Saturday, July 16, 2011

Inner Witness of the Holy Spirit

I can remember when I was kid that someone had told me that the way I knew that my Christian faith was true, was that I would have a feeling in my heart that it was true. It was described as a "peace". I remember a few people telling me that this is how they knew that Christ rose from the dead. I want to take a few minutes to look at the inner witness of the Holy Spirit.

I was reading Gary Habermas' book The Resurrection of Jesus and the Future Hope and came across a chapter dealing with the witness of the Holy Spirit (Chapter 9). He stated that it is not necessarily emotional (but can be), and if the witness is strong, it can overcome any objection, counter-witness, struggle, etc. that challenges one's belief. It is described as being experienced only by an individual (subjective) yet being a real experience (objective). Since it is subjective, it may serve as "evidence" for the individual, but for the same reason it cannot be used as evidence for others. Yet we see people who use such a witness to the truth of their view as evidence for other people. We even see conflicting witnesses (two who testify to opposite claims)- both sides being unrelenting in their dedication to the belief- which, at least one of them is wrong.

This made me wonder if perhaps there are other spirits that testify to the truth of other worldviews in the same way. If so, how would two people who are making opposite claims about a subjective feeling (say, Christians and Mormons) determine which spirit is being truthful? Since such spirits are part of the non-physical realm, we can't just directly ask them questions and test them. However, the claims that the spirit is testifying to may be tested. As I mentioned in the post a few weeks ago "Can Religion Be Tested For Truth", we can test any claim that is made about the real world. If we have a feeling that something is true, we can test it to find out for sure. That is exactly what needs to be done in this case. If we find that what is testified to is false, then we can conclude that either the spirit is a lying spirit, or (if the test removes the possibility of a spirit's existence) that the "feeling" was just a product of our wishing.

The thing is that this testimony of a spirit can be extremely powerful. Many Christians who do not test the testimony (or don't know how to) still remain firm in their belief that Christianity is true. This is, many times, what carries them through trials and onslaughts of challenges. From a Christian perspective, this is a great thing. Not every Christian is called to conduct an indepth investigation into the evidence for Christianity. There are many other tasks that need to be done for the Kingdom. For those members of the Body of Christ, God has provided two resources- those who ARE called to the investigations, but they are not always around when others need them, so The Holy Spirit provides the reminders of past experiences with God, which affirms to that person that their faith is grounded in the One who has been trustworthy in the past and will remain trustworthy to the end (see my post "What is Faith?").

I'm reminded of a song by Natalie Grant- "Our Hope Endures"*.

Grant poses the problem of evil: "You would think that only so much can go wrong...you assume that this one has suffered her share." It intensifies with the problem that God seems hidden: "Sometimes the sun stays hidden for years. Sometimes the sky rains night after night." Then comes the question: "When will it clear?!" Grant answers: "Our hope endures the worst of conditions. Its more than optimism. Let the earth quake; our hope is unchanged." She implies that both problems may continue for a long time, but that God is with us. The inner witness of the Holy Spirit is the source of this hope. It is what keeps our hope enduring and why we don't lose our faith. Challenges may come that will shake our faith to the core, but somehow people still hang on to it- that is the power of inner witness of the Holy Spirit.

It is not just for those who have not investigated their faith. Notice that Natalie Grant does not mention the intellectual problem of evil that a relative few people deal with; she mentions the emotional problem of evil that challenges everyone. Those emotional challenges are a "check" to ensure that even the most intellectual Christian remains dependent upon his Savior. Christians can be realists- we can recognize the true nature and depth of evil present in this world. The hope that we have gives us the confidence and peace that we will make it through the pain and suffering. This confidence and peace allows us to face the realities of this world with joy and see every obstacle as an opportunity. "What kind of joy is this? This is the joy of a soul that is forgiven and free."**

*Grant, Natalie. "Our Hope Endures." Relentless. Curb Records, 2008
** Chapman, Steven Curtis. "What Kind of Joy." For the Sake of the Call. Sparrow Records, 1992

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