Holy Spirit and the Analogy of the Flame.

This article compares the Holy Spirit to a flame and attempts to weaken the claims found in the bible about the Holy Spirit. The flame informs in a way that the Holy Spirit does not.

If we say that
- God is real,
- the Holy Spirit is God,
- the Holy Spirit lives in every christian and that
- the requirements for the indwelling of the spirit are that the person must necessarily profess faith in Jesus Christ and
- the Holy Spirit gives guidance and understanding,
All Christians should understand the same thing. There should be no major disagreement. If we say that God loving Christians wouldn't think of disobeying God intentionally then in theological matters that they don't have any personal preference but state a belief anyway we can assume that they must have gotten guidance from somewhere. Lets say its the Holy Spirit since they should meet the criteria and Lord knows this influence wouldn't come from their geographical area or culture or any other persuasive factors. An example of Christians like this would be my Grandparents or Aunts and Uncles, parents, etc.

Peoples thoughts, attitudes and behavior can be manipulated by stimulating or changing parts of the brain, and it can be shown through fMRI how the brain reacts during thought processes. Behavior and attitudes can be manipulated and monitored through physical means. It can be inferred that if the Holy Spirit exists and has the ability to influence, then it has the ability to manipulate physical properties in the brain as well. If we say that the Holy Spirit is real and is able to influence, not force, then someday we should be able to see this effect in brain monitoring techniques. I would think that some force could be measured as it exerts influence in the brain. Using nano-technology, we can now break the blood brain barrier and research groups are trying to develop tiny sensors able to better monitor the brain from the inside. Recently, in animal research, scientists have mapped a memory, and documented the expanding web-like participation of neurons as an animal learned. In one human case, researchers were able to predict what a person was thinking (within the protocol) with about 80% reliability. I would like to see Christians investigate the hypothesis that the Holy Spirit may be able to be measured in the Lab. However, in my opinion, it's not likely that it would be distinguishable from natural processes and would generate more of that "can't test God" talk the way prayer studies do.

But failing that, if we stipulate that the Holy Spirit is real then maybe we can compare it to a flame. Since it appeared as a flame at Pentecost, it seems appropriate. If we think about a flame, we can safely assume that equally dispersed about the world is the belief that if we put our hand in it we will get burned. We can also safely assume that we all know enough about the properties of a flame to work with it. So if we were to tell someone something obvious about it such as "If you put your hand in the flame you will get burned" they will probably not argue with us. And if we tell them that paper exposed to a flame doesn't burn they would justifiably disagree. You could try this in China, Israel, Saudi Arabia, India and Italy and the results would all be the same. The reason is that it is a real phenomena and people have unmistakable experience with it. They can choose to deny it but the evidence will contradict them in the eyes of any rational person. The flame informs.

Now if we think about the Holy Spirit, and consider it real, and able to manipulate physical properties, then not only should we be able to measure it but we should find that God loving Christians of the sort that wouldn't think of disobeying God, should not have any theological disagreements between themselves and any other denomination which arguably would have thier own God loving Christians of the sort that wouldn't think of disobeying God either. But try this, do a google search for 'salvation AND baptism' and try to figure out if you need to be baptized or not to get into heaven. Since Salvation is what Christianity is all about, I would think it would be obvious how it happens.

The flame informs in a way that the Holy Spirit doesn't. A person can keep their hand in a flame, or not. It's their choice. They can use it wisely or foolishly, its their choice. Most of the time they behave in the manner which minimizes the risk of harm to themselves and others because they know through experience what it entails. They learn things about the flame by dealing with it. We can assume that if there really were a Holy Spirit that was distinguishable to them, Christians would all have been informed about the same things and chosen not to disregard its guidance.

For more of this sort of heresy, see my other Holy Spirit articles.

6 comments:

richdurrant said...

It's always going to be hard for me to go about debating these with you because I have slightly different beliefs about the Holy Spirit then the Evangelicals. Since you are debunking that particular sect I try my best to learn both sets of beliefs.

I have to say from the beginning that I can see your point here and I agree, as I did before, that religions disagree on many of the same doctrines. If they are all being guided by the Spirit, we then have a big problem. Either God isn't real, which is where you are headed with your side, or if he is real then he isn't really very nice.
First you stipulate that god is real, I believe that he is. Then you say that the Holy spirit is God, I also believe this but the slight difference is that I believe that they are 2 distinct people. Not to get of track because this isn't even on subject at all, simply mentioning my differences so you can see where I come from.
Next you say that the Spirit lives in every Christian. this we have also jumped into a little before that I believe you have to live a certain way continually to retain the presence of the Holy Spirit in you life. Up next is that the Spirit becomes indwelling by a simple confession of Jesus, well maybe it's not simple. This is where I am a bit different but I stated most of that in the first part of my post. the last thing I agree totally with, that the HS gives guidance and understanding.
From what follows in your post I can see how you could come to the conclusion that you should somehow be able to test for the indwelling.
I think that you would find we are in agreement for a good part of this post.
I like the flame analogy, but I also think that the Holy Spirit should fit the same bill, as in it should be the same in any country. Once again it is obvious that there are so many different beliefs that you can come to the conclusion you did, which is the Holy Spirit doesn't exist. but I also think that another conclusion to draw is that the HS does exist and people don't always follow His guidance. Since, like your flame, there is always a choice.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Richdurrant,
thanks for the thoughtful comment,
but what in the world would prevent a christian from following the guidance of the HS if they really felt it? I refer to the flame, we don't put our hand in it, becuase we KNOW what it is like, but we can't say the same for the spirit. If we really felt it and we were approached with the need to choose to believe in baptism or not to get salvation, two god loving christians who are not trying to disobey god, and do not want to disobey god will come to two different conclusions. How do you account for that?

Jospeh said...

This article raises some valid points. Of course, the way that my denomination, the Church of Christ, has responded is by taking the view that the Holy Spirit does all his work through the Word of God. I don't think we can quite get out of it that easily, however. After all, doesn't Paul say, "Those who are LED by the Spirit of God are the children of God?" And doesn't he add "if anyone does not have the Holy Spirit" he does not belong to Christ? How then can one KNOW whether she has the Holy Spirit or not, unless there is something that can be measured and tested.

Some will say it's the fruits of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, etc). Ok, how is it that atheists, Muslims, and Hindus produce the fruit of the Spirit, too? Others will say it is speaking in tongues. At least that SOMETHING you can point to. I'm a skeptic of tongues, but I'd like to see you address that at some point, if you haven't already.

Bottom line, unless there is something identifiably unique about the Holy Spirit's indwelling presence, Christians have a real problem here.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi jospeh,
First off I want to say "Welcome" to you. And second I want to say that you have all my sympathy. What I write here is mostly what I was thinking when I was wrestling with god before I discovered that I couldn't say I believed anymore.

now back to bizness,
Before I started this 'holy spirit' series, I brainstormed and researched and filtered for the most widely accepted premises to challenge. I have stuff saved in my google docs to say on the less accepted aspects of the Holy Spirit and Tongues is one of them. I haven't done it yet because I was purposely trying to avoid as much of the 'thats not how the Holy Spirit works' charges as possible.
Stay Tuned!

richdurrant said...

Two parts, for that particular belief.
1. Not understanding scripture
2. Not following the HG

I have gone through before the method for receiving answers, from the HG. You first need to study and come to a conclusion, I need to be baptized for salvation. Then ask, in prayer, if this is correct. I realize this is generalizing but it's pretty much unavoidable here it seems.

Jason said...

It's so wonderfully easy to argue the false doctrine of the Trinity. If an atheist can do it, any Christian can. ONWARDS!!