Another bad argument some anti-Trinitarians use is to reason that the Holy Spirit is not a person because no biblical text reports a conversation between the Holy Spirit and someone else. This argument supposedly trumps the positive evidence of the various texts that report the Holy Spirit speaking (e.g., Acts 1:16; 13:1-4; 28:25; Heb. 3:7). Yes, the anti-Trinitarian argues, the Bible says that the Holy Spirit said something, but it never reports anyone responding to the Holy Spirit; there is never any two-way communication between the Holy Spirit and someone else. The Bible reports conversations between the Father and the Son, between Jesus and the devil, and between human beings; so why, if the Holy Spirit is a person, is he never reported to have participated in a two-way conversation?

Here again, the anti-Trinitarian has manufactured an argument that seems to fit the biblical data on this narrow matter of usage, but that assumes that the Bible should present the Holy Spirit in a certain way in order to warrant readers understanding that the Holy Spirit is a person. But we have no reason to place such a demand on Scripture—which is to say, we have no reason to place such a demand on God in the way he reveals truth to us. The argument fallaciously reasons from the “silence” of the text about any conversations involving the Holy Spirit to the conclusion that the Holy Spirit is not a person.

A few moments’ reflection can generate several if not many examples of other persons in the Bible for whom we happen not to have any report of them engaged in conversation. For example, we have no report in Scripture of a two-way conversation involving Joseph of Nazareth (Mary’s husband); an angel speaks to Joseph, but the Gospels never mention Joseph responding verbally to the angel or of Joseph speaking to anyone. Is this evidence against Joseph’s personhood? Of course not. Noah is the major figure in Genesis 6-9, but the text does not report him having any conversations.

Although the argument is fallacious, it also happens to be factually mistaken. We do have at least one instance, apparently, of a two-way conversation involving the Holy Spirit. Consider the following passage:

8 And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”
9 And he said, “Go, and say to this people: ‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive. 10 Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.’”
11 Then I said, “How long, O Lord?”
And he said: “Until cities lie waste without inhabitant, and houses without people, and the land is a desolate waste….” (Isa. 6:8-11 ESV).

It is beyond dispute that the above passage presents a two-way conversation. The speakers in the text alternate back and forth between the Lord (vv. 8a, 9-10, 11b) and Isaiah (v. 8b, 11a). And now for the completion of the argument: the apostle Paul stated explicitly that in Isaiah 6:9-10 the Lord was the Holy Spirit speaking:

And disagreeing among themselves, they departed after Paul had made one statement: “The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your fathers through Isaiah the prophet: ‘Go to this people, and say, “You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed; lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them”’” (Acts 28:25-27 ESV).

Thus, according to Paul, Isaiah 6 reports a two-way conversation between the Holy Spirit and Isaiah. Do we need this passage to prove that the Holy Spirit is a person? No. Had Paul not told us that it was the Holy Spirit speaking in Isaiah 6, we would still have plenty of other evidence in the Bible, especially in the New Testament, that the Holy Spirit is a person. There is no rule that requires the Bible to report two-way conversations for each person it mentions. Thus, with or without Isaiah 6 and Acts 28:25-27, this anti-Trinitarian objection to the personhood of the Holy Spirit is a bad argument.


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This entry was posted on Saturday, March 16th, 2013 at 11:43 am and is filed under Biblical studies, Jehovah's Witnesses, New Testament, Trinity. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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