The Holy Spirit is not “a Force”

images

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. iii:16; but of Exod. xvi 8; 1Thess, iv, 8).”

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 establish that Watchtower leaders have a tradition of misrepresenting sources, the Witness’ appeal to “the Society” is weakened.

There are some arguments that JWs frequently utilizw 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), He gives abilities (Acts 2:4), He teaches (Lk. 12:12), He reveals (Lk. 2:26) He reminds (Jn. 14:26), He 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 He 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, p. 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 in their publication:

“‘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 the one hand, they define these words to reduce the Holy Spirit into a force and on the other, define it differently when it’s used in connection with God or angels. This is a fatal contradiction.

If God is a Spirit, why should His Spirit be stripped of His personhood?

JWs would typically ask: “When the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, were they filled with a person?”

The answer is, yes, they were filled with a person –  a Spirit person. The term “person” cannot be reduced to 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, p. 1019).

This claim 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. Therefore, 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.

New Age or Old Lie?

images

In 2002, I came across a lecture by Elizabeth Clare Prophet (of the Church Universal and Triumphant) on TV for the first time. She radiated a sense of wisdom and authority.

She talked about Jesus, quoted Bible verses and laced them with quotes from Eastern religious writings. She was smooth, but I had read about the New Age then, so her philosophies didn’t get to me.

But I don’t think a novice would stand the chance.

The New Age Movement has a wide variety of definitions. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “New Age: of, relating to or being a late 20th century social movement drawing on ancient concepts especially from Eastern and American Indian traditions and incorporating such themes as holism, concern for nature, spirituality and metaphysics.”

New Age spirituality can also be defined as an umbrella of movements that emphasize self-spirituality and the authority of self with a focus on healing through alternative therapies such as Reiki, acupuncture, biofeedback, use of crystals, relaxing music, colour therapy, homeopathy and psychic healing.

They have no central body, leader or founder or a set of rigid doctrines which defines what is to be believed, therefore it’s eclectic. It draws inspiration from Christianity, Judaism, Sufism, Kabbala, New Thought, Taoism, Hermeticism and Neopaganism.

Some New Agers may not use the term “New Age” to describe themselves, but their beliefs are New Age nonetheless. They have their periodicals like the New Age Journal, Gnosis, New Humanity, Alterna and Odyssey.

There are many New Age books, DVDs and websites being distributed worldwide and adherents number into millions. This is why Christians need to be careful of what they devour through books or the Internet.

There is no need for me to list out specific New Age authors. Once you are familiar with their slogans and concepts, you can easily detect them.

In many of their publications you will come across terms like: awakening, awareness, duality, enlightenment, energies, essencing, Christ’s consciousness, higher consciousness, vibrations and a lot of references to “the Universe” or “the Force.”

Other main themes in their teachings are:

I. Our current age is the Age of Pisces marked by ills and wars but a “New Age” or Golden Age is coming, the Age of Aquarius when there will be love, peace, harmony and abundance.

Each New Ager must work towards bringing forth this “New Age” on earth.

II. Positive thinking, thoughts and energies can be used or chanelled by humans to create positive activities, actualize positive goals, usher in the era of the New Age and heal planet earth.

III. Human potential is grossly limited by the mind. So the mind must be liberated from all obstacles in order to maximise human potential and spiritual awareness.

The mind is to be used to create mankind’s personal truth and reality. The methods prescribed for “liberating” the mind range from visualization to “re-birthing” to meditation to shamanism. This is where many Christians are unknowingly trapped.

IV. Man has to evolve by seeking ancient wisdom. One way this is done is by “channelling” – communicating with ascended masters, extraterrestrials, deities, nature spirits, angels and spirit guides.

V. That all things in existence are intricately connected and are part of the divine (pantheism). Therefore, there’s a strong emphasis on nature and earth worship.

History

The New Age can be traced to 19th century metaphysical movements such as:

(a) The New Thought movement, a cult founded by Parkhurst Quimby, a hypnotist, in 1842. This cult was the fountain head of other cults such as Christian Science, Unity School of Christianity and the Church of Religious Science.

Their central belief is that all humans are divine and the mind is to be utilized to dispel sickness and evil.

(b) The Theosophical Society. This was an occult founded by a Russian psychic, Helena Petrovna Blavatsky in 1851 when her “spirit master” Morya contacted her. From there, she travelled to meet shamans and gurus in Mexico, Egypt and Asia.

Her main teaching was that within each person is a divine spark of the Universal Mind which can be expanded by occult mysticism. From Theosophy emerged New Age spirituality.

(c) The Arcane School which was founded by Alice Bailey in 1923. Ms. Bailey was also contacted by a spirit master named Koot Humi and she later joined the Theosophical Society in 1917.

She wrote 18 books through her “master” Djwhal Khu and from her writings came what later became known as the blueprint of the New Age movement.

(d) Organized Spiritualism which was founded by the Fox sisters in the 19th century popularized communications with spirits. This aided and evolved into the New Age practice called “channelling”.

Other key influences in the 20th century were Carl Jung, an occult psychologist who received most of his insights from a demon guide called Philemon, and Edgar Cayce, an occult dream analyst (also called “the sleeping prophet”).

The first Hollywood actress to publicly promote New Age philosophies was Shirley Maclaine with her book and mini-series in 1983 titled Out on a Limb. In these materials, she described her experiences with astral traveling, UFO encounters and other New Age supernatural events.

Through her influence, the New Age became a fad among Hollywood stars like Burt Reynolds, Sylvester Stallone, Lily Tomlin to name a few.

In 1993, Deepak Chopra emerged with his New Age book, Ageless Body, Timeless Mind and he was pushed to fame by another New Age media guru, Oprah Winfrey. Like the pied piper of Hamelin, this woman has single-handedly drawn millions of people (mostly women) worldwide into New Age deception.

For centuries, however, people have been attracted by secret or esoteric knowledge in diverse forms. The spiritual vacuum created by organized religion in the 20th century was one of the factors that opened the door wide to the old religion recycled by Satan to fit into the 21st century.

When people depart from Biblical Christianity to follow such omega “spirituality,” they are following “deceiving spirits and doctrines taught by demons” (1Tim. 4:1).

Now let’s do a brief biblical scrutiny of the major beliefs of New Agers:

God

New Agers believe in an impersonal God beyond all moral or personal distinctions. They believe in monism which asserts that all reality may be reduced to a single, unifying principle partaking of the same essence and reality. New Agers believe all is part of one substance: the Force, the Principle, the One or Mind.

They also embrace Pantheism: all is God and God is all. New Age figure, Benjamin Creme, in his Maitreya’s Mission, puts it:

In a sense there is no such thing as God, God does not exist. And in another sense, there is nothing else but God – only God exists … This microphone is God. This table is God. All is God. And because all is God, there is no God … God is everything that you have ever known or could ever known – and everything beyond your level of knowing.”

Therefore, since you are a god and I am a god, then there is no personal Creator such as Yahweh to be accountable to, and certainly no supreme divine revelation except the one you make up.

So a New Ager lives without any moral or personal boundary or thought of eternal judgement. This relativist philosophy may sound good until one takes his last breath.

Their clams notwithstanding, the true God has set down His truth and a day He will judge the world in righteousness (Acts 17:31).

God has revealed Himself primarily through the things He made, and those who take creatures as creators are fools marked for judgement (Romans 1:28).

Jesus Christ

The only difference between you and Jesus is that he fully realized the Truth about himself and you haven’t – yet” (John Randolph Price, The Super Beings, 1981, p. 57).

On the contrary, Jesus is uniquely the Christ; He is God through whom all things were made and He alone is the God in human flesh (Jn. 1:1-3, 14).

New Agers say Jesus was a mystic who learnt the esoteric secrets of the East from the gurus of India and now he is one of the “ascended masters” in the astral plane.

The real account of Jesus from the age of twelve to thirty was of increasing “in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God” – not in India, but in Nazareth (Lk 2:52).

He “came to Nazareth where he had been brought up: and as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day and stood up for to read” (Luke 4:16).

Having rejected the true Jesus of the Bible, New Agers cling to a false Christ who at times appears to them in trances to deepen their delusion.

Humanity

They teach that humans are divine and all that is needed is for mankind to “awaken to the god who sleeps at the root of the human being.”

This is a key New Age belief. The few Bible texts they have managed to latch onto (or rather misuse) fall apart on closer examination. The Bible is unmistakably clear: there is only one True God (Exodus 20:3).

Salvation

To New Agers, sin or evil is a misconception of Judaeo-Christian tradition:

The idea of ‘original sin’ is totally false” says John Price “The High Religion has nothing to do with sin, only with the spiritual development of man” (The Super Beings, p. 12).

They also believe in karma – that good or bad are cosmically balanced with good or bad results. Thus, since there is no sin, there is no Saviour and no salvation in the New Age.

But the Bible says the opposite: that all men have sinned and are in need of a Saviour (Rom. 3:23, 6:23).

Any solution to the human condition that ignores the depravity of the human heart and God’s perfect work at the cross will not lead to a new age, but the mystery of iniquity.

The Afterlife

New Agers teach that each person must find whatever philosophies suit them about the afterlife – whether its reincarnation, non-existence or a higher plane of consciousness after death.

In reincarnation, with each stage, man evolves higher till he becomes a god or ascended master. They generally reject the reality of heaven and hell or re-interpret them as being old-fashioned or symbolic.

While Christianity has a testimony of a Man, Jesus Christ who was dead for three days, resurrected and returned to testify about life after death, the New Age has no verifiable evidence. They have belief in what their spirit guides or some mystical book says as “proofs.” But these are highly subjective. Only the Bible provides us with the truth.

The many question marks of reincarnation expose it as illogical, unbiblical and fraudulent.

New Age leader, David Spangler once said: “I see the new age not just as a vision but as a very real spirit” (Emergence, the Rebirth of the Sacred, p. 84). Indeed, it is a spirit and it’s of the Father of lies.

Spangler also wrote in Reflections on the Christ: “No one will enter the New Age unless he will take a Luciferian initiation”. In other words, the New Age is Luciferianism. It repeats the same four lies that Satan/Lucifer told Eve in Genesis 3:

1. “Did God really say?” – Denial of the authority and truth of God’s Word.

2. “You shall not die” – Denial of the reality of death; that the dead return to earth or hover around the astral plane.

3. “Your eyes shall be opened” – appeal to human pride by promising the highest wisdom and divine secrets that others do not know.

4. “You shall be gods” – exalting man and depersonalising God. The New Age belief system does not emanate from the God of the Bible.

The “Jesus Didn’t Write a Book” Argument

The following quote is taken from a book, Catholic Religion Proved by the Protestant Bible (published in the 1960s with “Ecclesiastical authority”):

“Did Our Lord write any part of the New Testament or command His Apostles to do so? Our Lord Himself never wrote a line, nor is there any record that He ordered his Apostles to write; He did command them to preach. If reading the Bible were a necessary means of salvation, our Lord would have made that statement and also provided the necessary means for his followers.”

What I find absurd about this booklet is its attempt to do the impossible. It tries to use the Bible to discredit itself and at the same time use it to endorse the authority of Rome. This is an elastic glass, it won’t wash.

By way of response:

1. The New Testament itself shows that Jesus and His apostles appealed to the authority of the Old Testament Scriptures.

In Luke 24:25, Jesus rebuked the two disciples on the road to Emmaus“How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken!”

Where have the Prophets spoken? Not in a myriad of rabbinical traditions, not in the “teaching office” of a religious institution, but in Scripture. Jesus wouldn’t have used such harsh language in holding these two ordinary people responsible for their ignorance of Scripture if it had not been readily available to them.

The proceeding verse says:

“And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (vs. 27). The Scripture was Jesus’ final authority.

There were certain things the disciples didn’t understand. “Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him…” (John 12:16). None of them appealed to traditions or an institution as final authority for the understanding of the revelation of Jesus Christ. Neither should we today.

It was the inspired Hebrew Scriptures that the apostles used in preaching the gospel and thousands of souls were saved (Acts 2:41, 47, 6:7, 8:12).

The assertion that “reading the Bible is necessary for salvation” is a straw man argument. One doesn’t have to read the Bible to be saved, one can as well hear it, believe it and be saved. “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Rom. 10:17).

2. Like the Old Testament, the New Testament is also the inspired Word of God. It’s a revelation of Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit as God the Father willed. Yes, Jesus actually commanded John to write a book:

“The revelation of Jesus Christ which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place … Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy and blessed are those who hear it that and take to hear what is written in it … [Jesus said:] Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches … Then he said Write this down: for these words are trustworthy and true” (Revelation 1:3, 11, 21:5).

The entire New Testament was revealed by Christ:

“For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Gal. 1:12)

“How that by revelation he [Jesus] made known unto me the mystery; as I wrote afore in few words” (Eph. 3:3)

3. While the Lord Jesus didn’t pen a word of Scripture in His earthly ministry, He sent His Spirit to specifically do that. That the Holy Spirit did command men to write a book doesn’t make it less authoritative than if Jesus did.

Any attempt to relegate the Spirit into a lesser deity is a Trinitarian error. No true Christian denies or ignores the harmony of the Holy Spirit in the revelation of Jesus Christ:

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

“But when he, the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own, he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.” (John 16:13)

It’s interesting that Catholics love to appeal to the Trinity as an excuse (albeit a weak one) to exalt Mary as “mother of God,” but when it comes to the authority and inspiration of Scripture, they try to isolate the Holy Spirit from Jesus or the apostles as much as they can to cement their presuppositions

4. The argument raised in that book rests on the false premise that the church made the Bible. Actually, it’s the church that was founded on the revelation of Christ in Scripture, not the other way round.

When Peter confessed Jesus as the Son of God, He said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah,for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.”

Referring to this confession He said, “on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:17-18).

The church is a community of all those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ, thus without the Word of God (whether written or preached), there will be no church. That’s why Irenaeus said:

“For we learned the plan of salvation from no others than from those through whom the gospel came to us. They first preached it abroad, and then later by the will of God handed it down in Writings, to be the foundation and pillar of our faith” (Against Heresies, 3:1, 8).

Unfortunately, Catholicism puts the cart before the horse. They claim that since the church pre-existed the NT, the church is greater than the Bible. If this is true, then, based on this flawed logic, Moses would be greater than Jesus and if we pursue it further, paganism would also be greater than Christianity!