Originally Posted by Zerbie
What is 'the holy spirit?' Is this one of many 'things' in Christianity that is not agreed upon by various churches and their respective traditions? Or is there general agreement about what it is? And WHAT is it?
Is it an element? Does it have properties?
Is it considered alive? Is it considered to be part of God, or Godself, or just what?
What does it do? How does one recognize it and discern it from other 'things,' properties or elements? Does it influence human life a little or a lot, and is it difficult to live with?
This is a very difficult thing to begin to talk about because it is hard to know where to begin (and where to stop
Let me start with one REALLY important caveat. Any time a finite being begins to talk about an INfinite being ... the inevitable result is going to be nonsense. Because one definition of human language is "a verbal box" and one definition of "God" is "that which won't fit in a box" Having said that ... lets go.
The Holy Spirit is God. It is an aspect of God's being. It is how we talk about our most intimate experiences of the divine. Christians and Jews understand God as being both "transcendant" (totally other) and "immanent" (totally and intimately present). This is paradox -- a mystical form of non-linear thought. The idea that it is possible for two or more logically inconsistent characteristics to be necessary aspects of the same phenomenon. Transcendence and immanence can neither be harmonized nor divided. When they are placed next to each other they create a dynamic tension. It is the dynamic tension which is the truth ... not the two (or more) poles that create the dynamic tension.
True Dogmatic or Doctrinal language is always an attempt to create this "dynamic tension" which will reveal a truth that cannot be expressed or revealed in any other way. Think about the high wire acts at the circus. It requires two poles and a cable stretched between. The show cannot happen without these elements ... but they are not the show. The show is the tension contained in the cable that stretches between the poles. The show is what happens on the cable when the lady in the pink tutu and the parasol steps out onto the cable for the first time. The show is the tightness in the chests of the audience watching the lady in the pink tutu.
In Christianity the truth is not the humanity of Jesus. The truth is not the divinity of Jesus. The truth is the tension between the humanity and the divinity of Jesus. The truth is what happens inside you when you begin to incorporate that tension between humanity and divinity into your own life. Jesus cannot logically be BOTH human and divine and yet he MUST be both.
God CANNOT logically be both ONE and THREE but holding both of these aspects of God at the same time creates a dynamic tension that prevents us from reducing God to a manageable little reality that will fit neatly into our pigeon holes. The truth of who and what God is can only be experienced in the context of this dynamic tension... this paradox... this mystery.
In other words, doctrinal language is not primarily descriptive language. It is primarily a creative and functional use of language. I use doctrinal language to create a space wherein I can experience the reality of a God I cannot describe. DOES THIS MAKE ANY SENSE AT ALL?
IF So ... What is the Holy Spirit?
It is an aspect of God. It is not the WHOLE of what God is. The Holy Spirit is that of God which is nearer to me than my own breath. The Holy Spirit is that which kindles in me the compassion of God when I am moved to respond to the brokeness of another human being. The Holy Spirit is that which gives me the courage to do what I know is right even though it is costly and dangerous. The Holy Spirit is what takes the cold, dead words of Scripture and transforms them into the life-giving word of God. The Holy Spirit is that which gives me words to say in the face of unutterable tragedy. The Holy Spirit is what enables me to find blessing in the midst of the shit that life sometimes dishes out. The Holy Spirit is what enables me to confidently put one foot in front of the other when I am walking around in a darkened world.
I will stop now and let you guide me in what else I should say.