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A devaluing of the Holy Spirit

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by JonC, May 23, 2019.

  1. JonC

    JonC Lifelong Disciple
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    In the introduction to Rediscovering the Holy Spirit, Michael Horton observed that the Spirit is the easiest person of the Trinity to depersonalize. Given arguments on a couple of recent threads, perhaps this is not only a timely observation but an appropriate generation to consider his book.

    When I started studying in earnest the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer I was drawn to a work by John Owen (author of The Mortification of Sin) titled Pneumatologia. On this topic Owen presents the necessity of the Spirit to guide the believer into truth – that is, apart from this work of the Spirit (this work of God) man is unable to discern the spiritual things in a spiritual manner. Our natural minds (apart from the Spirit) can deal with argument, philosophies, and logic. But the unrenewed mind cannot divorce itself from its nature to see the spiritual beyond human wisdom.

    R.C. Sproul also wrote at length on the work of the Holy Spirit. In one of his books, The Mystery of the Holy Spirit, Sproul wrote that the Holy Spirit leads to truth because the Spirit is the Spirit of truth. The Holy Spirit instructs the believer in truth so that we may be a holy people.

    Quoting Isaiah 54:13 Arthur Pink insisted that the believer is literally taught by the Holy Spirit – not only through revealing Scripture but also by revealing to the believer his or her own sins through a life of sanctification (The Holy Spirit).

    J.I. Packer wrote (The Ministry of the Spirit) of the work of the Holy Spirit in guiding Christians to decisions through discernment of God’s will. Errors are not the fault of God, but rather when men falter in their dependence on the Spirit. He views the Spirit as illuminating the connection between Scripture and our lives, by personalizing and applying God’s will for us.

    John Stott advocated a complete dependence on the Spirit, noting that the believer can posses absolutely no understanding without the Spirit (The Message of Acts).

    So why is it that Christianity has come so far away from viewing the believer as dependent upon the Spirit – not just to get the believer to accept biblical doctrine but for his very existence?

    How did we go from John Owen, who viewed the Spirit as guiding the believer to discern spiritual things in a spiritual manner to advocating the work of the Spirit as getting the believer to accept what is presented in Scripture?
     
  2. Deacon

    Deacon Well-Known Member
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    Curiously I recently received a book about this very topic today,

    TheProgressiveMystery, Tracing the Elusive Spirit In Scripture and Tradition
    by Myk Habets​

    Rob
     
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  3. Rob_BW

    Rob_BW Well-Known Member
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    If I can ask a quick question, I'm in the market for a new book or two. Do you recommend the Stott? I like the BST series.
     
  4. JonC

    JonC Lifelong Disciple
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    I haven't read much Stott. I have two commentaries that I rarely reference. The Cross of Christ was good.
     
  5. Reformed

    Reformed Well-Known Member
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    Jon, as always in these discussions, we have to define terms and even constructs.

    I am happy to see that you cited Horton, Sproul, and Owen; men from whom I have profited greatly over the years. The Puritans understood that the only way to appropriate spiritual truth was by the ministry of the Holy Spirit. In the Reformed Ordo Salutis, this first occurs during illumination/regeneration. The Christian is sealed by the Spirit and possesses the Spirit at the moment of conversion. Not only is the Spirit active in a salvific sense, but the Spirit also gives us an understanding of the scriptures, the source of all spiritual truth. In the previous threads you referenced, it is my opinion that most participants were talking past each other. I do not think anyone was saying the Spirit is not active or that He does not guide us into truth. Because I did not understand exactly what you were trying to convey, I thought you were possibly saying that spiritual truth can be acquired outside of scripture. That is an error that we see in some extreme parts of the Continualist camp. If it were possible, that faction has too much Holy Spirit. They elevate the Holy Spirit above scripture by placing a higher value on experience. I do not think that is at all what you are referring to, I am just commenting on it for the purpose of contrast.

    Speaking only for myself, I understand that any spiritual knowledge I have is because of the Holy Spirit and the source of that knowledge comes from scripture. I also confess that the Holy Spirit works in my life internally, turning my thoughts towards God and leading me to repentance (daily). The Holy Spirit is also the person of the Trinity that makes my prayers acceptable to the Father. Not only would I not be a Christian without the Holy Spirit, but I also could not live the Christian life without the Holy Spirit.
     
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  6. church mouse guy

    church mouse guy Well-Known Member
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    Probably not a book that younger people would like but Dwight Moody wrote a book on the subject called Secret Power: The Secret of Success in Christian Life and Work.
     
  7. Earth Wind and Fire

    Earth Wind and Fire Well-Known Member
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    When I was regenerated I became a voracious reader and so read allot of Martin Lloyd-Jones who suggested that the RCC usurped the power of the HS and transferred it to Mary the Virgin, a shocking thing to have to grapple with as an ex Roman Catholic.

    Now John Owen as I understand was a puritan, a religious movement within the Anglican Church. As a deep thinker and a person wanting truth, I could see his delving deep into the Holy Spirit and his duties to the Trinity. Thank you for this insight.
     
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  8. church mouse guy

    church mouse guy Well-Known Member
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    I think that you linked me in error.
     
  9. Earth Wind and Fire

    Earth Wind and Fire Well-Known Member
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    Sorry... too early in the morning
     
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  10. JonC

    JonC Lifelong Disciple
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    While I was using the previous threads as a springboard rather than continuing that discussion here, I strongly disagree with your assessment. The reason is that on those threads a comment was made about the reliance on the believer upon the Spirit to guide him or her into spiritual truth. The comment that sparked the disagreement over two threads was also made by John Owen without controversy or “talking past one another” generations ago. Something has changed.

    I believe that part of this is excess by some churches. We’ve seen these things happen over other doctrines when theology becomes reactionary. But we need to consider why a comment about reliance on the Spirit so quickly sparks assumptions about excesses and false doctrines.

    There are two errors I see. One is elevating the Spirit over Scripture in terms of measuring doctrine. But another is elevating Scripture over the Spirit in terms of apprehending spiritual truth in a spiritual manner. What we are talking about is the revelation of God (scripture) versus a reliance on God Himself and the work of God in the life of the believer. Both go together - they cannot be separated without error.

    I think that the fact people like Horton are addressing the idea that a devaluing of the Holy Spirit in our churches has occurred may indicate that it is possible it has occurred. If Horton was alone, perhaps it could be more easily ignored a topic.

    Francis Chan addressed the issue even in the title of his short book – Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit.
     
  11. Earth Wind and Fire

    Earth Wind and Fire Well-Known Member
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    What are Chan and Horton saying then... how can Trinitarian churches possibly ignore the HS (please give examples) and without incurring the removal of blessings. Wouldn’t that be the unforgivable sin of the Holy Spirit?
     
  12. JonC

    JonC Lifelong Disciple
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    I think it is elevating one aspect (Scripture, reason) over the work of the Spirit. We live in a very information driven culture.

    But I have not read their books yet. I have Chan's book and will probably read it over the weekend.
     
  13. HankD

    HankD Well-Known Member
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    We did not obey:

    Ephesians 4:30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.

    1 Thessalonians 5:19 Quench not the Spirit.
     
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  14. JonC

    JonC Lifelong Disciple
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    Spurgeon preached a wonderful sermon on this topic - The Power of the Holy Spirit.
     
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