Just Wondering – Greg Albrecht
I was recently challenged by someone whose religion causes them to believe God the Holy Spirit to be an “it” rather than a divine Person. Their mannerisms as they “taught me” reminded me of mansplaining – the current term that women use for men who patronize them, adopting a condescending conversational tone as if they are empty headed, immature children. After I listened to this person “setting me straight” I said I had a few questions – they of course had to allow me to say something, since I had listened to them, and “questions” sounded good because it may have seemed I wanted clarification. Indeed I did seek clarification.
I also asked if this person if they would allow me to mention biblical passages – since they purport to be Christian, how could they deny my request? Here are some questions I asked them – and with all respect, I did not refer to the human person who asked me the question as an “it.”
How and when did the Holy Spirit become de-personalized? The New Testament and early Christian literature seems clear that God is the Holy Spirit is a divine Person. Who muddied the waters and why? Who “de-funded” God the Holy Spirit and by what authority? By what argument or jurisdiction can any human person turn the third Person of the Triune God (God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit) into a power like electricity?
God (the Godhead) accomplishes his work through the work and actions of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit “overshadowed” Mary, impregnating her with a human baby who was Jesus, God in the flesh. If God needs the Holy Spirit to do his work, then is he not subservient to an “it”?
The Bible addresses Father, Son and Holy Spirit with the male gender, but of course the gender of a word does not indicate the actual gender identity of the subject in question. A ship may be called “she” but that does not mean the ship has a female gender. Those who claim the Holy Spirit to be an “it” head down what they believe to be a logical trail. But they their thinking turns into a train wreck as they engage in circular reasoning. It’s circular reasoning to assert that because a ship can be both a “she” and an “it” so too can God the Holy Spirit be both “him” and an “it.” The topic of gender when used of divinity can be used to obfuscate and dance around the discussion of whether the Holy Spirit is a divine Person, or merely a force.
Here are some of the biblical passages I asked this person about. The Holy Spirit has insight (1 Corinthians 2:10-11). He guides humans (John 16:13), he helps us in our weaknesses and he has a voice (Romans 8:26) and he convicts us (John 16:8). The Holy Spirit can be lied to (Acts 5:3), resisted (Acts 7:51), insulted (Hebrews 10:29) and grieved (Ephesians 4:30).
The biblical words used to refer to God the Holy Spirit are consistently male. However, God is not a human, and therefore does not fit our descriptions of human sexuality. He is one of the three divine Persons of the one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. As such, God the Holy Spirit has divine “Personality” and is not an “it.”
In John 14:26 Jesus explains that the Holy Spirit is our Advocate, teaching us and reminding us. Some translations render this Greek word as helper, comforter and counselor – all of which are roles far beyond the scope of an “it.” Some transliterate the word parakletos into an English word “paraclete” – in the Greek world a paraclete was a kind of legal advocate.
If you have ever found yourself in need of an attorney, you may have expressed your desire for him or her to “make this go away.” Within the divine world of eternity, God the Holy Spirit makes things go away.
It would seem wise for us to avoid transforming God, Father, Son or Holy Spirit, into a manageable size and shape we can handle and believe. The one God who is three divine Persons experiences divine person-hood, unity and harmony in radically different ways than we human experience person-hood.
The question remains – who has the audacity to neuter and emasculate God the Holy Spirit? Just wondering as I wander through the vast religious wilderness of our world.