Is the "Holy Spirit" a person or a "force"?

by booker-t 19 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • booker-t

    I just love the information I get off this website. All of your(posters) comments and criticism have truly been educational to me. I have another question that I have been pondering since leaving the WTS. When I was discussing the trinity doctrine with a JW elder who has been a JW for over 40 years, the subject of the Holy Spirit came up. I just wanted to focus on the Holy Spirit and not the "Trinity" per-se. He said that the early church fathers taught that the Holy Spirit was the "influence" of the Deity and that many early church fathers believed it was "power" from the Almighty. He said that they never believed it to be a person or they would have called the Holy Spirit by a name. He asked me "Where in the Bible do we find a name for the Holy Spirit?" He also told me that if the Holy Spirit were a divine person he would have been called by a name just like the father is called Jehovah or Yahweh and the son is called Jesus. But nowhere is the Holy Spirit called by name. I mentioned to this elder that the scripture states at Matthew "baptize in the name" of the Holy Spirit. He showed me a scripture in Revelations where Jesus says his followers will have the "name" of the father and the "name" of the Lamb and the "name" of the new city on their foreheads. He asked me is the new city or Jerusalem a divine person? He told me he has showed this scripture to many born-again pastors and ministers and they never have an answer for him. He also says that the whole book of Revelation never mentions the Holy Spirit along with the Lamb and the One on the throne(the father). Again he says this proves that the Holy Spirit is not a person along with Christ and God. Also he mentions Acts 7:59 where Stephan has a vision of God and Christ but never mentions seeing the Holy Spirit. I asked him about the scripture at Acts 5:4 where it says that Annaias "lied" to the Holy Spirit. How can you "lie" to a power or force. He said the same way people can "lie" to the court or "lie" to their country or "lie" to their job. He asked me are the courts, country and a person's job a person? I was totally confused by this time after talking to him for 3 hours on the subject I left his house in a daze. What are your taughts on this subject posters this elder had an answer for just about everything I threw at him. What made it worse is that he teaches Hebrew and greek at a college so he is no amatuer when it comes to the old and new testaments.

  • Satanus

    If god is one, why would the 'holy spirit' in any way, shape, form, essence, action, etc be different than god?


  • Narkissos

    I think this issue is one on which the WT has a comparatively strong point, and you obviously met a smart interlocutor -- I always wonder how this type of person can remain a JW elder for a long time, but that's another question.

    One should go back to the meaning of Latin persona or Greek hypostasis in the 4th-century Trinitarian definitions, which is broader than our definition of "person".

    As far as the NT is concerned, upstream of Trinitarian definitions, I think Satanus is right: the opposite argument lies in the identification of the Spirit to God (e.g. John 4:24; 2 Corinthians 3:17) or Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:45), which is much more than an "outward force" (also note that the "Spirit of God" in Romans 8:14ff is the "Spirit of His Son" in the parallel Galatians 4:6).

    This being said, the WT is right that there is nothing like a constituted Trinity doctrine in the NT. But the WT doctrine about the Father, the Son and the Spirit is probably even more remote from NT thinking.

    Edited to add: the trinitarian argument from Acts 5 is actually that "lying to the Holy Spirit" (v. 3) is equated to "lying to God" (v. 4).

  • BrendaCloutier

    Beyond this guy being a JW, he sounds like an intelligent, educated, and facinating person.

    I tend to side with him on the Holy Spook.

    I dated a guy for a while who was a Catholic convert (from agnosticism). But he was having a difficult time with the trinity, and his priest was just confusing him more.

    I explained it to him using the Yin-Yang Yin being God the Father, Yang being God the Son (doesn't matter which, they balance and compliment each other) and when you bring them together you have a whole that is greater than the sum of it;s parts. This sum, this combined force, is the Holy Spirit.

    Don't JW's teach that God (Jehovah) said so, and Jesus, in his prior possition, carried out God's Word in creating light, the heavens and the earth and all within? God empowering JC, in turn creating, is the force. It took both of them to "make it so".

    My own personal belief of the Holy Spook, is that it is the energies and laws that flow through our universe, eminating from the core of the universe, where I believe "god" resides. The Holy Spook doesn't have a will of it's own.

    Here's my nickel for the collection plate


  • Narkissos


    Fwiw your reasoning reminds me of the Augustinian argument identifying the Spirit to the Love between the Father and the Son.

    Cf. a Catholic development of this idea on

    The "personality of Love" remains a problem for our modern conceptions of "person" and "love", but apparently it was enough for the 4th-century definition of the Spirit as Latin persona.

  • confusedjw

    Sorry, I don't know.

  • Narkissos

    The most characteristic personal description of the Spirit is of course the paracl├Ętos (Advocate, Helper) of the Johannine writings. The term also (first?) applies to Jesus (1 John 2:1), whence the formula "He will give you another parakl├Ętos" (John 14:26). But the identification to the Spirit ("Spirit of Truth", in Qumran style, v. 17; 15:26; "Holy Spirit", 14:26) may be secondary, and the term could have first applied to some spiritual leader at an early stage of the Johannine community, such as the Beloved disciple. Anyway, in the final form of the Gospel it results in a personal autonomous portrait of the Holy Spirit -- something quite unique in the New Testament, which will contribute a lot to the later construction of the Trinitarian doctrine.

  • Leolaia

    Here is some relevant info, if you're interested:

  • BrendaCloutier

    Hmmm. Interesting Narkissos. I came at my triune god understanding from both JW and a very limited Catholic perspective, in addition to my limited understanding of Buddhism. I had not a clue as to the Agustinian arguments that the HS is Love between God and JC and thereby extended to the congregation. I see it as Power, or the ability to make it happen. However, love can be seen as god's power. And even in humankind, love is extremely powerful. i.e. a mother's love, etc.

    I like Henry Drummond's book on "The Greatest Thing In the World" which takes apart and puts back together from Paul's letter to the Corinthians "and the greatest of these is love". There are very few things I like about Paul, but here he was "spot on".


    PS leolaea, thanx, I wasn't around then.

  • Flip

    Re: Is the "Holy Spirit" a person or a "force"?

    Excuse me booker-t and the MG's, but I'am afraid you misspelled "farce".

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