Is the Holy Spirit a force or a person?

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Is the Holy Spirit a force or a person? What does CoG7 teach about the Spirit of God?


The historic view of “Trinity” holds that the Holy Spirit is a divine person with all the attributes of God — Father and Son. Each of the three, then, has the full divine nature and substance of the others. They exist as one God — not three! — in an eternal relation of three equal persons — not one! 

Among non-Trinitarian Christians, au contraire, one may hear the view that the Spirit of God is not a third person but an impersonal force, like in Star Wars: “The Force be with you.” Something near this view was expressed in a pre-1994 CoG7 doctrine that read, in part, “The Holy Spirit is an extension of the power of God in the world . . . .” 

The Church’s current faith statements support neither the impersonal “force” nor the “third person” views referenced above. Rather, they see the Holy Spirit as closely identified with God — who is Spirit and is holy— himself. The Spirit of God is experienced by God’s people in a close and personal way and may be gladly regarded as God’s personal presence with and within His people on earth. As Jesus the Son was Father God’s personal presence on earth in physical form, so the Holy Spirit is Christ the Son’s personal presence on earth in spiritual form. 

The Holy Spirit is not named in most New Testament salutations, benedictions, or doxologies, as are the Father and Son. The Spirit is not seen as enthroned or reigning in heaven, as are Father and Son. The Spirit is not worshipped or addressed in prayer, as are Father and Son. The Spirit has no “I-Thou” relation with Father and Son, as they do with each other. Rather than think of the Holy Spirit as a third person of the Deity, therefore, it may be more nearly correct to think of the Spirit as the personal presence of the Father and Son on earth and within believers. 

— Elder Calvin Burrell

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    Calvin Burrell
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    Calvin Burrell is former editor of the Bible Advocate and former director of G. C. Missions. He retired in 2015 and lives with his wife, Barb, in Stayton, OR. They attend church in Marion, OR.