Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Christadelphian SWOT analysis (4) - the Holy Spirit

In this message, for the first time in this series, I will look at an area of Christadelphian theology where the weaknesses seriously outweigh the strengths. The subject for consideration in this message is the Holy Spirit.

STRENGTHS - the Christadelphian view of the Holy Spirit is that it is the power of God, and not the third person of the trinity. One Christadelphian publication describes the Holy Spirit this way: "by His Holy Spirit, the expression of His power, He [God] controls the affairs of the world according to His ultimate purpose with mankind" and goes on to say "It [the Holy Spirit] is the power by which God achieves His ends, both physical and spiritual" (Fred Pearce, Who are the Christadelphians? Christadelphian Magazine and Publishing Association Ltd).

Christadelphianism has correctly taught that the trinitarian understanding of the Holy Spirit as a 'person' in the Godhead has no basis in the New Testament or the beliefs of the earliest Christians. Christadelphian theology understands the Holy Spirit to be one with God, and not as a distinct person within the Godhead (The Holy Spirit is "His invisible power or energy breathed forth from His presence, and of like nature with His Glorious Person ... God and His Spirit cannot be separated. They are both one. The sun and the light that comes from the sun are both one. So God, and the Spirit that comes from God, are both one. God is the centre and glorious substantial form of the Spirit that fills heaven and earth." The Christadelphian Instructor questions 17 and 18).

WEAKNESSES - While Christadelphians generally explain the relationship between the Father and Son quite well, Christadelphian teaching about the role and purpose of the Holy Spirit seems to be rather inadequate. Christadelphian literature rarely explains how God "achieves His ends" through the Holy Spirit (especially not His "spiritual" ends), and sometimes restricts the activities of the Holy Spirit to "power concentrated through an individual or angel for the purpose of a specific miraculous event or activity" (The Testimony: The Distinctive Beliefs of the Christadelphians, Vol. 58, No. 691, July 1988, page 254).

This rather limited view and emphasis on the miraculous does not adequately explain how we are sanctified by the Holy Spirit (Rom 15:16; 2 Thess 2:13; 1 Peter 1:2) or how God can "strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being" (Eph 3:16-19). It does not come to terms with the numerous New Testament references to the continuous activity of the Holy Spirit, such as these:
  • "God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit" (Rom 5:5)
  • God and Christ "live" in by the Holy Spirit (e.g. 1 Cor 6:19-21; Eph 2:22; 1 John 4:13; John 14:16-18, 23).
  • The Holy Spirit brings about our rebirth and renewal (Titus 3:5)
  • By the Holy Spirit we receive hope (Rom 15:13) and joy (Rom 14:17; 1 Thess 1:6)
It is not enough to say the Holy Spirit is "the power of God". The Holy Spirit is the indwelling presence of God which enables us to become what God intended us to be. Yet Christadelphians rarely explain this well (a notable exception is the excellent work by Christadelphian writer Edgar Wille: The Holy Spirit - an Expository Survey of New Testament Teaching).

OPPORTUNITIES - the Christadelphian understanding of God is definitely on the right track. It correctly understands God to be One, and Jesus as the Son of God who was begotten in the womb of Mary and not before creation. Christadelphian theology could benefit enormously by taking into account how the work of God and Christ in bringing believers to maturity is accomplished through the Holy Spirit.

THREATS - there are definite signs that Christadelphians are losing members to churches and denominations which have a greater emphasis on the operation of the Holy Spirit in the Christian life. Perhaps this is because of a void in Christadelphian teaching and practice. It has been said that as a body without breath is dead, so a church without the Spirit of God is spiritually dead. This maxim would explain why those who leave Christadelphianism often complain of the lifelessness, the stifling rigidity, the dullness and morbid legalism of parts of the Christadelphian community. If this threat is not addressed Christadelphians are likely to continue losing members.


Gerry said...

Hi Steve,

I agree with most of what you have written but disagree on the following:

Christ had both a Spiritual (Divine)Nature and a Mortal Nature.

In the case of the existence of God we need to understand that God is not bound by time or space, therefore God existed before all things and exists after all things. In the same way Christ having the veruy nature of God existed before all things and exists after all things.

The Bible clearly says that he was there at Creation and it was through him that all things were done. CDs have always had a real hang-up with this but it is something that they need to accept.

The Holy Spirit is both separate and part of God. The Holy Spirit is not just the Power of God.

The Holy Spirit was a gift to us after our conversion and our baptism. I do not meant that we have the ability to raise the dead rather that the Holy Spirit is in us as a companion in everything we do and think.

To not accept the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is one of the reasons that many CDs do not have the Holy Spirit in their lives. By contrast there are some devout CDs who are full of the Holy Spirit and whose lives of dedication and service are witness to the working of the Holy Spirit.

Finally: It is not about numbers. If people leave the CDs then so be it. There are other places where we worship and have the opportunity to serve our Lord and Master and where Fellowship isn't withheld to other believers just because they arn't one of us.

The Lord's Table is OPEN to ALL who accept the Lord Jesus as their Lord and Master and who serve him.

You will always be welcome at Ringwood Church of Christ.
In love

Steve said...


Thanks for your comments.

I agree with you that "The Holy Spirit is not just the Power of God". I like the definition that the Holy Spirit is the power and presence of God, or, as Gordon Fee put it, "the Empowering Presence of God".

I also agree with this: "To not accept the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is one of the reasons that many CDs do not have the Holy Spirit in their lives." I guess God doesn't intrude where He's not welcome or invited.

However, I'm wondering where you get the idea that Jesus had "the very nature of God"?

I do agree that "It is not about numbers" and there are definitely other places where God is at work.

Gerry said...

Hi Steve,

You ask about my comment "Jesus had "the very nature of God"....

When we speak of the nature of something, we speak of its essence, character, and quality. The essence of God, for example, is holiness, purity, sinlessness, etc. The essence of people, on the other hand, is sinful.

Jesus was born a man (mortal) with human nature, we know that he was able to be tempted. We also know that he was more than a man, he had the Divine nature as Col. 2:9 says: "For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form."

In the one person of Christ, there dwells two natures: God and man

As God, Jesus could stand without the danger of sinning. As man, He could be tempted. Exactly how these two natures relate to each other in one person is not clarified in scripture. But, as you can see, it is possible that Jesus be divine and be tempted at the same time because He was both God and man.

Here are some other scriptures that support the idea:
* In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God....14And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth," (John 1:1-2, 14).

* "but at the proper time manifested, even His word, in the proclamation with which I was entrusted according to the commandment of God our Savior," (Titus 1:3).

* For in Him all the fulness of Deity dwells in bodily form," (Col. 2:9).

* But of the Son He says, Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever..." (Heb. 1:8).

* "looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus," (Titus 2:13).

In love

Anonymous said...

"strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being" (Eph 3:16-19).

Hi Steve may i poing ot it says spirit here, not Holy spirit,

next verse says Eph 3:17 Then Christ will live in you through faith.

Romans 10:17 (King James Version)
King James Version (KJV)
Public Domain

17So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

I think educating our selves about the Holy Spirit is important, glad your looking at it

Maybe this will help Gerry understand how Christ was full of the diety too, because he knew and understood the word and lived it to its fullnes, therefore the word became flesh.

Food for thought, regards Phil F

Steve said...


Thanks for your comment. Regarding Eph 3 and your note that Paul speaks of Spirit and not Holy Spirit there are more than enough Scriptures which make it clear that they are the same thing. To demonstrate this I will post an article shortly which lists some of the Scriptures which these these terms interchangeably.

I'll also comment in that article on the suggestion that spirit means the Word. In my view there is absolutely no Biblical support for the Spirit-word theory, but I will go into that further in the article which I plan to post shortly.