Who is the Holy Spirit? How does the Holy Spirit work in our lives? What are some common misconceptions about the Holy Spirit and what are some vital truths to know to live in the power of the Spirit? Sean and Scott speak with fellow Biola professor Fred Sanders about these questions and his new book The Holy Spirit: An Introduction.

Fred Sanders (PhD, Graduate Theological Union) is a professor of theology at the Torrey Honors College at Biola University. Sanders is the author of multiple books including The Deep Things of God. He blogs regularly at fredfredfred.com.

Episode Transcript

Sean: Who is the Holy Spirit? What are some of the most common misconceptions about the Holy Spirit? And how do we live in the power of the Spirit? Well, our guest today, Dr. Fred Sanders, a part of the Torrey Honors College here at Biola University, wrote a great new accessible and unique book we're gonna get into, simply called "The Holy Spirit and Introduction." Fred, it's good to have you on the show.

Fred: It's good to be here.

Sean: Well, I read through your book and there's so many angles that we could approach it. But one of the things that really jumped out to me are these bizarre depictions of the Holy Spirit in art and literature. So, in some ways to better understand who the Holy Spirit is, we might unpack what they get right and what they get wrong. Now, one of the most popular ones over the past few years is in the novel, which was put into a film called, "The Shack," in which the Holy Spirit is depicted as a young, Asian woman named Sarayu. I hope I said that correctly. What do you make of this depiction? What did it get right and what did it get wrong?

Fred: Yeah, the depiction of the Holy Spirit in "The Shack" is like so many of these others you can see down through history. What's wrong about it is it's just, it's arbitrary and random and all the details are invented completely from scratch from the author's imagination. If you think, I'm gonna make a movie and I need to cast the Holy Spirit, who do I cast? And then you just start free associating from there. Like maybe he's mysterious, so maybe he's a she, so maybe he's Asian, so maybe he's quiet, maybe, you know, how skinny? Where does he or she part her hair? Like all of these things have to be totally invented from scratch because you're writing about a biblical person when the Bible doesn't provide the kind of details you need for that kind of concrete imagination of their characteristics and personality and how they dress and how they move. You just have to totally invent it.

Sean: Okay. Yeah.

Fred: Now, of course you have to do that if you cast Paul the Apostle as well because we don't have a detailed description. But there's something more mysterious about the person of the Holy Spirit than about casting someone to play someone like Paul.

Scott: Are there other sorts of common depictions maybe that came out of medieval art or something like that about the Holy Spirit that are similarly misguided?

Fred: Yes, often when you see a painting of the Trinity, in medieval art, you'll have God the Father as an elderly man with a beard and a crown and you kind of look at that and think, well, I know that's not true, true, but I get it. I recognize him at least. I might feel guilty for recognizing him, but I get it. Then you see Jesus looking like Jesus. And again, you might think, well, we don't totally know what Jesus looked like, but again, I spot him. Then you turn to the third person and it's usually like a younger guy. He looks younger than Jesus and he's got like a receding hairline. It's usually red or blonde. He's dressed in green often. Sometimes he's got, he's usually clean shaven, the only one of the three. And again, you hit that and think, so I know who that's gotta be 'cause he's hanging out with who I know has to be the father and the son, but every detail about him is entirely fabricated from the artist's imagination.

Scott: So, if he's wearing green and red, I didn't know the Holy Spirit was Irish. (laughing)

Fred: Apparently so.

Sean: So, should we not depict the Holy Spirit in physical human form? How should we portray it? Is your concern less how we should portray the Holy Spirit and more just the random nature by which we do that doesn't seem to bubble up from the scriptures primarily?

Fred: Yeah, it's the randomness of it that really stands out for you. Because you might also say, probably a pretty good idea not to depict God the Father if we're gonna be purist about this, right?

Sean: Fair enough.

Fred: But at least when you do God the Father, you've got something. You've got a human figure on a throne or the ancient of days that the Son of Man comes to in Daniel seven, you got something to go on. You know, even if you're to admit it's not correct, but with the Holy Spirit, you just literally have to sit down and make a list of things you think that person ought to look like.

Scott: What do you make of the Bible's depiction of the Holy Spirit?

Fred: Yeah, so that's, I hope the predictable answer is we should follow biblical guidelines on this and the Spirit is aware that we need some guidance. And so gives us some imagery of wind or flame or the dove descending on Jesus and the Jordan River. Now, the Spirit is not flame or a dove, but these are the guiding images given to us. And I think one of our tasks—this is kind of a recurring theme as I wrote a short book on the Spirit—one of the recurring themes is that our task is to be satisfied with what the Spirit has made known about himself. And so, if I kind of wish it was clearer than a bird or a wind, well, that's on me. I mean, I think it's not that the Holy Spirit's trying to make himself clear, but failing. And I have to make up for where he's just not a very good communicator. I have to sort of take it on faith that like, this is an effective communicator who has made known what we're supposed to know. My task is to make sure I understand all that he's said and then be satisfied with it.

Sean: Okay, so it seems to me nobody denies that the Father is God, or at least nobody denies that at least that's what Scripture teaches. Less deny that Jesus is divine, at least in some sense. And that's a huge other debate. How do we know the Holy Spirit is God? This is where it kind of seems to fall off the cliff, so to speak. Is the Holy Spirit God equal to the Father and the Son? How would we know this? What do the Scriptures teach?

Fred: Yeah, so the biblical answer is the word “spirit” gets used a lot of ways, but one way it's used is just to describe God. Think about it, 1 John, God is spirit. So there it's almost as if the Spirit's, I wanna say to God, you know what I mean? Like the word spirit is a way of talking about God altogether. So then you come to the Holy Spirit, or he goes by many different names throughout the Bible, the Spirit of God, the Spirit of the Lord, the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of the Father. But especially in the Old Testament, you get this distinct person who God, I'm thinking about Isaiah 63, God says, "I'll be your savior and I will put my Holy Spirit among you," and then of course it turns negative pretty quickly there 'cause he's talking about the rebellious Exodus generation. And he says, "They grieved my Holy Spirit "who was among them." So, there's clearly a Holy One who is God's way of being with his people, who he talks about with this sort of personal distinction, my Holy Spirit among them. When you prove the Spirit's deity from Scripture, and there are several other places you could go, I just think Isaiah 63 is a nice bright line in the Old Testament. When you prove the deity of the Spirit, the very next move is, okay, so it's clear that he's God, but is he someone besides the Father? Right, is he a force or a way of talking about God doing stuff, or is he somebody like the Father and Son or somebody? And I think there when you get God saying—I think it's God the Father—they're saying, "I put my Holy Spirit among them," you get that personal distinction within the deity.

Sean: Where do you go in the New Testament? Do you go to the Acts 5 passage, or the baptism, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? Where would you go primarily for the divinity of the Spirit?

Fred: Yeah, the really bright, clear spot in the New Testament is Pentecost. So, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the disciples in Jerusalem, on the basis of the finished work of Christ. What I mean is the Holy Spirit's always been everywhere, doing everything God does. The Spirit's there at creation, the Spirit's on the dark side of the moon right now. The Spirit's, it's not like the Spirit suddenly started doing stuff. But at Pentecost, because the Messiah had come, done his work, atoned, risen, ascended, taken his seat at the right hand of the majesty on high, and from there poured out the Holy Spirit in a new way, a personal way, a direct way. There's a kind of a special intrusion of the Holy Spirit into salvation history at Pentecost that's in some ways parallel to the incarnation. You know, the Son of God had always been everywhere doing everything, but the Son personally came in a unique salvation, historical, direct way at the incarnation. You can treat Pentecost as kind of parallel to that.

Scott: Fred, I think we both so appreciate it, a theologian's precision about this. This came out repeatedly in the book. Say a little bit about the distinction between the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament and in the New.

Fred: Yeah, well, so one thing to say, and I hope I don't make too much of this in the book, but I just take it to be primary data that we've got to deal with well, is that the name Holy Spirit is almost entirely a New Testament name. So, we can talk meaningfully and intelligibly about the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament, but we kind of need to flag the fact that the adjective “holy” in front of the noun “spirit” is the main way the New Testament talks about him, but only occurs three times in the entire Old Testament.

Scott: Why does that matter?

Fred: It matters because the clarity of the Holy Spirit's identity is a new covenant clarity. So there's a prophesied promise of the giving of the Holy Spirit, Joel 2, “and that day I will pour my spirit out on all flesh. Your sons and daughters will prophesy.” There's a promise. You're looking forward just as much as you're looking forward in the Old Testament to the Messiah, you're looking for the coming of the spirit as an eschatological reality, right? As a fulfillment of God's promise, the spirit will be poured out. And that's when I think the clarity comes about. So, the other thing about the name Holy Spirit, since we flagged that, the adjective holy in front of the noun spirit definitely constitutes the name of the third person. Think about Matthew 28, 19, baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It's all very clear and tidy. But if you think for a moment about the adjective holy and ask, well, which person of the Trinity is holy? Oh, right, all three of them. Well, which one is spirit? Actually, all three of them are spirit. So, how come when you put the adjective holy in front of the noun spirit, suddenly it becomes a name for the third person and not the first or second? I don't have an answer for that. Again, you have to kind of lean on the Holy Spirit's competence as a communicator, but it really comes together as the New Testament name of this person. Throughout most of the Old Testament, it's my spirit, the spirit, the spirit of God, the spirit of the Lord, the spirit of supplication, et cetera.

Scott: Does that reflect a bit of some of the differences in how the spirit functioned in the Old Testament as opposed to the New?

Fred: I think so, yeah. There's a—

Scott: Spell out some of those differences.

Fred: Yeah, so the spirit's at work in the Old Testament, and the safest thing to say about what's different in his New Testament ministry is to make sure you keep it bundled with the work of Christ. It's because of the completed work of Christ that the spirit works in a new way in the New Covenant, because he works as the one who completes, applies the work of Christ, because he's sent from the Son and the Father to apply the work of, the completed work of Christ to believers.

Scott: So, the spirit indwells people, indwells all believers in the New Testament era. Was that also true in the Old Testament?

Fred: In the Old Testament, what's explicit is the promise of coming indwelling, right? Sometimes it's phrased as, I will write my law on their hearts. That's a thing that's going to happen in the future in the work of the Messiah. And then you just say, you can reason backwards theologically and say, and this is maybe a little speculative, but you can say, "Well, I know Abraham was saved by faith, was justified by faith." That's clear and direct. That's a New Testament teaching. That Old Testament Abraham was justified by faith. It does not explicitly say he was indwelled by the Holy Spirit. It doesn't explicitly talk about the Holy Spirit's work in effectively producing faith in the heart of Abraham. We know theologically that's true, but it's not an element of clear teaching in the Old Testament. So, that's why I'm not trying to disguise anything when I say the safe route here is to link it as closely as possible to the work of Christ without being tautological. Because then I can just say things like, the New Covenant work of the Spirit is distinctively New Covenantal.

Scott: That's profound. (both laughing)

Fred: It's the truth. It's just not clear I said anything.

Sean: Twice in your last response is you've said the “safe response.” Now, I know what you mean by this is your theology of the Holy Spirit is tied to the Scriptures, rather than experiential, rather than speculation, rooted to the Scriptures in terms of what we know and how the Holy Spirit has revealed himself to be. One of the other misconceptions, not only that the Holy Spirit is not divine, is that the Holy Spirit is not a person. And some of this is understandable for a couple of reasons. As you said earlier, the Holy Spirit is described as being poured out. We wouldn't describe a person as being poured out. And correct me if I'm wrong, there's only two cases where the Holy Spirit speaks in Scripture in Acts 10 and in Acts 13. So, what do you make of that kind of tension with the Holy Spirit? How do we know the Holy Spirit is personal akin to the Father and the Son?

Fred: Yeah, so I think admitting that there's these sort of two streams of evidence in the Bible. One stream is that the Spirit behaves personally. So, does speak a couple of times, can be grieved, is grouped with the Father and the Son in a way that,---I'll come back to this point in a minute—but it would be weird to say the Father who's somebody, the Son who's somebody, and then a force. That's a very uneven triad. And the church fathers come back to that over and over. They just keep saying Matthew 28, 19 and saying, it's clearly three. And it would be weird to have two people and a force that just wouldn't make sense to bundle those things together. So, you've got this personal aspect, the stream of evidence, but then you've got this impersonal stream of evidence. And I think it's great to admit that and say, the Son doesn't get poured out, the Spirit gets poured out. The Spirit is spoken of as an influence or a force is sometimes sort of described as the power of God, or, I just think it's important to acknowledge that impersonal aspect. And then you've got to make a choice. Either the Spirit is a force who sometimes gets personified, right? And that's to privilege the impersonal side, the impersonal side of the information. Or you can make the other choice and say, the Spirit is a person who sometimes behaves and is described impersonally. That's the correct answer. You have these two streams of evidence. It does the safe answer. It does the best justice to all the evidence, I think, to say the Spirit is somebody who sometimes behaves impersonally.

Sean: So, by the way though, Jesus is depicted as the gate, the door, the light, and in other impersonal fashions on a smaller scale. So it's not completely foreign to a person within the Trinity to be described with both.

Fred: That's right. And Jesus is especially described impersonally in those places. You mentioned some places with images from the gospel of John. But in Ephesians, he's described as the measure of our maturity or a subject we learn. You didn't learn Christ that way. It doesn't say learn about Christ or meet Jesus Christ. It says, learn him like you learned Spanish or math. You didn't learn Christ. The interesting thing is Jesus is described impersonally precisely when the Bible is trying to emphasize the difference he makes in a life or in a community's way of life.

Sean: That's interesting.

Fred: Yeah, so normally Jesus is very concrete and personal. We talk about him as somebody. But when Paul or the other authors of the Bible are talking about the transformation wrought in Christian community by the presence of Christ, then they'll say, oh, he's the measure of our maturity. We’ve learned him.

Sean: Which is the role of the Holy Spirit. That's why we would expect—

Fred: Exactly. The spirit you would expect to be sort of undercover or in that impersonal incognito mode more, 'cause that's the business end of his work.

Scott: Now Fred, you say that, you know, the interest in the Holy Spirit's a good thing. It can be a sign of spiritual vitality. But not every way of indulging our hunger and desire for things is good. Are there some unhealthy ways of studying about the spirit, seeking the spirit?

Fred: Yeah, and I think, you know, we started with these strange images that are just made up from scratch. While I was writing the book, someone wrote to me and said, hey, we preach through Acts, and then we're doing these sort of monologues at the end. We're characters from Acts. We write new lines for them that are biblically inspired, and they kind of draw out what that person did. And so, we had some great times with that, and we're about to do the Holy Spirit, who's gonna like, come out on stage and say, here's what I was up to in the book of Acts. So, you know, I recoil and say, actually, there's a reason God did not do that in the Bible, and I don't think you should do that. But at the same time, I think, it's kind of cool, like the impulse there, the idea of, wouldn't it be great to draw out and focus on and concentrate on the work of the Spirit and ponder it? That's entirely a healthy spiritual itch. You just can't scratch it any old way. You know, you can't provide a bunch of information that's not actually there. Other unhealthy ways, of course, are isolating the work of the Spirit from the Father and the Son in such a way that you've got like a basic Christianity, which is like stage one, and then there's this other kind of Christianity, which is sort of like, oh, and then the Spirit, which is a whole other thing, which we will now focus on distinctly and separately, being the key word. I say this as someone who grew up Pentecostal, grew up in the foursquare church here in Southern California.

Scott: I didn't know that.

Fred: Yeah, yeah. And so there's a kind of, there's a way of teaching the subsequent experience of the Holy Spirit. Not all Pentecostals fall into this mistake, but there's a way of teaching and it gives you a real split level Christianity and suggests that there's such a thing as a basic Christian package, where you're like, you're born again, you just don't have the Spirit. That's disastrous for all Christians. And then of course it leads to a special Holy Spirit club, which no one else has been in until suddenly they got this other message.

Sean: Special Holy Spirit Club. I have so many questions about that, but I'll keep moving on. (laughs) One thing that's always interested me, and you addressed this a little bit in your book, is that Jesus speaks a lot more about the Father than he does about the Holy Spirit. Now I have kind of a gut instinct thought why, although I haven't studied this to the death, obviously that you have, why do you think that's the case?

Fred: Yeah, and just flagging it I think is important to say, I'm not making that up. That's not me neglecting the Holy Spirit. If you're gonna issue me a ticket or a citation for neglecting the Spirit, couple other people that you'll need to give those tickets to including authors of the Bible and say our Lord. So, that's just the thing. Here's why I think it's the case. The message of salvation is the message about coming to God the Father through Christ the Son. And so, the focal point of our attention is either on God as the goal of our reconciliation or Christ as the way of our reconciliation. And that's pretty much it. Like that's the main content. Now, in another moment of reflection, you say, how did a sinner like me decide to focus on God the Father or get to him through Christ? How did that whole reality take place? And without taking your focal attention off of the Father and the Son, you become aware that you are in the power of the Spirit. And so, the Spirit is more nearly the power behind or within the mind which is attending to God and Christ. And I think that's reflected in Jesus's teaching. I don't wanna minimize the amount of teaching he does do about the Spirit. Every word he says on that subject is precious, but just by volume, his main message is about the Father.

Sean: Is some of this just the salvation history that the Spirit has always been here operating in different way in the Old Testament, Jesus is physically present when he ascends, then the Holy Spirit is coming in a new fashion. So maybe he talks more because of the season that he is in, so to speak. Do you think that's a piece of it?

Fred: I think it is. If you read straight through John's Gospel, you'll notice a few references to the Spirit in the first half, but then right around chapter 14, and in the structure of John's Gospel, that's where they go into the upper room and Jesus is already talking as if he's completed his work.

Sean: Yeah, that is interesting.

Fred: It's almost as if he's time traveling or he knows, I won't be able to say this directly after this conversation. So, he begins saying, like, I am no longer in the world. Well, yeah, you are, you're like right here in the room, but he's speaking. And so, in that mode, he's also speaking a lot more about the Holy Spirit. I left out this one phrase that the church fathers use a lot. They love this line from the Gospel of John where Jesus says, "I will send you another comforter." And they focus on that word another. They quote it in Greek. You know, I'm talking about the Greek church fathers, especially, they'll say, "If he's another comforter, that means he's personal."

Sean: Okay, fair enough.

FreD: Yeah, so Jesus is a comforter, is pretty supposed in that statement. And then he says, "I'll send you another comforter." Then a few verses later, he says, "When I send the comforter, here's what's gonna happen. He'll take what is mine and reveal it to you because all that the Father has is mine." But notice that he's sort of introduced the Spirit on his card, right? I'm a comforter or an advocate, the paracletus, it's hard to translate this word, a helper. I'm a comforter, I'm gonna send another one. And then he sort of vanishes and begins just talking about the comforter. So that if I say paraclete or comforter or helper, we immediately think, that's a pneumatological title. That word picks out the Holy Spirit. But we got there through a Christological title. I'll send another comforter. Anyway, it's another way that you batch the Son and the Spirit together and notice that they are distinct persons.

Scott: Fred, there are a couple of references to the Spirit. One in the Old Testament and one in the New that I find particularly puzzling. I suspect many of our viewers might find it similar. And then the first one of these is when David in Psalm 51 in the aftermath of being confronted and confessing his sin with Bathsheba he requests that God's Spirit not be taken from him. What was he afraid of? And what was the significance of the Spirit potentially being removed from David?

Fred: Yeah, that's good. So, that's one of the three places in the Old Testament where you get that exact phrase, Holy Spirit, that adjective in front of that noun. The other two are in Isaiah 63. Nevertheless, in the context of Psalm 51, I kind of think you could translate it there, the spirit of your holiness. In other words, it's not quite picking out a distinct person. There's a contrast there. Of course, David's sinning and is thinking about forgiveness and reconciliation with God. And he talks about his own spirit, renewing a right spirit within me. And that's one of the ways the Bible used the word spirit to talk about something in—

Scott: It's my inner life.

Fred: Yeah, something in my inner life. It's something created. But then he balances that with, renewing a right spirit within me and don't take your spirit, yours, which is holy, as opposed to mine, away from me. I have a little softer focus on that passage. I don't think of it as mainly picking out the third person of the Trinity or thinking about an end dwelling in that context.

Scott: Okay. There's a second one of these is in the New Testament in Romans 8, when the role of the Holy Spirit is to intercede with us. Seemingly, when we are incapable of verbalizing the deep things that we wanna bring to God, that's always puzzled me. What exactly is the spirit's role in that? And why is that a part of the spirit's role when I can't utter those things myself?

Fred: Yeah, that's a good question. And especially sort of the details of that. Like, do I say a bad prayer and the Holy Spirit edits it? Or do I say a weak prayer and the Holy Spirit empowers it? [all laugh]

Scott: I would settle for both of those actually.

Fred: Yeah, I have speculated on that. And of course, in Romans 8, it's in the context of there's two intercessions going on. The Son is at the right hand of the Father interceding for us, and the Spirit intercedes within us. So, I've sometimes thought of it as like both ends of a phone call, right? In order to commune with God, I need someone to dial on this side and pick up on the other end with the two intercessions. But the specific question you raise, what's going on with the Spirit groaning? Here's what I think is going on there. In the book, I call this the doctrine of double depth, that the Spirit is deep within God, and the Spirit is deep within the heart of a believer. There's a divine human connection there because of the double depth of the Spirit that is different from, very different from, but is parallel to the incarnation. So the Spirit's not incarnate. And if the Son intercedes for us, we go, well, of course He does. Without changing, without ceasing to be who He was, He took to Himself human nature and represents our needs and concerns in the presence of God. The Spirit is not incarnate, but is double deep, right? Is deep within God and is deep within us. So, you get that same divine human point of contact. And I think that's what's going on there with the intercession. It's the Spirit who in the Old Testament is called the Spirit of Supplication. In the New Testament, we're told the Father is seeking those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth. Once you kind of notice that, then you notice the Spirit groaning, struggling, all the way since maybe Genesis 6 even. The Spirit is kind of a point of contact and conflict between God and man. And that was something a little surprising to me early on in the research for the book. I think I had not noticed how often the Spirit is associated with deep troubled involvement with humans. And I've thought of it as, well, it's kind of like the incarnation. Like it's definitely not an incarnation, but it's a point of contact because of the double depth of the Spirit in God and in us.

Scott: So, it presupposes that a significant part of our prayer life should be those deep inner workings of our spiritual life that we bring to God.

Fred: Yeah, in that same context, I look at the two places where Paul says, we cry out Abba Father, Romans 8 and Galatians 4. In one place, it's clearly us calling God Abba Father. And we do that because we are adopted children because of the work of Christ. In the other place, it's the Spirit crying Abba Father. And if you think about that for a minute, it's kind of puzzling. Like the Spirit can't call God the first person in the Trinity Father. That would make the Spirit into a son, which means he's not speaking for himself, right? Within us, he's saying Abba Father. And elsewhere we're told we are saying Abba Father. And there's such a close intermingling of the Spirit within us saying and causing us to say Abba Father, I don't wanna say he's a ventriloquist. (both laughing) But he's saying things that are properly ours to say. He's taken our stuff to himself.

Scott: That's helpful, that makes a lot of sense.

Sean: So, baptizing the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, that's one way we can get the deity of the Holy Spirit. We also get that the Holy Spirit is a person, not a force. So, can and should we pray to the Holy Spirit, give him the Holy Spirit is fully God and a person?

Fred: Yeah, so to get an A on the theology test, the correct answer is you can pray to any person who is God. (both laughing)

Seab: Fair enough.

Fred: So, you have three options. And yeah, that's, I can say that. I was gonna use the word safe again.

Seabn Do it.

Fred: As a guest teacher in churches, the last thing I wanna do is pop into a church, teach for one hour and mess up everybody's prayer life. (both laughing) And make them think like, am I Trinity-ing wrong when I try to pray? So, I kind of like to establish a safety net and say, You can pray.

Sean: That's fair.

Fred: However, it's worth noting that there are no obvious prayers to the Holy Spirit given to us in scripture. And so, I don't take that to be a defeater, but I do think it's worth noting that the biblical proportion is mainly prayer to the Father, sometimes prayer to the Son. And apparently pretty rarely, it's almost eccentric to pray to the Holy Spirit. Now I started by saying, yes, you can. My second point is, but it's peculiar, isn't it? And long-term, we would want our prayer lives to take on the same proportions as scripture. So, places in which I think it's appropriate to pray to the Holy Spirit. I think if you're praying kind of a long, carefully planned prayer, say in a liturgical context, where you know that you're kind of name-checking first the work of the Father, then the work of the Son, then the work of the Spirit, or you're using a phrase building off of Matthew 28:19, and the name of the Father and the Son and the Spirit, I think it's appropriate there. Also, when you're meditating on the work of the Spirit and you're grateful for the work, you could either thank the Father for sending the Spirit or ask the Father to empower you with the Spirit, or that might be an occasion in which you would just naturally be moved to speak to the Holy Spirit.

Scott: And that would be appropriate.

Fred: I think it would be appropriate, yeah.

Scott: Now, you mentioned that in many of our non-pentecostal, non-charismatic churches, there's a neglect of the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit. Why do you think that's the case?

Fred: Yeah, it's a good question. And I mentioned that sometimes there's a problem of overlooking the Spirit and reassigning his work to other persons or things. So, sometimes you'll hear a cadence, someone will say something in church like the Father and the Son and the Bible. (both laughing) And you’re like, those notes didn't go right. Like I agree with what you said, but it's a funny tune you're singing there. Should have been something else. Or the most subtle one is to reassign work of the Spirit to Christ. Because in another sense, well, you're not wrong there, but if you say Jesus loved the world so much that he came and died for us and now lives within us, I can affirm all those, but it's peculiar. It's not the biblical way of talking. It's Christ-centered in a way that gives you permission to ignore the Father and the Spirit. Whereas the biblical model is Christ-centered in a way that includes the work of the Spirit. I also think—this almost sounds like an older sibling, younger sibling kind of rivalry—but I think as soon as the Pentecostals and Charismatics ran off with the Holy Spirit, a lot of people outside those movements decided like that's their thing. And you get this kind of tribalism in lots of things like, oh, that group does apologetics, so we don't, we do social justice. Oh, that group does social justice, well, we don't, we do Pentecostal stuff.

bScott: Yeah, because I remember one of the first books I read on the Holy Spirit when I was a new believer was the book by Peter Gilquist, "Let's Quit Fighting About the Holy Spirit." And I don't see people fighting about the Holy Spirit and I see people ignoring the Holy Spirit today. And it's just different.

Sean: Fred, I appreciate your sensitivity to grace, people trying to understand how we relate to our triune God, but also saying, let's look at the patterns and teachings of scriptures and try to follow after that. I think that's a really healthy, biblical, safe approach to use that term again. Last question, what kind of makes your book unique and how do you hope people might use it?

Fred: Yeah, there are so many good books already on the Holy Spirit and I've got an appendix where I recommend 10 or 12 of them. And it does make you wonder like, why bother? People should just read Sinclair Ferguson, why should I write a book? But I did notice that when you teach on the Holy Spirit, and you may have had this experience, you teach on it, Christians are, they're docile and receptive and they say, yeah, oh, that makes sense, thanks for explaining that way. And then I swear three weeks later, they'll say, hey, when are we gonna talk about the Holy Spirit? (both laughing) I never quite do understand that, I think, that's weird, three weeks ago you understood it. So, I approach this book trying to think, what would improve the odds on it? What would make it sticky? What kind of teaching would kind of get inside your cognitive structure and hang out there and really give you some pegs to hang things on? So, pretty predictably, my answer is like, let's make this extremely Trinitarian. That if you have a basic grasp of the doctrine of the Trinity, not in great detail, just if you're aware that the one God is Father, Son and Spirit, then you already know a lot about the Spirit. And so, I start with a little triangle diagram and say, if this diagram is an accurate representation of the things we know, then the Spirit is God and the Spirit is in relation to the Father and the Spirit is in relation to the Son and we can kind of build out from that teaching. So, the basic chapter outline is the Spirit in the Trinity, the Spirit and the Father, the Spirit and the Son, the Spirit Himself. And my hope is that making it an extremely Trinitarian intro to the Holy Spirit doesn't overcomplicate things because that could be a misstep too, right? Oh, here's a word subject. Let's add it to a harder subject and see if that works. But my appeal is to what Christian people already sort of know as a kind of Christian common sense about the Trinity and then to situate the Spirit within that. My hope and prayer is that that makes it sticky, that that makes it have some staying power for people.

Sean: When I first got this from the publisher, I was like, oh, “The Holy Spirit: an Introduction” by Fred Sanders. I thought, how interesting because your lane is the Trinity. I wonder how you're gonna approach it. Makes perfect sense for those of you watching in case you don't know. Our very own at Biola University, Fred Sanders is one of the leading scholars in the world on the Trinity, published a ton. So, I'm not aware of another one if it's out there where somebody looks at the Holy Spirit through that lens, consistently going back to Scripture. So, it's called “The Holy Spirit: An Introduction,” very accessible, easy to follow, and some practical principles that come out of it. Great job and thanks for joining us.

Fred: Thanks for having me.

Sean: Yeah, those of you watching, make sure you hit subscribe. We've got a lot of other episodes coming up on cultural issues as well as theology. This is brought to you by the Think Biblically Podcast at Talbot School of Theology. If you have questions or comments or even other topics you'd love or guess for us to consider, please email us at thinkbiblically@biola.edu. Remember, Think Biblically about everything.