Hauerwas and Willimon, The Holy Spirit, part 1


This Fall Abingdon Press will publish The Holy Spirit, a new collaboration by Stanley Hauerwas and me. We hope the book will be read by pastors and their congregations that they may have a fresh encounter with the Holy Spirit. It’s been said that the Holy Spirit is the most neglected aspect of the Trinity. We hope that our book, in some small way, helps to change that neglect!

The Holy Spirit as God

When we talk about the Holy Spirit we are speaking about God. You may find this an odd remark with which to begin a book meant to introduce the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. After all this is a book written by Christians for Christians. However throughout Christian history and particularly in our own day Christians have had difficulty remembering when they say Holy Spirit they say God.

God as Father, Son, and….

Surveys show that nine out of ten Americans say they believe in “God.” But weʼre not sure that the God in whom so many Americans believe is the God designated by “Holy Spirit.” Actually, when Christians say Holy Spirit they are not merely saying “God;” they are saying Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit who are the one God. The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity. Often when you are third in a list, for instance, a list like the Apostles Creed, it can seem that third is an after-thought.[1]

Thus the general presumption is that the Father creates, the Son redeems, and the Spirit—well, what does the Spirit do? Too often the Spirit is associated with our feeling that we have had some sort of “experience” that is somehow associated with God or at least a vague feeling that seems to be “spiritual.” Human experience is a questionable place from which to begin thinking about God. Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience are often cited by United Methodists as constituting authority in theological argument. Some even claim that John Wesley was big on experience as a source for theological reflection. Subjective experience is no place to begin thinking about the Holy Spirit. Such thinking can result in a dismissal of what the

Bible says about the Holy Spirit and an unfortunate degradation of Christian doctrine. So we say again: to believe in the Holy Spirit is to believe in God. To have had experience of the Holy Spirit is to have had an experience of something other than yourself.

Stanley Hauerwas and Will Willimon

[1] See Jason Byasee’s book in the Belief Matters series, The Trinity (Nashville: Abingdon 2015).

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