St Gregory does not respond directly to the biblicism of his critics. He will not argue with them on their own terms. He certainly believes that the divinity of the Spirit is fully supported by the biblical witness, but only if it is read and interpreted properly. We cannot remain at the level of the letter of Scripture. We must penetrate through the words to their inner meaning and thus apprehend the divine realities they intend. Scripture must be read in the Spirit by those who are being purified by the Spirit. When these two conditions obtain, then the testimony of Scripture to the Spirit becomes manifest.
It is the Spirit in whom we worship and through whom we pray. "God," it says, "is Spirit, and they who worship him must worship him in Spirit and in Truth." And again: "We do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words." And again: "I will pray with the Spirit but I will pray with the mind also"--meaning, in mind and spirit. Worshipping, then, and praying in the Spirit seem to me to be simply the Spirit presenting prayer and worship to himself. (§12)
The biblical texts quoted do not, in fact, state that the Spirit is divine. Rather, they remind us of the spiritual reality of the Church: the Church prays in the Spirit, the Church worships in the Spirit, the Church believes and confesses the Father and the Son through and by the Spirit. The Spirit has been poured out upon the Church and now indwells and divinizes her. She knows God to be Father, Son, and Holy Spirit because she lives in and with God. Her liturgical and spiritual life is shaped and formed by her experience of the Holy Trinity. "This is the meaning of David's prophetic vision," Gregory explains: "'In your light we shall see light.' We receive the Son's light from the Father's light in the light of the Spirit: that is what we ourselves have seen and what we now proclaim--it is the plain and simple explanation of the Trinity" (§3).
The Church's confession of the Spirit as God, consubstantial with the Father, is thus ultimately grounded, not upon the literal exegesis of Scripture, but upon the Church's experience of theosis. She knows the Spirit is God because the Spirit is actively transforming believers into God. "If he [the Spirit] has the same rank as I have [i.e., creaturehood], how can he make me God, how can he link me with deity?" Gregory asks (§4). For Gregory, theosis is a fundamental sacramental and spiritual datum. To be baptized is to be incorporated into Christ and reborn in the Holy Spirit. If the Spirit makes us new creatures and participants in the Trinitarian life of God, then he must be God himself and not a creaturely intermediary:
Were the Spirit not to be worshipped, how could he deify me through baptism? If he is to be worshipped, why not adored? And if to be adored, how can he fail to be God? One links with the other, a truly golden chain of salvation. From the Spirit comes our rebirth, from rebirth comes a new creating, from new creating a recognition of the worth of him who effected it. (§28)
But one can hear Gregory's opponents loudly objecting: If the Spirit is indeed God, how is it that it has taken the Church over three hundred and fifty years to acknowledge this fact? Is not the theologian from Nazianzus teaching a truth that not even the Apostles knew? Is he not claiming a new revelation?
St Gregory responds to these concerns by advancing his understanding of the progressive nature of divine revelation. "There have been," he explains, "two remarkable transformations of the human way of life in the course of the world's history" (§25). The first was the transition from idols to Law, the first covenant. The second was the transition from Law to Gospel, the second covenant. And within the second covenant there is also the intimation of a third change, "from the present state of things to what lies unmoved, unshaken, beyond" (§25). Each of these epochs are marked by a gentleness and graduality: God does not compel or force; he persuades and coaxes. Qhen he established the Law and abolished idols, he permitted sacrifices to continue. When he established the Gospel, he abolished the sacrifices but permitted circumcision to continue. But eventually, as the Church grew in its understanding of the Gospel, the Church abandoned the concession of circumcision, as evidenced in the later behavior and teaching of the Apostle Paul.
God's self-disclosure as Holy Trinity is also marked by a progressivity of revelation:
The old covenant made clear proclamation of the Father, a less definite one of the Son. The new covenant made the Son manifest and give us a glimpse of the Spirit's Godhead. At the present time, the Spirit resides amongst us, giving us a clearer manifestation of himself than before. It was dangerous for the Son to be preached openly when the Godhead of the Father was still unacknowledged. It was dangerous, too, for the Holy Spirit to be made (and here I use a rather rash expression) an extra burden, when the Son had not been received. It could mean men jeopardizing what did lie within their powers, as happens to those encumbered with a diet too strong for them or who gaze at sunlight with eyes as yet too feeble for it. No, God meant it to be by piecemeal additions, "ascents" as David called them, by progress and advance from glory to glory, that the light of the Trinity should shine upon more illustrious souls. This was, I believe, the motive for the Spirit's making his home in the disciples in gradual stages proportionate to their capacity to receive him--at the outset of the gospel when he performs miracles, after the Passion when he is breathed into the disciples, after the Ascension when he appears in fiery tongues. He was gradually revealed by Jesus also, as you too can substantiate by a more careful reading. "I will ask the Father," he says, "and he will send you another Comforter, the Spirit of Truth"--intending that the Spirit should not appear to be a rival God and spokesman of another power. (§26)
Gregory responds to the charge of fabricating new revelation by insisting that the Church's knowledge of the divinity of the Son is grounded upon Spirit himself, who now inhabits the Church. This is not a post-apostolic revelation. The Church, rather, has grown in her understanding of what she has received. John Behr describes this as an ascent of maturity. Before the Church could begin to formulate the divinity of the Spirit, she first had to assimilate and clarify the apostolic revelation of Jesus Christ as the eternal Son. But now that the Church has finally achieved dogmatic understanding of the consubstantiality of the Son, she is ready to reach a similar understanding of the Holy Spirit, based not on proof-texts from Scripture but on her experience of the Spirit. Consider this important passage from Oration 41, in which Gregory distinguishes the Pentecostal outpouring of the Spirit both from the way the Spirit worked in the ministry of the disciples during Jesus' life and from their reception of the Spirit immediately after his resurrection:
The first instance manifested the Spirit indistinctly, and the second more distinctly; but this present occasion [Pentecost] did so more perfectly, since the Spirit is no longer present only in energy as before, but in its very being, so to speak, associating with us and dwelling among us. For it was fitting that as the Son had lived among us in bodily form, so too the Spirit should appear in bodily form; and that after Christ had returned to his own place, it should have come down to us. (41.11)
Gregory could hardly have put the matter more strongly. The Holy Spirit has come to dwell with his people in his very substance and essential reality. Christopher Beeley comments:
Here Gregory identifies in very strong terms the reality of the Holy Spirit's divine nature and its presence in the Church. Whereas Basil had argued that the activity, or energy, of the Spirit is present in the purified soul, Gregory is making the bolder claim that, in the age of the Church, the Holy Spirit now presents itself to believers as being fully divine and consubstantial with the Father--that it is present "in its very Being." (Gregory of Nazianzus on the Trinity and the Knowledge of God, pp. 172-173)
Jesus himself taught his Apostles that the Spirit would come and would "teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you" (Jn 14:26). The greatest of these new truths, suggests St Gregory, is the "Godhead of the Spirit" (§26).
Once the divinity of the Spirit is acknowledged and dogmatically confessed, the testimony of the Scriptures to the consubstantiality of the Spirit becomes manifest and clear:
But now you shall have a swarm of proof-texts, from which the Godhead of the Holy Spirit can be proved thoroughly scriptural at least to those not utterly dense or utterly alien to the Spirit. Look at the facts: Christ is born, the Spirit is his forerunner; Christ is baptized, the Spirit bears him witness; Christ is tempted, the Spirit leads him up; Christ performs miracles, the Spirit accompanies him; Christ ascends, the Spirit fills his place. Is there any significant function belonging to God, which the Spirit does not perform? Is there any title belonging to God, which cannot apply to him, except "ingenerate" and "begotten"? The Father and the Son, after all, continue to have their personalities; there must be no confusion with the Godhead, which brings all other things into harmonious order. I shudder to think of the wealth of titles, the mass of names, outraged by resistance to the Spirit. He is called "Spirit of God," "Spirit of Christ," "Mind of Christ," "Spirit of the Lord," and "Lord" absolutely; "Spirit of Adoption," "of Truth," "of Freedom"; "Spirit of Wisdom," "Understanding," "Counsel," "Might," "Knowledge," "True Religion" and of "The Fear of God." The Spirit indeed effects all these things, filling the universe with his being, sustaining the universe. His being "fills the world," his power is beyond the world's capacity to contain it. It is his nature, not his given function, to be good, to be righteous, and to be in command. He is the subject, not the object of hallowing, apportioning, participating, filling, sustaining; we share in him and he shares in nothing. He is our inheritance, he is glorified, counted together with Father and Son; he is a dire warning to us. The "finger of God," he is, like God, a "fire," which proves, I think that he is consubstantial. The Spirit it is who created and creates anew through baptism and resurrection. The Spirit it is who knows all things, who teaches all things, who blows where, and as strongly as, he wills, who leads, speaks, sends out, separates, who is vexed and tempted. He reveals, illumines, gives life--or, rather, is absolutely Light and Life. He makes us his temple, he deifies, he makes us complete, and he initiates us in such a way that he both precedes baptism and is wanted after it. All that God actively performs, he performs. Divided in fiery tongues, he distributes graces, makes Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. He is "intelligent, manifold, clear, distinct, irresistible, unpolluted"--or in other words, he is utterly wise, his operations are multifarious, he clarifies all things distinctly, his authority is absolute and he is free from mutability. He is "all-powerful, overseeing all and penetrating through all spirits that are intelligent and pure and most subtle"--meaning, I think, angelic powers as well as prophets and Apostles. He penetrates them simultaneously, though they are distributed in various places; which shows that he is not tied down by spatial limitations. (§30)
The Holy Spirit is not some unbiblical deity. He is God, the third person of the Holy Trinity, consubstantial with the Father. Thanks to St Gregory the Theologian this is the faith that has been dogmatically taught in and by the Church since the First Council of Constantinople.