"To approach the frontier between the human and the divine is also to approach the borders of language. The problem emerges, for instance, when [Paul] talks about 'the divine spirit bearing witness with our spirit' [Rom. 8:16], and the problem is only slightly alleviated when he talks instead about the divine spirit residing in a person's 'heart'. The questions English-language exegetes [interpreters] sometimes ask, as to whether 'spirit' should have a capital letter or not, indicating the divine spirit rather than the human one, shows well enough that there is fluidity of thought at this point."
This struck me particularly because of two recent items; bear with me, since they take a moment to join together. Item One: a conversation I recently shared with a few colleagues, concerning whether or not God still calls people to be apostles today. Leaving aside the more prickly questions of whether (and how) spiritual gifts like prophecy, healing, and speaking in tongues still function today, we talked about what it was that made Jesus' original apostles, well, apostles: they were commissioned as such, and sent as such; they were first among Jesus' companions and witnesses; empowered by Jesus' commissioning, and later more directly by the Holy Spirit, they did some pretty amazing stuff ("that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons," Mark 3:14-15). But then of course there's somebody like Paul, who gets to define himself as apostle to the Gentiles/nations, talks about himself as the least (and most undeserving) of the apostles, yet also tries to dictate what kind of spheres of authority he and other apostles have. (And, Paul might well add, he also added letter-writing to the apostolic job description!) All of that is to say that if we were to imagine an "apostolic" calling today, there might be considerable variations in what that would look like between those called. To take some of the loaded-ness out of that term, apostolic, maybe we should place it within the current conversation of the mission of God and his people: where those original, capital-A Apostles were commissioned in some sense directly by Jesus himself, today a lowercase-a apostle could be one who is sent on a mission, not unlike a missionary, as part of the larger mission that God has given his people, the mission that reflects and expresses God's own mission to this beautiful but broken world. For the individual, that's a powerful incentive to do the things one is called to do, to live out a commission most faithfully (in some cases probably including, but not limited to, blogging more consistently).
Item two: a nearby Christian TV station has been using the Twitter hashtag "#inspiring" to promote discussion of its programming -- including its reruns of, say, Gilmore Girls and The West Wing. I happily admit that there are plenty of "inspiring" moments in these and other shows, and West Wing more than most. But it's almost always lowercase-i inspiring. Not that anyone can decide firmly where the break should be between capital and lowercase inspiration, much as Wright says about the use of Spirit and spirit above. The most stirring, Capra-esque moment of compassionate politics in Jed Bartlet's White House is still a far cry from the literal in-spiration of the first Pentecost; but who's to say that the Spirit cannot or would not move in and through that former moment, at which point inspiration becomes, arguably, Inspiration?
So: what do you think? What do you make of Wright's point about the limits of human language here, or my reflection on them? How are we supposed to work out these questions of big and little A's and I's (without getting too far into Dr. Seuss's ABCs!) that can make such a big difference in our spiritual formation and mission? Is there a happy medium-sized expression between the two extremes -- and if so, what does it look like?