The Holy Spirit is not “a Force”

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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.

Why the Apocrypha are not in the Bible

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Why does the Protestant Bible have only 66 books but the Catholic bible has 73? The fact is, the Catholic church added 7 more books to their bible at the Council of Trent in April 1546.

These additional books are called “Apocrypha” books or “Deuterocanonicals.” They are: Tobit, Judith, Wisdom [of Solomon], Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, 1st and 2nd Maccabees, supplements to Esther, and three additions to Daniel: The Song of the Three Holy Children, Susanna and the Elders and Destruction of Bel and the Dragon.

The word “apocrypha” came from the Greek word “abscondita” which refers to writings that are carefully concealed or heretical.

They were spurious books that attempted to imitate the books of the Bible. Some of them can be traced to 2nd-3rd centuries after Christ. They were not part of the Bible because:

1. They were not inspired or God-breathed.

While the Bible tells us it’s the “expression of God” (Dt. 8:3) “words of God” (Jos. 24:27) “commandment of the Lord” (Ezra 7:11) or “reminder of the Lord” (Ps. 19:8), nowhere would you find the statement “thus says the Lord” in the apocrypha.

2. The Lord Jesus and His disciples quoted many times from the Old Testament but never from any apocryphal book. In fact, almost every statement of Jesus in the Gospels is a direct quote from the Old Testament.

3. The apocryphal books were never part of the Hebrew canon. God specifically used the Jews to preserve His Word (Rom. 2:1-2) whereas the apocrypha were written in Greek.

Though some parts of these writings have certain historical value, evidence points to a closing of the Hebrew canon following the writing of the books of Ezra, Nehemiah and Malachi in the 5th century BC.

First century Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus, wrote:

We do not possess myriads of inconsistent books conflicting with each other. Our books, those which are justly accredited, are but two and twenty [the equivalent of the 39 books of the OT according to modern division] and contain the record of all time” (Against Apion I, 8, 38).

4. Many of the early church fathers didn’t consider the apocrypha writings as part of Scripture. According to a Catholic work:

Melito of Sardis (ca. 170) gives our earliest Christian list of OT books, a list much like the one that eventually became the standard Hebr list (Est is omitted). Origen mentions that the Hebrews have 22 books; Athanasius who had Jewish teachers, insists that the Christians should have 22 books just as the Hebrews have … Jerome did his best to propagate the Hebr canon in the Western church … Those who prefer the shorter canon and express some doubts about the full canonical status of the deuterocanonicals include Cyril of Jerusalem, Gregory Nazianzen, Ephiphanus, Rufinus, Gregory the Great, John Damascene, Hugh of St. Victor, Nicholas of Lyra and Cardinal Cajetan” (The Jerome Biblical Commentary, Raymond Brown and Joseph Fitzmyer, Englewood Cliff: NJ, 1996, 2:523).

5. Many teachings in the apocrypha contradict the inspired record.

For example, the book of Maccabees teaches prayers for the dead:

“It is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they might be loosed from their sins” (2 Macc. 12:45).

This contradicts the Word of God which says “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgement” (Heb. 9:27).

The Wisdom of Solomon reflects pagan Gnostic beliefs about the pre-existence of human souls and the physical body being an impediment to the soul (8:19, 20). This contradicts the Bible teaching on creation.

Though this writing presents Solomon as its author (9:7-8), it cites passages from Bible books from the Greek Septuagint which were written centuries after Solomon’s death (998 BC).

6. Many of the stories found within the apocryphal books are legends plagued with historical, moral and geographical errors.

The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (Vol. I, 166) declares: “Many of them are trivial, some are highly theatrical, some are disgusting, even loathsome.”

For example, there is the story of Judith, a beautiful woman who seduces Nebuchadnezzar’s officer and beheads him in order to liberate her people. The book says that Nebuchadnezzar “reigned over the Assyrians in the great city of Nineveh” (Judith 1:1,7). This is an error.

History shows that Nebuchadnezzar ruled over Babylonia and never Nineveh because his father, Nebopolassar, had earlier destroyed Nineveh. Even the Catholic Jerusalem Bible says: “The book of Judith in particular shows a bland indifference to history and geography.”

The book of Tobit is a story of a pious Jew who was deported to Nineveh and becomes blind when bird’s dung dropped on both of his eyes.

An angel impersonating a human appeared to his son, Tobias, who obtains the heart, gall and liver of a fish for magic rituals. With this, he drove away a demon, Asmodeus, who had killed the husbands of a virgin widow 7 times. Tobias marries the widowed virgin and then cures his father’s blindness with his fish gall.

Another fairy tale comes from The Destruction of Bel and the Dragon. This story is about Daniel being required by king Cyrus to worship an idol named Bel.

Daniel exposed the priests as the ones eating the food offered to the idol and they were killed. Daniel then smashes the image of Bel and destroys a dragon he was told to worship.

For this, he was thrown in a lion’s den and during his 7-day confinement, an angel picks up Habakkuk by his hair and a bowl of stew from Judea to Babylon to feed Daniel.

Bible scholars point out that apocrypha books “have been the fruitful source of sacred legends and ecclesiastical traditions. It is to these books we must look for the origin of some dogmas of the Roman Catholic Church” (Funk and Wagnalis New Standard Bible Dictionary, 1936, 56).

Many Catholics are told that “Martin Luther removed the apocrypha from the Protestant Bible.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Martin Luther DID include the apocrypha in his German Bible translation (1534), but he wrote:

These books are not held equal to the Scriptures, but are useful and good to read.”

According to Alexander McClure: “the Apocryphal books in those times were more read and accounted of than now, though by no means placed on a level with the canonical books of Scripture” (Translators Revived, p 185).

There wasn’t any need for someone to expunge these false writings from the Bible, they had already done that by themselves.