Post by Susan Peabody on Aug 16, 2016 17:37:41 GMT
What does the Holy Spirit do?
There is one God, but He is expressed in three persons: God the Father, God the Son (Jesus Christ), and God the Holy Spirit. The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit lives within every true believer in Christ (see John 14:16–17).
The Holy Spirit is your counselor to help you understand the truth revealed in God’s Word, the Bible. John 14:26 says, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you” (ESV).
Through the Holy Spirit, God has provided the power you need to live for Christ. The Holy Spirit can teach you and strengthen you in your times of need. Ask Him each day to guide your thoughts and actions.
Post by Susan Peabody on Aug 16, 2016 17:43:05 GMT
The New Trinity
A.A. taught me that I could envision God in any form I chose. Steps 3 and 11 make this clear. It is "God as we understood him". What a blessing. This article came out of this freedom A.A. gave me. The New Trinity When pressed, most Christians will tell you they believe God is spirit or at least a benevolent force in the universe. Still, we love to personify God, and, as a result, an ongoing discussion of God's symbolic gender has ensued for the last two millennia. The question is simple: How should God be personified in art, hymns, poetry, discourse and dialogue, not to mention our imaginations - as male or female? Why is this so important? Because we identify with our personifications. On some level we start to think of God as a man or a women even though we know better. And this, in turn, not only affects our personal relationship with God, but the relationships we have with the opposite sex here on earth, especially within the Church - the body of Christ.
The question of gender comes up frequently when discussing the nature of the Trinity - "God in Three Persons". And it is this discussion that has preoccupied me since I first because a Christian. When preparing for baptism years ago I had several meetings with my pastor. At our last meeting I told him there was one hurdle I had to overcome before I could surrender to Christ and to the Church. "About the Holy Spirit," I said. "I believe the Holy Spirit is the feminine manifestation of God. That is why she is referred to as the Comforter. (John 14:16; 15:26; 16:7 King James) Within the Trinity, God is the Father, Jesus is the Son, and the Holy Spirit is the Mother. Can I continue to imagine that the Holy Spirit is feminine after I become a Christian?" My pastor thought about it for a moment. Then he said, "Well, Christianity is not meant to stop you from thinking for yourself. If you want to believe the Holy Spirit is feminine, that's okay with me". (I was relieved to hear this, and I will admit that if my pastor had not been so flexible I would not be a Christian today).
The Christian belief in the Trinity stems from two passages in the Bible: I John 5:7 New King James, "For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one," and Matthew 28:19, New King James, "Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit".
The concept of the Trinity became official during late fourth century, having been passed into law during the Second Ecumenical Council at Constantinople in AD 381. From that point on, it was seen officially as completely masculine - or at least personified as completely masculine. However, before that time there existed another view known as the gnostic interpretation.
John Dart, in "Balancing Out the Trinity: The Genders of the Godhead," notes that "The Gospel of the Hebrews is known only through quotations from it given in the writing of early church fathers. In one such, ... [Jesus says] 'Even so did my mother, the Holy Spirit, take me by one of my hairs and carry me away to the great mountain Tabor'". He adds, "The Acts of Thomas, a legendary account of the apostle Thomas's travels to India, contains prayers invoking the Holy Spirit as, among other titles, 'the Mother of all creation' and 'compassionate mother'". Dart goes on to say, "The best-known find was the Gospel of Thomas, a collection of 114 sayings attributed to Jesus. In one of them, Jesus declares that his disciples must hate their earthly parents (as in Luke 14:26) but love the Father and the Mother as he does, 'for my mother ... gave me life'".
Moving past gnosticism, let's look at the Bible. In Genesis it is suggested that God may be both masculine and feminine: "Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, in our likeness....' So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them". (Genesis 1: 26-27) If God is in some abstract way both male and female, surely we have some leeway in representing at least one aspect of the godhead as feminine.
There is also the argument that the Holy Spirit can be represented as feminine because "the Hebrew word for spirit (ruach) is of the feminine gender". (John Dart) However, this notion is disputed by those linguists who see pronouns as irrelevant. For instance, in the Greek "the word 'pneuma,' usually translated 'spirit' but also translated 'wind' and 'breath,' is a grammatically neuter word". ("Who is God?" in Good News magazine)
While scholars continue to argue about the best way to represent the gender of the Holy Spirit, I would like to pose two questions: One: Can we, to suit our own psychological needs, choose to see the Holy Spirit as feminine if this is a more meaningful experience; Two: Will this improve the political relationship between men and women in the Church?
My experience of Christ has always been emotional. Of course, this is not true of everyone. Back when I was preparing for my baptism I was obviously nervous. My pastor noticed this and asked me what was wrong. I remember saying, "I had a spiritual experience years ago and I am afraid you will tell me it was not real. It was very emotional and not based on reading the Bible. I was not even attending church at the time. I believe it was the Holy Spirit coming to me and I have heard that Christians believe the Holy Spirit does not come to you until after you are baptized". My pastor looked at me tenderly and repeated the passage, "The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the spirit". John 3:8. He then confessed that he had been religious all of his life ? that he had been raised in the church and knew the Bible word for word, but that he had never had a spiritual experience like mine. "I envy you," he said. "Let me share the Bible and its wisdom with you, and you can share your spiritual experience and love of God with me".
My point is this. If the most precious experience we have of God is emotional, or experiential, then we must have the right to choose our own metaphor. Only we know what imagery is going to evoke the intimacy that keeps our faith strong and enduring as well as pleasurable. That is the whole point of the Trinity to begin with. God is the Father, God is the Son, God is the Holy Spirit. Each personification satisfies us in a different way. So, within reason, I want to create images that satisfy my own psychological needs. My Father is strong and wise; with him I am safe and I know that everything has meaning and will turn out all right in the end. Christ died for my sins and with him I can have a fresh start when, despite my best efforts, I fall short. He inspires me to make my best effort, to grow in my faith and to love my neighbor as myself. The Holy Spirit comforts me when I am discouraged. She holds me in her arms when life gets difficult like a mother cradling a child after a nightmare. She is my confident and my counselor.
Not only do I believe that we can, and should, choose our own gender-specific perception of the Holy Spirit, I refuse to believe that the choice we make is always related to our gender. Scholars like to believe that the New Trinity is a feminist agenda - that only women want to see the Holy Spirit as feminine. However, I think men, as well, are drawn to the feminine metaphors of the Holy Spirit. I believe men respond to the inference that the "Comforter"is a woman either because they had a nurturing mother or they wanted one.
Beyond the personal and emotional rewards of personifying the Holy Spirit as feminine, what would be the political impact within the Church? Well, there is the notion of equality that can only stem from respect. Some men (certainly not all) lack respect for women. They secretly, or openly, devalue women to some extent. This makes it difficult for them to make room for women as equals in the Church. This might change, over time, if one aspect of an all-powerful and revered God were personified as feminine? We tend to respect what we revere and revere what we respect.
There are also men, and some women, who resist the notion of political equality between men and women within the Church out of fear? I use the word "fear" because I do not believe, like some feminists, that all men resist the notion of equality out of ego or lack of respect. They simply fear this idea because they find great solace in tradition or they confuse tradition with the law. However, change is a part of life and the personification of the Holy Spirit (which may or may not pave the way to equality) is not law, it is tradition. The Nicene Creed, coming out of the Second Ecumenical Council, only discussed the relationship of the Holy Spirit to God not his (or her) gender. ("The Nicene Council, What Was it Really About?" in Let Us Reason Ministries).
Metaphorically, we can have God in any reasonable form. Those who choose only a masculine God are missing something in their spiritual lives that they have access to in their temporal world: an emotionally intimate and equal relationship between the masculine and feminine - androgyny. Am I the only one who thinks this makes life more complete?