Is it possible to abuse the Holy Spirit? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.
Yesterday was an interesting day of debate for me. Regular readers of this blog know that I’m an orthodox Preterist. As it stands, I saw someone on Facebook with a comment on end times and I figured I’d jump in. To be clear at the start, I have nothing against dispensationalists. In fact, I’m married to someone who does hold to the rapture at this time. When my wife asks me a question about end times, I do give my perspective, but when she asks “What would someone from my perspective most likely say?” I try to give the best answer. It would be easy to give a weak answer to make that side look dumb. It would be easy, and I think it would be wrong too.
So here I am debating and before too long, what card do I see played? The holiness card. The idea that there is an orthodox Preterist seems nonsensical and yes, I see the “heresy” word tossed out. Am I given an argument against my view? Nope. Instead, I’m told “The Holy Spirit leads us into truth” and “We read our Bibles so we know what you are saying is not true.”
Because obviously, anyone who disagrees is someone who wants to go against the Holy Spirit and doesn’t read their Bibles.
Later, I have a comment on my blog from someone who doesn’t like what I’ve said about some texts not being authentic. What am I told?
“Jesus said to follow the Holy Spirit to the truth (John 14 & 16) yet too many scholars and pastors, etc., ignore that command and follow secular ideas instead. The Holy Spirit will tell you which words are authentic or not as He knows the complete and original Bible whereas earthly mss. can be corrupted very easily and omit key passages for whatever ulterior purpose the writer had at the time.”
Even this morning, a friend messaged me showing a thread he was in with him asking hard questions to someone and the person responded by tossing out Bible verses that had nothing to do with the question. “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” “You shall know them by their fruit.” These are good and true statements properly understood, but they do not answer the question being asked.
The common connection in each of these is the idea of what the Holy Spirit is supposed to do. Each of the persons involves believes that it is the work of the Holy Spirit to make sure that they do not believe anything that is untrue. What does that eliminate? If you said “personal responsibility” move to the head of the class.
There are a lot of people who think holiness is an argument. Christian apologist Francis Beckwith has said that if someone can’t win with logic, they will trump with personal holiness. Of course, we are not against being holy. We are not against living devout lives. We are against using that as an excuse. In fact, that is quite unholy.
If you are losing an argument and the facts are not on your side, it will not change that to mention that you pray an hour every day. It will not matter if you say that you have the book of Ezekiel memorized. It will not matter if you say you give 90% of your income to the poor. There’s only one thing that can work in favor of your argument. That is the evidence itself.
On the other hand, your opponent being a filthy hypocrite does not make his argument false. If your opponent is cheating on his wife, it does not make his argument wrong. If your opponent could not even quote John 3:16, it does not make his argument wrong. If your opponent is more miserly than Ebenezer Scrooge, it does not make his argument wrong. Only one thing can work against his argument. That is the evidence itself as well.
If you want to win a debate on what the Bible teaches, you have to study. The Holy Spirit is not meant to be used to excuse your lack of study. There are several Christians who also live holy and devout lives and disagree with you. Why should they be discounted automatically because of you? How do you know that you are not in the wrong and that anyone else who disagrees is not “listening to the Holy Spirit.”?
Let’s also face it. The position is pride.
There’s also the great danger that you are setting yourself up for blasphemy. You are having it be “God has said you are wrong” when God has not said. Now even if it turns out the person you are arguing with is wrong, that does not mean that God has specifically told you that they are wrong.
Another great danger is this sets us up for embarrassment in the eyes of the world. Yesterday, I listened to last Saturday’s “Unbelievable?” broadcast. In it, there was an email about a recent program where the destruction of the Amalekites in 1 Samuel 15 was discussed. An atheist wrote in saying what Christians should do is pray hard for one month to Christ for an answer. If Christ answers, their replies should be identical or similar. If not, then Christ is not helping with study.
Wrong argument? Yes. The sad point is I can understand why it was made. Too many Christians do give this impression. It is the idea that study is unneeded. God will tell you what to believe.
“Well that sounds good, but John 14 and 16 do sound convincing.”
Keep in mind John 14 and 16 are also spoken to the apostles and are we to think that all truth means every single belief? If you think the Holy Spirit leads you into all truth, are you willing to not go to a doctor and just diagnose yourself? Are you willing to let someone work on your car who is not a licensed mechanic but is just a devout Christian? Are you willing to fly on a plane with someone who is not a pilot but is a devout Christian? Do you want your children to go to a college where the professor has not studied the subject they teach but is a devout Christian?
Why shouldn’t you? Isn’t this included under all truth?
Or could it be you want people to study for these matters? Do you think it’s arrogant to think the Holy Spirit will just give you the knowledge of medicine? Why is it different for the knowledge of God and Scripture? What you end up doing is making the Holy Spirit not your teacher, as a teacher teaches students, those who study, but rather your servant. The Spirit does not help you know the answers to the questions. He writes them out for you. What kind of teacher teaching a lecture will fill in the answers on the test for the students?
Does this mean you have to buckle down and do the work? Yes. If you want to know if your eschatology is correct or not, you will need to go out and study and read both sides on the matter. If you want to know what the original manuscripts said of the Bible, you will need to study. If you want to know how to answer a question that challenges you, you will have to study.
If you have not studied, instead of using the Holy Spirit to excuse your laziness. Try something else. First, you could consider admitting you need to go off and do some study and then get back to your opponent. The second suggestion is to just be quiet. You can use the Holy Spirit to excuse yourself, but it will be hard to excuse yourself for saying “The Holy Spirit says” if you have not been told later on, and there is no excuse for doing something wrong.
And perhaps if we all study, we can have better debates anyway and let our iron sharpen each other’s iron.
Doesn’t that sound much better?