This weekend up in Eagle, we spent some time talking about the role of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Christians today. Someone made the comment that in a church they grew up in, the Holy Spirit was referred to as the Holy Ghost – the implication being that it was “dead” and no longer active in the ways it was in the early church.
This morning at my Presbyterian (PCUSA) church, we recited the Apostles’ Creed, which refers to the Holy Ghost twice: “who was conceived by the Holy Ghost” and “I believe in the Holy Ghost.”
Recently, I’ve been becoming aware that so many of our issues really come down to language. What are we teaching people when we recite the Apostles’ Creed and refer to the Holy Spirit as the Holy Ghost? Do people pick up on the implication that He may be dead? Simply a Ghost-like being hovering around…? Or do they look past that language and realize that the Holy Spirit is alive and active in our world today?
I found two previous versions of the Apostles’ Creed online, “The Old Roman Creed” and a sixth-century Gallican version of the Creed. They are below:
The Old Roman Creed
I believe in God almighty
And in Christ Jesus, his only Son, our Lord
Who was born of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary
Who was crucified under Pontius Pilate and was buried
And the third day rose from the dead
Who ascended into heaven
And sitteth on the right hand of the Father
Whence he cometh to judge the living and the dead.
And in the Holy Spirit
The holy church
The remission of sins
The resurrection of the flesh
The life everlasting.
The Apostles’ Creed (6th c. Gallican version)
I believe in God the Father almighty,
I also believe in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord,
conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary.
suffered under Pontius Pilate, crucified, dead and buried; he descended into hell,
rose again the third day,
ascended into heaven,
sat down at the right hand of the Father,
thence he is to come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost,
the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints,
the remission of sins,
the resurrection of the flesh and life eternal.
Yet, the Nicene Creed refers to the Holy Spirit, just as that – the Spirit, and does not use the language of “Holy Ghost.” So, what does all of this mean? Is our language more theological than we realize? Should we be changing the Apostles’ Creed so it says “Holy Spirit” – and teach our congregations why we are doing that? Are people in our congregation even picking this up…thoughts?