Is the Holy Spirit even a Who?

Is the Holy Spirit even a Who?

I personally believe in the trinity, which is a word used to describe the “tri-unity” (triune) of God. This means that I believe in one God, but that one God is expressed in three distinct persons while being one essence. This blog post is not an argument for the trinity outright, but a blog on the person-hood of the Holy Spirit, which is necessary for trinitarian beliefs. Many trinitarians have a lacking understanding of the Holy Spirit, making Him less than a person, which compromises their theology of the trinity. Although people are responsible for their theology, I think that a lack of teaching on the Holy Spirit from the pulpit beyond the “spiritual” stuff has left people lacking in their understanding of who He is, to the point that He is no longer a who.

It’s a shame that we don't talk about the Holy Spirit more and when we do most groups totally focus on Pentecostal beliefs about the Holy Spirit or totally ignore them. What people don't talk about is whether or not He is a who. Have you ever heard someone refer to the Holy Spirit as “it”? What does calling the Holy Spirit “it” imply about Him? In English we use “it” for an item or object, not a person. When we refer to a person as “it,” we usually are degrading that person or trying to remove their person-hood from them (see Silence of the Lambs video). Even when someone does not realize what they are doing, when we refer to the Holy Spirit as “it,” we indicate a (unconscious) belief that the Holy Spirit is inferior to the the Father and the Son.

I once encountered a person who did not believe that the Holy Spirit was a “person” in the trinity.  It was interesting to watch a history teacher argue with him about the trinity for half a class period. I personally dubbed this person a “Twoness” as a play on the “Oneness (Apostolic) Pentecostal” movement. Oneness Pentecostals believe that each of the “persons” in trinitarian theology are really just ways that Jesus as God reveals himself rather than distinct persons of God, whereas the Twoness believed in the Father and the Son (Jesus) but not the Holy Spirit as a person. The Holy Spirit was merely the spirit of God that comes from God the Father and (perhaps) God the Son, without a personality or will of His own. This view makes the Holy Spirit a power or force.



Where’s the Proof?

The Holy Spirit has been interacting with creation since the beginning. Genesis 1:2 says that the Spirit of God was moving (hovering) over the surface of the waters on the earth. I personally believe that this shows how the Holy Spirit was involved in creation, but this is not quite proof for the Holy Spirit as a person since He could still be the force that God uses to do things.

How about Genesis 1:26 where God refers to Himself in the plural?

Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth."

I have heard and read the “royal we” argument but I’m not buying it there just isn’t a precedence for it. Check out Isaiah 6:8 where God goes from a singular “I” to a plural “us. ” Both of these are looked to as proof for the plurality in the singularity of God. From “Us” to “I AM,” God is the God of the singular plurality.

Romans 8:26-27 tells us that the Holy Spirit helps us, prays for us, and has a mind. When I think of a force or power, I think of something to be tapped into. If the Holy Spirit is merely a force I would expect these acts to be carried out by someone "using" the Holy Spirit rather then the Holy Spirit doing it Himself.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

2 Corinthians 13:14 Is in interesting verse where Paul gives his audience a benediction of various attributes of God the Son, Father, and Holy Spirit. “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” Although each one holds each of these attributes, they are attributed to one of them: Jesus - grace, Father - love, and the Holy Spirit - fellowship.

In all the of the Gospels we have a scene where Jesus requests that John the Baptist would baptize Him. In all of these accounts the Holy Spirit descends on Jesus like a dove. The fact that Jesus is there in person, the Father speaks, and the Holy Spirit takes a bodily form for all three persons of God to be present is used for proof of the trinity (Matthew 3:13-17, Mark 1:9-11, Luke 3:21-22, John 1:29-34).

Before Jesus ascended to Heaven He promised not to leave us alone. In fact Jesus, the Son, says that He will ask the Father to send the Holy Spirit. Again all three of the persons of God are interacting!

"If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” - John 14:15-17

We can grieve, insult, and lie to the Holy Spirit. None of which should be possible to do to an impersonal force.

I personally do not think that I have made a very strong case for the person-hood of the Holy Spirit. I can think of arguments against everything I have said or anything that I could have said. The Holy Spirit has been present on earth since the beginning. He has been instrumental to God’s actions on earth. He was with us when Jesus went to heaven and He is with us today. So why don't we accept Him as a person?

About the Author | Sean Kready
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An imperfect Christian, who sins on the daily, but tries to share his journey so that we all might know God better. This is our offering. An act of worship.

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