Holy Spirit: Person or "Force"

Part 1: Personal Attributes
Part 2: Historical Evidence
Part 3: "Impersonal" Attributes


We can deal with arguments, or with evidence. An argument can be made to prove anything, but it stands on the quality of the evidence. I have heard the verse "The Lord is the Spirit" explained away by saying the Spirit is, as it were, God's body. This is an argument. It is an argument that says ‘the Lord is His body. Does this argument stand in the face of the evidence presented here? I will summarize: the argument which asks if the Trinity is "reasonable" is impertinent and irrelevant ... the Bible itself refutes it (cf. Job 42:3-6); arguments which maintain that the Spirit is a force, depend on metaphors, all of which are also applied to other persons; objections based on arguments from silence are fallacious. The limit to such objections is set only by one's ingenuity: "Yeah, but..." is a never-ending sentence. But the biblical evidence for His personality is clear, and only a lack of saving faith accounts for its rejection.

The Holy Spirit is nowhere called or required to be an impersonal, or "active," force: this "translation" is actually an interpretation, a paraphrase which inserts a theological bias into the Bible. None of the many standard sources I have consulted so render ruach qados or pneuma hagion. No attribute ascribed to the Spirit mandates that He be a force; rather, all such metaphors discussed here find a counterpart with other personalities in the Bible.

What is it in the text that indicates personification? Aside from one's own belief, what in the Bible requires such a figurative understanding, considering that all such attributes are used of persons? Is it poetry? - is it extended metaphor? Context refutes such a contention. And why is such belief not applied consistently? Why is Satan not a personification? Why are ruach and pneuma sometimes translated "force" by the NWT, and sometimes allowed to represent entities? To those who would make history into poetry, I suggest that the Bible has not been allowed to speak for itself. I suggest that preconceived ideas have been read into the text, that bias is justified at the expense of context. I suggest that God is incompetent at communication, if He so thoroughly "personifies" the Holy Spirit and nowhere clarifies that He is not a person, but an "it." Remember that where ever one might say an abstract attribute is applied to the Holy Spirit, I have pointed to a place where that same "impersonal" attribute is applied to an individual; while I challenge anyone to find any other "force," or thing, which is given so many personal qualities that there is confusion as to its nature.

On the positive side, biblically the Holy Spirit has all the characteristics of a person, in His will, emotions, intellect, and self-identity; He is treated as a person by others; He possesses all the attributes of the Living God (and is called such); and He is called Lord, and God, and Jehovah. Historically, nowhere do the earliest Christian writers identify the Spirit as impersonal, whereas, when the matter is touched upon, He is implicitly and explicitly affirmed to be a person.

It is true that we don't know much about the Holy Spirit. But history is not over yet, and we do not know what the future will reveal of Him. Right now His is a humble role, and the world knows little of Him. Doesn't this describe Jesus, though? When He was here, he was humble, and the world didn’t know much about Him. We cannot fathom what glory is coming to Jesus - we see through a glass, darkly. We have even less idea as to the future role of the Holy Spirit. But our ignorance is not grounds for rejecting His personhood. We do not decide such questions by lack of evidence, but by the evidence we do have.

God is a person. He is what love is. We are told that all our righteousness is as filthy menstrual rags - which render one ceremonially unclean, according to levitical law. Our best effort disqualifies us from His favor. Yet He favors us. He favors us when, and only when He sees His Son in us. Ancient shepherds knew that when a lamb had no mother, a ewe which had lost her own lamb would adopt the orphan; but only if the shepherd sprinkled the living lamb with the blood of the dead one. The mother would recognize the scent and accept the stranger as her own. Jesus, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, covers us with His blood, and the Father adopts us.

One way or the other, we are covered with blood: either the Son's righteous blood, or the polluting, the menstrual blood of fallen humanity. And we are whiter than snow, or utterly unclean. The point is, it is “by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, but the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast” (Eph 2:8-9).

If you say grace is cheap, you say the death of Jesus is cheap. If you say the Spirit is a "thing," you say God is a "thing." Even God's love will not forgive blasphemy against the Spirit, because where His mercy is, there is His justice also. God weighs the heart, but for rewards, not for salvation - which is a gift, not a wage. These are fundamental things, milk, and if one has not been taught them, he knows nothing.



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