The Barna Group has just published a new study on the Holy Spirit. It’s an interesting look into how the different generations understand the third person of the Trinity. The study was focused on issues surrounding the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements. I would encourage you to take a read.
There is one very disconcerting stat that has come from the survey:
In total, 68% of Mosaic Christians said they believe that the third person of the trinity is just “a symbol of God’s power or presence, but is not a living entity.” This compares to 59% of Busters, 55% of Boomers, and 56% of Elders who believe the Holy Spirit is merely symbolic.
This is deeply disturbing. The vast majority of Christians believe the Holy Spirit is a “symbol of God’s power or presence, but is not a living entity.” This shows a deep hole in the teaching of our churches. We are missing out on the reality of who the Godhead really is if we negate the Holy Spirit from the equation.
Why is this a problem? When did it become a problem?
This is a hole that has taken a couple of millenia to develop. Consider the Apostle’s Creed:
I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
the Maker of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:
Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried;
He descended into hell. [See Calvin]
The third day He arose again from the dead;
He ascended into heaven,
and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost;
the holy catholic church;
the communion of saints;
the forgiveness of sins;
the resurrection of the body;
and the life everlasting.
Notice that the Holy Ghost (or Spirit) is given a brief mention as compared to the fuller exposition of God the Father and God the Son. From this auspicious beginning we come to the present day. In seminary the Holy Spirit was given a very brief mention in our theology classes. He was always tacked on at the end and we always ran out of time.
Pastors are not as comfortable teaching on the Holy Spirit because they have not been as thoroughly trained as they are in other aspects of their theology. There is also discomfort in the way many parachurch and dispensational churches teach the Holy Spirit. He is taught in such a way that two classes of Christians are set up within the Christian community. This is rightly rejected by the Reformed tradition. However, we have not taught as clearly and succinctly on God the Holy Spirit as we ought.
This study is a clarion call to all of us to teach on the Holy Spirit and help our kids to understand the reasons that “it is much better” that Jesus left us sot that the “helper” could come. God living in us. God in the flesh. Incarnation all the time. This is the reality of the God the Holy Spirit and how incredible is it that he lives in us? In our kids? In our community?