The Personhood of the Holy Spirit is strongly denied by Jehovah’s Witnesses. They define the Holy Spirit as “a controlled force that Jehovah God uses to accomplish a variety of his purposes. To a certain extent, it can be likened to electricity, a force that can be adapted to perform a great variety of operations” (Should You believe in the Trinity? p. 20)
As a Christian, you should be cautious of the deceitful tactics employed by the Watchtower Society when quoting a source. For example, in page 22 of the above brochure, a quote is given from A Catholic Dictionary (1960, p. 822-30). But the quote in full says:
“On the whole, the New Testament like the Old, speaks of the spirit as a divine energy or power particularly in the heart of man … This divine Spirit is clearly distinguished from the spirit or conscience of man (Rom viii 16), and the authority of the Spirit is identified with that of God Himself (Mt. Xii. 31, Acts v. 3,9, I Cor U16; but of Exod. xvi 8; 1Thess, iv, 80).”
The part in bold was intentionally omitted. This same tactic is employed in another quote from The Catholic Encyclopedia (1912, 15: 47-49):
“Nowhere in the Old Testament do we find any clear indication of a Third Person … The One Godhead is above all declared by Moses and the twofold personality (of Father and Son) is strenuously asserted by the Prophets. The Trinity is made known by the Gospel.”
This same source says: “When His [Jesus] ministry was drawing close, He promised that the Father would send another Divine Person, the Holy Spirit in His place. Finally, after His resurrection, He revealed the [Trinity] doctrine in explicit terms…”
The quotes have been lifted out of their contexts. Once you established that Watchtower leaders have a tradition of misrepresenting sources, the Witness’ appeal to “the Society” is weakened. There are some arguments that JWs like to use to teach that the Holy Spirit is a “force.” They are:
# 1- “The Holy Spirit is not a person, but God’s active force” (Should you believe in the Trinity p. 20)
The error of this claim is quickly seen by substituting the word “Holy Spirit” with “active force” as it occurs in Bible verses.
John 14:26 “However, the helper, the active force whom the Father will send in my name will teach you all things.”
Acts 8:29 “The active force said to Philip, “Go to that carriage, and stay close to it”
Acts 10:19 “Peter was still thinking about the vision when the active force said to him ‘Behold three men are looking for you.”
Acts 13:4 “After Barnabas and Saul were sent out by the active force…”
Acts 15:28 “For the active force and we ourselves have favored adding no further burden to you”
2Cor. 3:17 “Jehovah is the active force”
Eph. 4:30 “Do not be grieving God’s active force”
Rev. 22:17 “The active force and the Bride say ‘Come…”
Do these verses make sense? To assert that the Holy Spirit is a force renders many verses of the Bible utterly absurd. Jehovah’s Witnesses can only arrive at this strange belief by forcing Watchtower heresies into Scripture.
# 2. “In the Scriptures it is not unusual for something to be personified. Wisdom is said to have children. (Luke 7:35) Sin and death are called kings. (Romans 5:14, 21) [so the Holy Spirit is only personified] (Should You, p. 21).
Though the Bible used personification to describe some qualities, it described the Holy Spirit in a way that only a person can be described. For example:
He helps (Jn. 14:16, 26);
He glorifies (Jn. 16: 13-14);
He can be known (Jn. 14:17);
He impels (Mk. 1:12), gives abilities (Acts 2:4), teaches (Lk 12:12), reveals (Lk 2:26) reminds (Jn. 14:26), hears (Jn. 16:13) and pleads (Rom. 8:26-27).
He thinks (Acts 15:25, 28),
He forbids (Acts 16:6-7),
He appoints (Acts 20:28),
He can be insulted (Heb. 10:29),
He can be lied to (Acts 5:3-4) and can be blasphemed (Matt. 12:31-32).
JW often appeal to Proverbs 1:20-33 where wisdom is personified, but this argument is invalid because the book of Proverbs is a wisdom literature and thus reflects a specific genre of writing. A proverb is very much different from a legal or prophetic literature. Thus it’s a fallacy to export a personification from the Proverbs and make it stick to the Holy Spirit. Ironically, JWs believe that Satan is a person for the very same reasons Christians believe in the Personhood of the Holy Spirit:
“Can an unintelligent ‘force’ carry on a conversation with a person? Also, the Bible calls Satan a manslayer, a liar, a father (in the spiritual sense), and a ruler …Only an intelligent person could fit all those descriptions … Every quality, every action, which can indicate personality is attributed to him in language cannot be explained away!” (The Watchtower, December 8, 1973, 27).
# 3. The Hebrew and Greek words for “spirit” [ruach and pneuma] have the same meaning i.e “they all refer to that which is invisible to human sight and which gives evidence of force in motion” (Insight on the Scriptures 2:1017)
The fact that the Hebrew and Greek words used in connection with Holy Spirit means “wind” or “breath” does not follow that He is a force. God the Father is “invisible to human sight” but that doesn’t make Him ‘a force.’ God and His Spirit are referenced interchangeably in Scripture:
“Teach me to do Your will. For You are my God! Let Your good Spirit lead me on level ground” (Ps. 143:10).
“May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” (2 Cor. 13:14)
“Now the Lord is that Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Cor. 13:7)
Watchtower leaders have a problem with this last passage, so they rescinded their definition: “‘Now Jehovah is the Spirit’ (John 4:24, 2 Corinthians 3:17, 18) … this does not refer to God as an impersonal bodiless force like the wind. The Scriptures unmistakenly testify to his personality…” (Insight on the Scriptures 2:1018)
The Scriptures testify to the Holy Spirit’s personality. The Watchtower Society explains that the terms “ruach” and “pneuma” apply to angels since they are also spirits. Yet JW say they are persons, not forces. So on one hand they define these words to reduce the Holy Spirit into a force and define it differently when it’s used in connection with God or angels. This is a contradiction. If God is a Spirit, why should His Spirit be stripped of His personhood?
JWs typically ask: “When the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, were they filled with a person?” Yes, they were filled with a person – a Spirit person. The term “person” does not always imply a being with physical body.
#4. Some Bible texts say that the spirit speaks but other texts show that this was actually done through humans or angels like that of radio waves transmitting messages from person to person (Matthew 10:19, 20, Acts 4:24, 25; 28:25, Hebrews 2:2) (Should You believe, p. 22)
By referring to “other texts” they are trying to dismiss the evidence proving that the Holy Spirit is a Person. This is at best intellectual dishonesty and at worst, rebellion. Of course, Matthew 10:19, 20 and Acts 28:25 refer to the Holy Spirit speaking, but forces do not speak, teach or think. In Acts 4:24 it was God who spoke through His Spirit whilst Hebrews 2:2 says God has spoken through His Son, Jesus Christ. These verses rather prove the Trinity. Game over!
#5. The Holy Spirit has no name and identity. The Baptismal formula ‘in the name of the Holy Spirit’ only implies recognition of the spirit as having its source in God and functioning by divine will (Reasoning from the Scriptures, p. 1019)
False. The command in Matthew 28:19 is to baptise in “the NAME” (not names). The Greek term here is in the accusative case which means “the name” is the object of the sentence. It carries a plural authority and implies that the Three Persons are bound together in one name. Matthew was not suggesting that the Father and Son are individuals but the Holy Spirit is a force.
6. Not until the fourth century C. E. did the teaching that the Holy Spirit a person and part of the ‘Godhead’ become official church dogma. Early church fathers did not so teach (Insight, 1019).
This can be refuted by quotes from just 3 early church fathers:
Justin Martyr: “And the Holy Spirit, either from the person of His Father or from His own person, answers then. The Lord of hosts, He is this king of glory.” (The Ante-Nicene Fathers 1:213)
Ignatius: “[A]nd the apostles received from God, through Jesus Christ, one and the same Holy Spirit, who is good, and sovereign, and true, and the Author of knowledge” (The ANF 1:82).
Irenaeus: “The three spies, who were spying out all the land and hid them at her home; [which three were] doubtless [a type of] the Father and the Son, together with the Holy Spirit” (The ANF 1:492).
7. The Greek text lacks the definite article which would naturally identify ‘spirit’ as a person.
A definite article in Greek often comes before a name, like when you say “the John” or “the Jesus.” In English, we translate the name not the definite article. But this is not a rule in Greek.
According to Greek scholar W. E. Vine: “Sometimes the absence [of the definite article] is to be accounted for by the fact that Pneuma (like Theos) is substantially a proper name e.g in John 7:39” (Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 1966, “Spirit”). The term Holy Spirit is a proper name. A definite article is not required when a noun is used as a proper name.
Jehovah’s Witnesses can only sustain this error by deliberately explaining away and ignoring many Bible verses, misrepresenting sources, utilizing double standards in semantics and revising history. But the truth stands that the Holy Spirit is a Divine Person, not a force.