Re: [asa] Re: Reductionism

From: Janice Matchett <>
Date: Sun Jun 17 2007 - 15:06:31 EDT

At 08:11 PM 6/16/2007, PvM wrote:

>"...In the end is the trinity not something we assigned to something
>whose concept we may not have fully understood?" ~ Pim

@ "We"?? Speak for yourself. The Trinity concept is taught from
Genesis to Revelation and evident to those who've been given eyes to
see. ~ Janice

The Quiet Third
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity Relationship
James Patrick Holding

A few years ago I composed the beginnings of my article on Jesus as
God's Wisdom as a defense against Mormon views of the Trinity. Since
then I have worked the article into a general defense of the
Father-Son relationship against all

But what about the Holy Spirit? For a while now I have wanted to do a
similar article on the third member of the Trinity, whom I have
referred to as the "quiet third" because when compared to the Son and
the Father, the Spirit seems a rather muted sort -- so much so that
the danger, unlike with the Son, is not in removing the Spirit's
deity, but rather his personality.

I came to this project wondering if I would find, as I did in the
case of Jesus and Wisdom, a Jewish conceptual category that fit the
Holy Spirit.

I did indeed -- and also discovered that where the Holy Spirit is
concerned, Christianity took a radical departure from their Jewish
forebears. This was indeed a fascinating study; and no surprise, it
looks like yet again the skeptics and such are off the mark. But I
will develop this essay further before I deign to address where
others have gone wrong.

My programmatic source for this essay is James D. G. Dunn's Christ
and the Spirit, Vol. 2 on pneumatology. Dunn's first volume dealt
with Christ and the second assumes knowledge of the first, as I here
assume knowledge of my Wisdom essay linked above.

The "shock" to our system is this: if the NT writers had followed
their Jewish forebears regarding the Holy Spirit as they followed
them on Wisdom, we would not today be Trinitarians but Binatarians,
for "before the incarnation Logos and Spirit were hardly to be
distinguished." [52] But let's begin not with the time between the
Testaments, but with the OT itself, and with some commentary on the
role and purpose of the Holy Spirit.

We begin with these quotes from the OT:
Gen. 1:2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was
upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face
of the waters.

This verse contributes our first glimpse for understanding: The word
"spirit" is the Hebrew ruwach, and it is the usual word for any
spirit, human or divine, but it is also the word used for wind
(Genesis 8:1 God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters

The clue we gather here is that "spirit" is a moving and active thing
-- not stagnant. We will see the application of this later on.

Exodus 31:3 And I have filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom,
and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship...

Here the Spirit of God is tied directly to the possession of wisdom
and knowledge. (See also Ex. 35:31) We can already sense that there
will be a close relationship between Wisdom and the Spirit.

But the Spirit is responsible for other types of insight as well:
Numbers 24:2 And Balaam lifted up his eyes, and he saw Israel abiding
in his tents according to their tribes; and the spirit of God came upon him.

The Spirit of God is also tied in with prophecy. The alert reader
will anticipate that this carries over into NT times as well. (See
also 1 Sam. 10:10, 2 Chr. 24:20, Ezek. 11:24) But we will also see
that there is a synonym for the Spirit in the context of prophectic activity:
1 Kings 18:46 And the hand of the LORD was on Elijah; and he girded
up his loins, and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.

Is. 8:11 For the LORD spake thus to me with a strong hand, and
instructed me that I should not walk in the way of this people...

Jer. 15:17 I sat not in the assembly of the mockers, nor rejoiced; I
sat alone because of thy hand: for thou hast filled me with indignation.

Ezekiel 1:3 The word of the LORD came expressly unto Ezekiel the
priest, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the river
Chebar; and the hand of the LORD was there upon him.

The imagery of God's "hand" is found in these passages associated
with prophecy; but it is also found in other contexts which give us
further insight:
Deut. 2:15 For indeed the hand of the LORD was against them, to
destroy them from among the host, until they were consumed.

1 Sam. 12:15 But if ye will not obey the voice of the LORD, but rebel
against the commandment of the LORD, then shall the hand of the LORD
be against you, as it was against your fathers.

These are examples of places where "hand" is used to refer to
activity or action as a whole, as it is in these examples:
Gen. 16:6 But Abram said unto Sarai, Behold, thy maid is in thy hand;
do to her as it pleaseth thee.

Ps. 31:15 My times are in thy hand: deliver me from the hand of mine
enemies, and from them that persecute me.

The hand signifies action and power. The "hand of God" signifies
God's action and power. This lays the foundation for an understanding
of the Holy Spirit as God's action principle in the world (which acts
in accordance with God's Word, or instruction).

There is a final set of quotes we need to look at:
Judges 3:10 And the spirit of the LORD came upon him, and he judged
Israel, and went out to war: and the LORD

Judges 11:29 Then the spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah, and he
passed over Gilead, and Manasseh, and passed over Mizpeh of Gilead,
and from Mizpeh of Gilead he passed over unto the children of Ammon.

Judges 15:14 And when he came unto Lehi, the Philistines shouted
against him: and the spirit of the LORD came mightily upon him, and
the cords that were upon his arms became as flax that was burnt with
fire, and his bands loosed from off his hands.

2 Kings 2:16 And they said unto him, Behold now, there be with thy
servants fifty strong men; let them go, we pray thee, and seek thy
master: lest peradventure the spirit of the LORD hath taken him up,
and cast him upon some mountain, or into some valley. And he said, Ye
shall not send.

Isa. 40:7 The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit
of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass.

Is. 61:1 The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath
anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to
bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and
the opening of the prison to them that are bound;

The "spirit of the Lord" is another synonym for the divine principle
that inspires prophecy and inspires action.

We are now ready to look at what commentary is available from between
the Testaments. As noted, and in accordance with the first Exodus
quote above, there appears to have been no distinction made between
God's Wisdom and God's Spirit:
Wisdom of Solomon 9:17 Who has learned thy counsel, unless thou hast
given wisdom, and sent thy holy spirit from on high?

As Dunn notes, Wisdom/Logos and Spirit overlap. This is also found in
Philo (De plantatione 18).

Our study now moves to the NT evidence, and it is here where we
encounter our key issue of diversion from Christianity's Judaistic roots.

Christianity developed a "bifurcation" between the Wisdom and the
Spirit that was not paralleled in Judaism; and yet, we also see that
a close relationship remains between the two. But let's work through
the NT and see how the "Holy Ghost" (as it reads in the KJV)
parallels the role of the Spirit or hand of God in the OT.

Matthew 3:11-12 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but
he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not
worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with
fire: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his
floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the
chaff with unquenchable fire.

Luke 1:35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost
shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow
thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee
shall be called the Son of God.

Here the Holy Spirit is associated with God's actions -- in judgment
and cleansing, in creative power. (Note especially the parallel to Is. 40:7.)

Mark 12:36 For David himself said by the Holy Ghost, The LORD said to
my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool.

Luke 1:15 For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall
drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the
Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb.

Luke 1:67 And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost,
and prophesied...

John 14:26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the
Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring
all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

Here the Holy Spirit is associated with prophetic inspiration, and
with knowledge imparted by God.

As we move into the post-resurrection church, these roles paralleling
the OT continue -- and we also see a tight relationship between Word
and Spirit:
Acts 2:17-18 And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I
will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your
daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and
your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my
handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they
shall prophesy:

Here Peter has explicitly connected the Holy Spirit with the
prophetic and eschatological spirit reported in Joel. But now see an
example of the "tight relationship":
Acts 6:3 Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of
honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint
over this business.

Compare this to the Exodus cite above.
Acts 13:4 So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto
Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus.

Compare this to OT passages above from Judges.
Acts 28:25 And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed,
after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by
Esaias the prophet unto our fathers...

The Holy Spirit is identified with the Spirit of God in the OT that
inspired prophecy.
1 Cor. 12:3 Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking
by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say
that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.

The Spirit here offers an "experiential identification" [Dunn, 79]
with Christ for the believer. Through the Spirit, the believer
experiences Christ; yet they are still distinct. Another relevant contribution:
Romans 8:9-11 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so
be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the
Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.

Here the "Spirit of God" and "Spirit of Christ" are synonymous. Now
another "role" verse for the Spirit:
1 Cor. 6:11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are
sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and
by the Spirit of our God.

1 Peter 1.2: who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of
God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for
obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood

The Spirit is a washer, a justifier, a sanctifier. It is God's
principle of action, and "the medium by which Christ is known to and
united with his followers." [Dunn, 337]

So it is clear by now that the NT teaches an equation of the Holy
Spirit with the Spirit, or hand, of the Lord/God in the OT. This
emerges quite clearly in these parallel verses:
Matt. 12:28 But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the
kingdom of God is come unto you.

Luke 11:20 But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt
the kingdom of God is come upon you.

Luke here is clearly influenced by the passage in Exodus in which the
magicians of Pharaoh, defeated, attribute miraculous power to the
"finger of God." But we can also see a relationship overall to
passages speaking of the "hand" of God. Furthermore, note that the
presence of the kingdom of God is determined in terms of the
"effective power of the Spirit" [Dunn, 6]. In essence, the Spirit's
presence signifies the presence of God's ruling power.

The divinity of the Holy Spirit is not in question based on the
Scriptures. It is also clear from the Wisdom connection that the
Spirit is in relation to God in a thoroughly Trinitarian sense -- it
is not a separate being, but like Wisdom, proceeds from God. (There
is some discussion over exactly how this procession works, but that
is an issue we will leave aside for the present.) There remains one
question: can it be shown that the Holy Spirit is a person as Jesus
the Word was? Is it justified to see the Spirit as a "distinct center
of conscious thought" as the creedal statements affirm?

At first glance, it may be easy to object that with no incarnation of
the Spirit, there is no direct evidence of the Spirit as a person.
The Spirit could just be a "force with you" and impersonal, an effect
of God. Why not be a Binitarian? There are no statements, as from
Jesus, where the Spirit prays to the Father. Or are there?

Romans 8:26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we
know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself
maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

If the Spirit is not a separate person, how does he intercede? But
here is the classic text for the personhood of the Spirit:

Acts 5:3, 9 But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine
heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of
the land?...Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed
together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them
which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out.

Is it possible to lie to or test, to disobey or to grieve, an
impersonal force? (See also Acts 16:16, Eph. 4:30) Or:

John 16:13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will
guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but
whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you
things to come.

Acts 13:2 As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost
said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.

Acts 15:28 For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay
upon you no greater burden than these necessary things...

Hebrews 3:7 Wherefore as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear
his voice...

1 Tim. 4:1 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter
times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing
spirits, and doctrines of devils;

Luke and Darth's "Force" didn't have anything to say, but the Spirit
does, and even uses personal pronouns (Acts 13:2).

Pushback: The Bible has trees speaking [Ps. 96:11-12; Is. 55:12], and
hands and feet speaking [1 Cor. 12:15-16]. It also has names rotting
[Prov. 10:7], land vomiting [Lev. 18:25] and blood crying out [Gen.
4:10]. So what if the Spirit speaks also?

This objection doesn't make the grade: These passages are clearly in
poetic/allegorical genres, whereas the above verses are straight
narrative discourse; furthermore, verses where land vomits or blood
cries is also clearly allegorical, since land and blood have no
mouth, but a spirit is a living and active force and has a means to
speak. At the same time, neither land nor blood ever has such a wide
variety of active and interpersonal-relation verbs applied to them.
Blood cries out, but no one has ever "lied" to blood or had it
intercede for them in prayer. The Spirit is indeed the quiet member
of the Trinity in terms of the reports we have; he was not incarnated
among men and converses with them even now only inwardly. But he
clearly does speak, and that's not what an impersonal force does.

Pushback: 1 Tim. 2:5 says, For there is one God, and one mediator
between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. If the Holy Spirit were a
person co-equal with the Father and Son it would be an affront to
exclude him from some intermediary position.

This objection simply doesn't grasp the meaning of the term
"mediator". It was originally a business term, broadened to mean any
mediator. The word is used by Paul elsewhere to refer to Moses (Gal.
3:19) and in Hebrews 1:6: "But now hath [Jesus] obtained a more
excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better
covenant, which was established upon better promises." (See also
9:15, 12:24) The word refers to a specific function of
administration, not merely a go-between. The Spirit did not and does
not serve this function.

Pushback: The word "spirit" is neuter in gender. How can an "it" be a person?

John's Gospel twice refers to the Holy Spirit in a masculine gender:
15:26 But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from
the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the
Father, he shall testify of me: John 16:13 Howbeit when he, the
Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he
shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall
he speak: and he will show you things to come. Helpfully the last
passage also clarifies the nature of the relationship of the Spirit
to the Father; the Spirit "proceeds" as Wisdom does.

Pushback: But other objects are assigned gender in the Bible. Even
today we refer to objects like ships in the feminine!

Those who offer this objection -- which I have found -- fail to
provide examples of objects in the Bible being assigned gender. The
idea about ships has no bearing unless one provides evidence that a
"spirit" was referred to thusly even without any notion of personality.

Finally, there are Trinitarian formula which place the Spirit on a
par with Father and Son (Matt. 28:19, 2 Cor. 13:14). Some may object
that there is nothing that says that the Spirit is a person in these
passages, but it is the burden of proof upon the replier to show that
personality is not part of the Spirit's makeup.

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Received on Sun Jun 17 15:07:18 2007

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