Full of the Holy Spirit? Show me your internet discussions!

If you tell me that you’re a “Spirit filled Christian,” I want to see it. The internet presents a unique opportunity to see this very thing, actually.

I don’t care how you seem to be when you’re surrounded by other Christians, the lights are low, the band is playing, your eyes are closed and you’re singing worship songs. Anyone can appear spiritual under circumstances like that. If you want to see the evidence that a person is full of the Holy Spirit, this is not the time to find out. You won’t learn anything.

I want to see how you respond when someone rubs you the wrong way on the internet. You feel like they’ve misrepresented your incredibly important point of view. You leap to the defense of your convictions, but you can’t bend them to your way of thinking on an issue, no matter how many times you try. Who is this person? What do they know? They even had the gall to tell you that you don’t actually know what you’re talking about! A reply must be issued! You sit down at your keyboard, and you start to type.

This is the time to check for evidence. We’re about to see how full of the Holy Spirit you are. You don’t test how waterproof a watch is when it’s not underwater. You don’t test how fireproof something is by not subjecting it to fire. Likewise, you don’t test how Spirit filled a person is by observing how they act when their obedience to the Spirit of God is not challenged in the least.

Never have I witnessed more people (who under ideal circumstances might act like fine Christians) become prideful, spiteful, taunting, surprisingly aggressive, full of insult, and all manner of other unchristian things – things that they would almost certainly not do face to face – than when in discussion with other people, be they fellow Christians or otherwise, on the internet. Because of this tendency, this is the ideal context in which to see how full of the Holy Spirit you are. I have no interest in what you do in church, or at some Christian conference. Anyone can fake it under such circumstances.

If you apply this test to yourself, how would you answer? Are you full of the Holy Spirit?

Glenn Peoples

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25 thoughts on “Full of the Holy Spirit? Show me your internet discussions!

  1. Well, if anyone is full of it, it would be you Glenn.

    Sorry couldn’t resist 🙂

    I thought I would make a point with a blend of humour, but will you find it funny?

    I think that’s part of the problem – meaning is driven by perceptions and an effort to try to understand where a person is coming from.

    A flippant comment in riposte may not even be what the person meant, even if decoded correctly.

    My experience has been that even when you think you finally figure out what the person is saying, or trying to say, you may still be off the mark.

    Like your opening question. That’s not a statement I would ever think or say. Why would I go around saying I’m full of the Holy Spirit? What does that mean to you? Even with your examples, I’m wondering now if personal responsibility can be abdicated or excused simply because you were low on spirit gas, or perhaps the reverse: it’s natural to be a bastard when the spirit isn’t topped up? I don’t really know.

    Are you defining a blogging style as a personality type? Do you think something is “wrong” when people aren’t strictly civil in a heated debate (not that I support unnecessary rudeness)?

    Sometimes the conversations I have with people on a blog is as much about the audience, who will read the thread without comment – I never expect some-one to change their mind in those sorts of debates, but if some common ground is found or agreed upon – great.

    And then their are the trolls. Passive-Aggressive, insinuating without saying, more intent on derailment than genuine debate. I often start out charitable, or maybe I’ll try the mirror approach if their habits remain consistent.

    Sometimes, it’s appropriate to chase the money changers out of the temple!

    Now let’s look at that last sentence. It will probably resonate with you, and perhaps you’ll accept the analogy, perhaps you will not. It isn’t particularly offensive to use that example in this comment (AFAIK) but the comment has special meaning for me.

    I hate that excuse, often used by wayward Christians to justify just about any action they have taken, so I use it here just to amuse myself with the irony, because it’s fun for me to play with ideas and test them – even ones I believe in.

    So I guess my point mentioning this is sometimes, I’m so busy having a conversation with myself, I might not notice if I offend some-one. Sorry.

    I think like most people, I have great days when I’m very patient and understanding, and bad days when I get the wrong impression or misunderstand a point.

    I think a key thing you said is “things that they would almost certainly not do face to face”

    and that really is the challenge. The internet is impersonal, we often interact only with the words on the page, not the people that said them. I’ve accepted that long ago, and don’t get particularly upset by it (but remain passionate from moment to moment, as is my wont). Equally, it’s yet another instance in the process of objectification. When you take the person out of the interaction – be it blogging, a sexual relationship, a “customer” or a “user” or a “vendor” then you are on the path to sin.

    I have a concept around Grace, that might be close to you being filled with the Holy Spirit, but I read your post, and cannot quite figure out what you are getting at. I’ve taken a few stabs, but maybe you are just pissed off some-one couldn’t grasp your point?

  2. PS: Like most of my comments, written fast and hit post. Damn those typos and misspells, and if I were to re-write it I could do a much better job of making my points, but then, I’d only ever get a few comments done and interact with a much smaller quantity of ideas, people, discussions etc. So, I’ll roll with the blows and hope that there are still snippets that people can find something of value in, as I do try to contribute rather than detract.

  3. ZT, I guess the phrase “full of the Holy Spirit” or “Spirit filled” is more common among Pentecostal Christians, but it really shouldn’t be.

    The Apostle Paul said that we should be filled (in the continuous sense) with the Spirit. I guess the point I am making here is that it’s wrong to say that because of an event in your life you’re full of the Spirit. You’re only full of the Holy Spirit when you exhibit the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

    The type of cases that I have in mind – and no, they’re by no means unique to me or any specific cases – involve Christians who respond to others who have committed the sin of rejecting their specific theological point of view, by launching into insults.

    Whether people can grasp one another’s point really doesn’t have much to do with it.

    Although I see it happen way too much, it has happened recently. I’d like to think that the fact that I’ve experienced it doesn’t make me just jaded or anything. If it’s wrong, then it’s just as wrong when it happens to me after all. In the case that happened recently, I offered a critique of a person’s theological belief in dualism. No insults or aggressionw as involved, just a desxcription of the belief and an explanation of what I thought was wrong with it. The repliy was an incredible stream of vitriol and insult, along with the accusation of being a liar to boot. Now we can talk untilt he cows come home about the fact that misunderstandings occur, but it’s also true where it’s a cut and dried fact that someone has gratuitously responded in an unChristian way.

    My example isn’t at all unique. It’s so common that it has driven home to me the fact that there are plenty of circumstances under which all of us find it easy to act like Christians. But for that very reason, those are not the circumstances that should be used to assess the quality of our Christianity, or the spirituality of our lives.

    I’ve been hunting for a quote from Cyprian of Carthage where he made that point rather well, but I can’t for the life of me recall the exact wording.

  4. I was going to reply with a tirade of expletive-laden abuse, but thought instead to ask whether the replies that have prompted your post are written by honest followers of Christ, or simply opinion-holders of no fixed faith. I don’t know the answer any more than you do, I suspect, but it illustrates one thing: when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth? (Luke 18:8)

  5. James – I really want to stress that it’s not just this one example that I have in mind. I see it all the time, and I see it coming from people who present themselves as committed followers of Christ. This last example was the same.

  6. I think your observations and interweb experiences highlight the faux-Christianity that exists across a large swathe of professing believers. Beneath a veneer of Godliness they deny his power (Holy Spirit). Unfortunately, you take the brunt as the cyber-punchbag simply by having an opinion that all can comment upon. Keep it up 🙂

  7. You’re only full of the Holy Spirit when you exhibit the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

    And the fruit I would look for would also be in the reaction to those insults.

    Interestingly, with passive-aggressive bloggers, they can inspire insults. The insults inflict visible bruising, but the words that caused that reaction go much deeper.

    The whole conversation needs to be judged on that basis.

    Where the reply comments are filled with counter accusations, then pride is interfering with grace.

    I rarely see such patience in blog threads, and as I discussed, the medium is poor for this sort of thing so some “tone down” filters need to be applied.

    With all due respect, I again wonder the point of this post.

    This, to my mind isn’t a post that exemplifies being full of the Holy Spirit.

    My interpretations of this post are that:

    1. It may be a post complaining about blog civility, in which case complaining is a type of sin, and generally not fruitful. Offer up your suffering for the Souls in purgatory 🙂

    2. It may simply be a challenge for bloggers to lift their game. You ask for people to provide evidence that they are full of HS. That all fine and good, but no mention of the times you also have erred sets you up as a judge, or implies you are on your game in this regard, topped to the brim with HS. I don’t see any humility coming through in this post, it seems more about letting off steam.

    Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Blogging is a great place to have a rant and generate a discussion.

    I want to see how you respond when someone rubs you the wrong way on the internet.

    This is the time to check for evidence. We’re about to see how full of the Holy Spirit you are.

    You challenged us to provide the proof. What’s the benchmark? Would you perhaps like to give us an example, where you have been attacked with a stream of insults and vitriol, and you have responded in a way that indicates you are filled with the Holy Spirit?

    In this situation, I would not see it as a matter of pride.

    Finally though, is there a scientific way of measuring the HS content of a conversation?

    People can say nice things and not mean them. They can say nothing when thinking of violent retribution. They are not full of the HS even if they appear to be. At least something clearly written, even if emotional, may be more honest than the polite, patient reply.

    What is the measure then? The fruit must be more than your reaction, it might be words that allows you to say something in a way that moves another person positively towards Christ in spite of their words.

    The fruit is not a mark to signify one blogger is more “good” than another, but the good that can come out of having the conversation in the first place, and is not any one person’s trophy.

  8. What would you think of one who does use insults, but cautiously – rather than insulting merely everyone who disagrees, saving them instead for those who exhibit the utmost of willful ignorance and arrogance?

    I’m thinking specifially of one J P Holding, who is (in my experience) generally rather civil with people who merely disagree, but as anyone with much experience knows, quite fiery in dismissing people who insist in the absolute truth of their obviously ignorant propositions, or perpetually maintain flagrant misconceptions of his views, etc. And generally does so while providing substantial arguments or at least pointing to arguments that have already been made (since many ignorant arguments crop up time and time again).

    Not that I care about only him; I’m less interested in the specific case than exploring the boundaries of what, exactly, it is that is unChristian. Under what circumstances might it be justifiable (not required, but not prohibited) to break out the fire?

  9. Seriously Glenn, get out of my mind already! XD

    The other day I was looking at reviews for Wayne Gruedem’s “Systematic Theology” on Amazon.com. Generally the reviews were positive, but if somebody dared post a negative review…well, you can imagine how the comments there went!

  10. Obviously there are plenty of types of example of the kind of behaviour that I have in mind, but here’s one that I suspect you’ve all seen enough times to recognise as a common phenomenon.

    Person A offers a criticism of a belief held by person B. Both present themselves as Christians

    Person B doesn’t agree with the criticism, and thinks that person A is drawing a faulty conclusion about where person B’s belief actually leads. So person B replies: “You’re dishonest and you’re lying.”

    How many times have you seen this? Perhaps not very often, which is a good thing. I’ve seen it many more times than I would like to have!

  11. Not going into specific cases is fine, that’s just the one case I know most about.

    I’ve just seen many examples of, well, mind-numbing boneheadedness, of the “person who doesn’t know jack about Biblical scholarship insisting that the Bible can’t be trusted because it says pi = 3” flavor, or who use the word “zombie” as a substantial argument against Christianity, or such. Kinda hard to know how to treat such individuals properly; y’know, rebuke a fool after his folly lest he think himself wise. (And yes, I know how the other half of that proverb goes. 😉 )

    As for your example, I’ve rarely seen it in real life… but I am a TWeb mod. So I’ve seen it online plenty 😉

  12. ZT, I would say something like “relatively, although less at some times than others, and trying to improve all the time, always in need of God’s help.”

  13. Fair enough, although I liked the way the conversation was driving with my last points – that the fruit of the Holy Spirit wasn’t necessarily evidenced by a behaviour, but more an outcome.

    You said you didn’t get what I was driving at, so perhaps I can try again with a smaller part of that comment.

    You said:

    I want to see how you respond when someone rubs you the wrong way on the internet.

    This is the time to check for evidence. We’re about to see how full of the Holy Spirit you are.

    and I asked

    Is there a scientific way of measuring the HS content of a conversation?

    I’ll rephrase that:

    Is there an objective way of determining that the HS is alive and well in one person’s response on a blog thread?

    I suggested that if the outcome of the conversation moved people towards Christ, then that might be a clue. So the fruits are not automatically evident just because a person is more polite than the other.

    To take another view in examining this issue, what if the Holy Spirit moved in the angry person, and used that anger to generate a conversation that required the other person to step up, and the result of that conversation resulted in some greater good. Is that sort of thing possible do you think?

  14. ZT, I don’t think that having the fruit of the Holy Spirit can be measured in terms of where the conversation ends up. After all, God uses thoroughly wicked people with cruel hearts who have no desire to serve him to bring about good outcomes. But nobody will say that this indicates that those people have the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Pharaoh is a case in point as per Romans 9.

    As far as the question of an objective measure of the fruit of the Holy Spirit goes, I think the answer is the extent to which a person shows the fruit of the Spirit as outlined in the New Testament. There’s obviously a degree of subjectivity in using that measure, but I think that is what the measure is.

  15. Good points. No disagreement there.

    Those answers though only leave most of us with “relatively, although less at some times than others, and trying to improve all the time, always in need of God’s help.” and there will be many different threads that reflect that.

  16. Yes of course Zen, since none of us will be “completely” or “not at all.” The challenge is to ask of our own behaviour which direction along the spectrum it pushes us.

  17. For sure. I really like the idea of a daily “examination of conscience” that was taught to me as a new Catholic.

    It’s a really profound thing to put time aside every day and reflect on my actions for the day and where and how I didn’t measure up to my ideals.

    It’s been very helpful to me, putting aside the point I still consistently find things after reflection. It is, of course, tied in with the sacrament of penance, another profound concept that I was introduced to in my recent conversion.

    Is a daily examination of conscience an idea that is common and practiced in your circles?

  18. Whether it is actually practiced or not will of course vary from one person to the next. When I was a Catholic this was the same. People were told that they ought to examine their conscience, and whether they did it or not was invisible to me.

    As far as the idea goes, the churches that I have been (and would happily be) involved with didn’t develop a sacrament to match the idea, but the idea is certainly present. This is especially so prior to taking part in the Lord’s Supper.

  19. Okay, Glennboy, I’ll reissue your 5,000 SemBlog Points because THIS was a great blog. Not a good blog…not an entertaining blog…not a feel-good blog…a GREAT blog.

    I’ve been thinking about this recently, myself. It’s such a hard thing for me, because…sometimes people (yes, even Christians) just suck. Sometimes we are pissy. Sometimes we have migraines. Sometimes we have PMS (admit it, boys…you get that way, too). Sometimes we take things personally that we shouldn’t take personally. It doesn’t excuse our behavior by any means. I think it just illustrates that we are human.

    Does it mean we are not Spirit-filled? I don’t necessarily think so. Just because fruit isn’t ripe doesn’t mean it’s not growing.

    It really sucks, though. This is largely why I left that-site-that-shall-not-be-named-because-I-don’t-wish-to-speak-ill-of-them. There was too much venom over disagreements, instead of debate and discussion.

    Still…the internet is full of trolls. And sometimes, even *I* pinch their heads off.

    *sings* “He’s still working on me…to make me what I ought to be…”

    Pax Domini, Glenn!

  20. When arguing with people who reject God I try to mention Love, Grace, the Sermon on the Mount and stuff like that. These things are core to a Christian life. Abstract theological propositions have a valuable place but sometimes people need to be reminded of the character of Jesus, to whom we aspire.

    I do get annoyed when people get picky about little errors, as if it matters much in this ad-hoc blog comment format!

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