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January 05, 2006

The Holy Ghost vs The Holy Spirit

As an Episcopalian, we don't do faith healing, speaking in tongues or do anything having to do with the Holy Ghost as it's understood in various denominations of African American Christendom. I want to get deep into this question from a black cultural perspective starting with the following provocative statement.

The Holy Ghost is Voodoo.

I think that I am on pretty solid ground when I suggest that the tradition of speaking in tongues evolved from the early black Christian church as a way of communicating around slaveowners. I don't know exactly where I picked up that bit of knowledge, but I've heard it enough times to believe that it is credible. I am more certain, however, that the idea of spiritual possession, is definitely rooted in West African traditions.

When I was a kid, and after the birth of my youngest brother, my mother started shuffling us off to the 'born again' Christian Church - specifically the Pentacostal Evangelical Foursquare Church - I was fascinated and a bit repulsed by the practice of men and women in the congregation jumping up and down and falling down convulsing on the floor as filled with the Holy Ghost. I understood it, and on occasion when the music was just right and the minister hit his rhythm, I could feel it. But it never overwhelmed me so that I put my hand up like a spiritual antenna and got struck by the lightning of the Holy Ghost. Not that kids were permitted to do so.

As well, I witnessed my mother speaking in tongues and recognized which tongues she was speaking. I also understood, although could never confirm, that this was something that was agreed on in some way with the pastor. The ritual was basically at some part of the service, spontaneously to be sure, someone would start speaking in tongues and then somebody else would translate it into English.

We could get into all that, but the essential question has to do with the variability of practices. What is Christian, and how is that changing? I expect a religion to get dogmatic and ritualistic about such things as the definition of the Holy Spirit. I mean, it's at least as important as God and Jesus if we believe in the Trinity. So how can this be considered worship if on church allows people to go into conniptions if another's priest would go into conniptions if some congregant had a fit?

So what's up with that?

Posted by mbowen at January 5, 2006 04:43 PM

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"I think that I am on pretty solid ground when I suggest that the tradition of speaking in tongues evolved from the early black Christian church as a way of communicating around slaveowners."

You've got to be kidding, right?

Haven't you ever read the New Testament book of Acts?

Posted by: Karen of Scottsdale at January 5, 2006 06:39 PM

I've heard of the Tower of Babel too. But what do I give credence to? Can you speak to the question of whether a particular sect of Christian churches has some doctrine on the matter? As I said, I can't explain the Pentacostal Church's stand on the matter outside of what I saw, ontologically. And it never happens in Catholic and Episcopal Churches. My assumption is that various cultural practices creep into various denominations and that skews interpretation of the definition of the Godhead. So lets find out.

What does Acts say, and if it dictates that people should catch the Holy Ghost, why does my church ignore the book of Acts?

Posted by: Cobb [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 5, 2006 07:25 PM

It's not just Acts. The 2nd chapter describes the coming of the Holy Spirit on the first Pentecost after Jesus's death and resurrection. There was a sound like a rushing wind and "as it were" tongues of fire rested on the apostles and they spoke so that all present could understand. I've wondered how we today would have described this phenomenon. Fire was the only artificial light they knew. Maybe we would have said it looked like a laser light show.

It's also mentioned in other places, for example, I Cor. 12:1-12 where Paul lists the gifts of the spirit.

I don't think the Bible dictates that a church include this. It seems to have been used for spreading the gospel into different languages and that shouldn't be necessary today. Of course, there's this story.

One night, intending to go to the movies, Hussain came across a Christian meeting. Although he did not understand the speaker's language, Hussain returned the next night and an amazing thing happened.


"This night he spoke in Hindi and I understood every word," said Hussain. "I understood him saying to me that I was a sinner and I needed a savior. I understood him saying that Jesus said, 'I am that Savior, and if you open your heart's door, I will enter. I will be your friend. I will be your God. I will be your Savior.'

Posted by: Laura(southernxyl) at January 5, 2006 07:38 PM

I'm talking about stuff like this:

What is Speaking in Tongues and why does God say in 1 Corinthians 14:5 that He would like each Christian to do it?

No doubt that is a question that has been asked by millions of Christians through the centuries, and we believe that knowing the answer is vital for maximizing the quality of one's life as a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. Why? The primary reason, as a study of Scripture will clearly show, is: speaking in tongues is the only absolute proof a Christian has that he is born again and guaranteed a parking place in Paradise, i.e., everlasting life (2 Cor. 1:21, 22; Eph. 1:13, 14; 1 John 3:24). Speaking in tongues is the only validexternal, tangibleevidence in the senses realm that the internal, intangible gift of holy spirit was shed abroad inone's heart at the moment of his new birth.

PLEASE do not hear me saying that you must speak in tongues in order to be born again. No, anyone who adheres to Romans 10:9 is saved, permanently. Why? Because at that moment he is "born again of incorruptible seed" (1 Pet. 1:23). But, as we will see, speaking in tongues is the vitally important proof that you are forever a child of God.

And I'm saying nobody says anything like that in Catholic or Episcopal Churches. I've never seen it in any Euro-American Protestant Church either.

Has anyone seen it on the PTL Club? Billy Graham?

Posted by: Cobb [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 5, 2006 08:59 PM

I usually stay out of religious conversations because people tend to get heated quickly, but here goes. I guess religion is one of those things where everyone has their own way of expressing their belief. I don't do the whole "catch the holy spirit" thing in church, but I can't really say its right or wrong for someone else to. Some churches believe handling live rattlesnakes will prove they are protected by God (http://religiousmovements.lib.virginia.edu/nrms/Snakes.html), but I don't recommend that either. If you feel it brings you closer to God, more power to you I guess.

"it is not about religion, it is about relationship" -Kevin Nash

Posted by: dewfish at January 6, 2006 05:05 AM

Here's the whole passage, starting with verse 1:

Pursue love and strive for the spiritual gifts, and especially that you may prophesy. For those who speak in a tongue do not speak to other people but to God: for nobody understands them, since they are speaking mysteries in the Spirit. [This is already a departure from what happened in Acts 2.] On the other hand, those who prophesy speak to other people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. Those who speak in a tongue bulid up themselves, but those who prophesy build up the church. Now I would like all of you to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. One who prophesies is greater than one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.

I think he's saying nothing against speaking in tongues, but prophesying is better. I think the people you quote are taking Paul's statement slightly out of context. And I differ with them somewhat in that I think it is Paul speaking here, not God.

Posted by: Laura(southernxyl) at January 6, 2006 07:58 AM

Oh - and do a search on "Charismatic Catholic" and "Charismatic Episcopal". Groups apparently have been around since the 1920s. I suppose the official churches frown on that sort of thing, but I don't know to what extent.

Posted by: Laura(southernxyl) at January 6, 2006 08:07 AM

Whites churches do it all the time so I would be hestitant to call it voodoo. As for what I think you are getting at in the over conversation, being a graduate from an Evangelical university with a degree, and a background in preaching, teaching and ministering in both "spirit filled" and non spirit filled churches, it really is a doctrinal issue.

I agree, the Holy Spirit, and His role in the church is really not taught in as great a fashion as the rest of the Godhead, however, He does serve at the primary principle in Salvation actually. In regard to speaking in tongues, there is pretty solid scripture for the practice, but it is not an issue of salvation (although some demoninations do say unless ou speak in tongues you aren't saved) but overall it is driven by the issue of faith, and the teaching of the church.

I think that is common amongst Christiandom.

Posted by: Dell Gines [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 6, 2006 05:29 PM

Dell nails it as I understand it to be.

Posted by: DarkStar [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 6, 2006 05:35 PM

Well, this is just the kind of doctrinal stuff I have always had in mind for Lucifer Jones. Maybe I'll just create a new category and call it that.

Posted by: Cobb [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 6, 2006 06:05 PM

Hi Cobb,
I was assured by my Episcopalian minister, back in Georgia several years ago, that there are definitely Pentecostal/Charismatic congregations within the Anglican Communion, and in the US, particularly.

My own experience, so far, of the Church of England here in England, for instance, is that, yes, there is a wide variety of styles of worship, from High Church to "Happy Clappy" (mind you, they could do with a little bit of a gospel, or even a country gospel, edge to the music, it's horrible!), and I wouldn't be surprised if there are predominantly white Pentecostal/Charismatic congregations here, as well, maybe not many, but a few.


Posted by: James G at January 7, 2006 12:59 AM