Why do Muslims think the Holy Spirit is either Mohammed or the angel Gabriel?

I have been thinking about the claims I see many Muslims making about the Holy Spirit or Advocate of God, identifying him with either Mohammed or the angel Gabriel.

I believe the Bible verse that Muslims most frequently quote in reference to Mohammed is John 14:15-17, where it says “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.”

Other verses that reference the Advocate / Spirit are John 15:26-27 and John 16:7-8, but the most pertinent verse I would think is in John 14:26 where it says, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.”

It seems fairly clear to me we’re talking of an incorporeal being, not a human, so I’m struggling to see how Mohammed comes into it. If there was any doubt we’re talking about an incorporeal being, I would have thought John 20:22 clears that up where it is written, “When he had said this, he [Jesus] breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

Note these verses are all from the same book, written by the same author.

As for the angel Gabriel, the only passage I’m aware of in the Bible that mentions the Holy Spirit and Gabriel together is Luke 1:26-27, 35 where it is written, “In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary … The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.” It sounds pretty clear to me that Gabriel is talking of someone other than himself. So I’m struggling to see how they could ever be seen as the same person.

If there’s any other verses that are relevant I’d like to know, but everything I’m seen suggests to me that the identification of the Holy Spirit / Advocate with Mohammed or Gabriel is considerably forced. At least as far as the Bible is concerned. I recognise that many will be committed to such identifications regardless, but my concern here is on an honest reading of the Bible, not the Quran. I’m not seeing how Mohammed or Gabriel could be read out of these texts without prior suppositions.

In every pulse

Catholic theologian, Father Edward Leen, expresses in his book, The Holy Spirit, just how intimate God’s presence is in nature: “God’s power is put forth in every pulse of organic and inorganic being, in repose and movement, in every slightest change. Since every being and every aspect of being is the effect of God’s creative or conservative action, God’s power and exercise of that power is present to and in everything to the very depths of its reality. Where anything, therefore, is, God must be. God, therefore envelops all reality, since he himself is the source of all that is real….”

Alternative ways of speaking of the Trinity

Sometimes it’s worthwhile to explore the Bible in its original languages. The Hebrew word used for the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament is Ruah. The Greek word used for the Holy Spirit in the New Testament is Pneuma. Both mean Spirit or Breath. So it is quite orthodox to refer to the Holy Spirit as the Breath of God. Now, as one of the titles for Jesus in the New Testament is the Word of God this raises some interesting possibilities for alternative language when speaking of the Trinity: instead of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we could say Speaker, Word, and Breath.

It makes no sense to talk of the Trinity without the Holy Spirit

I’ve noticed that discussions on the Trinity between Muslims and Christians tend to focus on God and Jesus. But it makes no sense to talk of “Trinity” without also focusing on the third person: the Holy Spirit.

In the book of Acts there is an incident where Peter, one of the apostles of Jesus, equates lying to the Holy Spirit with lying to God. Peter says, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.”

Elsewhere in scripture it’s made clear that the Holy Spirit can be grieved and blasphemed against. It’s for this and many other reasons that Christians affirm the Holy Spirit is personal and relational, not merely an impersonal force or an emanation of the power of God. We believe that through the Holy Spirit, God guides us, empowers us, and sanctifies us. No discussion of the Trinity could be complete without the Holy Spirit of God and Jesus.

The Holy Spirit and the Trinity

In theological texts the doctrine of the Trinity is often dealt with as part of Theology Proper. Personally however I find it more logical to deal with it as part of Pneumatology. For it’s not until the Holy Spirit is explored more fully that the relationship between the three persons of the Trinity can be explored more fully. And indeed one of the more debated aspects of the doctrine of the Trinity – the filioque clause – is focussed on the Holy Spirit. So, I tend to deal with monotheism as part of Theology Proper, the doctrine of the Incarnation as part of Christology, and the doctrine of the Trinity as part of Pneumatology.

Thoughts on the filioque controversy

holy-spiritI have been thinking about the Filioque controversy. The Orthodox tradition affirms the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father … and nothing need more be said. The Catholic and Protestant traditions affirm the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father AND the Son. I agree with the Orthodox that this AND is problematic as it tends to shift Trinitarian theology from locating the unity of God in the person of the Father to locating it in a more abstract Godhead. However I also agree with western tradition that it’s helpful to say something about the Holy Spirit in relation to the Son. So, as a Christian who values both Protestant and Orthodox tradition, I am inclined to speak of the Holy Spirit as proceeding from the Father THROUGH the Son, though I am happy to leave the Creed in its original, ecumenical, Orthodox form for the sake of ecumenism. In this I believe I am in good company with both Tertullian and John of Damascus who both used the THROUGH expression. I like this way as it puts the emphasis on the Son as mediator.

Missional Spirituality

Last weekend I finally got to meet Karina Kreminski in the flesh, fully incarnate you might say, and it has prompted me to lay out where some of my own thinking on Missional Spirituality has led me (given that Missional Spirituality is the focus of the doctorate she is working on). I think its a hugely important topic that I’d like to see more and more people collaborating on. This is a rough draft only and no doubt there are gaps, so think of it as a conversation starter, nothing more.

The religious ambivalence of the average Australian

  • The religious stance of many Australians could be described as ambivalent
  • Confronted with so many religious choices they have chosen not to choose
  • Given this, even Atheism has limited appeal, as this too requires too much conviction
  • What results is a consumerist, a la carte approach to ir/religion, where the customer is always right and the only wrong is to have your choices arbitrarily limited by others
  • Many of these Australians have a residual Christian identity, but an increasing number don’t
  • But either way it is clear that Christ is not central to their path but peripheral at best

The religious intensity of the cultural influencers

  • Religious ambivalence is not always shared by cultural influencers
  • On the contrary, many on the cutting edge of culture tend to be much more ir/religiously intense – whether we are talking of Atheists or Christians, Muslims or Wiccans
  • It is instructive to compare religious adoption curves to technological adoption curves, where innovators and earlier adopters, while fewer in number than the early and late majority, have disproportionate influence
  • In short, innovative religious minorities should not be ignored by missional Christians but, on the contrary, recognized as potential bellwethers for cultural change in Australia and beyond

The call for a more Missional Spirituality

  • One thing which is common to both the ambivalent majority and (militant Atheists aside) many elements of the innovative minority is an increased emphasis on spirituality.
  • It can be argued, however, that neither the Missional movement nor the Charistmatic movement have bequeathed Australian Christians with a fully fleshed Missional spirituality
  • The attention of the Missional movement tends to be focussed far more on Church contextualization (ecclesiology) than contextual Spirituality (pneumatology).
  • The attention of the Charismatic movement, while focussed firmly on Spirituality (pneumatology), tends to have a “Temple focus” rather than an “Exile” focus, with a tendency to demonize religious others without trying to understand (e.g. when I suggest to Charismatics that they should not just pray “for” Wiccans at a distance but pray “with” them in the midst of their lives the conversation often ends in stunned silence).
  • What we need more of is a Spirituality that is “in the world, but not of the world”.
  • We need to explore how the spirituality of religious innovators and the religiously ambivalent may serve as alters to the Unknown God (Acts 17), through which we can share our own understanding of the Spirit of God as revealed to us through the Messiah.
  • Contextual communication may extend to reworking imported spiritual concepts such as “chi”, “qi”, “energy” and “prana” in more Christ centred and Christ honouring ways to aid mutual understanding (and dare I say it, mutual transformation).
  • This implies moving considerably beyond the Celtic revivalism of the NeoMonastic movement, particularly when ministering amongst non-Anglo and globalised-Anglo Australians, though in a complementary manner

Christian Guideposts on Chi

Those of you interested in engaging with the concept of Chi and the related disciplines of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Martial Arts, Fung Shui and so forth, would be well advised to read Christian Guideposts on Chi: An Evangelical Assessment of Chi and Related Activities by Brett Yardley. Here are a few comments I found worthy of consideration:

It is unfortunate that at this stage some Christians have attempted to dispense with the entire notion of ch’i as wholly incompatible with Christianity simply due to its eastern origins. Yet, this is an overly simplistic type of reasoning, since to belittle and reject all eastern thought solely by pointing out its source is a genetic fallacy. Christians will do well to remember that Judaism and Christianity, despite the unfortunate label of being “Western Religions,” were in fact born in the east amongst eastern people.

In general, Christians can relate to the overall summary of [Traditional Chinese Medicine’s] pragmatic methods of “all things in moderation.” In fact [Traditional Chinese Medicine’s] push to moderate one’s lifestyle, control sexual urges, and caring for one’s body (which Paul refers to as a temple of the Lord, 1 Corinthians 6:18), are in line with a Christian worldview. However, embracing the philosophical awareness and wisdom that [Traditional Chinese Medicine] is supposed to provide for personal wellness should be considered suspect since the Christian’s personal well-being and wisdom should come from their relationship with Christ.

So long as Christians still abstain from the divination practices of Feng Shui, taking this definition would free users to see Feng Shui as nothing more than an aesthetic art form

No, detachment is not enough; we must go on to attachment. The detachment from the confusion all around us is in order to have a richer attachment to God. Christian meditation leads us to inner wholeness necessary to give ourselves to God freely.

As a result, the “soft” side of martial arts dealing with inner development often includes harmony with and controlling ch’i, as opposed to the “hard” side including physical conditioning and strikes.

As previously mentioned, the use and definition of ch’i neither fits any of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, nor acts in way that would serve the ministries of the church.

According to the Japanese Catholic Theologian Yohji Inoue, the foundation of Western thinking is “substance” (object) while Japanese thinking is “the field which envelopes substances.”

The Missional Spirit

Thanks to my pastor, Des, I am thinking about the Missional Spirit once more. In the past I have highlighted the need for a more empowering and ancient way of understanding the Spirit. A way beyond the ways of Cessationism, Pentecostalism and Pantheism. A way which more fully appreciates the work of the Spirit in the world. A way which, in a word, is more missional.

There are a number of contours I think need to be explored here:

  1. Worship as the foundation for witness ; Spirituality as a foundation for mission
  2. The Spirit as Christ-centred in orientation and Christ-like in character
  3. General and Special activity of the Spirit, recognized and unrecognized
  4. Engaging with the language of Spirit in different religious movements
  5. Demonic fears as, sometimes, undiagnosed culture shock
  6. Prayer as a compliment to evangelism, not a substitute
  7. Idolatry as a more helpful category than demonology when engaging with other religions, given that idols include good thinks inappropriately worshipped as ultimate things, and not just bad things.
  8. Gifts of the Spirit and fruit of the Spirit

If there are any you think I should add, comment away.

Holy Spirit Fire [Art]

Holy-spirit-fire-signiture-indecipherable

Sorry folks, as you may have gathered I’ve been rather silent the last two months.

Combination of things really. More reading, less access to the laptop while my wife has started up studies again, diversions elsewhere, writers block and belated realization that I’m suffering from depression.

I’m working on the latter now.

So, to finish on a more optimistic note, here’s an image called “Holy Spirit Fire”. I have no idea who the artist is as I can’t read the signature but I knida like it.