Anglican Essentials: Going Deeper–Articulating the faith

6. How did the Holy Spirit come to be seen as fully God also?

Scripture tells us much about the Holy Spirit.

“But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.” (John 15:26)

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.  And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.  This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.” (John 14:15-17)

f the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. (Rom. 8:11)

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” (Gal. 4:6)

I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh. (Acts 2:17)

God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Rom. 5:5)

By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. (1 John 4:13)

The Cappadocian friends, Basil the Great and Gregory the Theologian, defended the full deity of the Holy Spirit.  Drawing upon Paul in 1 Cor. 2:10-11, “For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God”, Basil argues (In The Holy Spirit, 40) “But the greatest proof that the Holy Spirit is one with the Father and the Son is that He is said to have the same relationship to God as the spirit within us has to us.” 

Gregory’s powerful Theological Oration 5, given in 379AD, sums it up this way:

But now the swarm of testimonies shall burst upon you from which the Deity of the Holy Spirit shall be shown … to be most clearly recognized in Scripture.  Look at these facts: Christ is born, the Holy Spirit is His Forerunner. Christ is baptized, the Spirit bears witness to this… Christ works miracles, the Spirit accompanies them. Christ ascends, the Spirit takes His place. What great things are there in the idea of God which are not in His power? What titles appertaining to God do not apply also to Him, except for Unbegotten and Begotten? I tremble when I think of such an abundance of titles, and how many Names they blaspheme, those who revolt against the Spirit! (31.29)

Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430) tells us that the quest to understand the Trinity is unlike any other, for “nowhere else is a mistake more dangerous, or the search more laborious, or the finding more advantageous.”  In his On the Trinity (Book 1, Chapter 3.5), Augustine in a mix of humility and confidence, beckons his readers to travel with him on the journey:

Dear reader, whenever you are as certain about something as I am, go forward with me; whenever you hesitate, seek with me; whenever you discover that you have gone wrong, come back to me, of if I have gone wrong, call me back to you.  In this way we will travel along the street of love together as we make our way towards him of whom it is said, “Seek his face always.”

In Book 8, Chapter 1, “In What Way We Must Inquire Concerning the Trinity,” Augustine sets out the careful and subtle path between the doubt of unknowing and the rashness of affirmation for a Christian to follow in seeking to understand the mysteries of God:

We certainly seek a trinity—not any trinity, but that Trinity which is God, and the true and supreme and only God. Let my hearers then wait, for we are still seeking. And no one justly finds fault with such a search, if at least he who seeks that which either to know or to utter is most difficult, is steadfast in the faith. …. For a certain faith is in some way the starting-point of knowledge; but a certain knowledge will not be made perfect, except after this life, when we shall see face to face. Let us therefore be thus minded, so as to know that the disposition to seek the truth is more safe than that which presumes things unknown to be known. Let us therefore so seek as if we should find, and so find as if we were about to seek. For “when a man has done, then he begins.” Let us doubt without unbelief of things to be believed; let us affirm without rashness of things to be understood: authority must be held fast in the former, truth sought out in the latter. As regards this question, then, let us believe that the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit is one God, the Creator and Ruler of the whole creature; and that the Father is not the Son, nor the Holy Spirit either the Father or the Son, but a trinity of persons mutually interrelated, and a unity of an equal essence. And let us seek to understand this, praying for help from Himself, whom we wish to understand; and as much as He grants, desiring to explain what we understand with so much pious care and anxiety, that even if in any case we say one thing for another, we may at least say nothing unworthy

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