The Holy Spirit: Does What We Know About Him Actually Matter? (Part 4)

Beneath the surface, Christians have many unofficial, unstated, and untested notions about the Holy Spirit that profoundly impact their spirituality. These ideas casually spread from one person to another and become a de facto orthodoxy, a set of positions that are rarely taught in any systematic way, but are nevertheless deeply embedded in the collective psyche of a church.

In this article, I will try to uncover some of these assumptions and demonstrate that they really do matter. Try asking yourself the following questions.

1. How does the Holy Spirit bring about personal holiness? Does he usually (a) take away our inclination to sin and make us want to obey God, or (b) expect us to struggle against the sinful nature, perhaps helping us out from time to time, until we overcome temptation and experience victory?

If you instinctively answer (a), you might develop a casual or passive attitude toward sin, waiting around until you are “healed” instead of gritting your teeth and waging war against the enemy within. On the other hand, if your answer is (b), you might end up trying to depend on yourself and live out your faith by your own effort, which is in general a losing proposition. And you might interpret others’ weaknesses as failure due to lack of effort without really knowing how hard they are trying. I don’t think there is a correct answer here. It is easy to find Bible verses to “prove” either one. Sometimes the Spirit does (a) and sometimes he does (b). But how often does he do (a) versus (b)? It seems to me that, whichever position you gravitate toward, there will be long-term implications for how you interact with God on a daily basis and how you view yourself and others.

2. How does the Holy Spirit work in evangelism? Does he usually (a) seek people and draw them into encounters with believers who can present the gospel message to them, or (b) commission disciples and send them out to vigorously declare the gospel message to an unbelieving world?

Once again, I believe that the Spirit does both. But which one does he do more often? If you tend to think (a), then your participation in evangelism (if you participate at all) might be halfhearted and passive. If you ascribe to (b), then you might look and act like a gung-ho soldier of Christ, but to what effect? In the evangelical world, there are many self-styled evangelists whose efforts prove unfruitful and even counterproductive because they preach Christ at inappropriate times and in inappropriate ways with little understanding or sensitivity.

3. How does the Holy Spirit act within the organizational structure of a church? Does he primarily (a) direct the body though its leaders and elders, whom we can safely assume are being led by the Holy Spirit by virtue of their seniority and their elected or appointed offices? Or does he (b) offer no special consideration to elders and leaders and frequently bypass them to accomplish his purposes?

The answers to this question could vary enormously across denominations and cultures. In my opinion, the most correct and healthy response is to say that the Holy Spirit does both on a regular basis. For this reason, leaders and members need real discernment to understand how the Spirit is working among them at any given time. And whether you or your church leans toward (a) or (b), I hope that you maintain an open mind and humbly allow the Holy Spirit to continually challenge your view .

4. Do the gifts given by the Holy Spirit to individual people for service in the church usually (a) coincide with their natural talents, abilities and desires or (b) represent an out-of-the-ordinary or even supernatural display, allowing them to perform in ways that they would never otherwise want to do or be able to do?

By now, you probably know what I am going to say. I think that the Holy Spirit does both. And whether you lean toward (a) or (b), there can be positive and negative implications either way.

5. What is the Holy Spirit’s relationship to Scripture? Did he (a) inspire the human authors to write the original manuscripts in the Hebrew and Greek languages and then essentially stop working? Or did he (b) continue to work down through the ages through the entire process by which the teachings in the Bible were spoken, written down, collected, canonized, preserved, translated and retranslated, studied and restudied, interpreted and reinterpreted?

In the past, I would have probably answered (a), but I hadn’t seriously thought about it. There are many who claim to hold a “high view” of Scripture who tend toward (a) because they don’t know much about the process by which the canon was established, or because they do know something about that process and it looks embarrassingly messy, controversial, and downright human. Some would like to imagine that the Bible was simply handed down to us from heaven with no human input, just as God handed the stone tablets to Moses on Mt. Sinai. Any hint of subjective human judgment in the process by which the Bible came to exist would open a huge can of worms and appear to undermine biblical authority. But even if we ignore that process and just look at the text itself, we find that the Bible is a rather messy book. Some events are described multiple times from different points of view, and the details of these accounts do not always agree. If the Bible is a perfect and infallible text, then it can only be so by definitions of perfection and infallibility that are different from what we mean when we use those terms in ordinary language. (For example, the Bible contains a fair amount of poetry. What does it mean for a poem to be infallible?)

If you answer (a), then your main goal in Bible study may be to get back to the “original intent” and understand it from the author’s point of view. There is a lot of merit to that approach. Understanding the author’s intent is part of any serious study of Scripture. But original intent can only take us so far, and Christians do need to go beyond that, especially when we look at the Old Testament. The Old Testament is full of events, commandments, ceremonies, and imagery that we believe were fulfilled in Jesus Christ. When Christians study Old Testament passages, we find ourselves departing substantially from the author’s original intent; if we do not, then it becomes difficult or impossible to make the passages relevant to what we now believe and do. Reinterpreting the Old Testament in light of the gospel is something that Jesus and the apostles did on a regular basis.

Now when we come to the New Testament, can we continue to apply that same approach? Are we free to depart from the author’s original intent and apply the scriptures in new ways to modern-day situations that the apostles never envisioned? Once again, I think that we must do so, but with greater caution. If we refuse to try, we may find ourselves attempting to “get back to the first century” and live just like those early Christians did, which in the present world is truly impossible. And even if it were possible, it would be unwise, because the Holy Spirit is not stuck in the first century; he continues to move on and work in new ways in every generation. Yet if we do this carelessly, we might begin to tolerate beliefs and practices that depart from God’s will and are truly unorthodox. The present debate in mainline churches about homosexuality is a good example. There are many sincere (and, I think, wrongheaded) Christians who believe that the Holy Spirit is leading the Church to bless same-sex relationships.

There are dangers that should not be ignored if we take position (b). But if we lean too heavily toward (a), we may stifle real work of the Holy Spirit and make ourselves and our churches irrelevant.

Whatever you think about the questions raised – and I do not claim to know all the answers – you have to admit that they are important. Our assumptions about the Holy Spirit shape what we think the authentic work of God looks like, how we think a church should operate, how we pray, how we worship, how we speak of our faith and how we evangelize. The earthly ministry of the Son is thoroughly described in the four gospels. But the earthly ministry of the Holy Spirit which began in Acts is still going on; new chapters are continually being written.

Does what we know about the Holy Spirit matter? Yes, it does. A healthy relationship to the Holy Spirit — and we cannot have a meaningful relationship with someone whom we know nothing about — enables us to grow in faith and be useful instruments of God in this world. But ideas about him that are sloppy, off-balance or wrong may prevent individuals and churches from growing to maturity and stifle the Spirit’s work among them. Make no mistake: the Holy Spirit can be quenched (1Th 5:19). The Spirit can be lied to, sinned against, and blasphemed, and the consequences of doing so can be dire (Ac 5:3; Mk 3:29; Lk 12:10).


  1. GerardoR

    “Any hint of subjective human judgment in the process by which the Bible came to exist would open a huge can of worms and appear to undermine biblical authority. ”

    Could you  elaborate  on this statement?  I am not sure I follow. But if I understand correctly, I would like to ask what is the conclusion we can take from the Canonization of the bible? I feel this article ignores the big elephant in the room, namely the authoritative process or entity by which the bible was canonized in the first place. Certantly it was a work of the Holy Spirit but the Holy Spirit working through what body? Was this bodies authority limited to the canonization of the bible and then relinquished?  

    Clearly, we needed an authoritative body through which the Holy Spirit worked to canonize the bible. If it was good enough to accomplish that particular job why should it not continue to exist?
    I dont mean to sound controversial or start a catholic vs. protestant debate. I really dont. I just find that this series on the Holy Spirit and authority highlights a major hole reformed Christianity. How can we hear the Holy Spirit in such a crowded room of people who all want to throw their hat into the question of what is true in particular matters of faith.

  2. Hi Gerardo, I will happily elaborate on this statement.

    The canonization of Scripture was, I believe,  a part of the ongoing  work of the Holy Spirit with respect to God’s word.   You are correct in pointing out that there is a big, big hole in the way that many evangelicals think about divine inspiration of Scripture. I think that any doctrine of divine inspiration is incomplete if it limits the work of the Holy Spirit to the process by which the words were written down on original manuscripts which no longer exist, and then allows everything beyond that point to be error prone. I believe that the Spirit has worked down through the ages through the entire process by which the words in the Bible were spoken, written down, collected, canonized, preserved, translated and retranslated, studied and restudied, interpreted and reinterpreted. Scripture is ineffective unless the Spirit breathes his life into the words and into our souls as we read it. I tend agree with A.W. Tozer who said, “For a man to understand revealed truth requires an act of God equal to the original act which inspired the text.” I have been trying to get through A Theology of Word and Spirit by Donald E. Bloesch which discusses these things in great detail. I cannot say that I understand it very well, but I am trying.

    When you say, “Clearly, we need an authoritative body through which the Holy Spirit worked to canonize the Bible,” I do agree with you, but only  to a point. In my opinion, the authoritative body is the one, holy, catholic, apostolic church that we confess in the Nicene Creed, which is the body of all believers throughout the world who belong to Christ. That is a huge, diverse, body which is poorly organized and quite fragmented, yet precious and loved by Christ. I think that each part of the body sees and knows things that other parts do not know. So we need to listen carefully to what other parts  are saying. You are right  when you say  that it is sometimes like a crowded room with a cacophony of voices shouting different things. The desire to have law and order, to get  rid of chaos and  find one  definitive, authoritative and correct answer in this present world can be overwhelming, but that effort can be counterproductive. I think that God wants us to learn how to deal with ambiguity and uncertainty. It is part of growing in maturity and learning to humbly walk in the Spirit, trusting him in the present and relying on him to lead us when we don’t yet see things clearly, and to love him and one another despite the messiness of the world.

    • GerardoR

      Joe, you remind of John Yoon. I feel I can hear his voice everytime I read your responses because he would argue a very similar thing in a very similar way. =)
      And in our discussions on this matter, I have always had brought up the fact that the Nicene creed has many components that are matters of debate even now (e.g., one church, apostolic church). Some people say it means this.. others say it means that. But shouldnt it  ultimately come down to what the people who put together the Nicene creed mean by this things?  

      You said that you think that each part sees and knows things that other parts do not know. I agree with that. But can one part contradict the other part? We might place a diffrent emphasis on this or that but when two major Churches disagree on important matters, it seems like a problem no?

      Jesus prayed that we would be ONE, just as the Father and the Son are one. We do not see the Father and the Son disagree on the meaning of communion, whether babies should be  baptized, the authority to forgive sins, the authority to bind and loose in heaven what is on earth. The Father does not say that we once we are saved we cant loose our salvation while the Son says that no, we can loose our salvation if we fall away.
      Some (if not none) of these things are not petty  differences.  
      Jesus also prayed that we would have a visible unity in these things not a spiritual unity.  
      So while I agree that all Christians are a part of the body of Christ and united in a spiritual way, I think we need to be united in a visible way as well and not contradict each other in vital matters.  

      I also agree with you God often speaks to us  quietly  so that we can search for him and trust in him. There is a wealth of richness in the searching. But I find it troubling to extrapolate from this that contradictions on important matters are a way in which we grow closer to God. God speaking softly is  different  from the idea that God speaks in contradiction.

      I see only two ways out of this:

      #1 To say that these things are not in fact vital matters and that the only vital matters are those which are found in the nicene creed. But is power to forgive sins through men not a vital matter?  

      #2 To suggest that  what seems like contradictions to us are actually not contradictions from a divine level. Perhaps, but again, Jesus prayed for our VISIBLE unity and oneness just as the Father and Son are one.  

  3. Gerardo, I think visible unity is what God desires for us, now more than ever. If by visible unity you mean doctrinal unity or organizational unity, I don’t think that’s going to happen in the near future. But if by visible unity you mean relational unity — Christians of different stripes showing genuine love and respect for one another and learning from one another — then I’m all for it, and I can see it happening in many places, including UBFriends, and I praise God for that.

    I think that the Bible itself is full of apparent contradictions. How do we reconcile the absolute requirements of God’s law in the OT with the teachings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount? (If anyone thinks they have gotten that one all figured out, they are fooling themselves and haven’t thought very hard about it.) How do we reconcile the way God’s people were told to completely destroy certain nations in the OT with the NT teachings of Jesus on love and peace? How do we reconcile God’s soverignty with human freedom, and how does this play out in real life?
    Wrestling with these, both at the individual and community level, is really, really good for us. The Bible is a record of God’s revelation of himself to human beings. It is also a record of human misinformation and misunderstanding about God’s character and intentions. And it is sometimes devilishly hard to separate the two. We need lots of help from one another, from diverse parts of the Body of Christ, I think, to sort these things out.

    The desire for objective truth and certainty in our beliefs is always with us. But we have to  face the fact that we  are not objective beings. We are inherently limited, subjective and personal, and that is not because of the sinful nature; God made us that way. Perhaps the need to get to definitive, right answers on so many issues is part of Satan’s temptation to Eve, to try know as God knows, rather than to know in a way that is proper for human beings. (That’s not my idea, by the way. That comes from the fascinating book  Eyes That See, Ears  That Hear by  James Danaher.)

    I like your point #2. I think it is apparent contradictions that lead us to delve deeper and try to come to greater understanding that helps to resolve. Striving toward that greater understanding and visible unity is important. And it is also  important to acknowledge our limitations, humbly assessing what we can truly accomplish in this life, and what God intends for us to accomplish. Christian unity is ultimately not about agreeing on doctrinal statements, but about being together in Christ, and knowing one another as distinct, varied persons, and seeing the presence of Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit in one another. It’s about being able to love another person in a mature way, without needing to change the person into someone or something that he is not.

    • GerardoR

      Hi Joe,
      **In reply to your first paragraph: Yes, I do mean doctrinal unity. Relational unity is good, but what does it matter if we don’t agree on very important matters. I mean, using the definition of relational unity that you gave, we could say that Christians and Hindus hold relational unity. Is there really what Christ meant when he asked us to be one? Just simply that we tolerate, and are kind to one another and be open to learn from another despite our enormous differences?
      You previously mentioned the Nicene creed as the “mere Christianity” we can agree with. Perhaps another example of the Oneness Christ was referring to. But the Nicene creed doesn’t even mention the authentic books which should be included in the bible. It doesn’t even mention the fact that the bible is true or necessary and yet we would both agree that the bible is true, necessary and central to our faith. Also, oneness cant mean simply oneness in spirit as Jesus prayed for a visible oneness. So I think relationsional unity fails the test of the kind of oneness that Christ wanted from us, and so does the Nicene creed. Or at least that is how it looks to me.
      Just because doctrinal unity does not seem likely anytime soon, does not take away from what Christ probably meant when he called for us to be one. We shouldn’t search for a different meaning about what Jesus meant by doctrinal unity just because we see it unlikely that we will be one in doctrinal unity. It is like people who try to argue for abortion because they claim that expecting people to abstain from sex till marriage seems highly unlikely. Perhaps so, but that doesn’t change the fact that abortion is morally wrong. In the same way, just because it seems highly unlikely that we will be one in doctrinal unity doesn’t mean that we should feel the need to understand his prayer for oneness as simply relationsional unity or doctrinal unity on the Nicene Creed.
      After all, the Church was ONE and only ONE for over 1300 years! So while I agree with you that doctrinal Unity is not going to happen anytime soon (maybe not until Christ returns), that doesn’t change the fact that it is the best candidate for what Christ probably meant when he prayed that we be one. The Church was one for over 1300-1500 years so this should not seem unfathomable to us. Sure, people had quibbles during ecumenical councils and maybe authoritative figures didn’t always keep the truth they preached, but that doesn’t change the fact that the Church was one in it’s teaching authority. It is like a family of sinners. People could say that family is full of sinners but atleast people saw it as a family. Hence, if the church was one for 1300-1500 years during a time of the plague, civil unrest, poor communication across empires, poor means of transportation, then why should we think it cannot be one in todays age where the means for communication, transportation and civilility among Christian countries is much higher?
      **In reply to Your Second Paragraph: Yes, the bible is full of many seeming contradictions. I personally don’t see them as contradictions and maybe in another thread we could all discuss these seeming contradictions further. But in any case, you try to use these seeming contradictions to support your view that we need many parts of the body to help us understand these contradictions (i.e., two minds are better than one). But again, I think your comment if anything supports my view that we need a unitive authoritative body. If the bible seems to hold what appear as contradictions, what do you think will happen if you allow 30,000 denominations to have a crack at understanding how a seeming contradiction might be reconciled? Do you think the 30,000 denominations will add more or less clarity to the matter? Wouldn’t we think it just makes the whole situation all the more complicated! If we start with the proposition that there are difficult bible passages to interpret which may hold consequences for how we live our lives, then it makes a lot more sense to use this as an argument FOR and not against a single Authoritative church. I mean, you might suggest that this battle royal among protestant churches in the last 500 years has atleast given us a good consistency on mere Christianity (ala the Nicene Creed). But the Nicene creed was composed in the year 325 when there was only one church, that had authority! The reformation added absolutely nothing to the Nicene creed. If anything, it made it difficult to see how the Nicene creed could serve as the basis for Unity since so many churches sprang up, some of which contradicted each other.
      **In response to your Third paragraph: I don’t follow how the desire to want a visible unitive Church leads to the conclusion that it is temptation by Satan. I am not arguing that we need a single authoritative church to know all things and be like gods as Satan tried to tempt adam and eve. I am arguing that we need a single, authoritarian Church that can lead us into matters of truth (through the Holy Spirit) in an increasingly confusing world where people don’t know what sexuality is anymore, people question if there is such a thing as objective truth and the sanctity of human life is debated. You mentioned that the bible is record of Gods revelation and of human misinformation and misunderstanding about Gods character and intentions. And that it is hard to separate the two. Again, more reason to support a single, visible, authoritative church and less reason to open it up to a free commerce of denominational interpretations.
      **In response to your forth paragraph: I agree, it is important to acknowledge our limitations. This doesn’t say anything about why Christian unity is ultimately not about agreeing on doctrinal statements. Again, does the Father disagree with the Son about whether “once saved always saved’ or do they agree on these pivotal matters? Does the Holy spirit teach people that homosexual marriage is not morally permissible while the Son teaches people that homosexual marriage is permissible? These are but a handful of the very many doctrinal statements we as Christians differ on. And every viewpoint is said to be biblical supported (though I disagree that they are). It is true that some stances (i.e. pro gay marriage) are held by obviously unbiblical Christian churches. But there are some important doctrinal differences that are held by strongly orthodox and bible base churches as well. Clearly, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit agree on these matters and Jesus prayed that we agree on these as well. Yes, it seems hard to fathom but remember, we had a visible unity for over 1300-1500 years! The last 500 years is the exception not the norm. I don’t think we should shy away from a particular understand of Christian Unity the daunting circumstances.
      Sorry if I ramble, sound condescending, or sound as if I am just trying to stir things up for the sake of argument. I am not trying to do either of these purposefully. I greatly respect you Joe and look forward to the day we can meet in person. I am just addressing the topic from my particular Christian framework. I look forward to your response.

    • Hi Gerardo,

      You raise a lot of great questions which made me realize that my previous comments weren’t as clear as they should have been.

      I don’t think I can address all the questions you raise in an online discussion, and I do hope to get together with you sometime in person.

      I don’t think I said that the Nicene Creed is the definitive statement around which Christians should rally. But it does articulate a great deal of the Great Tradition, and taking this (or, perhaps, the simpler Apostles’ Creed) more seriously would help us to pursue unity.

      My off-the-cuff definition of relational unity was “Christians of different stripes showing genuine love and respect for one another and learning from one another.” That doesn’t include Hindus, Muslims, etc. because they are not Christians. I can be friends with them and learn from them and respect them. But I can’t have the same kind of fellowship with them that I have with you: a friendship mediated by Christ. The common identity in Jesus is very, very important. It places us in the same spiritual family.

      Many issues that you mention which are not in the creeds are important. But are they worth dying for, fighting for, or dividing over?  Doctrine is important. But I do not believe  that the unity for which Jesus prayed in John 17 was doctrinal unity. He wanted his disciples to be one with him and one with one another, just as he and the Father are one. I see that as a statement about relationship among persons. When I read John 17 — and the whole Upper Room dialogues of John 13-17, for that matter — I don’t see doctrine, doctrine, doctrine. I see relationship, relationship, relationship.

      I hope this doesn’t  sound as though I think that all viewpoints are equally correct. There is a standard of truth, and that standard is Jesus. I want to perceive him better and pursue the kind of unity that he fostered among his disciples, a common identity rooted in the fact that they were all following him.

      If 30,000 denominations exist and have different ideas, there’s not much you or I can do about it. Theorizing about whether there ought to be one governing authority is too academic for my taste; I don’t think it will lead anywhere. The Reformation happened, and  I want  to live within that reality and deal with the fact that the  church is diverse. The doctrinal differences are just the tip of the iceberg. There are also cultural differences, personality differences, political differences, and many other conflicts that keep Christians from being one. I’m sensing that you and I have some differences in epistemology that make it hard for us to communicate and  have led  to misunderstandings between us. Whatever unity we build, I want it to be based on our common identity as followers of Christ.

  4. david bychkov

    Thanks, Joe and Gerardo. Very interesting discussion on all threads.

    • GerardoR

      Thank you David! You should get in on our discussion. I would love to hear what you have to say.

    • Gerardo, you’re blowing my anonymity cover.
      Since we’ve discussed these points in person ad nauseum, I will sit out the rest of this discussion by simply being amused.

  5. GerardoR

    I havent grown tired of our many discussions. You should jump in. Last time we talked about this you had an interesting baseball analogy pro reformation.

  6. Gerardo, here is a question for you, are you a member of, or  do you attend a  UBF branch? The reason for my question is that if you are (or do), what does that mean for your theology of the unity of the church? What I mean is, since you are outspokenly Catholic, do you attend a Catholic church? Just curious, not trying to be offensive

  7. GerardoR

    I figured your  definition  of relational unity was off the cuff. =)
    When I read the upper room  narrative, I hear relationship, relationship, relationship as well. But there are specific ways Jesus wants us to enter a relationship with him though and those form doctrines. For example, when we read about the greatest commandment is that we Love one another.. that tells us that informs us on the doctrine that Love is above all things. When he breaks bread and tells us that this is my body .. do this in remembrance of me. That tells us that #1 he wants us to do something and #2 that it is HIS BODY. Huge doctrine there. Ofcourse, I realize there is disagreement with what he means  specifically. But my point is that there is doctrine in his  dialog  of relationship because these things are meant to help us to know him.  

    I probably sound as a cold calculative individual who only cares for doctrine. That is not so. I care for doctrine because it informs me what is pleasing to God and what he wants of me.
    You mentioned whether I would die for some of the doctrinal  differences  that divine us. I would answer Yes! Many of the earliest Christian martyrs died protecting the blessed Eucharist from roman pagans who were curious to see the “flesh of Christ.” One of the youngest martys was an 11 year old boy in  boy who was killed trying to protect the Eucharist from being stolen by pagan romans. If the time came, I pray that God would give me the strength to do the same. So yes, I would in fact die for Jesus in the Eucharist. That might seem foolish to some but I think it highlights the very real and very powerful  differences  between an evangelical and a Catholic view of communion. Would you die for the communion Joe? I ask this question in all seriousness. Would you lay down your life to prevent a non believer from tramping the host underfoot?  

    If 30,000 denominations exists, there is ton you and I can do about it. We can pray! We can evangelize, we can offer up our suffering, we can martyr ourselves for the faith. Joe, you are so fatalistic. =P

  8. At present, I would not be inclined to die to protect physical elements of bread and wine. But I hope that I would be willing to die for love, i.e. to lay down my life for friends. Jesus talked about the latter, not the former.

    If I was fatalistic about unity, why would I spend so much time and effort on this website which is explicitly dedicated to its pursuit?

  9. The english martyers also died because of the Eucharist, but they died because they denied that it was the actual physical body of Christ, and so Bloody Mary burned them alive at the stake. That conviction will absolutely never change, and I, with God’s help, would also be willing to lay down my life if someone  gave me the ultimatum  that I had to confess the Actual Presense of Christ in the Eucharist or die. This is because Jesus said, “So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the wilderness,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” I believe that Jesus is not physically  present in the bread,  and  thus,  I also believe that to worship a piece of bread is Idolatry. The angels said that Jesus would physically return in the same way that he ascended. Acts 1:10-11, “They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” And he will not come back in the flesh  before that.

    I know that this might sound controversial to a Catholic person, and I mean no ill will or offense to you personally  Gerardo, but when you say, “We can evangelize…” is part of what you mean by that, evangelization into the Catholic Church? because if that is so, I must give an answer from my conscience, that that is evangelization into an apostate church. Perhaps the Admin will disagree with me so much as to remove this post, but everything I said here is with a clean conscience, and with no malice.

    • GerardoR

      While I have disagreed with you on many of your previous post, I must agree with you here. You have the conviction of remaining consistent in your belief. Indeed, if the Catholic church is wrong, then what I and BILLIONS of other Catholics have done since the earliest times of the apostles has been idol worship. All the martyrs who died trying to prevent the romans from taking the body of Christ were wrong. Many of the church Fathers who wrote about the body of Christ were wrong. Saint Paul was wrong in warning people against taking the Eucharist  unworthily, after all, its just a nice symbol.  This little girl was wrong: The Catholic church and its Saints (which have inspired countless Christians) were wrong. The Eucharistic miracles that have baffled scientist were wrong. When Jesus in John 6 asked us to “chew his flesh” what he really meant was that he wanted us to insult him in order to receive eternal life.
      You are quite right David. If the Catholic church has it wrong on the Eucharist, then I am in fact an idol worshiper. And clearly you think the Catholic church is wrong, there fore you are saying that I am an idol worshiper and my Church is leading people into hell in its consistent teaching throughout time on this matter. Don’t worry David. I wont post in this website anymore as your honest insult has again, revealed the stark  difference  between Catholics and Protestants.  

  10. My post doesnt mean that I dont love you Gerardo, or that I dont want you to post on this website, I am just stating my convictions from the Bible and from history. However, I am not sure that I understand what you meant when you said, “When Jesus in John 6 asked us to “chew his flesh” what he really meant was that he wanted us to insult him in order to receive eternal life.” I never made that claim, and I also do not know how someone could glean that from what I wrote above either! That strikes me as quite a bizaare statement actually, as Im sure you would agree!

  11. I will not attempt to moderate these comments. It would be better for members of the UBFriends community to moderate ourselves.

  12. “God send your blessed Spirit and refresh your people in this age. Grant us a new outpouring of divine mercy and unite us in the love of Christ.”

    from John A’s  blogpost:

  13. david bychkov

    Just two thougths from me.
    1) I think the protestant denominations (eg. UBF, though she could disagree that she is denomination) which are voting for organizational unity inside the denomination as a absolute   command and low from the Bible (John 17, Phil. 2:2 etc.) should have answer for the same question which have been trying to discuss here – about unity of all Christians. If we are not voting for visible unity of all Christians, why it is so crutial to insist on local organizational unity? isn’t this hypocricy?
    2) If martyrs could be considered as really evedence – muslims, hindus different cults etc. also has many martyrs.

  14. I agree with you David, and that is a part of the point that I was trying to make. The previous poster had said that catholics died to protect the Eucharist and I was just showing that Protestants have also died because they denied the Catholic teaching about it. But yes, just because someone is willing to die for their belief does not make their belief true…I am sure that the terrorists on 9/11 were sincere, however their “faith” was most certainly misguided to say the least!

  15. Gerardo, you should have started this discussion on the purgatory article. Then for sure, we would have risen to the top as the most commented article on UBFriends.

    • Aw, gimme a break. None of the Holy Spirit articles have made it into either Top Ten list. I appreciate him wanting to give this one some attention.

  16. GerardoR

    David L, like I said, I will not be posting on this website thread again. So excuse me if ignore your messages/questions on this website thread and all other threads. I am friends with many protestants and I get into civil arguments with many protestants but you are a person I would prefer not to communicate with.

  17. Well Gerardo, I am sorry to hear that but I am not sorry about what I wrote. Like Martin  Luther said at the Diet of Worms, “I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise, God help me. Amen.”

    If my opinions are too much to handle, then perhaps it is better not to reply to them lest they cause you to sin in your anger. But like I said before, I hold no ill will toward you personally  whatsoever.

  18. Ok guys, David L and Gerardo R- one suggestion for you both: (take it for what it’s worth)
    Subscribe to the magazine First Things [ecumenical journal on religion, theology, and culture which includes writings from fervent, intellectually brilliant Catholics, Protestants (reformed, Lutheran, evangelical, etc), and Easter Orthodox writers]. Read it for a year (it’s a bit tough at first) and see how very intelligent fervent believers from all Christian traditions communicate with each other regarding the emotional hot button issues you guys have been discussing. You might also find interesting articles around important topics which Christians from all strips can rally around, no matter what our theological background. Especially read the letters to the editors when Christians from different traditions respond honestly to the articles in each issue.
    And then after a year of reading this, I hope someday you might find that after absorbing the reading for a year, you may be able to find the right voice to express your opinions to each other in ways that are absolutely faithful to your commitments and yet mutually edifying to each other.
    Just a suggestion :)

  19. Thanks John, my next article addresses that a little bit. I wonder what you think about a quote from Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones who said, “Ecumenical people put fellowship before doctrine, Evangelical people put doctrine before fellowship.” I think that is a good assessment, and while I am certainly open to “fellowshipping” with other Christians who are not a part  of my particular “brand” of Christianity, that does not mean that anyone’s doctrine, including my own is immune to critique! Mature Christians must be able to handle critiques from other Christians without shutting down or blowing up, otherwise how on earth will they stand up to the critique of the world?! When I have gone evangelizing on Devon Street in Chicago, I met Jewish people who told me that I was worse than Hitler, because Hitler only killed their bodies and I (a Christian) am trying to kill their souls! Now, why did those Jewish people say that to me? Because I told them that if they stayed in their unbelief, they would perish in their sin. It probably did hurt their feelings to hear a person say that to them, BUT I DONT REGRET DOING SO!  What if my reaction to their response  was to say, “Im never talking to you again, you meanie!” I think that would be wrong.

    My point is, this should be a space where ideas and arguments  are responded to in a Godly way and from wisdom. If anyone who claims to be a Christian absolutely refuses to have any more dialogue or contact with another Christian just because they are offended by an argument against their position, then I think that person need to remember the Grace of Jesus in saving them, and not become like the wicked servant who strangled his debtor for 100 denarii. Thats all

  20. One more thing, I think that Ecumenism is good to a point. However, there is definitely a line where Ecumenism may cross into a  mere theological liberalism that accepts all viewpoints as equally valid. When that happens it is no longer good, but instead blatantly evil. I have an ecumenical spirit toward anyone who holds to the basic foundational doctrines of the church (That God is a Trinity, Father Son and Holy Spirit, that Jesus is both God and Man, that He died on the cross and physically rose from the dead for the forgivess of sins, that  Justification is by Grace through Faith alone (but not by a faith that is alone!), that the  Bible is inspired  by God, and God-breathed, and perfectly true, that Jesus is going to return in bodily form to bring about the culmination of the Kingdom etc.)

    • Ecumenical Evangelical people perfectly balance doctrine and fellowship in a Godly way. :)
      Seriously speaking, I completely understand your concerns about theological slippage with what is often put forth as “ecumenicism.” Trust me, I am not a theological liberal. Nevertheless, I find it a bit amusing that Gerardo R would give me the nearly exact same concern to me whenever I mention the term. Consider reading John Armstrong’s book, Your Church is Too Small for more insight on how Christian can come together in “fellowship” without compromising their “doctrine.”
      In either case, read First Things. (and don’t be initially turned off by the overtly Catholic advertisements in the magazine). Because technically, it is not a “Catholic” magazine. :)

    • For example, check out this article:
      Makes me want to go out and buy a library of resources…

    • And this article:
      I strongly resonate with the line:   “Traditionists…will challenge Catholic doctrine even as they learn from it while they explore the Great Tradition…” and the point of learning “intellectual humility” during the whole process.

  21. Here is a small thought-experiment.

    In the comments above, wherever someone is talking
    about whether they would “die” for something, try substituting
    the word “kill.” Would I kill someone over this? History has shown
    that the line between willing to die for something and being willing
    to kill for it is extremely thin, and people better than I have crossed over it. Much of what motivates people to die also motivates them to kill.

    And then ask yourself, “Would I be willing to die for someone who is on the wrong side of this issue — not to demonstrate that I am brave, honorable or correct, but in the hope of establishing an eternal friendship with that person?” Jesus died for sinners, heretics, apostates, etc. whose principles were all wrong. And before he died, he submitted himself to all sorts of insults and mistreatment from them without retaliating.

    Jesus never, ever  compromised on truth. But the people who were expecting a truth-warrior messiah were deeply disappointed in him, because he set the principles aside and went to the cross to save the people first.

    Isn’t Christianity supremely ironic? So much of what put Jesus on the cross is right here in my heart, and in  the hearts of  everyone who follows him.

    Speaking for myself, I have found that it is far easier to be a truth-warrior than to walk in the footsteps of our crucified Lord.

    I no longer understand the Lloyd-Jones distinction between fellowship and doctrine, because in my understanding of the gospel, fellowship is a core doctrine which I confess in the Apostles’ Creed. That fellowship is established by Christ on the cross. Not by coming to agreement on what the cross means, but on Christ himself, and the cross itself.

  22. I suppose the understanding of the word “fellowship” matters in this discussion. Because Paul says that we should not be yoked together with unbelievers…for what fellowship does Christ have with Belial? At what point would you say that you could not have “Christian Fellowship” with someone? For instance, Could you have Christian Fellowship with a Jehovah’s Witness? A Mormon? A Hindu who believes that Jesus is one of many Gods? A Baptist? A Presbyterian? An attendee of a “Hallelujah Church”(in UBF terms)? A member of the Jesus Seminar?

    Lets just take those  7 that I mentioned above, is there any line that you would draw where you would say, “I think that my Christian fellowship would have to end there.” I am not saying that you would not LOVE the others (if there are others)  and help the others and pray for the others etc. But do you draw a distinction between any of those I mentioned?  

    • Hi David,

      I have wrestled with this question and continue to wrestle with it. At present, I believe that I need to scrupulously avoid trying to judge who is a true Christian/saved person and who is not. Because God knows who are ultimately his, and who are going to be his, and I do not. That is not to say that all doctrines of all groups you mentioned are acceptable; many are not and conflict with the core teachings of the gospel.

      My “policy” at the moment is that, if someone claims to love Jesus and be a follower of Jesus, I will take them at their word and assume they are in a personal relationship with Christ, even if their ideas differ substantially from mine. Because personal relationships are full of misunderstanding. God is willing to establish and maintain relationships with all kinds of people who currently misunderstand him and continue to do so. I will extend a hand of fellowship and worship alongside anyone who sees God as the Trinity, because that is who God is.

      It is the officially policy of most churches — Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox — to accept the baptism of anyone in any church who has been baptized “in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,” and not expect them to be rebaptized into their own denomination. I think that is a good policy.