“Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? Hmm. And well you should not. For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you; here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere, yes. Even between the land and the ship.”
In the Star Wars franchise, “The Force” is a metaphysical energy source that flows in all and through all. There is a dark side and a light side and characters can manipulate the force to do the bidding of whichever side they align with. The Force is impersonal, that is, it does not have a will, intellect, or emotions.
It’s no secret that The Force was not George Lucas’ creation, but spurred from the New Age Movement of the 1960s-70s, which was actually rooted in ancient philosophies and religions that were around before the Bible was completed. The early Church had to deal with proto-New Age heresies that developed when people combined Paganism with Christianity. The early councils gave us some great creeds (and a cool story about the infamous Santa punch), but unfortunately, some modern forms of these ancient heresies are still attacking the doctrine of the Holy Spirit today.
Here are three quotes from three different organizations that teach heresy. Notice that they don’t recognize the Holy Spirit as the third Person of the Trinity, but they see Him as being something similar to The Force from Star Wars:
The holy spirit is the means by which Jehovah exerts his power. Put simply, the holy spirit is God’s applied power, or his active force.
-Jehovah’s Witnesses (source)
We believe the Father and the Son are separate beings with separate consciousnesses and that the Holy Spirit is not a conscious being but instead the power of God.
-Church of God – 7th day (source)
The Spirit is not a “separate” or “other” person. It is God’s own radiant power, ever outflowing from Him, by which His “everywhereness” is achieved.
The Trinity means one God in three Persons. When we say that the Holy Spirit is a “Person,” we do not mean that He is a flesh-and-blood human. In theological usage, we say that a being is a “person” if it has a “personality,” that is, he is an agent that possesses will, intellect, and emotions. A dog would be a ‘person’ by this definition: he has a will, so he can decide which cars to chase; he has an intellect, so he can learn to do tricks; and he has emotions, so he can hate the mailman. Inanimate objects do not have wills, intellects, or emotions, so they do not fit the definition of “person,” but are “impersonal.”
Some proof texts
“Luke, you’ll tick off the force,” said no one ever. When talking about The Force, we hear things like, “Use the Force, Luke,” or “Let The Force flow through you,” or “Its energy surrounds us and binds us.” Star Wars characters talk this way because The Force is impersonal; contrariwise, the Holy Spirit is a Person and so He acts upon His own will, intellect, and emotions. Let’s consider a few examples:
The Holy Spirit’s Will
Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus. (Acts 13:1-4 ESV)
Notice that the Holy Spirit willed that Barnabas and Saul have a specific work, that He communicated His will to the church at Antioch, and that He sent them out on their mission (see also Acts 16:6-10 and 1 Cor 12:11).
The Holy Spirit’s Intellect
And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. (John 16:8-11
The Greek word translated, “convict,” in John 16:8 is elegchō (ἐλέγχω G1651), which means to convince someone or prove something. That the Holy Spirit is involved in convincing people of truth demonstrates that He has an intellect that discerns truth. He is also a teacher (examples: Neh 9:20; Luke 12:12; John 14:26) which further requires active intellect.
The Holy Spirit’s Emotions
But they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit; therefore he turned to be their enemy, and himself fought against them. (Is 63:10 ESV)
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. (Eph 4:30 ESV)
Here are two passages in completely different contexts in which the Holy Spirit is either grieved or has the potential for being grieved. The author of Hebrews tells us that it’s possible to “outrage” the Spirit (Heb 10:29), which also would be impossible if the Spirit were some impersonal force.
Response to a response
These proof texts are by no means exhaustive. Time and time again we see the Holy Spirit as a Person rather than a mindless force. This raises the question of how people are able to miss this fundamental doctrine. Here’s how the Jehovah’s Witnesses answer:
The Scriptures do at times personify the holy spirit, but this does not prove that the holy spirit is a person. The Bible also personifies wisdom, death, and sin. (Proverbs 1:20; Romans 5:17, 21) For example, wisdom is said to have “works” and “children,” and sin is depicted as seducing, killing, and working out covetousness.–Matthew 11:19; Luke 7:35; Romans 7:8, 11. (source)
They are correct that the Bible personifies things that are not persons, but we have to determine what the norm is. For example, is wisdom normally pictured as a person or is it accepted as impersonal and personified to make a point? Personification is a legitimate literary tool, but the Holy Spirit is normally presented as a Person. Imagine applying the JW approach to other biblical figures: Paul was sent out to Cyprus, therefore he is not really a person and every time the Bible talks about him as if he was a person, it’s just personification for literary sake. See what nonsense ensues?
Speaking of Jehovah’s Witnesses, you know that each issue of their magazine, The Watchtower, has a print run of over 42 million? That’s almost 12 times as many as People magazine. And it’s available in over 190 languages. The world is in dire need of theologically sound materials in translation. That’s why we started Grace Abroad Ministries. Want to keep updated on how we’re fighting the good fight through translation, teaching, and outreach? Sign up for our newsletter!