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. Does the Holy Spirit exist?

Does the Holy Spirit Exist?

Question:

Dr. Craig,

Let me being by first thanking you so much for all your work on the philosophical foundations for Christianity. Your work has helped me immensely in my own personal intellectual journey with our heavenly father.

My question is about the Holy Spirit. I understand the evidence and arguments for God the father (moral argument, Kalam, etc.) as well as Jesus Christ (historicity) but what about the Holy Spirit?

Perhaps I haven't been looking hard enough but I have not been able to find any such support for the existence of or the work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit plays such a prominent role in Christian theology and worldview -- but how can someone believe in it other than blind faith? I find this especially troubling when statements like "The early church fathers were guided by the Holy Spirit." It just seems impossible to verify or dispute leading to a grey area where Christians are no longer convinced by the evidence but believing blindly.

What are your thoughts?

Josh
United States

Dr. Craig responds:

It seems to me, Josh, that you’re failing to differentiate properly between natural theology and revealed theology. Natural theology is what faith proposes and reason recovers. That is to say, natural theology concerns those truths which God reveals to us but which are also provable by human reason apart from divine revelation. Natural theology preoccupies itself with arguments for God’s existence and nature. Revealed theology is what faith proposes, but reason does not recover. That is to say, revealed theology concerns those truths which God reveals to us but which human reason alone cannot prove. The doctrine of the Trinity would be a paramount example of such a revealed truth.

The person of the Holy Spirit (who, by the way, is not an “it”!) is properly part of the subject matter of revealed, not natural, theology. For he is the third person of the Trinity, and we need divine revelation in order to know that God is triune. Natural theology gives us the existence of God, but not, properly speaking, God the Father. It yields a generic monotheism that does not differentiate between the persons of the Trinity. Similarly, history alone tells us that Jesus of Nazareth existed, but it does not disclose to us his intra-Trinitarian relations.

The fact that the existence and work of the Holy Spirit belong to revealed, and not natural, theology does not imply that our belief in him is an act of “blind faith.” Rather, as Thomas Aquinas saw, these revealed truths are attended by certain “signs of credibility” that attest to their revealed status. Thomas was thinking of such signs as Jesus’ miracles and fulfilled prophecy. I think Jesus’ resurrection from the dead serves as such a sign of credibility. As I have tried to show, the historical Jesus made radical personal claims to be the long-awaited Jewish Messiah, the unique Son of God, and the prophesied Son of Man, and his resurrection from the dead, which is the best explanation of the facts concerning the fate of Jesus, is plausibly interpreted as God’s vindication of those radical personal claims for which he was crucified as a blasphemer.

If Jesus was, as he claimed to be, the revelation of God the Father to mankind, then what he teaches is true, and we, as his disciples, should believe what he teaches. Jesus clearly taught the existence and work of the Holy Spirit, who would come in his place to carry on the ministry that he had begun. Jesus said,

These things I have spoken to you, while I am still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. . . . I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convince 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 more;concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged (John 14. 25-26; 15. 7-11).

If we believe what Jesus taught, then we should believe in the Holy Spirit. This is not blind faith, for it is ratified by Jesus, whose teaching we have good reason to believe is true.

Of course, knowing when someone who claims to be led of the Holy Spirit truly is so led is a different kettle of fish! The New Testament authors themselves encourage Christians to exercise critical discernment with respect to such claims (1 Corinthians 14.29; 1 John 4.1). Since it is hard to tell, I think a good measure of humility is in order on such questions. So long as a brother is living and believing biblically, who am I to say that the Holy Spirit is not leading him?