Re: Guidance of the Holy Spirit (was: Evolution's Imperative)

Kevin O'Brien (
Thu, 25 Mar 1999 16:59:00 -0700

>> >Don't you think Vernon also believes
>> >that he's been guided by the Holy Spirit?
>> I'm sure he "believes" it; my point is that I know it...
>> >Have you *never* made a decision
>> >that you thought was so guided, but turned out to be wrong?
>> Never, because I know when I am guided and when I am not.
>Wow. It's been a few years since I ran into anyone with this attitude.
>Give me a moment to adjust.

For the record I am a fundamentalist, evangelical Christian and a
creationist. I am also a professional scientist (biochemistry) and an
evolutionist. Do not make the mistake of thinking you know me well just
because I happen to talk like some other people you have encountered before.
In other words, do not judge me on the basis of your own expectation of what
I should be like.

>I suppose that you "know" you are guided when you have an overwhelming
>feeling of peace and love unadulterated by fear, doubt, or hate. The
>arrogance comes when other people claim to have had the same feelings
>but follow "guidance" that is at odds with yours. You then claim that
>they are mistaken or lying about their experience, while yours must be

It's hard enough trying to explain this certainty to someone who has never
experienced it; it is doubly difficult to try to explain it to someone who
knows what it feels like but has rejected it as some kind of emotional or
mental aberrancy. Your description above demonstrates that you indeed
understand what this feeling is like, but because you reject it it as false
you have twisted and distorted that description to make it sound as negative
as possble. Yes, you use my words where possible, but you in fact misuse
them to try to discredit me, because what I saw offends you and challenges
your beliefs. My beliefs are uniquely my own; I do not expect others to
agree with them, but I do expect that others will respect them. I know that
some won't, but I still expect it.

All I can say is that I know when the Holy Spirit is guiding is me and I
know when I am guided by other influences. And because I know that (as well
as a lifetime interacting with other human beings), I can (usually) tell
when others are being guided by the Holy Spirit or by other influences. For
example, there are a number of creationists I have known who I would say are
being guided by the Holy Spirit, because they do not fear or hate evolution,
while there are Christian evolutionists who I would say are ignoring the
Holy Spirit because they fear or hate creationism. I can't always be sure
(who can ever be completely sure of another human being), but if their
actions contradict their claims then I believe that my assessment is right.
In my opinion, Vernon's actions have contradicted his own words.

>The sensible thing to do, of course, is not to depend on your feelings
>when it comes to matters of fact. They're fine for making decisions
>like who to marry, but they're useless when deciding whether evolution
>is true.

You misunderstand. I do not object to Vernon's claims that evolution is
false; I object to his claims that anyone who believes in evolution is evil,
and that no Christian can accept evolution as a fact. The Holy Spirit is
not telling me that evolution is true; the Holy Spirit is telling me that as
a Christian I can accept the fact of evolution if I am convinced by the
scientific evidence that it is a fact.

>> >Have you never at least seen someone else do so?
>> You've lost me here; have I never seen someone else do what?
>Have you never seen someone claim to be guided by the Holy Spirit, but
>be (in your opinion) sincerely mistaken?

Yes, I have, but the key word in your question is "claim". I have known
people who did or would claim that they are being guided by the Holy Spirit.
In many cases their actions contradict their words, so I have good
"evidence" that they are indeed wrong; in many other cases the Holy Spirit
has told me that they are wrong. In some cases I have to take their word
for it (despite my personal opinion that they are wong) because their
actions do not contradict their words and the Holy Spirit offers no counsel
on them. In some rare cases I have been told by the Holy Spirit that they
are in fact right (again despite my personal opinion that they were wrong).
Vernon is a case where his actions contradict his words and in which the
counsel I receive from the Holy Spirit contradicts his claims, so I have
little doubt in the matter.

>> ...You say you were once a Christian; was there never
>> a time when you knew the Holy Spirit was guiding you?
>Certainly. (See "Rich Daniel's Religious Journey" on my web site.)
>But I was wrong. That's my point; you could be wrong, too.

Were you? I may be wrong, but you sound like someone who was a creationist
as well as a Christian, who decided that Christianity must be wrong when you
came to understand that creationism was wrong. My suggestion is that the
Holy Spirit helped you to determine that creationism was wrong, not from the
factual standpoint but from the spiritual standpoint. Unfortunately you may
never have recognized the Holy Spirit when it counseled you, so that in the
end you unwittingly ignored its counsel that Christianity was still true.

>I don't mean that you could be wrong about evolution. (Technically,
>always some small chance that science can be wrong about anything, but the
>idea of common descent is very well supported.) I mean that you could be
>(and in my opinion, you are) wrong about being guided by the Holy Spirit.

You are of course welcome to your opinion. Would you like to know what the
Holy Spirit has counseled with regard to you? Patience (not always my best
suit), understanding and prayer. The Holy Spirit is still there inside you,
waiting to be heard. Just open yourself up to it and listen to what it has
to say with no bias or preconceptions. Pretend you are a little child
again, listening to a fairy tale. That's the best way to be sure, because
the other influences will try to work on your cynicism, your practicality,
your education, your intelligence or your emotions.

Good luck, and may God bless you.

Kevin L. O'Brien