Christian Theologians - Theology Proper: God - Pneumatology: Holy Spirit

Pneumatology: Holy Spirit

Main articles: Pneumatology and Holy Spirit See also: Paraclete

Pneumatology is the study of the Holy Spirit. Pneuma (πνεῦμα) is Greek for "breath", which metaphorically describes a non-material being or influence.

In Christian theology pneumatology refers to the study of the Holy Spirit. In Christianity, the Holy Spirit (or Holy Ghost) is the Spirit of God. Within mainstream (Trinitarian) Christian beliefs he is the third person of the Trinity. As part of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit is equal with God the Father and with God the Son. The Christian theology of the Holy Spirit was the last piece of Trinitarian theology to be fully developed.

Within mainstream (Trinitarian) Christianity the Holy Spirit is one of the three persons of the Trinity who make up the single substance of God. As such the Holy Spirit is personal, and as part of the Godhead, he is fully God, co-equal and co-eternal with God the Father and Son of God. He is different from the Father and the Son in that he proceeds from the Father (or from the Father and the Son) as described in the Nicene Creed. His sacredness is reflected in the New Testament gospels which proclaim blasphemy against the Holy Spirit as unforgivable.

The English word comes from two Greek words: πνευμα (pneuma, spirit) and λογος (logos, teaching about). Pneumatology would normally include study of the person of the Holy Spirit, and the works of the Holy Spirit. This latter category would normally include Christian teachings on new birth, spiritual gifts (charismata), Spirit-baptism, sanctification, the inspiration of prophets, and the indwelling of the Holy Trinity (which in itself covers many different aspects). Different Christian denominations have different theological approaches.

Christians believe that the Holy Spirit leads people to faith in Jesus and gives them the ability to live a Christian lifestyle. The Holy Spirit dwells inside every Christian, each one's body being his temple. Jesus described the Holy Spirit as paracletus in Latin, derived from Greek. The word is variously translated as Comforter, Counselor, Teacher, Advocate, guiding people in the way of the truth. The Holy Spirit's action in one's life is believed to produce positive results, known as the Fruit of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit enables Christians, who still experience the effects of sin, to do things they never could do on their own. These spiritual gifts are not innate abilities "unlocked" by the Holy Spirit, but entirely new abilities, such as the ability to cast out demons or simply bold speech. Through the influence of the Holy Spirit a person sees more clearly the world around him or her and can use his or her mind and body in ways that exceed his or her previous capacity. A list of gifts that may be bestowed include the charismatic gifts of prophecy, tongues, healing, and knowledge. Christians holding a view known as cessationism believe these gifts were given only in New Testament times. Christians almost universally agree that certain "spiritual gifts" are still in effect today, including the gifts of ministry, teaching, giving, leadership, and mercy. The experience of the Holy Spirit is sometimes referred to as being anointed.

After his resurrection, Christ told his disciples that they would be "baptized with the Holy Spirit" and would receive power from this event, a promise that was fulfilled in the events recounted in the second chapter of Acts. On the first Pentecost, Jesus' disciples were gathered in Jerusalem when a mighty wind was heard and tongues of fire appeared over their heads. A multilingual crowd heard the disciples speaking, and each of them heard them speaking in his or her native language.

The Holy Spirit is believed to perform specific divine functions in the life of the Christian or the church. These include:

  • Conviction of sin. The Holy Spirit acts to convince the unredeemed person both of the sinfulness of their actions, and of their moral standing as sinners before God.
  • Bringing to conversion. The action of the Holy Spirit is seen as an essential part of the bringing of the person to the Christian faith. The new believer is "born again of the Spirit".
  • Enabling the Christian life. The Holy Spirit is believed to dwell in the individual believers and enable them to live a righteous and faithful life.
  • As a comforter or Paraclete, one who intercedes, or supports or acts as an advocate, particularly in times of trial.
  • Inspiration and interpretation of scripture. The Holy Spirit both inspires the writing of the scriptures and interprets them to the Christian and/or church.

The Holy Spirit is also believed to be active especially in the life of Jesus Christ, enabling him to fulfil his work on earth. Particular actions of the Holy Spirit include:

  • Cause of his birth. According to the gospel accounts of the birth of Jesus, the "beginning of His incarnate existence", was due to the Holy Spirit.
  • Anointing him at his baptism.
  • Empowerment of his ministry. The ministry of Jesus following his baptism (in which the Holy Spirit is described in the gospels as "descending on Him like a dove") is conducted in the power and at the direction of the Holy Spirit.
Fruit of the Spirit
Main article: Fruit of the Holy Spirit

Christians believe the "Fruit of the Spirit" consists of virtuous characteristics engendered in the Christian by the action of the Holy Spirit. They are those listed in Galatians 5:22–23: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." The Roman Catholic Church adds to this list generosity, modesty, and chastity.

Gifts of the Spirit
Main article: Spiritual gift

Christians believe that the Holy Spirit gives 'gifts' to Christians. These gifts consist of specific abilities granted to the individual Christian. They are frequently known by the Greek word for gift, Charisma, from which the term charismatic derives. The New Testament provides three different lists of such gifts which range from the supernatural (healing, prophecy, tongues) through those associated with specific callings (teaching) to those expected of all Christians in some degree (faith). Most consider these lists not to be exhaustive, and other have compiled their own lists. Saint Ambrose wrote of the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit poured out on a believer at baptism: 1. Spirit of Wisdom; 2. Spirit of Understanding; 3. Spirit of Counsel; 4. Spirit of Strength; 5. Spirit of Knowledge; 6. Spirit of Godliness; 7. Spirit of Holy Fear.

It is over the nature and occurrence of these gifts, particularly the supernatural gifts (sometimes called charismatic gifts), that the greatest disagreement between Christians with regard to the Holy Spirit exists.

One view is that the supernatural gifts were a special dispensation for the apostolic ages, bestowed because of the unique conditions of the church at that time, and are extremely rarely bestowed in the present time. This is the view of the Catholic Church and many other mainstream Christian groups. The alternate view, espoused mainly by Pentecostal denominations and the charismatic movement, is that the absence of the supernatural gifts was due to the neglect of the Holy Spirit and his work by the church. Although some small groups, such as the Montanists, practiced the supernatural gifts they were rare until the growth of the Pentecostal movement in the late 19th century.

Believers in the relevance of the supernatural gifts sometimes speak of a Baptism of the Holy Spirit or Filling of the Holy Spirit which the Christian needs to experience in order to receive those gifts. Many churches hold that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is identical with conversion, and that all Christians are by definition baptized in the Holy Spirit.

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