5 October 2003 Welcome - Charles - God-bothering - He or she?

He or She? A heresy?

One of the more confusing doctrines of the Christian Church is the Trinity. One of the confusing points of that doctrine is the personality of the Holy Spirit. Because the Spirit is often refered to with the pronoun "it" rather than "he", many find dificulty in accepting that the Spirit is, indeed, a person rather than an impersonal force.

Please allow me to make this a bit first-personal at this juncture. I would not like to point a finger at anyone else in respect of what might prove to be a really silly (and probably heretical) idea. It is this. Maybe the problem the authors of the New Testament faced was that they could not bring themselves to use the pronoun "she".

Let's look at how the Spirit is refered to. The word for "spirit" in Greek is neuter: neither male nor female is implied. So strictly the pronoun used should be "it". For example, the Authorised Version (AV) gives us "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered." Romans 8, 25 However, much of the New Testament substitutes "he". The AV provides also provides us with "He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you:" John 16, 14. The argument raised in defence of this is that the Spirit is clearly a person, clearly a member of the Godhead and so must be a "he". Insofar as this is said in order to encourage the understanding of the Spirit's being a person it may be acceptable. But it might also be mildly misleading.

Next, let's consider what the Spirit is. Now this is a very large topic and I do emphasise that I am not a theologian, so I tend to simplify things a bit. The Holy Spirit is God. Just as Jesus is God. In the begining was God. When God acted, as in creation, it was his Spirit that worked upon the creation that he, God called out of nothing. The Spirit is pictured as ethereal, hovering, invisible. But unimaginably powerful. Not just a cosmic pair of hands though. Compare this with a rich man employing a servant and you will get the wrong idea if you imagine the servant is doing only what the man could do but chooses not to. Rather compare it with a man employing an artist to paint a picture when he himself does not have the skill to do it. The Spirit is, in part, an agent of God. But a creative one, way above the created beings, the angels, who were (and still are) his servants.

Now let's look at the relationship between the Spirit and people. The Old Testament speaks much of the Spirit's working during creation and later working through people. The phrase to watch for here is "the Spirit was upon him" or similar:

And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. Gen 1, 1

But the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon Judges 6, 34

the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward 1 Sam 16, 13

And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him Isaiah 11, 2

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me... Isaiah 61, 1

And the Spirit of the LORD fell upon me, and said unto me, Speak... Ezekiel 11, 5

These and many other verses speak of the Spirit being, falling, resting or moving upon a thing or person. Upon. Now look at the relationship between the Spirit and the Church. Notice how the relationship changes from "upon" to "in":

and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: Mat 3, 16

Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God John 3, 5

and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you John 14, 16

And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit Eph 5,18

But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you Romans 8, 9-11

That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith Ephesians 3, 17

this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you Col 1, 27

All of which gets us where? Well, the Church is indwelt by the Spirit, united by the Spirit. At Pentecost, the Spirit created the Church as a new thing. The individual believers were already saved and worshipped the Lord God. But they, the saints, were then drawn into one communion.

Now remember that the Church is the (future) bride of Christ. A distinctly female analogy. Not only that; consider the parallel between Adam and Eve with Christ and the Church. Eve was brought out of Adam's side; flesh of his flesh.Gen 2, 22 The Spirit is God come from God; spirit of his spirit. Christ on the cross liks the two. When he was pierced, both blood and water flowed out Jn 19, 34: symbols of flesh and spirit. From his side. Like Adam. But this time flesh and spirit from the side of one who was both God and man led to the creation of the Church which is both flesh and Spirit. As Eve was to Adam, so the Church will be to Christ. Since the Church is made up of men and women, the casting vote seems to be with the Spirit.

That says female to me.