Friday, October 13, 2006


Berny said...

“Can you please elaborate on your point of view regarding the Holy Spirit's illumination. I have always been taught that the Holy Spirit teaches us Scripture, through various different means, pastors, teachers, books/commentaries, etc.”

The locus classicus for this would be 1 Cor 12.

This would be a case of the Holy Spirit teaching believers indirectly via certain spiritual offices.

Usually, though, the term is used to denote something more immediate (i.e. direct) and individual. As C. C. Ryrie puts it:

“Specifically, the doctrine of illumination relates to that ministry of the Holy Spirit that helps the believer understand the truth of Scripture…illumination refers to the ministry of the Spirit by which the meaning of Scripture is made clear to the believer,” Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, W. Elwell, ed. (Baker 1984), 545.

For reasons I’ve already given, I regard this conception as erroneous and pernicious.

The Holy Spirit doesn’t teach us (in this sense.) Rather, the Holy Spirit makes us teachable.

“For example, recently a friend of mine was asked, 'Who teaches you God's truth', and he replied, The Holy Spirit thru the Bible.”

Yes, that quasi-charismatic view is very popular. It’s also a great way to make shipwreck of one’s faith.

“I guess this is taken from ‘When He comes, the Helper will guide you into all truth.’"

That may well be. But the Johannine passage is a promise to the Apostles, and not to Christians in general or the institutional Church.

“But of course, one must do a study to see what exactly this means, and not just read it as though it were written in english by John.”

Exactly. Your friend is taking the verse out of context.

Indeed, this becomes a viciously circular appeal. They appeal to a particular verse to prove their view of illumination, and then appeal to their view of illumination to prove their appeal to a particular verse—or vice versa!


  1. :::YAWN!!!:::

    B O R I N G ! ! !

    Invisible voices showing us the way...makes sense.

  2. Steve said:

    "But the Johannine passage is a promise to the Apostles, and not to Christians in general or the institutional Church."

    I agree. Verses like John 14:26 and 15:27 are best explained by an application to the apostles, not all Christians or a denominational entity, and John 16:13 goes on to refer to prophecy. A fulfillment by the apostles, not all Christians or some other entity, best explains verse 13 itself and other verses in the surrounding context.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. There is a problem though with discounting a verse solely on who it is spoken or written to. Taken to the extreme, none of the Bible except for parts of John 17 would apply to today. Better is for both sides of the issue to look at all the relevant passages. For example, 1 Corinthians 2:14 implies that the Holy Spirit helps us to accept truth rather than to intellectually understand truth. Any discussion of illumination without considering these implications is going to be incomplete.