believers are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, but there is debate over whether all believers are baptized in the Holy Spirit. John the Baptist prophesied that while he baptized with water, the one who would come after him (Jesus) would "baptize...with the Holy Spirit and fire" (Matt. 3:11). Jesus reminded his disciples of this prophecy before he ascended, telling them to wait for this baptism in Jerusalem (Acts 1:4-8). It was important in light of the responsibility to bring the gospel to the entire world (Act 1.4-5) that the early church "Wait for the gift (of the Holy Spirit) which my Father has promised, and about which you have heard me speak. For John baptized with Water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit" This occurred on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4). The question which has troubled theologians and Christians alike is whether all believers now receive this Spirit baptism when they believe, or should believers seek to be baptized in the Spirit as an experience subsequent to salvation?
This debate has carried with is the unspoken corollary which needs to be addressed in order to clearly evaluate the scriptural record. In Christ, all men, women, slave, free, Jew or gentiles are forever equal. Yet, in experience, there are some who do participate in the experience of the Holy Spirit baptism, and some who do not. In discussing this issue, the related underlying question is "Well, if some do have it, and some don't, then some Christians must by "closer to God" or "more right" than others. This emotional-based value judgment has clouded an effective discussion of this experience for centuries. Each believer is on an individual walk with Christ. Those who have been a part of the Christian traditions for decades are no more favored by God than those who have just begun their journey. So the presence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit in come Christians lives is in no way an indictor of their "preferred status" in the kingdom of god. It is a part of their experience, and the presence of the ministry of the Holy Spirit in their lives. If in God's plan the baptism and ministry of the Holy Spirit is only for a few, then Christians need to accept the differences as part of their ministry in the Body of Christ (See 1 Cor. 12.12-41) But if the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is intended for the entire church, and was intended to empower the church to carry forth the ministry of the gospel to the ends of the earth, perhaps the absence of the baptism across a majority of Christendom is reason for the anemic success of the gospel in the modern era.
The classic or traditional Protestant position, embraced by many evangelicals, is that people are baptized with the Spirit when they believe. This position argues that the New Testament does not distinguish between the act of receiving the Holy Spirit and being baptized in the Spirit. All believers are "marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit," which is "the pledge of our inheritance towards redemption" (Eph. 1:13-14). All who believe are "baptized into one body" by "one Spirit" and are "made to drink of one Spirit" (1 Cor. 12:13). If one is not baptized by the Spirit, this view maintains, that person is not part of Christ's body and does not drink of the Spirit. Either a person has the Holy Spirit, in which case he or she is saved, or a person does not have the Holy Spirit, in which case "Christ does not belong to [him]" (Rom. 8:9).
This position argues that the equating of Spirit baptism with conversion is found throughout Acts. True, the disciples had to wait for the baptism of the Holy Spirit for forty days, even though they already believed in Jesus. But this is only because the Holy Spirit had not yet been given (cf. John 7:38-39). Since Pentecost, this position maintains, the Holy Spirit comes immediately when a person believes. On the day of Pentecost, Peter promised his audience that all who would repent and be baptized would receive what they had just witnessed the disciples receive: They would "receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38). When Cornelius and his household heard the gospel for the first time, they believed and "the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word" (Acts 10:44). Similarly, when the disciples of John the Baptist first heard Paul preach the gospel, "the Holy Spirit came upon them (Acts 19:6). The fact that there is no interval in these episodes between believing and receiving the Holy Spirit, and the fact that the Holy Spirit falls on everyone at the same time (none were left out who were not yet "ready" for the full baptism) demonstrate that being baptized in the Spirit is not an experience subsequent to salvation.
However, this position does not adequately explain the events in which there is an apparent interval between people believing and receiving the Spirit. When Philip preaches to the Samaritans in Acts 8, Luke says that many Samaritans "believed Philip," including the sorcerer Simon (8:11-13). Yet they did not receive the Holy Spirit until John and Peter came from Jerusalem and prayed over them (8:17). According to adherents of the classic Protestant position, the Acts 8 episode should not be taken as normative for all believers. The interval took place because God wanted to demonstrate that the Samaritan mission had apostolic authority behind it. Hence, God wanted…