Reasonable Doubt About the Holy Spirit

This article is an exploration of some stated and less disputed characteristics of the Holy Spirit. I purposely tried to avoid claims about the Holy Spirit that were disputed between denominations and Churches. I use these relatively undisputed claims as my core premises to construct the argument in favor of the Holy Spirit in order to express doubt about it. By using commonly accepted claims about the Holy Spirit, and my experience as a former Christian I hope to avoid the charge of misrepresentation or "straw man".

P1a. The Holy Spirit is God
P1b. God is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, etc.
P2. The Holy Spirit informs the Unbeliever as to the truth of Jesus when being told about it.
P3a. The Holy Spirit is in every Christian
P3b. Every Christian Accepts Christ
P3c. Every Christian should be favorable to Holy Spirit Influence.
P4. The Holy Spirit helped write the scripture
P5. The Holy Spirit helps interpret the scripture
P6. The Holy Spirit gives understanding (informs).

Conclusion: The Holy Spirit is effectively God, it wrote about itself, it lives in every Christian giving guidance about what it helped write about itself therefore there should be no disagreement on any characteristic of the Holy Spirit or interpretation of Scripture.

Many of the claims about the Holy Spirit are not falsifiable, but premises P5 and P6 are. For example, some early pre-Nicean Christian Church leaders rejected the Trinity. They were closest to the source, which infers that if the principles regarding the Holy Spirit were valid, then they of all people would know if it was a proper way to describe God or not. Yet the validity of the Trinity as a proper description of God seems to be in doubt by some denominations. Additionally some other characteristics of God aka The Holy Spirit seem to be in doubt. Some Christians say the Holy Spirit is a female entity, and some say it is male. Some say it is a person and some say it isn't.

Why can't all Christians agree on any of this if they are all getting guidance from the Holy Spirit? But quite counter-intuitively one Christian in one church has their point of view and another Christian in another church has a different point of view. They both believe they have the Holy Spirit inside and are getting guidance (informed). But what is the manifestation of this guidance? Is it a feeling, or verbal thoughts, or images or something else? Its obviously something personal and individual.

You who are Christian, how does the Holy Spirit manifests its guidance to you? The next time you are in a disagreement with another Christian over some aspect of scripture, do a little introspection and have some humility. First, recognize that you may be wrong. Second, if you don't come to agree with the other person, do some introspection. Look for its manifestation and see if you are getting any guidance from the Holy Spirit. See if you can distinguish what your thoughts are from the guidance of the Holy Spirit. If you can distinguish, and you are certain you're expressing the point of view of the Holy Spirit, then the person you are having the discussion with should agree with you if they are a true Christian and have the Spirit indwelling. If you can't distinguish then, ask yourself, is this person getting guidance from the Holy Spirit and if so how do they distinguish? Maybe you should ask them, how the guidance of the Holy Spirit manifests itself to them because if they can distinguish their thoughts from the Holy Spirit, then you need to adopt their way of thinking right away. If they can't and you can't either, then maybe you should stop worrying about the initial disagreement and start worrying about why neither one of you are getting guidance from the Holy Spirit. If you are convinced you are getting guidance, and they are too, then you are at an impasse, and logically this should not be possible. One of you must be wrong about receiving guidance from the Holy Spirit. But why would you think you were getting guidance if you weren't? In any case you'll need to get another opinion, but how do you ultimately know who's interpretation of scripture is correct and who's isn't. Hopefully the Holy Spirit will let you know who you can trust. However that doesn't seem to be the case in some churches. Churches that have had Pastors such as Ted Haggard, or a community in Uganda, Africa are sorely missing that type of guidance.

If the Holy Spirit informs, and a true Christian has it living inside and it lives inside because the person should be favorable to its influence then how can there possibly be Christian on Christian crime? I Bet William Tyndale, who created the first English translation of the Bible and was subsequently charged with heresy was wondering something similar as he was praying "Oh Lord, open the King of England's eyes" shortly before being strangled and burned. If a person can't tell when the holy spirit is giving them guidance, what good is it? How is it supposed to work?

During my research for this article (hardly any of them scholarly or academic sources) I noticed that some web sites talked about the lack of good commentary on the Holy Spirit and one speculated that it was probably because people were afraid of Blasphemy against it. In my opinion, the lack of commentary is because they are afraid to take a position on it out of fear of criticism. Most of them just quoted scripture and never provided any mechanism for how it worked but did provide a lot of ambiguous Emotional Persuasion Dialogue aka Rhetoric with no way to validate it. This is an indication that it is not very well understood which is not what you'd expect if the principles written about it are true.

The following are some situations I created using the principles of the Holy Spirit to explore their implications. I purposely worded them redundantly so the impact of the argument would not get lost. In each case the presumption is that the Holy Spirit informs or gives guidance to facilitate a decision to accept or reject.

How it should happen.
1. If Tom has the potential to be influenced by the Holy Spirit when Evan tells him about Jesus, Tom should recognize the truth and accept Christ. He does and lives happily ever after.

How it should not happen.

Tom Believes the Gifts Were Only Valid For The Apostles:
2a. If Tom has the potential to be influenced by the Holy Spirit when Evan tells him about Jesus, Tom should recognize the truth and accept Christ. Along the way he adopts the belief that the gifts of the Holy Spirit were only valid for the Apostles. Stipulating for a moment that the Gifts of the Spirit are NOT only valid in the time of the apostles, he lives happily ever after. His Spirit evidently did not pick up on that discrepancy. Is it possible that he made a conscious decision to disregard what the Holy Spirit was telling him and didn't know it?

or the opposite situation happens

Tom Believes the Gifts Are Valid For Everyone Today:
2b. If Tom has the potential to be influenced by the Holy Spirit when Evan tells him about Jesus, Tom should recognize the truth and accept Christ. Along the way he adopts the belief that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are valid today for everyone. Stipulating for a moment that the Gifts of the Spirit were ONLY valid in the time of the apostles, he lives happily ever after. His Spirit evidently did not pick up on the discrepancy. Is it possible that he made a conscious decision to disregard what the Holy Spirit was telling him and didn't know it? This argument is discussed in detail here

Tom Becomes an Apostate:
3a. If Tom has the potential to be influenced by the Holy Spirit when Evan tells him about Jesus, Tom should recognize the truth and accept Christ. He does and learns more about the bible and Christianity. He has questions that are not resolved in his mind. He makes no conscious decision to disbelieve anything that he thought was rational. Everything that bothered him, bothered him exactly because he thought it didn't make sense. He becomes an apostate later in life, living happily ever after. Was the Holy Spirit giving him guidance to cause him to find fault in the Bible or Christianity? If not, then if the Holy Spirit was giving him guidance and it didn't make sense to him then is he culpable when he rejects Christianity on those grounds? On the other hand how do you love something you have doubts about? If he grudgingly keeps professing his faith, gods not going to be fooled and he's as good as an apostate.

or the opposite situation happens

Tom Hangs Onto His Belief Despite Doubts:
3b. If Tom has the potential to be influenced by the Holy Spirit when Evan tells him about Jesus, Tom should recognize the truth and accept Christ. He does and learns more about the bible and Christianity. He has questions that are not resolved in his mind and he makes no conscious decision to disbelieve anything that he thought made sense. Everything that bothered him, bothered him exactly because he thought it didn't make sense. He wrestles with these questions for the rest of his life professing his faith and NOT living happily ever after. Was the Holy Spirit giving him guidance to cause him to find fault in the Bible or Christianity? If not, how is it that the Holy Spirit didn't intervene on behalf of itself to the point that he would not have to make a choice to disregard conflicting information that he honestly believed was valid? Here is a link to a DC article called "Christians Who Struggle With Serious Doubts" that talks about this.

Tom Doesn't Accept Jesus At First Contact
4. If Tom has the potential to be influenced by the Holy Spirit when Evan tells him about Jesus, Tom should recognize the truth and accept Christ. But he doesn't because he is not convinced. What could be going on in inside Tom to cause that to happen? Doesn't Tom realize that the Holy Spirit is working on him to influence him to believe? How is Tom supposed to recognize the fact the he is being informed by the Holy Spirit? Is Tom consciously disregarding information that is informing him from the Holy Spirit? Can Tom distinguish between what are his thoughts and what is the guidance and understanding of the Holy Spirit?

Tom Accepts Jesus But Doesn't Become A True Christian:
5. If Tom has the potential to be influenced by the Holy Spirit when Evan tells him about Jesus, Tom should recognize the truth and accept Christ. Evan is in the Catholic Church, or Protestant, or Church of God, or Jehovah's Witness or Church of Latter Day Saints. Tom likes what he hears and accepts Christ. But the other Churches out there are saying that those churches aren't made up of real Christians, kind of like the Pope did on July 10, 2007. So if these are not real Christians, why didn't the Holy Spirit pick up on this and over time put Tom in a position to have to make a conscious decision to disregard information about itself that he new was valid and accept information that he did not know was valid? There was no informed decision possible.

Where are the real Christians? In what church?
* The Catholic Church? or any of the other versions of Catholicism?
* Protestant Evangelicals? or any of the many other protestant churches?
* Jehovah's Witnesses?
* Latter Day Saints?
* Church of God?

Since it seems apparent that the Holy Spirit does not help interpret scripture or give understanding, Reasonable Doubt about the Holy Spirit is justified.

For effect I listed the staggering number of Christian Denominations from Wikipedia and after that, the staggering number of theological disputes between them.

List of Christian Denominations from Wikipedia
1 Catholicism
1.1 The Catholic Church: Churches in communion with the Bishop of Rome
1.2 Other Churches that are Catholic, But Who Are Not In Communion With Rome

2 Eastern Churches
2.1 The (Eastern) Orthodox Church
2.2 Western-Rite Orthodox Churches
2.3 Other Eastern Orthodox Churches
2.3.1 Assyrian Church of the East
2.4 Oriental Orthodoxy
2.4.1 Oriental Orthodox Communion

3 Anglicanism
3.1 Anglican Communion (in communion with the Church of England)
3.2 Independent Anglican and Continuing Anglican Movement Churches

4 Protestant
4.1 Pre-Lutheran Protestants
4.2 Lutheranism
4.3.1 Presbyterianism
4.3.2 Congregationalist Churches
4.4 Anabaptists
4.5 Methodists
4.6 Pietists and Holiness Churches
4.7 Baptists
4.7.1 Spiritual Baptists
4.9 Apostolic Churches - Irvingites
4.10 Pentecostalism
4.11 Oneness Pentecostalism
4.12 Charismatics
4.12.1 Neo-Charismatic Churches
4.13 African Initiated Churches
4.14 United and uniting churches
4.15 Other Protestant Denominations
4.16 Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)

5 Messianic Judaism

6 Restorationism
6.1 Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement
6.2 Southcottites
6.3 Millerites and Comparable groups
6.3.1 Sabbath Keeping Churches, Adventist
6.3.2 Sabbath-Keeping Churches, Non-Adventist in north Pennsylvania
6.3.3 Sunday Adventists
6.3.4 Sacred Name Groups
6.3.5 Other Adventists
6.3.6 Bible Student Groups
6.4 Anglo-Israelism

7 Nontrinitarian Groups
7.1 Unitarianism and Universalism

8 Religious movements related to Christianity
8.1 Manichaeism
8.2 The New Church also called Swedenborgianism
8.2.1 Episcopal
8.2.2 Congregational
8.3 New Thought
8.4 Christian mystery movements

9 Ethnic or syncretic religions incorporating elements of Christianity

10 Christianism

With help from John, Prup, and an Ed Babinski article, here are a list of some disputed topics. I wanted to list as many items as possible to give a graphic representation of how unreliable the principles of the Holy Spirit are.

- Trinity or no?
- Arianism
- The disputes that drove the creation of Protestants.
- Denominations of Protestants
- Denominations of Catholics
- War between Catholics and protestants
- Holy Spirit male or female?
- Holy Spirit is a person or not?
- Salvation, faith or works
- Baptism
- Infant Baptism
- Hell is real and fiery or not?
- Purgatory
- Snake handling
- Once saved always saved?
- Where do Suicides go?
- Speaking in tongues
- Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit
- New covenant theology
- The 'two natures' in Christ.
- The Ordination of Women
- The attitude towards gays
- The various parts of the Bible that seem to be later additions, such as the 'story of the woman taken in adultery' and the 'Great Commission' that ends Matthew, etc.
- The Rapture
- Slavery
- Biblical inerrancy
- Christendom
- Papal Infallibility
- Double Predestination
- Just War Theory
- Penal Substitution
- God as a Male
- Sin
- Unforgivable Sin
- Second coming has already happened
- The point in time that the holy spirit indwells and fills you
- Gifts of the spirit given to everyone or different people at different times
- 'pre-Nicean' controversies



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