..."and a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the way of holiness; evil minded people shall not travel on it, but it shall be for those wayfarers who are traveling toward God. (Isaiah 35:8, adapted)

Monday, August 28, 2006

Whatever happened to the Holy Ghost?

When I was younger He was called the "Holy Ghost." Modern times or translations have somehow renamed Him the "Holy Spirit." I hope its not one of those politically correct things. I really hope no-one's trying to take Him out of the fall-on-your-face-at-the-sawdust-revival genre and rework Him to, well, you know, Business Class, complete with a briefcase, Blackberry, and a glass of well-aged Merlot.

When this name transition first seemed to be occuring I, myself, was more interested in being at the altar rail then at the library. I was in my late teens. Still, I remember people saying, "Well, you know, the whole idea of "ghost" has such a scary kind of feel to it. I guess I don't see a whole lot wrong with a "scary kind of feel." Biblically, its called "fear of the Lord." I don't think too many people thought God was a ghost like Caspar. He never seemed flimsy and wispy to me. Solid, not see-through, not unlike meeting a 350 pound defensive tackle on the football team. You weren't getting by Him and you had a really good chance of getting knocked over. You know, I still pretty much see Him that way, although I have known a lot more sides to Him in my life as a believer.

It just seems that now that He is the "Holy Spirit" in most circles, something is missing. My first bible was the incomparable King James Version :). Every bible verse I have ever memorized I know in the KJV. So now I am thinking of some really good ones, "Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost? (Acts 5:3). "And you shall be baptized in the Holy Ghost (Acts 1:5). "And the Holy Ghost fell on all of them" (Acts 10:44).

The Azusa Street Revival, as did all the great revivals, had a LOT of the Holy Ghost. He rocked the house. The New England Revivals, the First and Second Great Awakenings, found bars closed and people praying at noon instead of drinking. Upstate New York was called the "Burned Over District" because revival blazed from town to town. Paris Reidheid, in his noteworthy sermon, "Ten Shekels and a Shirt" relates the story of John Wesley Redfield, a preacher who lived near Yale University during the 1800's: A man by the name of John Wesley Redfield had continuous ministry for three years in and around New Haven. Culminating in the great meetings in the Yale Ball, the first of the Yale Balls' back in the 18th century. The policemen were accustomed during those days, if they saw someone lying on the ground, to go up and smell his breath. Because if he had alcohol on his breath they'd lock him up, but if he didn't, he had Redfield's disease. And all you needed to do if anyone had Redfield's disease was just take him into a quiet place and leave him until he came too. Because if they were drunkards, they'd stop drinking, and if they were cruel, they'd stop being cruel, and if they were immoral, they gave up their immorality. If they were thieves, they returned what they had. For as they had seen the holiness of God, and seen the enormity of their sin, the Spirit of God had DRIVEN THEM DOWN INTO UNCONSCIOUSNESS because of the weight of their guilt! And somehow in the overspreading of the power of God, sinners repented of their sin and came savingly to Christ." (www.firesofrevival.com)

Now was that the Holy Ghost or what?

C.S.Lewis's famous line about Aslan the Lion applies equally to the Holy Ghost, "He's not a tame Lion, you know."

You need to know that I really don't mind if you call Him the Holy Ghost or the Holy Spirit. What I do mind is you thinking He's just going to send a few shivers up your spine and then call it a night. Thinking that, in my humble opinion, means something is seriously the matter. The Holy Ghost's job is not to hover like Glade Mist sprayed in the church--covering a bad situation with a pleasant scent. If anything, He is more like Mr.Clean, who, ironically, I haven't seen a whole lot of lately, either.

I need to ask, "Where are the days when you didn't need to wonder if you had received the Holy Ghost because when He arrived in your life you could cross doubting that He was real right off your list of things that could be doubted. Is it just me or does everything seem kind of safe and mundane lately? Whatever happened to the old fashioned idea of "tarrying" til the Holy Ghost comes? Whatever happened to the kind of conviction of sin that those people who lay in the streets of New Haven felt?

I worry about what we call a "normative" experience of the Holy Spirit. God is God and I know that He acts uniquely with each of us. Yet as sure as sure can be, the Holy Spirit was sent to accomplish this: He will convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgment (John 16:8-11); He will guide the believer into all truth (John 16:13) and He will glorify God (John 16:14).

Jesus said to His disciples, "I have many things to say to you but you cannot now bear them" (John 16:12). What He was saying was that to bear them they needed the Holy Ghost. Those folks had an excuse for the Holy Ghost had not yet come. Yet I wonder how often Jesus says to the modern believer, "I have much to say to you but you cannot now bear it"?

I wonder if He's just really saying we need the Holy Ghost.

The Spirit of Christ is our pre-eminent and indwelling Teacher, Comforter, Convictor, and Guide. He is the Pledge of God within us. May He cause us to unreservedly offer Jesus His rightful place in our hearts and lives.

Come Holy Ghost, Creator Blest, and in our hearts take up Thy Rest.


Saints n' Stuff said...

I understand your dismay, but personally I feel the change-of emphasis is good. The Holy Ghost, to me as a Catholic kid, seemed like a story-book character, rather than a personality or force or, well, spirit. I could recite all the scholarly reasons for the change( including cultural distaste or fear of "ghosts" as anthopomorphic, not spiritual), but the basic aim of focusing on The Spirit, The Breath of Life, of a moving, wild, FORCE, sounds good to me. And yes, most christians are NOT ready to hear, listen, change, transform, be salvaged. They want to be saved, like a dead rose, squashed between the pages of an old, unread book.Auntbobra

Peter Smythe said...

The KJV used "ghost" to emphasize personhood. Spirit in the Greek can actually mean a number of things - breath, wind, etc. You can think of the translators reading Shakepeare and about Scrooge and that gives you the idea.

Michael said...

Perhaps it is an attempt to erase the polytheistic roots of Christianity?