Controversy, oh how humans love controversy!
Even Christians do. Sometimes controversy happens because one side wants to prove that it is right and better than the other side. Sometimes controversy happens because the topic discussed is of great importance but it is shrouded in mystery. I believe that is the case when it comes to the subject of the Holy Spirit.
He is invisible, he is powerful, he is a full-fledged member of the Godhead, and he is mysterious.
So, what is he like? Why does it seem, as some of the charismatic Christians might argue, that he is often ignored or side-stepped in many evangelical churches? I have heard it said, "Churches will talk about the Father and the Son, but what about the Spirit? Is it because church people are scared of his miraculous works?" I find it odd, as a more conservative Christian pastor myself, how charismatics will subtly accuse someone like me of Holy Spirit phobia, as if I am terrified of seeing his active power in my life and church. They wrongly assume I probably am scared of encountering the supernatural. Nothing could be further from the truth...that would be like saying if I was offered some of Superman's abilities I would refuse them because I was scared of flying.
I am not scared of the Holy Spirit and his work in my life, I simply want to be accurate in my teaching! We so quickly forget James' and Peter's warnings:
- James 3:1 - "Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach WILL BE JUDGED MORE STRICTLY."
- 2 Peter 3:16 - "...ignorant and unstable people distort as they do the other Scriptures, to their own DESTRUCTION."
When it comes to God's word and the teaching of sound doctrine we must be very careful. And there is no other topic more dangerous than discussing the Holy Spirit himself; he is God you know, and I don't want to get him wrong! (ie: Acts 5:3-10)
It doesn't take a seasoned theologian to find aberrant teachings of the Holy Spirit in every corner of Christendom. Sadly, wrong teaching always effects the church's catholic unity (universal) and it subtly encourages the slick circus performing pastors to keep hoodwinking the undiscerning crowd of Christian spectators of their money. I believe our culture promulgates 4 common misconceptions or "faces" of the Holy Spirit (In the Greek the word for Spirit is 'Pneuma' meaning, 'to breathe' or 'wind') that are both incorrect and destructive. We must respect the image of God, and stop worshiping idols of the Holy Spirit that we have created:
FACE NUMBER TWO: "The Holy Spirit as Sarayu the Asian Lady"
I know some of you reading this are thinking, "Huh?" Well in the past 7 years a very popular Christian fiction book has been written called 'The Shack.' In this book, the author attempts to paint a new perspective on how to understand the Trinity. In his writings he illustrates the Holy Spirit as a dancing, leaping Asian woman called Sarayu (meaning wind). Here is how he describes her, "I am… I am a verb. I am that I am. I will be who I will be. I am a verb! I am alive, dynamic, ever active, and moving. I am a being verb… my very essence is a verb...You might see me in a piece of art, or music, or silence, or through people, or in Creation, or in your joy and sorrow." In this portrayal, which I know is fiction, the idea is that the Holy Spirit is a non-descript, spontaneous acting force that touches feelings, emotions and moments. He or 'she' is that spark of life, that dash of color that inspires and beautifies. You can't predict or explain her movements, you must only experience them. Akin to the Tao or life force - - the Spirit is not personal, but a natural part of the fabric of reality.
FACE NUMBER THREE: "The Holy Spirit as Hippie"
Post-modernism is the philosophical perspective of the day. It resists absolutes both in truth and structural authority; and boy do post-moderns love the Holy Spirit because to them he is the person of God that breathes life to the post-modern ethic. He doesn't quite operate within constraints, whether it be doctrinal or ecclesiastical tradition; he thrives under unrestrained freedom and love. His love has no demands, no boundaries and no hatred. Why do we need tradition, hey man, we have the Holy Spirit? Why do we need authority figures and structures when we have the Holy Spirit? And most of all why do we need to rely on some old dusty parchments & papers, no need for stale creeds & theologies written ages ago, when we have the Holy Spirit?
FACE NUMBER FOUR: "The Holy Spirit as D. J."
"Let's get this party started!!!" I read about an interesting discussion between a pastor and person who wanted to check out their church. Here is how the conversation went, "'I need to know if it’s a Spirit-Filled church?' Without batting an eye I said, 'Of course it is. God is in the house. How can you accept Christ without the Spirit of God? How can you have conviction of sin without the Spirit of God? Of course we are a Spirit-filled church. I can’t think of any other kind.' They got a little uneasy at the way I answered it, so they pressed a wee-bit more and asked, 'Do you allow the ‘gifts’ to operate in your church?' I knew where she was going with it, but sometimes it’s just TOO easy and TOO much fun to mess with people. I love it. I said, 'Of Course! What would church be without the use of wisdom? And man, we can all use some knowledge and faith too!' She was now thoroughly perturbed. 'That’s NOT what I mean!'
What did she mean? The Holy Spirit is the warp, the woof and woo! He brings the excitement, he keeps the good times rollin'.
Are all of these views wrong? Each has a kernel of truth, but they are not primarily how God wants us to view the Holy Spirit. Jesus in the book of John gives us one more picture or 'face' of God the Spirit...
FACE NUMBER 5: "The Holy Spirit as the Paraclete."
Paraclete, what in the world is that? It is a Greek word meaning, "Helper, Aid, Advocate, and Counselor." He is a person's best friend. One time I was part of a guys group at college and we were told to encourage each other. One person made a comment about one of the guys named Chris, and he said something that I have never forgot, "If I had to go to Veit Nam and fight in the jungles, I would want Chris to be there with me. He would have my back, he would know what to do, and he would give me courage to keep fighting." That my friends is what it means to be a Paraclete - - someone that comes alongside and gives a person courage, wisdom, aid and strength.
Yes, the Holy Spirit gives gifts, he convicts, he can heal and amaze, but he has been sent by Jesus to be his personal life living in us. The Holy Spirit is more than a show, he is to be our best friend!