Introduction to the Holy Spirit - Preconceptions

Last week we discussed some of the issues that cause trouble in understanding the Holy Spirit. This week we want to add three major preconceptions that cause greater confusion of the Holy Spirit in the religious world: Calvinism, Pentecostalism, and Emotionalism (or Subjectivism).

The basic tenants of Calvinism teach that man does nothing and God does everything in regards to salvation. This is seen in the Calvinistic doctrines of Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, and Irresistible Grace. Likewise, man cannot understand God’s word by himself; he must have God’s help. This, it is argued, is the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Without guidance from the Spirit of God man cannot read and understand the Bible. What is most interesting is that many denominations hold this view and yet they teach various doctrines concerning the same subjects. If God were guiding men to understand the Bible, then surely God would guide men to a unified interpretation of scripture.

Further, Calvinists teach that the Holy Spirit guides us by physically dwelling in our bodies. Many people of faith hold to the bodily indwelling of the Holy Spirit; even members of the church. This is just an assumption many make when discussing the Holy Spirit. Yet it can hardly be proven from the scriptures.

Pentecostalism holds to the same teachings as Calvinism – man cannot understand the Bible by himself, he needs guidance from the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit accomplishes this by literally dwelling inside the believer – but it goes further. Pentecostalism teaches that all Christians have access to the power of the Holy Spirit – the same power possessed by the Apostles and Christians of the first century. When we talk about faith healers and speaking in tongues we are usually referencing Pentecostals. No doubt the Christians of the first century had miraculous ability, but one cannot prove that such ability was to continue through the ages (especially in light of 1 Corinthians 13). We will discuss the continuation of miraculous gifts at a later time.

The final preconception overlaps the first two in some ways. Emotionalism or subjectivism is the new hermeneutic in religion. A hermeneutic is the process, way, or pattern by which we interpret something. Nowadays everything in religion is interpreted through the feelings and experience of the worshipper. People will talk about acting “as the spirit moved” them. We talk about what some passage “means to you”. We design our worship services based on how they “make us feel”. When self is the “be all – end all” of religion then we will run into all sorts of trouble in studying and talking about the Holy Spirit. In fact, the Holy Spirit becomes whatever you want it to be.

I want to encourage you to set aside any and all preconceived ideas except for one – the Bible is the infallible word of God. Therefore, whatever John Calvin, Joyce Meyer, Rick Warren, or Jonathan Caldwell says about the Holy Spirit is worthless if the scriptures do not back it up. What I want to do in these studies is dig into the scriptures and look at the facts about the Holy Spirit as opposed to looking at the Holy Spirit through Calvinistic / Pentecostal / Subjective / church of Christ glasses. Let us allow the Bible to teach us about the Holy Spirit.