“THE” Holy Spirit

A few weeks ago in a conversation, I mentioned to someone that I was in the process of writing a book about the Holy Spirit. This person expressed excitement about the topic, but then gently corrected me on how I was talking about the Spirit.

 

He said, “You shouldn’t use a ‘the’ when you talk about Holy Spirit. After all, He is a person. You don’t say ‘The Jesus’ or ‘The Father’. You address them by their names: Father or Jesus. ‘Holy Spirit’ is His name. So don’t say ‘the Holy Spirit’. Just call Him ‘Holy Spirit’”.

 

Hmm. I had never thought about that before, so I began to chew on the idea. I totally agree that we often think of the Spirit in distant, impersonal terms—an ethereal force, an impersonal power—when in Scripture He is obviously a real Person, Someone we can experience personally. I’m in total agreement about that.

 

But does calling Him “the Holy Spirit” communicate that He is less personal? On that, I don’t agree. While I don’t call Jesus “The Jesus”, I do often refer to the Father as “The Father”. That doesn’t make Him any less personal in my mind. I’m talking about Him. Jesus often talked about the Father and was quite comfortable using “the” in doing so.

 

For  instance, in Acts 1:7-8, we read “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by His own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you.”  He refers to them as “the Father” and “the Holy Spirit”. It would seem weird to say “It is not for you to know the times or dates Father has set…” Whose father? Which father? By saying “the Father” we know who Jesus is referring to.

 

Now there is a time when I drop the “the”, and that’s when I pray. When praying to God, I do call Him “Father” because I am addressing Him personally. Likewise, when talking to the Spirit, I say  “Holy Spirit” because I am speaking directly to Him.

 

So, I’ve decided that I’m not going to change the way I talk about the Holy Spirit. I will still freely use “the” when talking about Him.

 

Now I realize I may totally be missing something here, so I’d love to hear your feedback on this. Any thoughts?

  3Comments

  1. Georgia   •  

    I love thinking about how language works and how and why we use it. I think about things like when to use or not use a definite article “the” all the time. (Maybe I need to get out more!) I have heard people omit the “the” and it makes me think. But I’m comfortable with my definite article in relation to the Holy Spirit. “Jesus” is a name. “Father” is a name and a title. “Holy Spirit” is a title and a name, too, I suppose. If I talked about Jesus as the Son (more of a title than His name), I do use the “the”. I never say “the Yaweh”, a name for the Father… So, is there another name for the Holy Spirit? Are there other things I can do in speech that reflect His personal nature? The Holy Spirit is definitely a “He” and not an “It” as far as pronouns go!

    • AlanKraft   •     Author

      I agree, Georgia. Holy Spirit is a name and a title, just as Father is as well. I don’t think by adding the “the” we minimize the personal nature of either of those. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Julia   •  

    I think we can use Jesus’ example. He uses “the Holy Spirit” throughout scripture. That should be sufficient for our understanding.

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