Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Holy Spirit a Person not a thing

As we approach Pentecost Archbishop Sentamu has put a stirring and inspiring address on his website. I have no problem with the first part, however the Archbishop fails to stress the Personality of the Holy Spirit, particularly in his last passage:

"Pentecost is about this life, which is passed on, one from the other. It’s like a candle that you light and I can take it from the other candle to this candle and the thing about this Holy Spirit,  it passes on from one to the other, and the good thing is that it never goes out. "
 There appears to be an increasing tendency in Christian circles to describe the Holy Spirit as 'it'. The Greek Word for Holy Spirit is neuter and biblical descriptions include 'tongues of fire' , however I am sure Archbishop Sentamu would agree that the Holy Spirit is a Person, part of the Godhead. As it is the Jehovah's Witnesses  will not hesitate to use his words as support for their doctrine that the Holy Spirit is an impersonal force. 


I'm uneasy that our Archbishop appears to believe that  the Holy Spirit transfers like some kind of candle flame, passing 'it',  from one candle to another. His illustration is unhelpful. When we are 'filled with The Spirit' , God himself does the filling. It's an intimate love relationship  between God and us, not a transfer of flame between like minded candles. 

 Perhaps he's trying to avoid a charge of sexism in describing the Holy Spirit as 'He' . Thankfully there's a precedent, the Apostle Paul broke the laws of Greek Grammar to do so. It's true to say that God is Spirit and neither Male nor Female but 'He' is definitely not an 'it'. God may be described in the bible as 'like a green tree' or compared to a 'mother hen', but He isn't either of those two things.

The 'Prince of Preachers' CH Spurgeon wrote an easy to read article which proves the Personality of the Holy Spirit. It is well worth reading and the Archbishop's 'get out clause' is quoted below:

" We are so accustomed to talk about the influence of the Holy Spirit and his sacred operations and graces, that we are apt to forget that the Holy Spirit is truly and actually a person—that he is an actual life—an existence; or, as we Trinitarians usually say, one person in the essence of the Godhead. But I am afraid that, though we don’t know it, we have acquired the habit of regarding the Holy Spirit as an divine emanation flowing from the Father and the Son, but not as being actually a person himself. I know it is not easy to carry around in our mind the idea of the Holy Spirit as a person......."



1 comment:

  1. Yes Bobby! How easy it could be to slide into what I would call 'error'. Father , Son and Holy Spirit , three in one and one in three persons is the doctrine of the Church. Though not being altogether happy with 'The Shack'it did remind me however of the persons in the Holy Trinity.

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